#

"Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" — Henry David Thoreau

#

"The fluidity of the mind is of the same family as the fluidity of being. Sometimes they coincide sharply. We call that a revelation." — Etel Adnan.

#
 "In a way goodness and truth seem to come out of the depths of the soul, and when we really know something we feel that we’ve always known it.

Yet also it’s terribly distant, farther than any star. We’re sort of stretched out. It’s like beyond the world, not in the clouds or in heaven, but a light that shows the world, this world, as it really is." — Iris Murdoch, Above the Gods

#
 Several Short Sentences About Writing isn't so much a book that you 'read', more one that you peruse a section of every now and then.

As such, I'm going to start Consolations by David Whyte.

That will technically be four books I'm reading at the same time (along with the Daily Stoic and Daily Thoreau) — maybe five if you include the audiobook of Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks.

I've never really been one for having multiple books on the go but the nature of these means that I can dip in and out as required. I'm also looking for those serendipitous moments when things align across multiple texts and create connections that wouldn't normally appear.

#
 A couple of days ago, I finally finished Oliver Burkeman 's Four Thousand Weeks having started it back in August.

More like it finished rather than me completing it.

I "read" it through a combination of Kindle and Audible, listening whilst walking Jac or when running on the treadmill. It didn't always sink in. At one stage I backtracked in the Kindle app to make some notes, forgot, then (some time later) continued to listen in Audible only to realise ten minutes in that I'd heard that part before. Heard but not really remembered. So I continued, hoping it would sink in this time.

It's quite ironic that Burkeman writes about the modern frustration of reading a book, that people experience "a revulsion at the fact that the act of reading takes longer than they’d like." I, however, got more from the times when I did read as opposed to those where I listened. Why? Because I could actually take more time over it. It is easier to re-read a paragraph, passage or even a page than to muck about with your phone rewinding in the Audible app, trying to guess at how far back you should go to repeat the part you wanted to hear again.

I will also watch movies in Netflix while running, breaking them down into episodic chunks. There's something refreshing about watching something 20 to 30 minutes at a time. It gives you pause for thought, allows you to consider what's happening more deeply.

The past couple of runs have found me watching In Time, a 2011 offering which I thought looked interesting when suggested by the app. It's a typically dystopian vision of the future where time is the ultimate currency. At one point, 1 the lead character (played by Justin Timberlake) is told "you do everything too fast." The obvious sexual innuendo retort aside, it's a comment that fit perfectly with Burkeman's whole point: we race through life doing everything too fast, trying to organise our way to perfection to get everything done. But we can't, it's impossible — we're just too afraid to admit it.

We have time for what we have time for. Not a second more, not a second less. It reminds me of a scene in The Sandman graphic novel by Neil Gaiman: Death goes to collect a child who complains that his time was too short. Death replies: "You lived what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime. No more. No less."

We can't do it all so we should enjoy what we have, savour it. Only then will it be truly time we'll spent.


  1. after coming into some time, doesn't quite sound the same as coming into money  

#
 It's been over a year of procrastination and faffing so I thought I'd finally put my "book" project to bed.

I was going to properly self-publish It's Only Words but that would involve getting permission to reprint sections from other people's works and I don't think I want to put myself through that process and incur even further delays.

It's Only Words cover

Instead, I'm just going to make it available here via the blog for anyone who wants to read it. I'll create a separate page for it over the next couple of days but, for now, you can use the below links:

The EPUB version won't open in Apple Books (it just doesn't like it) but seems fine in any other ebook reader.

For anyone unfamiliar, It's Only Words is me putting to rest the thoughts, ideas, angst and anguish that came with my #write365 project back in 2014. I vowed to write something, anything every day for a year of around 300 words. The subtitle is "Lessons learnt from a year of writing" and that is how this is presented.

That project became intensely personal and surfaced a number of issues for me (triggering extended mental health problems) so "Words" is a way of putting that all behind me.

There may still be typos or grammatical errors. It may not make perfect sense. You might enjoy it or hate it, agree with some points but vehemently disagree with others. That's fine — it's a starting point, a conversation starter and, more importantly, therapy.

I'm happy to finally share it with the world. Even if no one reads it at least I can say "I did that. Me!"

  • Search: #write365
#

Word of the day: jocosely

  • adverb, "in a way that is humorous or shows that you like to play"

Via Althouse

#
 The question of goodness:

With an eye to the relationship between the good and “the real which is the proper object of love, and of knowledge which is freedom,” she considers what it takes for us to purify our attention in order to take in reality on its own terms, unalloyed with our attachments and ideas.

What it takes, she suggests, is “something analogous to prayer, though it is something difficult to describe, and which the higher subtleties of the self can often falsify” — not some “quasi-religious meditative technique,” but “something which belongs to the moral life of the ordinary person.”

The Marginalian

#
 I keep going back to the thought that "the most focus you'll ever have" on something is when it first grabs you.

I've had a number of items left as unread in Reader, a number of notes left unfinished, a number of tabs left open, all just waiting for me to return to them and write something.

Two years ago, Drew Coffman wrote that notes can be a graveyard for your thoughts, written down then lost. I remarked that it felt my blog could be like this: "that I'm not doing enough with what I've got, making do instead of making strides."

If that is the case, if it is a graveyard, then I want to speak to the dead, build on their ideas. (And by 'the dead' I mean past instances of me who thought something was worth linking to or writing about.) That's why I've made all the recent changes to the site. Reader, Start, it's all about extending blogging, getting more from it, hopefully doing more with it by creating pathways through my thoughts over time.

Tom Critchlow wrote about increasing the surface area of blogging; he was talking about blogging as a whole but it can equally apply to a single blog. Creating a larger surface area allows for more scope, more references, more links, more connections – with some work and a bit of luck that leads to more ideas. Critchlow wrote:

"I think there’s something quietly radical about making your feed reader open by default. It increases the surface area of RSS so others can discover content more easily. It makes blogging more visible."

That's true but, in a setup like mine, it also allows for easier consumption and reuse.


The desire to turn the blog into a database, rather than just be held in one, has been long standing, five years at least. My interest was, therefore, piqued when CJ Eller quoted Justin Murphy's post Personal Knowledge Management is Bullshit. Murphy argues that having an ever expanding dataset is "oppressive not impressive. It’s not useful, and it’s not illuminating."

"Individuals blessed with high degrees of industriousness and orderliness will build sophisticated media diets, note-taking systems, and automated archiving pipelines much more effectively than those less blessed with these traits."

Then they try to sell these systems to the rest of us.

I am definitely more of the latter, the 'less blessed' and always have been; organisation has never been a strength. To that end, I've always been a bad curator. Start is an attempt at improving things, taking them out of my hands to a degree, with a minimum of effort.

It seems a waste to have years of material, of my personal history, sat there for its own sake rather than be able to take advantage of the potential held within. But Eller likens PKM to a garbage heap, "a perpetually expanding web of hyperlinked notes" asking how we can prevent one from developing and save ourselves from such a fate.

Maybe the answer is simply to be selective.

For various reasons, I have been very bad at feeding the machine, very few posts have been marked with labels that would place them within my system. Maybe that's a good thing. By being slow to add items I am preventing an unwieldy build up. I originally intended to throw all sorts in but find that something really has to resonate before it gets labelled.

I also feel that integration is key. Having tried a wiki-like system in the Garden I decided it was better to have any form of PKM as integral to the blog, directly fed by it rather than as a separate repository. Thoughts and ideas are posted once to the blog, why duplicate the effort? I don't want it to be what most would consider a traditional PKM system. Yes, there are bi-directional links in some cases and, between posts, I have the ability to indicate these links, but there are few. Instead, I mainly rely on internal webmentions to indicate related posts. Start deals more with mini-hierarchies originating from individual starting points, threads rather than a web.

Perhaps the blog is finally ready to be the "digital public commonplace book" or thought space alluded to by Chris Aldrich almost two and a half years ago.

Past, present and future me are in a far better position to communicate across the years than ever without having to shoulder too heavy a burden, or continually sort through (and possibly dispose of) a garbage heap. The blog exists in its own right, and will continue to do so for years to come. Everything needed is held within and I now have a way to unlock it.

What could be easier than that?

  • Blog - May 7, 2022
    • Blog - Apr 20, 2022
    #

    My indie, integrated feed reader

     For a few years now, it has been a goal (or more of a dream) to build my own feed reader which integrates directly with the blog making it easy to perform indieweb actions such as likes and replies.

    I started building a WordPress plugin back in 2018 but quickly abandoned it as I didn't have the coding skills necessary at the time.

    Today I am officially unveiling /reader, my new indie, integrated feed reader.

    Reader

    Before getting to the details I wanted to say that this has been made possible thanks to this RSS & Atom parser by David Grudl, it took a lot of the grunt work out of the equation meaning I could focus on the important bits.

    Down to business

    Reader adopts the visual style from the blog and my notes page displaying items as 'cards' in a river of news — oldest first. It can show all items, per feed or the last 24 hours.

    New feeds can be added individually or imported from an (uploaded) OPML file. When added, the posts for that feed will be automatically pulled in. A cron job polls for new items every 30 minutes checking the last time the feed was updated to see if it needs to grab new items. That date is then written to the database for the next time it checks.

    I'm currently storing a rolling three months of items but may reduce this to keep the table size down. When polling for posts it compares the timestamp (e.g. pubDate or updated) against 'now minus three months' and ignores anything older. New items are pulled into the database and those older than three months are deleted.

    I can trigger a manual update at any time via a 'refresh' icon which triggers an async action to poll feeds in the background. The feed list (which slides out from the left) shows which feeds have unread items.

    Indie and Integrated

    So, why go to all the trouble of building my own feed reader? The main reason is integration with the blog. It's also another aspect of my online life that I can bring into my own control.

    Cards

    In addition to 'mark as read' each 'card' has actions which allow me to post directly to the blog and send webmentions. I can like, reply to or bookmark a post and the relevant Webmention will be sent.

    Tapping each of these actions brings up a form populated with the post URL and the 'content filter' to add the required markup. I can then add some comments or my reply and post that straight to the blog.

    I can 'mark all as read' which does as it suggests unless viewing a single feed when only items for that feed are marked.

    Public/Private

    The /reader page is publicly available but all admin and post actions are gated behind login checks. Anyone is welcome to come and have a look at what feeds are listed — the posts visible will reflect my read/unread status.

    I am considering adding the ability for anyone to download an OPML export of the feeds list should they want. I might also add an option to 'suggest a feed' where visitors can let me know of a site they think I should be subscribed to.

    v1.0

    This is a version 1.0 feature that likely has bugs and needs tidying up or refining so it will likely change as I use it more and come up against issues or frustrations. I've already thought of one thing I want to add while typing this.

    It doesn't support JSON feed but someone submitted a PR to include this in the library so I may look at implementing that in future.

    Here's a short video of /reader in action.

    • Reader
    #
     I mentioned that I wanted to make some major changes to the blog and how things operate, but what's triggered this?

    Alan Jacobs wrote about architectural blogging:

    "I have come to think that there is something architectural about writing a blog, or can be – but not in the sense of a typical architectural project, which is designed in advanced and built to specifications."

    The idea is that building a personal site is very much like an open-ended architectural project, you add something here, redesign there and, eventually, "you get something big and with a discernible shape."

    That shape cannot possibly be predetermined, this type of building and growth is totally organic, its direction unknowable in advance.

    Tom Critchlow picked this up and ran with it saying "there’s something brewing here - something about building a digital homestead, building it in a way that reflects your soul."

    The real lightbulb moment for me was Tom asking:

    "How do you create pathways (and desire paths?) through your site? How do people start, journey, get lost and ultimately find their way through your site?"

    It got me questioning how and why I do what I do here. To what end is it created and presented? Where are the pathways and journeys? Beyond going 'day-to-day' how does anyone find their way around? Do I leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow? Why not?

    There has to be more to blogging than just turning up each day and doing your thing.

    I've been trying to build something like a fully functional home on the web but it is largely a piecemeal undertaking. Isolated thought worms may prepare the soil but they don't grow the garden. Speaking of which, the Garden is grossly underutilised (as I've said before) and, with the new Notes feature, often duplicitous.

    So, what to do?

    I've always sald I wanted to create something of meaning and thought the "It's Only Words" project was that thing. Now I realise that the larger body of work, the story of a life (or at least part of one) is what I really aspire to. But stories need narrative and flow, a sense of cohesion and coherence.

    How do I go from here to there? How do I set out on a meaningful journey? How do I map out the lay of the land, rebuild and restructure?

    I've had some ideas.

    I'm thinking about scraping the Garden completely and folding it into the blog. Not so much organising things by pages but, perhaps, utilising a version of labels as currently employed by Notes.

    I want things to be a lot more fluid, less structured and more "thinking in public." Snippets that would normally live in the Garden will become posts but not in a traditional sense — it will increase the emphasis on viewing the day as a conglomerate rather than a series of individual items.

    Using labels in this context will not be in the traditional vein of tags or categories, more an indication of threads, collections of thoughts or blogchains.

    This is part technology change part mindset shift, something that I want to achieve with as little clutter as possible — visually and mentally. I see it as the next logical evolution of what I'm trying to build. while the day-to-day blog will be largely unaffected, the possibility for creating pathways and journeys is introduced.

    It's going to be a lot of work (although some of can luckily be ported from elsewhere) and things will get broken so bear with me. But I'm hoping it will be well worth it in the long run.

    • Blog - Mar 8, 2022
    • Blog - Feb 17, 2022
      • Archive - Nov 20, 2019
      #
       Bookmarked: Can we ever become Post-Social? – On my Om...

      "To me, this is the real challenge of post-social reality. To live in this post-social future, one has to embrace ideas that are the antithesis of self-importance. After two decades of being trained by micro-dosing on dopamine, I am not sure we can!"

      #
       Bookmark Redesigning Waxy, 2016 edition – Waxy.org...

      From 2016:

      "Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control."

      Also see here on ownership and control.

      • Archive - Jun 27, 2018
      Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog