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15/12/2020, 09:01

Last night I had the idea that I could show post revisions for the garden pages on the front end (yes, this is the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night) so as to keep track of changes. Definitely one of those "because I can" things.

Using the function wp_get_post_revisions() I can pull them out and use a little logic to get the previous version (the last one that doesn't match the current saved content.) WordPress then has a built in text comparison function wp_text_diff which displays the changes in the nice table you see in wp_admin when checking revisions:

Compare last revision

I'll probably just add a toggle to show/hide the table. I don't know whether this is something I'll ever use or need, maybe if I accidentally save something incorrectly.

# Something I've thought about a lot over the years, but never been able to commit to, is journalling.

I've tried paper and digital, app and web, morning pages and daily gratitude logs, but nothing has stuck for an extended period. I don't know why.

A couple of years back I went to the trouble of creating a private journalling plugin for WordPress (well, it only created a custom post type) but removed it, unused.

I don't even blog daily.

A couple of recent posts got me reconsidering. In "A place to write" Seth Godin stated:

"a huge advantage of having a daily blog is that the software is always open, waiting for you to write something"

CJ Chilvers mentioned that his sole constraint for journalling was to "write something, anything, every day" - my exact words about the #write365 project.

In the past I have felt that "writing in multiple places reduces the focus I have on each" even if those places were reserved for completely different purposes.

Recently, however, I've been negotiating the blog and the garden reasonably well so, armed with the insights from Seth and CJ, I have decided to give journalling another go.

I have gone back to my plugin but, this time, added a simple interface for posting journal entries based on the existing front end forms I've been using on the blog.

Maybe it never stuck because I didn't have all the pieces in place. Now they are and it can't get much simpler. Here's hoping that will carry me through.

# "We cannot look down upon [them] if our obvious is their oblivious."

Quite a profound quote from 6 years ago me.

# This morning's foray into post revisions was a typical example of how I work: I think of something, have no idea of whether it is possible, then set out to make it happen.

I had no idea about wp_get_post_revisions or wp_text_diff but found them while doing some judicious searching. I scramble around, learning as I go, documenting the journey as a way to remember it.

But, I suppose most people are like that, our ideas are exciting because they are new, unknown quantities, and the sense of achievement is all the greater.


24/04/2020, 17:08

I was listening to the album "S.H.A.D.O 2 by Higher Intelligence Agency & Pete Namlook" for the first time in at least 10 years and couldn't remember much about it.

The first track, Countless, begins with someone speaking the following words in sections:

There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all of the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure, I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience.

Intrigued, I had to know where they originated and a quick search discovered that they are spoken by Major Motoko Kusanagi in the anime "Ghost in the Shell" - it’s been even longer since I've seen the original film. The live action version with Scarlet Johansson is okay but doesn't explore the concepts in nearly as much depth.

The full version of the above quote is as below:

There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience. I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.

I understand the last sentence may have been left off for both brevity and a lack of context but find it interesting that "and I carry a sense of my own destiny" was removed from the middle. I think that's such a powerful statement.

The film was originally called "Mobile Armored Riot Police" in Japan but the director, Mamoru Oshii, always wanted his adaptation of the original manga to be called "Ghost in the Shell" in reference to Arthur Koestler's book "The Ghost in the Machine" which, in turn, took its name from the philosopher Gilbert Ryle's description of Descartes' mind-body dualism - that the mind and body are distinct and separate.

Ghost in the Shell deals with what it is to be human in a world where the mind (ghost) can be inserted into an artificial body (the shell) and, consequently, the natures of identity and the soul. The Major seeks a true sense of self beyond the work she was "built" to do, longs to know if she is autonomous or automaton. Carrying a sense of one's own destiny, in this context, hints that she favours the former.

The mind-body duality is something I explored back in 2014 in a #write365 piece called "What makes us us?" in the context of Star Trek and the film Oblivion.

The obvious starting point was teleportation:

We joke how the technology of today is catching up with the vision of the show and hope that this trend continues, we don't know where progress will lead, but one aspect of Trekkie technology that we could have a problem with is the teleportation of people. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with the concept of transferring _matter by scanning its structure at a deep enough level, transmitting that pattern and reassembling it at the other end. The problem with people, however, is not a physical one but a metaphysical one._ Our bodies are just matter and, in that sense, could be broken down into their component parts - a model waiting to be reassembled. But, the mind - now that is a different matter (pun intended). The mind is a mystery: the spontaneous formation of consciousness from a collection of cells should not occur, yet here we are - sentient, aware.

Indeed, Koestler argues that man evolved too quickly and is a "biological freak, the result of some remarkable mistake in the evolutionary process."

Back to my piece:

The mind cannot be seen or held or fixed by surgery, it is not part of us in the sense that an arm, a lung or even the brain is part of us. So, how do we explain or rationalise our "conscious self"? If we cannot pinpoint the mind how do we transfer it along with its body? If our mind is the sum of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and experiences is it laid out in the synaptic patterns of our brains at some quantum level? By reassembling our brain structure exactly would we reassemble the mind, the memories, the consciousness?

When I was still a teenager I started writing (a failed and abandoned) sci-fi novel that expanded on the Trekkian notion of teleportation as the transmission of data rather than matter, taking our pattern and rebuilding it. But, if we are not transmitting matter then what happens to it?

...each teleportation device would have a "matter pool" - the transmitting device would scan us and we would be disassembled, our matter being added to the local pool. At the other end we would be reassembled from the matter pool in the receiver. In essence, we are being destroyed and recreated, the version of us after teleportation is essentially a copy.

Picture Jeff Goldblum's lab in The Fly with the transmitter and receiver side by side - that was also the testing setup in my novel but a mistake meant that the original was not disassembled before the copy was created. The answer? A marine shoots the original in front of the copy (who understandably goes mad seeing himself killed) - "Can't have two of 'em!"

It served to pose the question: what makes us us? Is the body just a container, a shell?

Our outward appearance, our bodies, our "containers" are how we recognise each other but, without this visual clue, we can also recognise others by voice, by patterns of behaviour, by diction and communication style. Is both the body and mind required for it to be us? If we are able to replicate the container exactly and transfer the consciousness what then? Are we genuine or just a copy, a facsimile of ourselves?

The film Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, also adds an additional twist to this. Throughout the film his character, Jack, has flashes of memory despite having a "compulsory memory wipe." As the film progresses we are lead to believe that this is just his past breaking through, something didn't quite take with the wipe.

By the end of the film we find that Jack and his partner Victoria are actually clones of astronauts created by alien invaders but the two instances of Jack's clone we meet show signs of his original consciousness - the memories of the individual. Is he Jack? Or just a copy? If he has both the container and the consciousness is it really him? If so, how can there be two "hims" at the same time? If we are able to duplicate the human consciousness then where does it stop?

Oblivion presumably makes the assumption that the mind is the product of the brain's layout, our experiences force it to grow in a particular way and implant memories accordingly.

So, how do we define ourselves and is this changing? Once we approach the singularity, or perfect cloning, or achieve teleportation will it change again? Will we need to redefine what it is to be human

And all that because I listened to an album.


14/02/2020, 16:39

I'm in a real "first world problem" style quandary. I'm really intrigued and impressed by the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra - the new mammoth phone with a mammoth screen and an equally mammoth camera array.

I was originally planning on going back to an iPhone but there was realistically only two reasons for doing so: Drafts and Shortcuts. Yes, I tend to use my Mac more than my Windows laptop (which is primarily reserved for gaming) but when I had an iPhone there wasn't really anything that tied the experience together; I didn't use handoff to take things from one device to the other, for example.

I've gotten incredibly used to Android again over the past 15 months and I suppose I've been lucky to have a phone that runs the latest version of the OS (I'm on EMUI 10 now - Huawei's version of Android 10) so have never been lacking for anything.

I don't use that many apps so the relative states of the ecosystems haven't bothered me as I might have expected. I would enjoy returning to Drafts and Shortcuts if I had them but I have established alternative workflows with other apps. I could even look into learning how to use Tasker for automation.

I always think back to 2014 when I used my Nexus 5 to write all of the #write365 posts which came out to over 100,000 words. That was on a significantly older/less feature rich version of Android with older/less feature rich apps. So why not stick with Android?


Forget the big idea

I finished "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon (the follow-up to Steal Like an Artist) on my commute home last night and was struck by one thing in particular, one image amongst all the words:

It isn't even in the actual book, but in the section at the end showing ideas that didn't make the cut.

This single image speaks directly to me.

How many times have I written that I can't have big ideas, only little ones, and beaten myself up for it as though it is some kind of failure.

A sense of realisation kicked in, a minipiphany: what is a blog if not a succession of little ideas. With enough time those little ideas can combine into something bigger, patterns can form and threads emerge, a big idea will start to grow on its own. It's why I had considered gathering a number of my #write365 pieces into some form of collection.

If a blog is a series of little ideas does that make it a failure?

Only if you don't post!


03/12/2019, 06:57

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo there have recently been challenges to blog (or micro blog) every day for a month; this has also followed through to December. It's great that these have been set in order to encourage people to blog more, to write more, to build a regular habit, but I'm personally past that.

I used to believe in showing up every day, my whole #write365 project was predicated on just that. As recently as a couple of years ago I posted for 200 days straight - until I didn't, and didn't mind. Now, I feel that's it's okay not to post - I think I'm at a stage where blogging is inherently part of who I am and will always be there but in a more organic fashion.

The blog highlights if there have been no posts on any given day and, more specifically, that I will not normally post at weekends. I decided to leave that there as much as a reminder to myself that it's okay not to post than to inform any reader.

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