We have reached a stage of global warming at which every decision is critical: we don’t know when our last chance will have been. So when, for example, we base the vast part of our climate policy on offset markets and carbon taxes, as we are doing, and proceed to calculate the social cost of carbon to determine an ‘optimal’ carbon tax that ‘efficiently’ manages the ‘trade-offs’ between the costs and benefits of emitting GHGs, we are doing something much more dangerous than is usually acknowledged. A precise calculation of the ‘optimal’ carbon tax is nothing more than a claim that the best way forward is to perch the gargantuan machine of contemporary capitalism as close as possible to the precipice without tipping us all over the edge. That is neither efficient nor optimal. It is a myopic and recklessly arrogant approach to the unknown fate of life on earth.
What we need is a much more honest assessment of what we do not or cannot know, which is, among other important things, where the edge is. We might, in fact, be past it already, treading thin air like Wile E. Coyote before the fall. Today’s politicians don’t like uncertainty: it introduces doubt. Yet we are in desperate need of a politics that looks catastrophic uncertainty square in the face. That would mean taking much bigger and more transformative steps: all but eliminating fossil fuels, for a start, and prioritising democratic institutions over markets. The burden of this effort must fall almost entirely on the richest people and richest parts of the world, because it is they who continue to gamble with everyone else’s fate.
I helped organize and throw the twentieth Feast of Lanterns on August 26th in Indianapolis's Spades Park. The event drew over 10,000 Indianapolis residents and earned tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for local businesses.
While I had volunteered during setup and teardown in previous years, this was my first year as a member of the organizing committee. Under this role, I provided organizational and logistical support for the rest of the team: administering digital tools and services, tracking project process, and coordinating communication and shared files.
I also designed and printed a number of graphic assets for the festival, including the poster and marketing graphics, a visitor's guide, various site maps detailing layout concerns, and twenty-foot-tall stage banners.
This Rolling Stone interview with Greta Gerwig has some amazing moments. I highly recommend reading it in full after seeing Barbie. Here are my highlights (interviewer in bold, emphasis mine):
There’s a lovely scene where Barbie sees an older woman — a sight she’d never encountered in Barbieland — and tells her she’s beautiful.
I love that scene so much. And the older woman on the bench is the costume designer Ann Roth. She’s a legend. It’s a cul-de-sac of a moment, in a way — it doesn’t lead anywhere. And in early cuts, looking at the movie, it was suggested, “Well, you could cut it. And actually, the story would move on just the same.” And I said, “If I cut the scene, I don’t know what this movie is about.”
From the moment that Margot came to me and I knew we were making this for Margot, I equally knew we were making this for Ryan. And I did not know Ryan at all. I’d never met him. I just was sure, and as soon as I thought of it, it made me so happy. Who else could do this? It’s some combination of Marlon Brando meets Gene Wilder meets John Barrymore meets John Travolta.
I felt with both of them [Robie and Gosling] that I might direct movies for a long time and never see anything that uniquely and gloriously unhinged.
I think of the film as humanist above anything else. How Barbie operates in Barbieland is she’s entirely continuous with her environment. Even the houses have no walls, because you never need to hide because there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed of. And suddenly finding yourself in the real world and wishing you could hide, that’s the essence of being human. But when we were actually shooting on Venice Beach, with Margot and Ryan in neon rollerblading outfits, it was fascinating because it was actually happening in front of us. People would go by Ryan, high-five him, and say, “Awesome, Ryan, you look great!” And they wouldn’t actually say anything to Margot. They’d just look at her. It was just surreal. In that moment, she did feel self-conscious. And as the director, I wanted to protect her. But I also knew that the scene we were shooting had to be the scene where she felt exposed. And she was exposed, both as a celebrity and as a lady. To be fair, Ryan was like, “I wish I wasn’t wearing this vest.” [Laughs.] But it was a different kind of discomfort.
There are clips online of you and Kate onstage together in a production at Columbia University.
We lived together, we were in an improv group together. I always thought Kate was the funniest, most talented person I knew. But then you have this moment where you think, “Well, maybe that was just college.” But I was right!
When I was casting and I called her, we laughed the whole time because I think we both had the same experience at that moment. For whatever reason, with the direction that our lives led us, I’m actually directing this movie, and she actually is a comedic genius who was recognized as such. And now we’re adults, and I’m saying, “Do you want to come do this?” It was like, we’d gotten into a time machine when we were 18 and came out at 39. The reality is, we’re still the 18-year-old kids who are making musicals. We actually didn’t get more sophisticated than we were at 18.
Does anyone? If not exactly 18, then that 18–24 range? Wiser hopefully, but I agree that sophistication has a ceiling.
You’re a member of the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, and the Actors Guild. The Writers Guild is already on strike, and the other guilds don’t seem too happy, either. There are whispers of a tri-Guild walkout.
I’m really proud of being a union member. I’m in support 100 percent of however we come at this.
I’m living through this moment like everybody else is, especially in terms of the AI thing, which is terrifying and exciting. I don’t know what to say about it. I guess it’s clearly a tool that hopefully can be used to help. I think it’s incredibly important to protect creative people — writers and directors and actors — because I don’t think what they can do can be replicated. We have to set some very firm ground rules moving forward. Because otherwise, we’re looking at a world that becomes a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.
To witness the perpetual marvel of the world’s coming into being is to sense the presence of the Giver in the given, to realize that the source of time is eternity, that the secret of being is the eternal within time.
A world without time would be a world without God, a world existing in and by itself, without renewal, without a Creator. A world without time would be a world detached from God, a thing in itself, reality without realization. A world in time is a world going on through God; realization of an infinite design; not a thing in itself but a thing for God.
Every one of us occupies a portion of space. He takes it up exclusively. The portion of space which my body occupies is taken up by myself in exclusion of anyone else. Yet, no one possesses time. There is no moment which I possess exclusively. This very moment belongs to all living men as it belongs to me. We share time, we own space. Through my ownership of space, I am a rival of all other beings; through my living in time, I am a contemporary of all other beings. We pass through time, we occupy space. We easily succumb to the illusion that the world of space is for our sake, for man’s sake. In regard to time, we are immune to such an illusion.
Time is man’s greatest challenge. We all take part in a procession through its realm which never comes to an end but are unable to gain a foothold in it. Its reality is apart and away from us. Space is exposed to our will; we may shape and change the things in space as we please. Time, however, is beyond our reach, beyond our power. It is both near and far, intrinsic to all experience and transcending all experience. It belongs exclusively to God.
Time, then, is otherness, a mystery that hovers above all categories. It is as if time and the mind were a world apart. Yet, it is only within time that there is fellowship and togetherness of all beings
But the Sabbath as experienced by man cannot survive in exile, a lonely stranger among days of profanity. It needs the companionship of all other days.
All days of the week must be spiritually consistent with the Day of Days. All our life should be a pilgrimage to the seventh day; the thought and appreciation of what this day may bring to us should be ever present in our minds. For the Sabbath is the counterpoint of living; the melody sustained throughout all agitations and vicissitudes which menace our conscience; our awareness of God’s presence in the world.
What we are depends on what the Sabbath is to us. The law of the Sabbath day is in the life of the spirit what the law of gravitation is in nature.
One must be overawed by the marvel of time to be ready to perceive the presence of eternity in a single moment. One must live and act as if the fate of all of time would depend on a single moment.
When we celebrate the Sabbath we adore precisely something we do not see. To name it queen, to call it bride is merely to allude to the fact that its spirit is reality we meet rather than an empty span of time which we choose to set aside for comfort or recuperation.
Man’s relation to the spirit is not one-sided; there is a reciprocity between man and the spirit. The Sabbath is not only a legal institution, a state of mind or a form of conduct, but a process in the world of spirit.
How proud we often are of our victories in the war with nature, proud of the multitude of instruments we have succeeded in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce. Yet our victories have come to resemble defeats. In spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the work of our hands; it is as if the forces we had conquered have conquered us.
Is our civilization a way to disaster, as many of us are prone to believe? Is civilization essentially evil, to be rejected and condemned? The faith of the Jew is not a way out of this world, but a way of being within and above this world; not to reject but to surpass civilization. The Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization.
The logistics of biochar production also mean that rather than massive centralized facilities, the most workable large-scale deployment will require many thousands of mid-sized plants spread across the world, according to Reinaud.
“Biochar production is necessarily a distributed enterprise. So if you don’t have 5,000 cows, and a huge amount of manure, it’s probably not very appealing to you. But when it’s in the same spot, it’s a really appealing sustainability proposition.”
The intriguing thing about both neodymium and cerium is that while they’re called rare earth minerals, they’re actually fairly common. Neodymium is no rarer than copper or nickel and quite evenly distributed throughout the world’s crust. While China produces 90% of the global market’s neodymium, only 30% of the world’s deposits are located there. Arguably, what makes it, and cerium, scarce enough to be profitable are the hugely hazardous and toxic process needed to extract them from ore and to refine them into usable products.
More reading on neodymium, with this story focused on its global sourcing. This mineral is so prevalent in consumer electronics, it feels like a very important and underreported resource.
It could be argued that China’s dominance of the rare earth market is less about geology and far more about the country’s willingness to take an environmental hit that other nations shy away from.
Seems like there’s a correlation between the offshoring of industrial production and the establishment of stricter environmental policy in the 70s and 80s. It may be fair to say it’s less the country’s willingness to create toxic sites as it is the lack of safeguards against it.
And there’s no better place to understand China’s true sacrifice than the shores of Baotou toxic lake. Apparently created by damming a river and flooding what was once farm land, the lake is a “tailings pond”: a dumping ground for waste byproducts.
Whenever I spend time out in Colorado, I see the landscape as a kind of postindustrial wasteland: tailings piles, abandoned mines, and even the evolution of mining trams into chair lifts. Those landscapes are leftover from the last century’s mineral extraction of precious metals—gold, silver, copper—that fueled and funded westward expansion.
For how different they are, one thing that America and China have in common is their landmass. Huge, nations, spanning continents. With all that space, it becomes easy to find far-flung areas where industrial processes and wastes can flow outside awareness for the people they serve—which, based on the piece, is the global electronics market.
Much of the reluctance to do what climate change requires comes from the assumption that it means trading abundance for austerity, and trading all our stuff and conveniences for less stuff, less convenience. But what if it meant giving up things we’re well rid of, from deadly emissions to nagging feelings of doom and complicity in destruction? What if the austerity is how we live now — and the abundance could be what is to come?
This doesn’t seem like much of a what-if—so many people are currently living under austerity now.
As I’ve learned more about ecovillages and cooperative communities, one of my biggest realizations is the power of communal sufficiency. When living in a community that can generate 80% of its own power and grow 50% of its own food, abundance becomes the norm.
“Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,” William Wordsworth wrote a couple of centuries ago. What would it mean to recover those powers, to be rich in time instead of stuff?
For so many of us, being busy with work has leached away our capacity to pursue true riches. What if we were to prioritize reclaiming our time — to fret less about getting and spending — and instead “spend” this precious resource on creative pursuits, on adventure and learning, on building stronger societies and being better citizens, on caring for the people (and other species and places) we love, on taking care of ourselves?
This argument echos How to Do Nothing and rethinking the value of our time and our circumstances.
I appreciate Solnit putting forward a vision of a post-consumer society that isn’t doom-and-gloom. If degrowth is going to succeed as a politics, it needs to be oriented towards building public wealth.
The premise of making animals active participants in the market actually hits a much deeper meridian line of modernity than mere capitalism. It brings to the fore the entire project of categorizing life, human and otherwise, into binaries of “people” and “property,” a project going back to the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. These two categories (and who/what falls into each one) have shaped capitalism, chattel slavery, settler colonialism, scientific racism, and the premise of nation-states as we live with them today.
There is certainly precedent for giving nonhuman life the kind of agency typically afforded to people in law. Scholars and historians often cite Christopher Stone’s 1972 paper “Should Trees Have Standing?” as the foundational text for the concept known as “the rights of nature,” which affords nonhuman life legal standing to defend its right to exist (or really, to have a human lawyer defend its right to exist). In 2008, Ecuador ratified a new constitution that included a chapter recognizing the Rights of Nature; courts in Colombia, New Zealand, and Bangladesh have granted rights to national parks, mountains, and rivers.
Of course, the origins of industrial capitalism lie in humans declaring the parameters of personhood for other humans: Enslaved people weren’t people, they were property. That capacity to claim property (and declare who is or is not property) is one measure of personhood within capitalism.
I think this piece makes a good introduction to the broad arguments that inform the “rights of nature” movement and the expanding inclusivity of legal personhood. I hope to see more legal action undertaken to protect ecologies and natural systems in the coming years.
But there‘s tension when advocating for expanding legal personhood to nonhuman life at the same moment when the established protections for women and trans people are being eroded. ”Environmental justice” is a powerful shared vision of a more equal and equitable future that protects human and nonhuman life.
Expanding parameters of legal personhood and access to market participation are more harm reduction for living under capitalism than they are building an alternative to it. To be clear, capitalism has a lot of harms and reducing them is good, but these approaches can easily be subsumed into maintaining existing structures.
Even taken as good-faith harm reduction, something is lost when the pursuit of otherness-in-connection gets flattened into transactional, financialized charity.
My most common day-to-day interactions with magnets are incredibly intimate. The pixels on the anodyne surface of the smartphone in my palm don’t burrow into my consciousness as intensely as do the sounds pumped by small, powerful magnets through speakers and earbuds, or the haptic buzz of “vibrate mode” produced by the tiny, magnetic motor deep inside. Magnets allow smartphones to whisper in your ear, to leap into life with manic energy at a call or a push notification.
Magnets inside most of today’s consumer electronics are a blend of neodymium, iron, boron, and a tiny bit of dysprosium (sometimes called “NdFeB magnets”).
It would be easier to tell a story where a phone’s delicate whispers and magnetic whirrs are part of a big complicated history of war and colonialism and resource anxiety and death because that story appears to have answers. The media and advocacy narratives of conflict minerals and environmental destruction of rare earth element mining have primed readers to expect something sinister and uncouth beneath the surface of consumer electronics. “We have powerful magnets in phones today because a lot of people died in a town you’ve never heard of in the Congo in 1978”–sounds about right, you cynically reply. The debut of GPS on the public stage was as an instrument of precision bombing during the first Gulf War; the origins of the Internet are intertwined with Cold War paranoia and planning for nuclear collapse; cell phones are full of other people’s blood.
I worry that leaning so hard on these familiar narratives also gives them power. It makes that cascade of cruelty seem inevitable, simply How Things Are Done rather than choices that were made. While the invisible hand of the market, the steamrolling inertia of colonial powers, or the march of technological progress can feel about as difficult to thwart or circumvent as the pull of neodymium magnets, I am wary of treating them like unbreakable laws of the universe.
Since I’ve started collecting notes and highlights here, I’ve been meaning to return them as formatted feeds, RSS being the main one. Well, I got around to it. It was way easier than I remembered, and I even got bonus Atom and JSON feeds out of it.
I’m using Next 13.2 and its new App Directory to generate the site, so this made feeds delightfully simple to implement. In fact, it may be the best experience I’ve ever had for developing content feeds like these. I want to share my walkthrough and results since this is a pretty common task when setting up a new project with Next, and all the existing examples were based in Next’s older pages generation system.
How to Generate RSS, Atom, and JSON Feeds with Markdown content using Next.js App Directory Route Handlers
I started from the point of already having data-fetching functions for getting all my notes from my CMS (the aptly named getAllNotes and getNoteTitle).
When adding a new function to generate the feed, it simply has to set the top-level properties then run over the notes to add them as entries. I author and store all my notes as Markdown, so for each note I render its body into HTML. Each feed format then gets its own Route Handler, which calls the generator function for the formatted feed. Finally, I update the top-level metadata to include links to the newly added feeds.
Create a Site URL
I quickly realized I needed a little utility function to get the canonical site URL. Since I build and host using Vercel, I want to make sure my site URL corresponds with its preview deploy URL. I used a combination of environment variables to figure that out, using a dedicated SITE_URL variable with Vercel’s system environment variables to figure out the build’s context and dedicated URL.
Render Markdown to HTML
To render Markdown into HTML, I used the unified library with the plugins:
This string was then passed as the content value for each feed item.
Create the Feed
With other site generation frameworks I’ve used, generating feeds has meant writing a template XML file and filling in dynamic values with curly-braced variables, usually with that format’s spec open alongside. This time, I was able to use the feed package for all the XML authoring. As a result, generating multiple feed formats became a matter of making a function call.
The generateFeed function is based on an example provided by Ashlee M Boyer. It creates a feed with proper metadata, then generates each post. Since the Markdown generation runs asynchronously, adding entries needs to happen inside a Promise.all call. This way, generateFeed waits to return the feed object until all content has finished generating.
Create the Feed Endpoints
Now here comes the fun part. Creating feed endpoints becomes so simple it’s silly. Using Route Handlers introduced in Next.js 13.2, adding a new endpoint is as simple as creating a folder in the App Directory with the name of the feed file, then creating a route.ts file inside it.
So, to add the RSS feed, I create the folder src/app/feeds/rss.xml and then create route.ts inside it.
To create the Atom and JSON feeds, I follow the same process ensuring that the appropriate method and content type are used in the format’s route handler.
Adding alternates to site metadata
The last step is updating the site’s <head> to reference these feeds to make them more discoverable to readers. This is made even easier using the App Directory’s Metadata API—also new to Next.js 13.2. In the top-most page or layout file in my app directory, I add an alternates property to the exported metadata object:
Now after running next dev, I can see I have feed files generated at /feeds/rss.xml, /feeds/atom.xml, and /feeds/feed.json. I’ve gotten feeds in three different formats with only a few libraries and simple, easily testable functions.
After deploying to production, you can now follow my new notes via:
The level of productivity I feel when using Next.js, Vercel, and GitHub together is really hard to beat. It feels like the tools are getting out of my way and letting me developer smaller PRs faster.
I’m still a daily RSS user. It’s my preferred way to read on the web. I’m glad to see that there’s still robust library support for RSS and feed generation, at least within the Node ecosystem at least. I don’t think RSS is going anywhere, especially since it powers the entire podcasting ecosystem. It’s great to see the longevity of these open standards.
Speaking of open standards, integrating an ActivityPub server into a Next.js application is something I’m interested in exploring next. It’d be very cool to have a site generated out of an aggregation of one’s own ActivityPub feeds, for example combinining posts from personal micro.blog, Mastodon and Pixelfed into a single syndicated feed.
Seeing all of the recent progress in decentralizing important services has felt so cool. We can still keep the Web wild and weird, empower individuals with more tools for expressing themselves online, and have it all be user-friendly. Content feeds are an important force for good here, so I’m very glad how easy it is these days for even a novice developer to publish them.
The origin of conductors’ music is usually attributed to Beethoven. In her interview, Tár rightly cites the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (1808) as a locus classicus in the history of modern conducting. The rhythm and rhetorical emphasis of its famous motif is not impossible for an orchestra to play without a conductor, but it’s far more effective with one. And then, as Wagner points out, there’s the question of the fermatas (pauses) – someone has to decide what Beethoven wants.
Like many of his contemporaries, Wagner thought of music history as teleological. Haydn and Mozart were innocent geniuses; it was the music of Beethoven, and, above all, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, that blasted open a path to the future where Wagner himself stood. Composed between 1822 and 1824 and first performed in Vienna in 1824, Beethoven’s Ninth shattered existing paradigms of symphonic form, challenging notions of what the nature of music might be. From the outset it was seen as a limit case, and it took decades for European musical culture to digest it. The response of composers was either to regroup and retrench (Mendelssohn, Schumann) or to attempt to strike out into the uncharted territory the symphony gestured towards (Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner). For orchestral players, it forced a fundamental revision of technique and performance practice.
Before we get to the geopolitics, can we have a moment to inhabit the technological sublime? Microchips are some of the most extraordinary objects humanity has ever made. Miller has a good illustration of this: the coronavirus is tiny, about a hundred billionths of a metre across, but it is a galumphing heifer of a beast compared to the smallest transistors being made in Fab 18, which are half that size. TSMC is now talking about transistor nodes in terms of three billionths of a metre. This is so small that quantum effects, which happen mostly at the subatomic level, become relevant.
While a critical analysis of their materiality and politics is more interesting, I enjoy Lanchester’s step back and admire the achievement. It’s fun to think that advanced chips are a technology that operates across mindboggling scales, requiring global supply chains, decades of investment, inventive ingenuity, and nearly atomic manufacturing. And all this to produce something that billions of people carry with them every day, powered by angels dancing on the head of a pin.
This newsletter is called Buildingshed (like watershed, foodshed, or fibershed) because I’m curious about where materials come from, how interrelated systems of energy, labor, and transport turn agricultural products and mined resources into built things, and how places depend on each other. A city skyline or a house like mine looks particular and sits in one spot, but represents a history of extraction and exchange with other landscapes, whether quarries, landfills, or timberlands.
Earlier today I learned the terms “walkshed”—the walkable distance surrounding a transit stop or other point—and “bikeshed” (same thing, but for biking).
I’ve already been learning about watersheds as part of my permaculture design course, and I love this way of looking at the landscape. Everything has a shed!
A giant cloud had formed a wall, enveloping the horizon in darkness. They call it a haboob, a collapsed thunderstorm that stirs up silt and clay after plummeting to Earth. The dust tornado sat between me and my hotel, and once I started down the country road, which ran along a cow feedlot that stretched for (I counted) three miles, visibility dropped to maybe a couple of feet.
Embedded within that dust is more than a century of policy mismanagement, environmental disaster, and regional despair. The recent fortunes of Imperial County, along the U.S.-Mexico border, have risen and fallen with water levels at the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake.
Dust from that dry lake bed, polluted with agricultural chemicals, blows into nearby towns. Pediatric asthma hospitalizations in the region are as much as twice the state average, a crisis for the disproportionately poor residents.
“It will get worse before it becomes better,” Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea Program Director for the National Audubon Society, told me.
Perhaps best of all, DLE creates a virtuous circle. Geothermal plants have enormous up-front costs compared to solar and wind. But adding lithium extraction makes the payoff much more profitable, and subsequently enables more plants to get built, increasing clean baseload power.
“The most favorable reclamation Scenario for adopting these specific technologies will be [one] in which the Sea is allowed to shrink.” In other words, maximizing industry operations is synonymous with perpetuating the continued public-health hazard of exposed lake beds.
A monoculture is an illuminating frame for considering attention. Created in an attempt to achieve economies of scale, monocultures reduce biodiversity and exhaust their soil. To make up for this, they’re covered in heavy amounts of fertilizer and pesticide to maintain their productivity. The analogs to commercial social media are clear. Whether they’re lying about their metrics, unfairly compensating their creators, or simply moderating your timelines without explanation or accountability, commercial social media companies create toxic social conditions in order to establish themselves as places for huge numbers of people to sink their attention. Once they have it, they turn the screws to maximize value for their owners despite the damage it does to their ecosystems.
In resisting this monoculture, I think Thompson misses a helpful middle-ground between a monocrop and a wilderness. In-between lies a garden: small-scale, intentional, low-impact cultivation of attention. A great garden takes time to establish, but once it does it can live by itself, supported by its rich diversity and interdependency.
When I think about the ways I focus my attention, I’ve already established a few gardens. My library of books. My collection of RSS feeds. My relationships. My actual garden! All of these contribute to a diverse, interconnected space of shared ideas that help me understand and appreciate the world in new ways.
I think I’m so smitten by this story — with its mix of deep curiosity into seemingly pointless subjects, followed by the discovery that this “pointless” material is wildly useful in a new domain — because it dovetails with my interest in “rewilding” one’s attention.
I’ve written a bunch about “rewilding” (essays here), which is basically the art of reclaiming one’s attention from all the forces that are trying to get you to obsess over the same stuff that millions of other people are obsessing over. Mass media tries to corral your attention this way; so do the sorting-for-popularity algorithms of social media.
What’s changed in the last few decades is the development of technologies that can effectively harness the diffuse, but decentralized and inexhaustible, energy in our environment.
Renewable energy sources are a step up, not a step down; instead of scarce, expensive, and polluting, they have the potential to be abundant, cheap, and globally distributed. Transitioning all of our infrastructural systems to be powered by renewable sources is about growing out the number of people who have access to more energy, who benefit from using it to meet human needs, whether as basic as cooking food or as modern as global telecommunications.
We live on a sun-drenched blue marble hanging in space, and for all that we persist in believing it’s the other way around, that means we have access to finite resources of matter but unlimited energy. We can learn to act accordingly.
We are living at the cusp of remaking ourselves from a primitive species that gets most of our energy from literally setting stuff on fire, and that just junks stuff when we’re done with it, into an species that fits harmoniously into a planetwide ecosystem, that uses energy from the sun, harnesses it for use and to fabricate what we need to thrive, and then returns those materials to the common pool to be used and shared again.
Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.
I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.
Once you understand the enshittification pattern, a lot of the platform mysteries solve themselves. Think of the SEO market, or the whole energetic world of online creators who spend endless hours engaged in useless platform Kremlinology, hoping to locate the algorithmic tripwires, which, if crossed, doom the creative works they pour their money, time and energy into:
In Craig Hockenberry’s post marking the abrupt interruption of third party apps’ ability to access the Twitter API, he speaks to what he sees coming next:
One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone is going to great lengths to make something that replaces the clients we’ve known for years. That’s an excellent goal that eases a transition in the short-term, but ignores how a new open standard (ActivityPub) can be leveraged in new and different ways.
Federation exposes a lot of different data sources that you’d want to follow. Not all of these sources will be Mastodon instances: you may want to stay up-to-date with someone’s Micro.blog, or maybe another person’s Tumblr, or someone else’s photo feed. There are many apps and servers for you to choose from.
With this in mind, when the logic of capitalist productivity threatens both endangered life and endangered ideas, I see little difference between habitat restoration in the traditional sense and restoring habitats for human thought.
It’s a cruel irony that the platforms on which we encounter and speak about these issues are simultaneously profiting from a collapse of context that keeps us from being able to think straight.
For me, doing nothing means disengaging from one framework (the attention economy) not only to give myself time to think, but to do something else in another framework.
Given that all of the issues that face us demand an understanding of complexity, interrelationship, and nuance, the ability to seek and understand context is nothing less than a collective survival skill.
But how can we do that when our platforms for “connection” and expression detract from the attention to place and time that we need, simultaneously eroding the contexts that would allow new strategies to sharpen and flourish?
Today, when we are threatened not only with biological desertification but cultural desertification, we have so much to learn from the basics of ecology. A community in the thrall of the attention economy feels like an industrial farm, where our jobs are to grow straight and tall, side by side, producing faithfully without ever touching. Here, there is no time to reach out and form horizontal networks if attention and support—nor to notice that all the non-“productive” life-forms have fled. Meanwhile, countless examples from history and ecological science teach us that diverse community with a complex web of interdependencies is not only richer but more resistant to takeover.
Resisting definition like headwaters resist pinpointing, we emerge from moment to moment, just as our relationships do, our communities do, our politics do. Reality is blobby. It refuses to be systematized. Things like the American obsession with individualism, customized filter bubbles, and personal branding—anything that insists on atomized, competing individuals striving in parallel, never touching—does the same violence to human society as a dam does to a watershed. We should refuse such dams first and foremost within ourselves.
The implication is that the actual paradigmatic ethical object, if there is one, is the ecosystem itself. This echoes the conservationist Aldo Leopold’s observation that “you cannot love game and hate predators; you cannot conserve waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. The land is one organism.”
When I travel, I no longer feel like I’ve arrived until I have “met” the local bioregion by walking around, observing what grows there, and learning something about the indigenous history of that place (which, in all too many places, is the last record of people engaging in any meaningful way with the bioregion).
Redwoods, oaks, and blackberry shrubs will never be “a bunch of green.” A towhee will never simply be “a bird” to me again, even if I wanted it to be. And it follows that this place can no longer be any place.
As I disengaged the map of my attention from the destructive news cycle and rhetoric of productivity, I began to build another one based on that of the more-than-human community, simply through patterns of noticing. At first this meant choosing certain things to look at; I also pored over guides and used the California Academy of Science’s app, iNaturalist, to identify species of plants I had walked right by my entire life. As a result, more and more actors appeared in my reality: after birds, there were trees, then different kinds of trees, then the bugs that lived in them. I began to notice I animal communities, plant communities, animal-plant communities; mountain lines, watersheds. It was a familiar feeling ranges, fault of disorientation, realized in a different arena. Once again, I was I met with the uncanny knowledge that these had all been here invisible to me before, yet they had been in previous renderings of my reality.
This is where bioregionalism really enters into the text.
Occupying the “third space” within the attention economy is important not just because, as I’ve argued, individual attention forms the basis for collective attention and thus for meaningful refusal of all kinds. It is also important because in a time of shrinking margins, when not only students but everyone else has put the pedal to the metal,” and cannot afford other kinds of refusal, attention may be the last resource we have left to withdraw.
For my part, I, too, will remain unimpressed until the social mecedia technology we use is noncommercial. But while commercial ne social networks reign supreme, let’s remember that a real refusal, be like Bartleby’s answer, refuses the terms of the question itself.
Quitting Facebook isn’t the answer; so what does refusing the premise look like? My imagination immediately fails me. I’ll give it time, but keep this question in mind.
Actually, here’s one thought: spending time building community outside of Facebook, like with a neighborhood association. It’s not a simple rejection of digital media, but a substitution that requires the participation of others.
It’s not just that living in a constant state of distraction is unpleasant, Or that a life without willful thought and action is an impoverished one. If it’s true that collective agency both mirrors and relies on the individual capacity to “pay attention,” then in a time that demands action, distraction appears to be (at the level of the collective) a life-and-death matter. A social body that can’t concentrate or communicate with itself is like a person who can’t think and act.
The book was published in 2019 and this is one argument where it already shows its age. Not that it’s wrong about any of this, but new evidence needs considering. I’d be very interested to see this argument compared to the BLM protests in 2020. Both for the capacity for ideas and anger to mobilize, as well as the distractions that removed some of its ability to build a sustained movement.
If we think about what it means to “concentrate” or “pay attention” at an individual level, it implies alignment: different parts of the mind and even the body acting in concert and oriented toward the same thing. To pay attention to one thing is to resist paying attention to other things; it means constantly denying and thwarting provocations outside the sphere of one’s attention. We contrast this with distraction, in which the mind is disassembled, pointing in many different directions at once and preventing meaningful action. It seems the same is true on a collective level. Just as it takes alignment for someone to concentrate and act with intention, it requires alignment for a “movement” to move. Importantly, this is not a top-down formation, but rather a mutual agreement among individuals who pay intense attention to the same things and to each other.
I’m thinking about: how being individually distracted prevents feeling pain; how being collectively distracted prevents solidarity. There’s a lot here dancing between the micro and the macro.
This jump from the individual to the collective entails another version of what I’ve so far been describing as voluntate, studio, disciplina. In Diogenes, Bartleby, and Thoreau, we see how discipline involves strict alignment with one’s own “laws” over and against prevailing laws or habits. But successful collective refusals enact a second-order level of discipline and training, in which individuals align with each other to form flexible structures of agreement that can hold open the space of refusal. This collective alignment emerges as a product of intense individual self-discipline-like a crowd of Thoreaus refusing in tandem. In SO doing, the “third space”-not of retreat, but of refusal, boycott, and sabotage-can become a spectacle of noncompliance that registers on the larger scale of the public.
This refusal-in-place seems to be in conversation with Malm as well. Sabotage is a refusal of the consequences of another’s actions.
To stand apart is to look at the world (now) from the point of view of the world as it could be (the future), with all of the hope and sorrowful contemplation that this entails.
Given the current reality of my digital environment, distance for me usually means things like going on a walk a or even a trip, staying off the Internet, or trying not to read the news for a while. But the problem is this: can’t stay out there forever, neither physically nor mentally. As much as I might want to live in the woods where my phone doesn’t work, or shun newspapers with Michael Weiss at his cabin in the Catskills, or devote my life to contemplating potatoes in Epicurus’s garden, total renunciation would be a mistake. The story of the communes teaches me that there is no escaping the political fabric of the world (unless you’re Peter Thiel, in which case there’s always outer space). The world needs my participation more than ever. Again, it is not a question of whether, but how.
Arendt writes that these escapes “always amount to seeking shelter from action’s calamities in an activity where one man, isolated from all others, remains master of his doings from beginning to end.”
As articulations of retreat, both Thiel’s essay and Walden Two seem almost to have been reverse-engineered by Hannah Arendt’s classic 1958 work The Human Condition, in which she diagnoses the age-old temptation to substitute design for the political process. Throughout history, she observes, men have been driven by the desire to escape “the haphazardness and moral irresponsibility inherent in a plurality of agents.” Unfortunately, she concludes, “the hallmark of all such escapes is rule, that is, the notion that men can lawfully and politically live together only when some are entitled to command and the others forced to obey.” Arendt traces this temptation specifically to Plato and the phenomenon of the philosopher-king, who, like Frazier, builds his city according to an image:
In The Republic, the philosopher-king applies the ideas as the craftsman applies his rules and standards; he “makes” his City as the sculptor makes a statue; and in the final Platonic work these same ideas have even become laws which need only be executed.
Funny enough, this brings to mind Cities: Skylines as a means of escape from the realities of urban planning. Instead of the design work of negotiating competing interests, the city is built according to an image in the player’s mind and “‘makes’ his city as the sculptor makes a statue.” It’s even the case that the policies and laws enacted by the player are never challenged or broken; once an ordinance is put in place to, say, reduce air pollution, the population dutifully reduces their air pollution.
One more thought here: while the modding community for Cities: Skylines is robust, had anybody created mods that flesh out the political reality of place making? While there’s mods to improve the traffic simulation or make it easier to sculpt the city as an aesthetic object, I’d be surprised if any programmers put time into making the systems of control messier and harder to enact.
“Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.
I feel this in the growing appreciation for boredom—a feeling that phones obliterate. Craig Mod has written about this, but I feel it most when camping. Camping is a space that’s inhospitable to battery-powered technology, which opens up the opportunity for boredom, which then creates the space for meaning to be discovered.
In this book, I hold up bioregionalism as a model for how we might begin to think again about place. Bioregionalism, whose tenets were articulated by the environmentalist Peter Berg in the 1970S, and which is widely visible in indigenous land practices, has to do with an awareness not only of the many life-forms of each place, but how they are interrelated, including with humans. Bioregionalist thought encompasses practices like habitat restoration and permaculture farming, but has a cultural element as well, since it asks us to identify as citizens of the bioregion as much as (if not more than) the state. Our “citizenship” in a bioregion means not only familiarity with the local ecology but a commitment to stewarding it together.
Ok this is really for me right now
It’s important for me to link my critique of the attention economy to the promise of bioregional awareness because believe that capitalism, colonialist thinking, loneliness, and an abusive stance toward the environment all coproduce one another. It’s also important because of the parallels between what the economy does to an ecological system and what the attention economy does to our attention. In both cases, there’s a tendency toward an aggressive monoculture, where those components that are seen as “not useful” and which cannot be appropriated (by loggers or by Facebook) are the first to go.
I am concerned about the effects of current social media on expression-including the right not to express oneself and its deliberately addictive features. But the villain here is not necessarily the Internet, or even the idea of social media; it is the invasive logic of commercial social media and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction.
The medium is the message. Applying media theory to understand what kinds of expression are possible—and which aren’t—in the context of commercial social media
the “nothing” that I propose is only nothing from the point of view of capitalist productivity
A helpful clarification from the start
I loved this interview with Dr. Suzanne Pierre, founder of the Critical Ecology Lab on Alie Ward’s Ologies podcast. The way Dr. Pierre frames her study of ecology within critical theory opens the space to questioning how power operates within a larger, living landscape. For example, when she asks how the ecologies of the South was impacted by applying forced human labor to establish cotton monocultures, the answers require reckoning with the scale of America’s slavery system and add a new dimension to our understanding of its lasting impacts. This way of thinking is inspiring as I start getting deeper into thinking about ecological systems and start forming my own questions about them.
The new season of Articles of Interest tells the history of Ivy and Prep fashion. It’s a style that’s core to living in America. This series shares what made 99% Invisible a great show to start off with. Avery Trufelman gives a name and tells a story about the designers and design decisions that inform the utterly ordinary phenomenon of how we dress ourselves.
I keep coming back to this metaphor: in the way that you have to look at whiteness to look at race, or look at masculinity to look at gender, you have to look at preppy style to understand all of the countercultural fashion movements of the 20th century.
Clothing is about semiotics, and when you put together an outfit, you’re crafting a sentence.
Then in the 1980s, people who thought they could never have access to brokers suddenly had access to passive income. With that came the feeling that you also have the right to the Old Money look. They were like, “I, too, am a monied person; I just need the costume to back it up.” I’m so fascinated with how these social changes affect our fashion choices. If preppy is back—and that’s a big if—I wonder if it has to do with this new money free-for-all we’re seeing. People are becoming millionaires overnight by investing in Gamestop or being on OnlyFans, and I wonder if the accruement of wealth is forever married to this style.
This was an excellent story about the research happening on storms in Argentina. As the climate gets warmer, there’s more moisture and energy in the atmosphere, which fuels more powerful storms. This is mostly reported in the context of hurricanes, but it’s equally true for the tornado-producing storms that roll across the Midwest in the spring and summer.
In the United States, which is home to the most extensive weather forecasting infrastructure in the world, around a third of severe weather predictions still prove wrong — not only about timing and location but also size, duration and intensity. The false-alarm rate for tornadoes continues to hover at about 70 percent, while the average warning time has only increased from about 10 minutes in the mid-1990s to 15 minutes today.
If one of these budding cells manages to punch through the tropopause, as the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere is called, the storm mushrooms, feeding on the energy-rich air of the upper atmosphere. As it continues to grow, inhaling up more moisture and breathing it back down as rain and hail, this vast vertical lung can sprout into a self-sustaining system that takes on many different forms.
Composed of millions of micro air currents, electrical pulses and unfathomably complex networks of ice crystals, every storm is a singular creature, growing and behaving differently based on its geography and climate.
Until the launch of global weather satellites in the 1990s, this level of sampling and detection wasn’t widely available outside North America. When NASA deployed its Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission in 1997, the satellite offered the first comprehensive look at the entire world’s weather. And part of what it revealed was an enormous regional variability in the size and intensity of storms.
with ever more heat, moisture and unstable air available to feed on, storms in many parts of the world have begun to exhibit increasingly erratic behavior.
researchers at M.I.T. and Princeton now consider a Category Six hurricane a realistic possibility
In 2019, a study conducted by Stockholm University found that one of the only uniform impacts of climate change was on forecasting, which has become more difficult.
Founded in the 1990s, by the meteorologist Joshua Wurman, C.S.W.R. is a seminomadic 11-person research institution that over the years has earned a reputation for pushing boundaries in chasing technology. In the mid-90s, Wurman built the first truck-mounted doppler radar system, nicknamed the “doppler on wheels,” or DOW. By 1999, a DOW had recorded the fastest wind speed in history within a tornado, in Moore, Okla., at 301 m.p.h. Since then, perhaps no other organization has ventured as far into the world’s deadliest tempests as C.S.W.R., whose fleet of four trucks has now transmitted data from inside 15 hurricanes and about 250 tornadoes.
They tell us that the sky, like our drying forests, is rapidly becoming an ocean of fuel, but they don’t tell us where and when it might ignite — much less what, exactly, might spark it.
A society with a patchy and minimalist system of unemployment insurance, in which millions live paycheck to paycheck without the protection of paid sick leave, in which tens of millions of children rely on schools for food, cannot easily shut down. If it does, people need help immediately.
Such comparisons with the mid-century heyday of Keynesianism no doubt help to capture the drama of the moment. They express the wish of many, on the left as well as the right, to return to that moment when the national economy was first constituted as an integrated and governable entity. As the interconnected implosion of demand and supply demonstrated, macroeconomic connections are very real. But as a frame for reading the crisis response in 2020, this retrofitting risks anachronism. The fiscal-monetary synthesis of 2020 was a synthesis for the twenty-first century. While it overturned the nostrums of neoliberalism, notably with regard to the scale of government interventions, it was framed by neoliberalism’s legacies, in the form of hyperglobalization, fragile and attenuated welfare states, profound social and economic inequality, and the overweening size and influence of private finance.
Mid-century economic policy as a rescue system for late-century neoliberal capitalism, like a parent getting their problematic teen out of trouble.
Nature is an event that never stops. As William Bateson, who coined the word genetics, observed, “We commonly think of animals and plants as matter, but they are really systems through which matter is continually passing.” When we see an organism, from a fungus to a pine tree, we catch a single moment in its continual development.
Wielding a whole arsenal of at-home folk remedies to “treat” phones as we might treat scraped knees or earaches of a family member. Those cures — perhaps best represented by the bowl of dry rice that is the ubiquitous prescription for a soaked phone — are ostensibly about addressing technical issues but in practice they bring phones under a kind of discursive control, helping us make sense (albeit false sense) of their largely obfuscated inner workings.
These folk rituals help us assimilate the “new” into our lives by making it compatible with the old, making it easier to classify and explain. Despite our ostensible modernity and our sense of ourselves as comfortable with technological progress, folk beliefs about technology always bubble up through the cracks, of phone screens and otherwise.
There are many ways to define folklore, but where phones are concerned, it often takes the form of jokes, rumors, and personal experience narratives, which feature in the conspiracy theories, panics, joke cycles, and the like that periodically circulate online — some so compelling as to achieve meme status, as with the tweets from 2017 about the “FBI agent watching me through my phone,” or a more recent TikTok challenge that claims to identify unfaithful boyfriends based on whether they put down their cell phones face up or not.
Exhibit 1 was the Bird, which sat on a table, shimmering and soaring toward the ceiling while the lawyers debated whether it was an “original sculpture” or a metal “article or ware not specially provided for” under the 1922 Tariff Act. For the Bird to enter the country duty-free under the act, Steichen’s lawyers had to prove that Brancusi was a professional sculptor; that the Bird was a work of art; that it was original; and that it had no practical purpose.
Because art eludes definitions and law needs to impose them, the law on art often seems to be running after its subject.
The way the world is constructed today is no longer legible, politically or technically. Objects come and go under mysterious circumstances. Cars and trains either run or someone else fixes them. The objects in our lives are shipped to us from faraway lands, and they work until they don’t. Discarded, they get hauled away in the early morning by stinky trucks.
Maintenance mostly happens out of sight, mysteriously. If we notice it, it’s a nuisance. When road crews block off sections of highway to fix potholes, we treat it as an obstruction, not a vital and necessary process.
As a type of work that straddles production and consumption, maintenance can help us reckon with both the limits and possibilities of industrial society.
Technical and political-economic concerns are perversely entangled. There is the problem of a crumbling bridge, and then there is the problem of coordinating public action to fix a crumbling bridge. There is a technical answer, a set of actions and materials that must be brought to bear, but the political answer is just as important. The follow-up questions pour in: What if it would be better to build a new bridge in a new place, based on changes in demographics? What if the bridge was constructed shoddily from the beginning and should be completely rebuilt? What if society is moving away from automobile travel and requires other bridges built in different ways?
The price mechanism, and the labor system built around it, is fundamentally opposed to maintenance, both in its narrowest practical applications and in its broadest philosophical implications. The fact that the failures of capitalism happened to encourage maintenance practices at the margins is not worth emulating, and we shouldn’t be waiting around for climate change to recreate that austerity at a global scale.
The weakness of the protocol, as presented in my demo client, was that you could only design your board by writing raw HTML and CSS. That’s fine for the nerdiest among us, but still a bit forbidding for everyone else. A better client would provide built-in templates, maybe a little WYSIWIG editor — you can imagine this easily.
For my part, I settled on a simple design: a blood-red headline in 72-pixel italic Bodoni over an acid green background. Someone said to me, not a little bit archly, “So, really, you made all of this because wanted to tweet in a 72-pixel font.”
And I had to confess that maybe I did.
On this front, I am an evangelist: arbitrary HTML and CSS should have a place in our social networks. They are so expressive, and they are available everywhere, on every device, essentially “for free”.
Platform design seems to me now like a sharp hilltop with steep slopes descending in both directions. A platform built around twitchy compulsion will trend towards addiction; a platform built around stolid patience will trend towards … forgetting about it.
If only you could balance perfectly at the summit. Alas, I don’t think it’s possible.
The opportunity before us, as investigators and experimenters in the 2020s, isn’t to make Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram again, just “in a better way” this time. Repeating myself from above: a decentralized or federated timeline is still a timeline, and for me, the timeline is the problem.This digital medium remains liquid, protean, full of potential. Even after a decade of stasis, these pixels, and the ways of relating behind them, will eagerly become whatever you imagine.
“Perfect order” is how anthropologist Stephen Lansing describes it in his talks and books analyzing the Balinese water temple system. The elaborate array of ninth-century tunnels and rice paddy terraces in steep volcanic mountains is managed from the bottom up through a system of what are called subaks. Each subak is a group of men with adjoining rice fields that share a water source. Their meetings are democratic, dispensing with the otherwise powerful caste distinctions of Bali, and subaks are connected to one another through the hierarchic water-temple network. “The Balinese call their religion Agama Tirtha -the religion of water,” says Lansing. “Each village temple controls the water that flows into nearby rice terraces. Regional water temples control the flow into larger areas.”
The Balinese system is similar to what Powell proposed in his western water management plan.
As for comparing full-life-cycle, everything-counted greenhouse gas emissions, a study published in 2000 by the International Atomic Energy Agency shows total lifetime emissions per kilowatt-hour from nuclear about even with those of wind and hydro, about half of solar, a sixth of “clean” coal (if it ever comes), a tenth of natural gas, and one twenty-seventh of coal as it is burned today.
A 1-gigawatt nuclear plant converts 20 tons of fuel a year into 20 tons of waste, which is so dense it fills just two dry-storage casks, each one a cylinder 18 feet high, 10 feet in diameter.
By contrast, a 1-gigawatt coal plant burns 3 million tons of fuel a year and produces 7 million tons of CO2, all of which immediately goes into everyone’s atmosphere
In another passage, Brand notes that the footprint of a nuclear plant is in the order of a square mile.
I find this input/output calculation to be the most appealing aspect of nuclear power. The arguments about not overthinking the waste problem weren’t as convincing, since we do need a mechanism for holding long-term thinking accountable. But comparing the waste is generates against CO2, it seems like a vastly better alternative.
As climate change unfolds, cities will be on the frontier of human response. Taking the danger zone as 30 feet above sea level, Columbia University study reported in Science says that two thirds of all cities with population over 5 million are “especially vulnerable” to rising sea levels and “weather oscillations.” The Thames Barrier protecting London from flood tides was raised twenty-seven times between 1986 and 1996, and sixty-six times between 1996 and 2006. Some are forecasting that it will be overwhelmed by 2030.
Wondering what the current status of the barrier is?
Infrastructure makes cities possible, and it has to be rebuilt every few decades. According to a report in 2007 by the infrastructure consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, “Over the next 25 years, modernizing and expanding the water, electricity, and transportation systems of the cities of world will require approximately $40 trillion.” What would infrastructure totally rethought in Green terms look like? China is currently building 170 new mass transit systems. High-speed rail is finally coming to the United States. With the coming of “smart grids” and microgrids, the distribution of electricity will be reshaped toward greater adaptability as well as efficiency.
A nice thought experiment, but high-speed rail still hasn’t arrived and there’s major political obstacles to rebuilding the grid. One of the ways that technological solutions fail to sufficiently address the crisis is that they don’t account for cultural or social forces that might impede their adoption.
A population with that birthrate halves in of forty-five years, and then halves again in the next forty-five years. In one formulation, that means more resources per person—good news both for the people and the resources. But from another angle, it could mean perpetual economic crisis, which would be terrible news for the environment. In an economic crisis, there is neither money nor attention for responsible stewardship. There is no long-term thinking or action. Wars become more likely, and wars are deadly for the environment.
Possible to see this reaction happening in real time. Oil shocks following the invasion of Ukraine have already led the Biden Administration to authorize another round of fossil fuel projects.
In one of the most influential Green books, Natural Capitalism (1999), Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins propose replacing industrial capitalism, which “liquidates its [natural] capital and calls it income,” with a natural capitalism based on higher efficiency in everything, biology-inspired industrial processes, a focus on services instead of products, and restoration of the all-sustaining envelope of natural systems. It’s a good book with a helpful metaphor.
Book dates itself to 2009, and there it is fully fixed. I wonder what Earth Policy Institute guy thinks about this book. It’s very Obama era thinking, very technocratic thinking.
Brand makes these arguments without really reckoning with the social/cultural aspects that make these projects difficult right now. There’s still huge headwinds preventing transition, including pandemic induced economic shocks and political instability.
How are we doing at any of these goals stated in the book?
What conditions is the army corp preparing for? Are they ahead or behind of the best predictions?
I want my website/homepage to give me ways to keep track of bookmarks, notes and highlights in the things that I’m reading. I’m typically creating these on my phone or tablet, and the kind of data varies with the kind of reading:
when browsing the web, I’m saving tagged bookmarks into Pinboard. This is like my private search engine, where it’s easy to recall things I have seen in the past that I wanted to remember.
when reading on my phone or tablet, it’s usually RSS or Instapaper–in that case, I’m typically highlighting passages and marking posts as favorites. I want to be capturing my highlights and favs as content in Sanity.
I don’t typically read books on computer, but I also want to be capturing highlights and tracking favs as content in Sanity.
Seems like we have a system starting to come together:
bookmarks can continue living in Pinboard, and I can provide a way to browse and search these on my personal site.
I have the same workflow triggers for my reading. I want to save favorite articles or books into Sanity, and I want to capture highlights or reading notes on those entities.
Are a highlight and a note the same? I think so, because they’re both text. That text could be anchored to a page or other location, but it’s all just text content at the end of the day. I think I would want to create multiple entries, with one for each note/highlight. This also allows for a note to be combined with a highlight if a passage triggers a thought.
This is exactly the same kind of Markdown I’d be capturing in Drafts. I could easily turn this into a JSON payload and send it off.
Since I’m starting from a place where I’m capturing notes, it makes sense that notes would have an association with a source. The source could be a web article, a book, a movie, anything really. I could put a type field on sources to distinguish between mediums, if necessary. I could also pretty easily generate a citation for each note if I know the page and the source!
If I’m capturing a note on a web article, I’m probably going to need to create the source at the same time that I create the note. If I’m reading a book, there’s a good chance that I’ll need to find an existing source for the note.
At the time I’m creating a note, there’s two ways that I will be associating it with a source. I will either need to be creating the source at the same time, or I’ll need to find an existing source.
This workflow suggests that I’ll want to:
Capture the highlight and create a draft entry in Sanity
Get the URL for the newly created entry, then open its page in the browser
From there, I can associate the newly created note with a source and publish it.
I also want to be able to create a source from a URL or from an ISBN. This is a convenience feature and can come later!
My job was the same as Harry Bawcom and Mike Janes. We were given the logic drawings from Bill Mensch and Ray Hirt and etc, and turned them into the drawing you see in the picture from the Electrical Engineering Times article from 1975.
To do this, we drew them in pieces on big sheets of mylar that fit together like a puzzle. In order to do a careful logic to layout check we taped all the pieces together on the floor and crawled around on it to trace out the lines. The drawings were then digitized into layers so masks could be made from them.
I remember that once, one of the guys took off his shoes and was on the mylar checking when it was discovered his socks were damp and his toes were erasing the drawing as he moved along. Fortunately, it was caught very soon so the rework was minimal. We had a good laugh over it.
In order to design a microprocessor without a computer, it first had to be inhabited at human scale. This reminds me of the Minecraft projects that build fully-functional CPUs, the sheer scale of those circuits, and they way players fly through them.
There is a concrete and causal relationship between the complexity of the systems we encounter every day; the opacity with which most of those systems are constructed or described; and fundamental, global issues of inequality, violence, populism and fundamentalism.
I’m continually fascinated by the “folk stories” I hear people telling about ad-tech. Stories like, “Instagram listens to your conversations and analyzes them to show you ads,” or “5G gives you COVID.” These ideas are rooted in the opacity of day to day technologies and power structures. They are shared by word-of-mouth, which also takes place online.
The mad dream of a green energy transition might just be starting to come true, with much of the credit due to stubborn activists, clever engineers and a handful of far-sighted policymakers. But it is also happening for the unlikely reason that it has been redefined as a global capitalist-consumerist project. It realises utopian goals while simultaneously keeping stock markets ticking over, making the rich richer and spreading a general sense of virtue. The system has been able to turn the green energy transition into a set of products—electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines—but the transition to a world of better-treated workers involves systemic changes that are the antithesis of commodification.
The green energy transition, like synergy, is a case where a radical way of thinking that has become co-opted by capitalism.
The influential German sociologist and systems theorist Niklas Luhmann wrote more than 70 books and 400 articles in his lifetime. As he explained in a 1981 essay, his super-prolificity was partially attributable to a note-taking system, the “slip-box” or zettelkasten. (Luhmann’s 90,000 note archive, and the special wooden boxes he kept it in, can be viewed online.) The idea of a zettelkasten itself is about 500 years old, but Luhmann’s use of it still feels like a technological disruption of thinking because of how he theorized it as an experiment in systems theory that would automate the process of thinking new thoughts.
In some ways, I’m trying to use this personal site as my own zettelkasten. I’m trying to take notes in a discrete way that are all searchable later on.
The human condition, the condition of the tool-using animal, is to be perpetually vulnerable to mistaking instruments for ends.
I’ve certainly been vulnerable to this in the past. I need to constantly be asking myself, “am I really doing the right work right now?” Typically I find that once I enjoy using the system, that eliminates a lot of the distraction from building it out more.
When a farmer implements a new practice such as cover crops, a verifier comes in and calculates how much carbon is being captured. It then will certify that work and create a credit to sell on the market, most often to corporations looking to offset the carbon emissions they aren’t able to cut in their own process.
Farmers have previously been limited from participating in carbon markets, often due to high costs and poor measurement tools. Most land-related offset practices have focused on planting trees and how forests are managed.
Measuring soil carbon is directly tied to the efficacy of a carbon market. Sampling is accurate but expensive and narrowly focused, meaning farmers get compensated more fairly by the market. Modeling is broad and cheap, but too inaccurate to base market rates on. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
There are different approaches on how to account for all these things and come up with a number: one relies on modeling and the other on sampling.
Sampling, on the other hand, is much more accurate. It also is much more expensive—as much as $2,000 to $3,000 each time—and difficult to do in a comprehensive way. Multiple samples need to be taken at multiple depths on each field, which would be hard to do for every farm, every year.
The sampling approach could lead to more credits per acre, but farmers likely wouldn’t see that return because of the additional cost to get that data, said IndigoAg’s Hernandez.
IndigoAg uses a hybrid approach. A subset of acres in their program is sampled, which helps “ground truth to the model and increases its accuracy,” Hernandez said, “but then lets us scale the model in a manageable way.”
I’ll tell you one other thing about this story that nobody gets. One day, a friend of mine at the studio comes by pushing a two-wheel cart. It had three or four legal boxes on it. He goes, “Okay, Reynolds, thanks for this.”
I go, “What’s that?”
He goes, “This is the Groove, these boxes. This is everything you’ve written.” Anytime you write something and you hand it in, they stamp it and it goes into a box somewhere, because Disney owns it. It’s like that last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. [Some time later,] the movie’s out, and a guy knocks on my office door and says, “Are you Dave Reynolds? I’m from archives. I just need the final script for Emperor’s New Groove. They didn’t send one down.”
I go, “What’s that?”
He goes, “The final draft, the whole final script.”
I go, “No script.”
He goes, “There’s no script? What are you talking about?”
I go, “We don’t have a script. We never wrote a script. We just made the movie.”
He goes, “You’ve got to have a script. Archives has to have a script.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. Tell them to go see the movie. It’s in theaters right now.”
He goes, “You guys don’t have bound pages?”
I go, “Nope. We have no bound pages. There’s three or four legal boxes. You can have all you want. I saw them the other day.”
They had a couple interns just take all the pages and put them into a document, and then they wrote interstitials, and they slapped my name on it. This is the honest-to-God truth: The first and only draft of The Emperor’s New Groove was handed in two weeks after the movie was in theaters.
The fast-food burger is an ode to fake cheese, white bread, condiments, and a salty slab of generic cow. No bovine bliss here. And so the genius (or insidiousness) of the Impossible Food folks is not that they’ve created something that tastes like beef — they haven’t — it’s that they’ve taken discrete ingredients from the natural environment and transformed them to mimic the artificial awesomeness (or awfulness) of American processed food.
Note that I do not claim that all of this makes me more productive, merely that it makes things more searchable. I don’t see computing as a way to be productive as much as I see it as a space to be thoughtful. And I really do like things to be nicely searchable and linkable.
Paul Ford uses emacs as a single, text-based, backed up, blazing fast space for writing and then doing things with that writing.
The problem with energy efficiency policies, then, is that they are very effective in reproducing and stabilising essentially unsustainable concepts of service. Measuring the energy efficiency of cars and tumble driers, but not of bicycles and clotheslines, makes fast but energy-intensive ways of travel or clothes drying non-negotiable, and marginalises much more sustainable alternatives.
The biospherians reinvented, in their own mixed-up way, what it means to be indigenous to a place and a people, in a postindigenous time for mainstream Western culture
Grace means that it is not your place to appraise others, still less condemn, since they may have a role or a purpose that is hidden from you. Because of this, O’Connor consistently withholds judgment. The writer’s role, she said, is not to understand experience, but to understand ‘that he doesn’t understand it’. In this sense her writing is an expression of grace at work.
Synergy: another radical concept that was co-opted and made inert by capitalism.
Now that Twitter is falling into chaos I’m feeling a lot of calm in this idea
Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The winds shows us how close to the edge we are.
The Macintosh Portable is huge and heavy, but it’s fundamentally the same product as today’s MacBooks. This is the first place where many of these design solutions were applied to the Mac, like putting the computer to sleep and entering a low-power state once the battery is depleted.
It’s really neat how he assembles the computer while explaining how its components work and what makes them unique. I’m charmed by the relative simplicity of the components and how they all plug together. It’s very modular and logical.
There’s a similarity in this approach to the design of Framework’s laptop. I can imagine a similar assembly video being used to introduce that machine and its benefits. Framework forces reconsidering the question: how much integration is really necessary to deliver a great portable computer?
That screen still looks really good, even without a backlight. It reminds me of the screen used in the Playdate, and I wonder if that nostalgia is what informed Panic’s decision. I would love to see super-crisp LCDs used more often, especially if they would have a customizable LED backlight.
But omg, it used a lead acid battery. This laptop uses car parts!! Even the battery icon in the OS looks like a car battery.