Felix Rambles

Another step to taking back control

Holidays and hopes

25 December 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

Merry Christmas! As the year winds down, it's traditional to stop for a while and look back, so that we can figure out where we are, not to mention where we can go from here. The moment is arbitrary, yes, but since we must turn a new page anyway, might as well do it around the end-of-year holidays.

Too bad things look pretty damn bad in either direction. 2018 has been yet another terrible year, full of stress and disappointments, both for me and some friends I had to let down. In fact, one of my reasons for starting this blog has been to vent without resorting to tweet storms. (Don't do tweet storms. Please. Get a blog.) And even that rings hollow. Everything does when you're lonely.

Worse, there's every reason to believe things will get worse, perhaps much worse, before they start getting better again. No, 2019 won't break the recent bad streak. On the contrary. Politics, economy and climate, the three horsemen of the new apocalypse, are galloping across the face of the Earth. That many people seem to be waking up at last can only have limited impact by now. We've waited way too long.

So much for hopes. Then again, I always hated the concept of hope. Hope is what you have when you're in deep shit and powerless to do anything about it. In other words, a synonym for delusion.

So much for the holiday spirit, too. I hate myself right now. But it's better than lying to myself, and you, about the future.

What can we do, then? Why, cling to the only things we ever had: live, stick together and be good people. Experience, create, enjoy. Make things as good as we can, for as many people as we can, until we can do no more. Sounds radical? It is! Arguably, it has been for my entire life. And by now we have nothing left to lose.

As for this blog, expect fewer posts and more pictures. Less venting and more joy. Cool things. Geeky things.

Be well and enjoy the celebrations, everyone.

Tags: personal, blog

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Finding my voice online

10 December 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

When I first joined Tumblr in 2013 (escaping from the shutdown of My Opera), I couldn't wait to see what shape my new blog would solidify into.

It never took any shape at all.

You'll say that's kind of the point with the once-popular tumblelog format, but there's a difference between freewheeling and random. Add to that the high toxicity enabled by the reblog-with-additions feature, and you have a recipe for ugliness. And yes, I've allowed myself to be drawn into it way too often. Just like on Twitter, the other major platform to have this misfeature. There's no denying my share of the guilt.

Even on Mastodon, where you can only boost a toot as-is (and maybe reply to it in a separate toot), that's still too easy. It reduces the toxicity, a lot even, but the results are still chaotic. Not the beautiful, creative kind of chaos, either. Just a jumble of mismatched thoughts.

Funny, then, how easily I was able to form a coherent discourse right here. Not a pretty one, admittedly. All the loneliness and bitterness in recent years has been getting to me. But it's me. I'm slowly learning to be myself again.

The added friction, that forces me to work at making a post, makes a world of difference. Much like on my brand-new Dreamwidth journal. Or for that matter my gaming blog. Even though the latter has also been in exile on Tumblr for the past year.

Guess it's not just the place then, but also how you approach it? Perhaps. But there's a reason I'm bringing that blog home soon as well.

Lots of new beginnings for me this year and the coming one, then. And that still leaves some things to fix. Oh well, got to deal with them one by one.

If as of late you've had trouble recognizing yourself in your social media streams, take a step back and try to remember what you wanted to tell the world in the first place.

Even the Borg routinely proved able to break free. What excuse do we have?

Tags: social-media, personal, philosophy

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Dreaming of Dreamwidth

06 December 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

I don't exactly have a quota for this blog, apart from the self-imposed one resulting from average post counts so far. That said, almost one week into December I found nothing new to blog about. Funny how writing fiction tends to claim all my attention in a way programming doesn't.

Except something did happen recently: Tumblr just wrote what amounts to a suicide note, announcing they'll be banning everything that remotely resembles adult content as of 17 December. Never mind the issue of corporate America forcing their Puritanic worldview on the entire rest of the planet. (Ordinary Americans, it should be said, are fed up with that shit, and can't wait for mentalities to change already.) Many other social networks, however, stepped up to the plate, inviting people over. Well, those that weren't already flooded by people jumping ship, like Mastodon.

One of those platforms welcoming new members is Dreamwidth. I was vaguely aware of it as an offshoot from LiveJournal, but didn't know any details. Turns out, it looks like a fairly interesting place.

For one thing, unlike other blogging-focused platforms, Dreamwidth offers public profiles, which among other things can show what you're reading. And what you're reading can include newsfeeds you import from just about anywhere. Which means you can use Dreamwidth as a kind of mini-aggregator. But mostly, you can express yourself as a reader, not just as a writer. In other words, to have a meaningful public presence on the platform without turning into a dancing monkey.

Then there's the attitude: unlike its precursor, Dreamwidth is community-owned, based on open source and open governance, with an official anti-advertising stance. The only financing source is paid accounts. Which also means the only scripts you get on the pages are there to enable extra features. Not many, though! Most of the site works just fine in a text-mode browser. And it's very light by modern standards.

Last but not least, there's a wealth of documentation, which is good because some features appear to be more technical in nature. Also, the various official accounts, on the platform and elsewhere, just came back to life after a year of silence, so you can probably ask questions and reasonably expect them answered. Good sign!

A few more highlights:

  • advanced community features;
  • advanced privacy features;
  • selectable, customizable themes.

Yep, it looks like a good place to be. I also seem to have a ton of friends there, and predominating interests right now seem to revolve around literature. Going to think about it some more. But not too long.

Tags: personal, social-media, website

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What I did in November

29 November 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

So, November is coming to an end and I'm unlikely to meet my usual post quota. Might as well do something a little different for once. Injecting some much-needed positivity is a bonus. So what did I do this month?

For one thing: writing! I'm three weeks and 8000 words into a story that came to me unexpectedly. Was looking through some old files, see, and came across a forgotten bit of worldbuilding. Next thing I knew, there were all these characters coming to life in a new, exotic fantasy world. Go figure. There's a lot of recycling going on, with all my favorite themes and tropes making a comeback, but you know what? I like them. And there's nothing wrong with writing to feel good.

Of course, after such a start it was time to take a break and figure out how things will unfold exactly. Can't complain, having returned to fiction writing after such a long break, and it's worth getting this one right. And hey, there's more to do while my brain works in the background. Such as releasing another thing I wrote this spring and then set aside when it was 90% completed.

Last but not least, I've been looking at social media options again. It's a thing I do with some regularity, and with so many social networks going away, or at least being in bad shape, this is timely. And lo, there's much to see these days:

  • Vivaldi is the spiritual successor of My Opera, for those who remember it. Built by the same man, and hosted in Iceland, it leverages open source projects such as WordPress and RoundCube to provide blogs, e-mail and a forum. Doesn't feel the same at all though. Let's face it: those days are past. Strange as it may seem to say that about a time not six years ago.
  • Much more appealing on first sight is Pjuu, a very simple social networking service with few features (yet). It was built as a hobby project, and seems to have roughly 10 active users, but the overall feel is great. There's even an Android client. Definitely worth watching.
  • Speaking of Android clients, recently looking through F-Droid reminded me of Movim. That's yet another social network made in Europe, and unlike the previous two it's distributed. But not on some new protocol: it uses good old XMPP. Which means its main feature is real-time messaging; a welcome experiment.
  • And then there's Scuttlebutt, which unlike the others can work without any servers. But it still has some, because like in any distributed system discovery is a problem. That's not the biggest though: rather, what bothers me is the reliance on an append-only, cryptographically signed database. In other words, a blockchain, though they conspicuously avoid using that word. What's wrong with that? Oh, just not being able to delete anything ever again, which means data keeps piling up, filling your storage and increasing network traffic as time goes on.

Then again, the storage issue impacts all social networks, while none of them makes it easy to go back and choose old posts to delete. Such a curious blind spot.

The Internet requires the ability to clean up cruft if it's gonna keep working. Please consider it.

Tags: personal, literature, social-media

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