Rubbish at Drinking

That’s it. I’ve had it with drinking. Or at least, I’ve had it with alcohol – until I forget how rubbish I’ve become at dealing with it. While watching the “Rings of Power” on TV last night I had a couple of glasses of wine. You would have thought this morning that I’d headbutted a brick wall all night.

Zaphod Beeblebrox comes to mind – and his description of the fabled “Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster” – widely regarded as the best drink in the universe, and which feels like having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.

Seriously though – how can I get away with a glass of wine or two one day, and then abjectly fail the next? I guess, thinking about it, it’s been several weeks since I last had any sort of alcoholic drink. Perhaps your body gets “out of practice”? That’s a good think though, right? Perhaps my liver saw it coming and said “here, brain – you deal with it”.

At least it’s a quiet work day. They have been few and far between this year.

Of course mentioning that work is quiet is a little like mentioning Beetlejuice. If you say it three times, there’s no telling what might happen. On that subject, did you know about the Beetlejuice easter egg in Community (the quite wonderful TV show)? His name is mentioned once in each of the first three seasons – moments after the third mention, he appears in the background. Go look it up on Youtube.

And no, I’m not going to mention his name for a third time – that’s just tempting fate.

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Mastodon Emerges

Watching the slow exodus of users bleed away from Twitter over the last several days has been interesting. Who would have thought that an eccentric billionaire hijacking one of the great tent-pole social internet platforms would cause such visceral reactions?

Perhaps the greatest positive to take away from the unfolding shenanigans as Elon Musk drives Twitter into the ground like a meteorite, and Mark Zuckerberg realises his bets on “Facebook at Work” and “Horizon Worlds” aren’t worth the paper they were written on, is the gradual realisation for many that there might be a better way.

The right place, at the right time

In recent days, old media has been filled with column after column attempting to educate their readership about a social network named after a woolly mammoth. Only it’s not a social network in the sense most people have come to know — it’s a federated nework.

The federated internet, or “fediverse” as journalists call it (the same journalists that call the internet “cyberspace”), is difficult to describe. I’ll have a go.

The Walled Gardens

When you visit Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Blogger, or wherever else, you’re essentially visiting a walled garden — where everything you see or interact with is owned, operated, and controlled by the service you visit. They set the rules, build the gate, moderate, and control everything and everybody that visits.

If the likes of Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and Tim Berners Lee hadn’t come up with TCP/IP and the web, we might not be using the “internet” now — we might still be using a collection of proprietary commercial networks that are intentionally incompatible with one-another.

The important thing that both the “inter-net” and “world wide web” introduced was not a product, or saleable service — it was a set of standards by which disparate services might operate such that they could transmit, receive, and interpret communications between each other.

When you send an email, request a webpage, or stream media over the internet, the data jumps back and forth through numerous networks as it spans the globe — with each network understanding the packages flying this way and that because they all adhere to the same methods of encoding, transmitting, receiving, and decoding data. They follow standards.

So what IS a federated network?

A federated network is essentially the opposite of a walled garden. Anybody can setup a garden, set rules for that garden, and users can set up home in a garden of their choosing. The gardens therefore naturally coalesce into groups of people with similar aims, outlooks, backgrounds, or beliefs — about anything and everything. You might find gardens predominantly filled with artists, scientists, writers, readers, and so on, and so forth. You might also find gardens filled with a wonderful cross-section of people from all walks of life, and from all over the world.

Here’s the trick — each person in each garden can communicate with, follow, subscribe to, and share content from and to anybody both in their own garden, and in the wider network of gardens. The inhabitants of each garden can then see both the stream of posts from people in their garden, AND the stream of posts from everybody followed by the people in their garden.

Mastodon

The most successful embodiment of these ideas so far is “Mastodon”. It looks a little like Twitter, and works a little like Twitter, but it’s really very different indeed.

Each server in the Mastodon network is self supporting — usually through donations. Nobody owns or controls any of it. Each server is connected to the wider network of servers — in much the same way that your computer or phone is connected to the internet.

Typically servers have no advertising, and no algorithmic timeline. You can control the audience for anything you post — limiting to those mentioned, those you follow, or the world and it’s dog. The gatekeepers of each server set their own rules, and moderate as they see fit. There’s nothing to stop you packing your bags and moving to a different server either.

What does this all mean?

It’s simple.

Suddenly the loudest voices no longer win arguments, because they have no audience, and can find no audience. Marketers can no longer spray advertorial nonsense across swathes of the local population because they get filtered out of existence at speed. Keyboard warriors, trolls, and scammers find themselves excluded, blacklisted, and ignored.

It’s easier to complain

If Mastodon sounds a little like nirvanah, that’s because it is. There’s only one problem — people are lazy. In a fit of altruism, I posted the “what is Mastodon?” video to Facebook yesterday evening. I’ve posted it before, and said as much. This morning an ex colleague commented “why have I never seen this ?”

I replied — “because people will spend far more time and effort complaining about something than doing anything about it”.

Remembering the crazy ones

Perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves of the famous “crazy ones” poem written by Rob Siltanen, Lee Clow and others — often mis-attributed to Steve Jobs:

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.

The rebels.

The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.

They explore. They create. They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?

Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?

Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Monday

I almost overslept this morning. I’m going to blame the strangest dream I’ve had in quite some time. None of it made any sense, but it stuck in my head all day. Somebody I know was in it – I’ll have to tell them about it. I wonder if they had a strange dream too?

So.

I went to an office today – for the first time in three years. The company I work for is busy putting together a new website (read: I’m putting together the new website), so we needed to get together to talk about pages, wording, and so on. The meeting could have happened remotely, but I think people are starting to get itchy about not having seen one another for so long.

We hired out a meeting room in a building that does exactly that – hires out meeting rooms. For an eye-watering amount of money you get a clean, tidy room in a managed office with wifi, a TV on the wall, a coffee machine, and some stale biscuits.

At least the coffee machine was good.

After revelling in the novelty factor of being “out of the house” for a few hours, we retired to a nearby café and met up with another colleague (the same café my daughter works at, although she was not there today).

I’m not going to lie – it was good to see co-workers again.

Monday

I almost overslept this morning. I’m going to blame the strangest dream I’ve had in quite some time. None of it made any sense, but it stuck in my head all day. Somebody I know was in it – I’ll have to tell them about it. I wonder if they had a strange dream too?

So.

I went to an office today – for the first time in three years. The company I work for is busy putting together a new website (read: I’m putting together the new website), so we needed to get together to talk about pages, wording, and so on. The meeting could have happened remotely, but I think people are starting to get itchy about not having seen one another for.

We hired out a meeting room in a building that does exactly that – hires out meeting rooms. For an eye-watering amount of money you get a clean, tidy room in a managed office with wifi, a TV on the wall, a coffee machine, and some stale biscuits.

At least the coffee machine was good.

After revelling in the novelty factor of being “out of the house” for a few hours, we retired to a nearby café and met up with another colleague (the same café my daughter works at, although she was not there today).

I’m not going to lie – it was good to see co-workers again.

Adventures with Hugo

Sunday morning is rapidly vanishing in a storm of washing up, clothes washing, tidying up, and avoiding block-printing mayhem in the lounge (our youngest daughter has something of a cottage industry going). It’s already half eleven. The washing machine is already on it’s third load – the kitchen looks like a laundromat because OF COURSE it’s raining.

In the middle of all of this I’ve been tinkering with the blog.

I’ve finally pulled the plug on the stock images that have decorated my posts in the past. This is partly to do with the various free stock image sites slowly being acquired and ruined by the likes of Getty, and partly because stock images are becoming so generic and well known, they almost detract from any story you might wish to share. I’ve even noticed news outlets starting to use them to accompany articles.

I’ve also moved the “source of all things” away from Substack. One false move last week delivered a personal blog post to more than 500 subscribers of completely unrelated publication I write for. Whoops. I figured it was too easy a mistake to make, so started looking around at alternatives – not that you might realise if you’re reading my words at WordPress, Tumblr or Medium – because they get automagically cross-posted by Zapier.

About a year ago I looked at Hugo as an alternative blog publishing mechanism. I looked at it in response to the first rumblings of Elon buying Twitter – and a re-evaluation of how easy it is to become dependent on “the cloud” when you don’t really own any of it.

Hugo is a “static site generator”. You put an appropriate collection of layout and markdown files in a directory structure, tell Hugo to have a look at it, and it spits out a website for you. In and of itself, that’s pretty cool – but it requires a fair amount of technical know-how to use – and that’s where the story gets interesting. There’s an online service called “Netlify” that will set Hugo up for you, and wire it up to Github for you. All you then need to do is save a markdown file into Github whenever you want to post to the blog.

If you’ve been reading my idiocy for a while, you’ll know I’ve almost always written in text editors – away from the web. This plays into my hands – all I have to do is save a text file in the appropriate folder, “check it in”, and a minute later it appears by magic at the top of my blog (and at the various other places my writing exists around the web).

The kicker? Because Hugo websites are “static”, their response time is almost instantaneous. There is no programming – no processing – to build each page.

Anyway.

Something else that I’ve been turning over in my head is the “archive”. At the moment I’m only throwing this year’s posts at Hugo – mostly because I can’t believe anybody might be interested enough in my words to scroll backwards through the last twenty years of my life (although saying that, I know some people have). I’m wondering if I should actually clear down the Hugo blog each new year, and start with no posts on January 1st. It won’t affect any of the places it gets cross-posted to – just the “source”. I can then hive off the old stuff to a private repository to take out when I’m feeling sentimental.

TLDR – the source of this blog now flows from https://jonbeckett.blog 🙂

Thursday Night and Friday Morning

I’m not entirely sure where the last few days have gone. The word “relentless” comes to mind – both to describe the working day, and the evenings.

I cooked dinner this evening – a hastily prepared spaghetti bolognese. My youngest daughter offered to help, but given that I can make it faster on my own, and make far less mess, asked instead if she could put the clothes away that were folded on the dining table, and then set the table for dinner.

We always try to sit at the table for dinner – we always have done. Our eldest daughter questioned why we do it some time ago, and we struggled to validate it. When the kids were young it was always their chance to tell everybody what they had been doing – a crafty ruise to improve their manners, ettiquette, and language skills. They would look forward to “their turn” to relate their adventures.

These days we often get no more than a “nothing much” when we ask the kids how their day went. The only avenue that seems to ellicit much conversation is if we ask how much drama is going on between people they know.

Oh – while I think of it – if anybody out there has children that have progressed past their teenage years – when do they start to look after their room? Our younger children seem to be quite happy living in squalor. I looked in on our middle daughter earlier today, and was taken aback by the stacks of dirty plates, cups, glasses, food wrappers and dirty clothes strewn around her room.

I enquired if she might clean her room up this evening.

“Later on.”

Correct me if I’m wrong – but I think that might translate to “never”.

Anyway.

It’s getting properly late now – and I have to get up in the morning. Time to sleep.

Swimming Against the Tide

The sky fell this morning. Cats and dogs. Curtain rods. It fell last night too. I will admit to feeling sorry for the young children “trick or treating” for Halloween – not so sorry for the teenagers trying to blag candy based on little or no effort.

I ended up in charge of answering the door as the first wave of children arrived in the early evening. Two of my daughters prepared pumpkins and lit them – apparently the sign to those wandering past that we were “open for business”. We had a *lot* of candy.

My favourite visitor of the evening was a little girl – no taller than your knee – dressed as a witch, and tightly holding her big brother’s hand while her Mum crouched behind her. She stumbled over her words before informing me that she was a witch. Her mum grinned at me with the biggest shrug and the toothiest smile as we said our goodbyes and she wandered off into the darkness.

Another little boy visited a few minutes later. Before the rainstorm he probably had very impressive facepoint, but half an hour later it looked more like he’d been in either a road traffic accident, or had a very heavy night involving vodka and a hedge. He stammered for quite some time while telling us exactly which character he was.

“I’m… I’m… I’m… umm… I’m… I’m… Huggy Wuggy”.

I thought no more of it until relating the story later in the evening. We looked up “Huggy Wuggy”, and couldn’t quite believe our eyes. It turns out the little boy – no older than maybe five – had dressed as a character from an extremely violent adult horror video game that police have issued warnings about.

Let’s try not to think about that any more.

Anyway.

Today is another day. The first of November! I always feel like there’s something special about crossing from one month into another – and yet all we’ve really done is float a little bit further around our sun.

It’s been raining on-and-off all day. Cold, windy, and grey. In between work I’ve been washing clothes, tidying up, and doing all the other chores that seem to fall upon me these days. I just realised while writing this that I haven’t even looked at my phone all day – I have no idea if anybody has tried to message me (glances at email, and sees a screenfull of unready emails). Oh dear. Do you ever have days when you feel like you’re swimming against the tide? I seem to have had several months of that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with the kettle and the jar of coffee. We’re good friends.

Oh – before I go – given that the world seems to be up-in-arms about certain billionaires buying their social media footprint from under them, I’m tinkering with jonbeckett.blog once again. Feel free to visit. Let’s call it an insurance policy. It struck over the last few days that while everybody seems to be recoiling in horror at Elon buying Twitter, very few people have actually left.

So near and yet so far

While tinkering with this and that this morning, I stumbled upon the blog of an old friend. Somebody I really shouldn’t have lost touch with, but somehow had. One click led to another, and before I knew it I had spent the better part of an hour reading about her recent days, weeks, and months. Something occurred to me while reading.

She writes the way I used to write. The way I would like to write.

Somehow life has conspired to reduce the occaisional posts I publish to a few mundane words about the most meaningless of events. I rarely share what I think or what I feel any more.

I need to remember who I used to be – what I used to be. I need to become that person again. Reading her blog this morning was a wake-up call. A good wake-up call. A reminder of what a blog can be, and what it might be once again if only I start being a little bit brave, and sharing a little bit more.

I struggled to get up today – but why did I struggle. What am I worried about? What am I avoiding? In my experience the most unlikely friendships are forged in the gaps – when we realise that somebody else, somewhere else is not so different than us – that they have the same thoughts, the same ideas, the same worries, and same fears. The same things might make us laugh, cry, and angry – but we won’t know unless we share some of them.

So I guess that’s what I’m going to try and do. Remember who I used to be, how open and idealistic I used to be, and try to wear that person’s shoes once again.

I wrote her an email – the blogger – and wondered out loud how we managed to drift so far apart. While writing the email I remembered a blog post I wrote many years ago – wondering if we’re all like boats – floating along – and sometimes we pass other boats and travel along together for a while. Maybe we don’t have to float away. Maybe we don’t have to be so far away, when the internet can so swiftly bring us back together.

A God of Slow Things

I spoke to a friend on the internet this morning – the first contact with anybody outside my family for a couple of weeks, and we both found ourselves wondering where each day goes. How is it suddenly Friday already? I suppose in a way I’m glad it’s not just me that’s feeling it. But still… an the universe not just slow down a BIT?

I’ve been head down at work all week – which makes every day very similar to the last. I get up, have a shower, make a coffee, eat a piece of toast, fire up the computer, sit in front of it, invariably eat lunch at my desk, then express surprise when it’s already dark outside.

I *really* need to start forcing myself to take proper lunch breaks. Go for a walk. Get out of these four walls.

I’m hoping against hope that this weekend will be quiet – that I get a chance to step away from the computer, read a book, watch a movie, maybe wander to a nearby cafe for a bit. There’s also the paper notebook I bought the other week – which still hasn’t so much as been opened yet.

Anyway.

Enough waffling on about nothing in particular. It’s nearly food o’clock.

I’ve been watching the “Lord of the Rings” TV series over the last couple of weeks. It says something that I’m still only about four episodes in after several weeks. I was supposed to take part in a group event last night on the internet, but didn’t finish clearing up the dinner things until half an hour after it started.

I wonder if the Romans had a god of slow things?