My blogging experiment: The history (which some of you already know about) and a status report

In late February I decided I wanted to control the posts I make to social media. For several years before then, I posted to Google+, and used a service called Friends+Me to copy, or syndicate, those posts to Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

This Google+-first strategy worked out well in a few ways. It was fun for me – and that’s the primary reason I do this, for fun, although I do get some professional benefits. I accreted a modest but decent-sized community. I got in some great conversations. I got in touch with old friends and stayed in touch with them, and made a few new friends.

But I was unsatisfied in that I didn’t control my posts. If Google+, Facebook, or those other guys disappeared or changed their business model to exclude me, I’d be screwed. Also, I couldn’t control the layout of posts. I couldn’t insert a simple link, or image, or video. And it was hard to find old posts when I wanted to refer back to something I’d written about in the past. Annoying.

I decided to go back to blogging, something I’d done sporadically before the social media era. I’d made a return to blogging once before in 2014, but went back to the Google+/Friends+Me method after a couple of months because I noticed all the conversations were happening on Google+, Facebook, and so on, so I figured there was no point in doing it on a blog.

This time, I had a reason to do it on the blog: Because it gave me control over my work. I hoped people would come to the blog to read and comment, but I’d be fine if the conversations continued on social media. Indeed, I’d be fine if the number of conversations reduced, because I was starting to get Internet-famous enough to attract rude strangers to my posts.

It’s been more than two months of the experiment. How’s it going so far?

Quite well, actually.

I still get in a lot of good conversations on social media and I have the blog, mitchwagner.com, as a hub. In addition to the pleasure of posting and conversations, I can fiddle around with WordPress, and its plugins and themes and stuff, which I like.

If you spend most of your time in virtual reality and you’re happy, are you living a happy life?

Philip Rosedale: The Mind Itself is a Virtual World We Live In

For me at least, that’s not the most important question. The better question: Why are you in virtual reality (or using Facebook)? If you’re using it because your real life is crap and the virtual world is the only place where you can be happy, then you have a problem.

The novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline has become the template for the present generation of VR developers, the way William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash were for past generations. The characters in Ready Player One spend all their time in VR because real life is a dystopia; there’s nothing for them there. Wagner James Au, who wrote the Rosedale blog post I linked to here, makes these points elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in the real world now, most people have diminishing prospects. But we have plenty of gadgets!

I say fix the real world and then deal with the philosophical problems of virtual reality another day.

Today I’m supposed to be restricted to soft foods

It proved to be a challenge to think of something convenient, fast AND soft to have for lunch that wouldn’t be the same as what I had for breakfast, or what I’m planning to have for dinner.

Finally I hit on an idea: Baby food.

And that’s what I just had.

It doesn’t taste good. It doesn’t taste bad either. It just is.

I had something called “Gerber Chicken Itty-Bitty Noodle Dinner With Lil’ Bits.” The “Lil’ Bits” part sounds disturbing when dealing with anything that will involve any baby orifice.

I also had Gerber Garden Vegetables, comprising peas, carrots, and spinach.

I had two packages each, served at room temperature, because I am a buckaroo.

Eating them made me feel like a character in a midcentury rom-com, a middle-aged guy in  a plaid sports jacket and combover, eating baby food and complaining about having an ulcer. Then in Act III he throws it all over and has tacos and tequila. In act IV, he repents.

While bringing the spoon to my mouth, I had a strange compulsion to say, “HERE COMES THE FOOD PLANE INTO THE HANGAR! ZOOM! ZOOM!” What’s up with that?

This is a new thing I’m doing

In all the exciting discussion of my large intestine, I’ve neglected to inform you about even bigger news: Light Reading is launching a new community devoted to enterprise cloud coverage, and guess who’s heading up editorial?

Me, that’s who! And my large intestine will have virtually no involvement in it.

More here: Welcome to Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

And here’s a press release: Light Reading Flies to Enterprise Cloud With New Online Community.

The most important bit, from my perspective, is on the kinds of stories we’re doing:

Light Reading’s coverage will drill into all aspects of this exciting new world, including converged communications, cloud collaboration, outsourcing, data center design, SDN and NFV virtualization, cloud management, cloud analytics, open source and security, as well as the intersection of service provider and enterprise networks.

Light Reading’s coverage of enterprise cloud will be differentiated by the same values that have always set Light Reading apart: fiercely independent and authoritative editorial, with focus on the business implications of technology rather than technology for its own sake.

The most interesting stories will be about how businesses are using cloud computing to not just cut costs but also to transform their business. Even better is when businesses are using the cloud to do things that they couldn’t have done before.

By the way, I wrote the first draft of that release, and it is an indication of my descent into degradation that I can sit here and write a sentence like this:

The Editor of Light Reading Enterprise Cloud is Mitch Wagner, formerly Executive Editor of InformationWeek and an industry-renowned expert in enterprise as well as telecom.

and not feel even a little bit ashamed.

“Looting” vs. “finding supplies”

In his recent interview with the LA Review of Books, Cory Doctorow talks about how regular people tend to band together and help each other out in disasters. But the rich fear that the poor will come eat them, and so the rich call out the army, which makes the disaster worse.

Which reminds me of this photo from Hurricane Katrina, which achieved notoriety in some circles:

looting

Two photos, essentially identical, of people wading through chest-high water in the aftermath of the hurricane, carrying bags of stuff they got from stores. The black man is described as a looter. The white folks, in essentially the same situation, are described as “finding bread and soda.”

The photo of the black man was much criticized as being racist. But the photographer claims he saw the man looting the grocery store.

Now I want to know what the black man took. If it’s electronics or liquor, sure, I’ll call him a looter. But if it’s staple food, and there was no one around to sell it to him, well, I’ll say he just did what he needed to do to survive.

And then maybe I’ll read Les Miserables.

” … Facebook wants to get rid of the internet and replace it with Facebook.”

Joshua Rigsby interviews Cory Doctorow for The Los Angeles Review of Books:

Cory on moving from London to beautiful downtown Burbank, California:

Burbank is its own little village. We’ve got a 2.5-mile-long stretch with no chain stores. I don’t own a car. We walk everywhere. We live five minutes from the airport. It’s very handy and weird and surreal. It’s where they shot the B-footage for ’50s TV shows, so everything feels eerily familiar in a Father Knows Best kind of way.

Burbank has just become our new normal, we’re settled in, we’re about to get our green cards. The bureaucracy is crazy, but it’s a one-time thing and that’s how I maintain my sanity, by saying, I never have to figure out how to get my Canadian long-form birth certificate again. So, I will spend this afternoon trying to figure out the office address of the doctor who delivered me 44 years ago for the Canadian government, but then never again.

On the role of fiction:

I don’t know that there’s a “the role,” but I think that one of the roles that fiction plays is that it’s entertaining. Fiction is primarily about empathy. It’s about pretending you’re someone else and experiencing their emotions. In the same way that getting a back rub feels nice, because it’s good for your muscles or whatever, I believe that thinking about what it would be like to be someone else is just intrinsically satisfying — at least for people within one or two sigmas of normal cognitive activity. Science fiction can also give us an emotional fly-through of a technology. It can be like an architect’s rendering of what it would feel like to live inside a technological regime, and so science fiction has been very useful in policy fronts in that regard.

On Facebook:

… Facebook wants to get rid of the internet and replace it with Facebook.

On his next novel, Walk Away, his first novel for adults since 2009:

Walk Away was inspired by the historian and activist Rebecca Solnit, who wrote the book A Paradise Built In Hell, about the gap between how people who live through disasters experience them, how they are reported, and how political and economic elites react to them. She starts with the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, and she shows this recurring pattering called “elite panic,” where rich people are convinced that when things break down the poor people are going to come and eat them, basically. So the rich preemptively attack the poor. Like General Funston keeping people out of the mission as it burned during the 1906 earthquake. He actually sent out detonation squads that didn’t know how to set fire breaks. They burned down a quarter of San Francisco, and didn’t let anyone go back and fight the fires in their homes. Or in Haiti — the ironclad belief that there would be food riots led to the creation of food distribution centers that were pretty much custom-built to create riots. Or in New Orleans, where there were no verified accounts of looting (as we understand it), besides people taking supplies and leaving IOU notes with the intention of settling up once the owners returned. Nevertheless there were Blackwater mercenaries and rich white neighborhood associations who were shooting to kill because they were convinced that there would be looting. There is this gap between how people behave and how elites believe people will behave.

Walk Away is a utopian disaster novel. It’s a novel about a disaster where people behave well.

 

The joys and occasional awkwardness of unfollowing people on social media

And Now, I Unfollow Thee [Katherine Rosman – The New York Times]

I am aware of one person I admire, and with whom I’ve occasionally corresponded over email, who unfollowed me on Twitter a couple of years ago. This happened soon after I made a comment in an email conversation that could have been construed as bigoted.

I also noticed a few months ago that someone who I once considered a real-life friend had unfollowed me on Twitter, after I made a comment that could be construed as disrespectful to his profession.

In both of those cases, it could just be that they found they weren’t enjoying all the posts I make about 20th Century kitsch and technical computer networking news.

And of course the real question is why should I, as a grownup man with a wife and a dog, care about all this high school bullshit? And it’s not like I’m up nights worrying about it and sobbing into my pillow. It just occasionally pops up in my head. Why did those guys unfollow me?

Ironically, in real life social situations, when the conversation turns to social media, I often tell people yes I am very active on social media and it’s ok if they don’t follow me. And I mean it. I know my tastes are idiosyncratic and not for everyone. If you enjoy my posts, great, I’m delighted to have you in my little club of lunatics. If not, that’s fine too and we can still be friends.

 

12 science fiction novel adaptations that should get a do-over reboot

12 Novel Adaptations That Should Get a Do-Over Reboot

Starship Troopers is at the top of this list by Andrew Liptak at io9. It’s a tough one to do right. Much of the book consists of classroom lectures being received by the hero, and the hero’s thoughts on those lectures. I found them fascinating reading, but they wouldn’t translate well to the screen.

On the other hand, the novel also contains scenes of soldiers preparing for battle, and stirring battle scenes, which would film very well.

The movie has very little in common with the book. Indeed, the underlying philosophy of the movie, to the extent that it has one, is the opposite of the book. In the novel, Earth is subject to an unprovoked attack by monstrous aliens, and fights back. The novel is a celebration of that fight. In the movie, it’s never clear whether the aliens had provocation, and the Earth government is clearly corrupt.

Director Paul Verhoeven has said in interviews that the theme of the movie is that government is corrupt and betrays the nobility and sacrifice of its soldiers. Which sounds like a fine political sentiment, and one that any reasonable politically aware 21st Century American can support, until you realize that was pretty much exactly one of the themes that drove the Nazis to power in Germany.

 

I keep hearing from people who say a colonoscopy was no problem at all.

I am not one of those people. I was in no shape to do anything yesterday. And my ass has been dragging all day today. I’d hoped today to get back to my exercise routine of doing a 3+-mile brisk walk with Minnie, but I think I’ll just take her for a leisurely short stroll instead.

I hope to have more energy tomorrow.

And being a little enervated for 36 hours or so beats failing to detect cancer. My colon was certified cancer-free. Woo-hoo!

I wonder if the people who think they have felt no ill effects from a colonoscopy were soaring on the sedatives afterward? And if they’re discounting the next day’s fatigue as unrelated?

On the other hand, it could just be that the colonoscopy hit me harder than most. I am not Superman. Even though I do like wearing tights and a cape.

Group claims to be sending men into women’s bathrooms to prove that allowing men in women’s bathrooms is a bad idea

The American Family Association says that it’s proving the Target rules are bad by sending men into women’s bathrooms.

And nothing bad has happened.

American Family Association, you’re doing it wrong.

“We’ve already had people testing this, going into Targets and men trying to go into bathrooms. There is absolutely no barrier,” said an American Family Association leader.

And there’s no barrier to men using women’s bathrooms even without the Target regulations. Men can use women’s bathrooms anytime, and nothing bad will happen to the men. I’ve done it myself! And recently! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

TSA lines grow to 3 hours, snake outside the terminals, with no end in sight

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing:

The TSA gambled on millions of wealthy Americans opting out of its pornoscanner-and-shoe-removal process and signing up for its Precheck policy, which allows travellers to pay for the “privilege” of walking through a metal-detector with their shoes on, while their laptops stay in their bags.

It was a gamble that they lost. Americans have stayed away from the process in droves, but the TSA had already committed to cutting staff in anticipation of much lighter queues at their checkpoints. Instead of lightening, the queues have got longer, as the US economy has recovered and low fuel prices have kept the price of plane tickets down.

The TSA is now warning travelers to expect very long security lines this summer (Denver Airport warns that its TSA queues can take three hours to clear), as it scrambles to train more staff. In the meantime, whole airports’ worth of people are missing their flights, sending the airport managers and airlines into rare public displays of temper against the agency, calling the lines “unacceptable” (American Airlines), a “fiasco” (Brent D. Cagle, interim director of aviation for Charlotte Douglas International Airport) and accusing the agency of lying when it cites crowds as the reason for lines (Denver Airport).

Cory also notes that long lines for services used to be the symbol of Soviet oppression.

I quibble with the characterization of Pre customers as “wealthy.” I use Pre. I’m just a middle-class guy who travels a lot on the company dime. I’m only wealthy in the way that middle class Americans are wealthy on the global scale. If I traveled only one or two times a year or less, and had to pay for it myself, I would not buy Pre. Indeed, I suspect business travel is where TSA is getting its Pre revenue.

My medical adventure went well

I was lightly sedated, which meant I was conscious throughout. If you could call it that. The whole thing had a distant quality to it. There was a big-screen TV in sight across the room, and I watched the procedure on that.

I’ve heard other people describe similar experiences as being like they were happening to someone else. For me, it was more like I was watching a moderately interesting but very confusing and complicated bit of repair work being done on my car, while I drifted in and out of sleep. As I describe it now, I realize I must have been more out of it than I thought at the time. I thought I was alert. But if I’d been alert, I’d have found the procedure much more interesting – and distressing! – than I actually did.

I remember asking questions. I remember one or two were answered. I remember asking other questions which were ignored. I suspect I only thought I was speaking at that point.

I was in the hospital at noon and home by 5. The doctor apparently used a sandblaster on my insides – or something like that – I’m a bit unsure of the details – because he vetoed my dreams of a hearty dinner. Instead, he said I need to give my gut a chance to recover, which means more clear liquid diet plus Ensure today, an opaque liquid diet tomorrow, soft foods Wednesday, and then back to normal eating Thursday. Oh, well. Thursday is pizza night at our house anyway, so I have that to look forward to.

We stopped off at the pharmacy on the way home to pick up some Ensure. Julie insisted I wait in the car because I kept insisting that I was fine to walk but apparently I was pretty wobbly in real life. I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. I waited for her in the car.

I got home, pounded down an Ensure and an apple juice like a 24-year-old financial analyst doing Jaeger shots, took a nap with Minnie on the day  bed, and woke up much restored. Had more Ensure for dinner, because I appreciate wild living. Tomorrow I’ll mix up a batch of Soylent and that will be my food for the day. I expect to be back to work mid-day Tuesday.

Oh, yeah, I can have tea again on Tuesday. OMG, tea! I’ve been taking caffeine pills today and yesterday to avoid headaches and such, which is just said.

Grateful for Julie and my health, good healthcare, and the support of all of you, my friends and family, to get through what turned out to be a nearly trivial incident. Grateful for that too.

Now here’s an animated GIF of a monkey clapping cymbals together, because we’ve had a difficult day and we deserve it.