Apropos of nothing

These are thoughts too long for a status update, but too short for a proper blog post. Besides, a journal is simply different.


Exactly ten years ago, in 2012, I wrote a number of cyberpunk stories. People dismissed them as being too pessimistic. Things couldn't possibly get that bad, they said. Scientists / politicians will find solutions, they said.

I gave up in disgust and never continued the series. Can you guess what's happening these days? All those things I predicted, that's what:

How come I was so precise? They weren't my predictions. Experts from all fields were shouting from the rooftops that all these things were coming. I could easily see the signs all around me once they pointed it out. Others... chose to be "incurable optimists". Alright then.

2022-07-25 Outliners, anyone?

I finally found the right app for keeping some random old notes I've had lying about since forever. It's called TreeSheets, and works pretty great if you give it a chance. I didn't at first, instead reviewing another called TreeLine, that I ended up never touching again. Settled for an older text-based program called hnb for a while, but it just has too many quirks. Even made a couple outliners of my own along the way, that I'm still using for other purposes. But for those pesky notes, nothing quite worked right, until Bouncepaw reminded me of TreeSheets. Turned out I still knew how to handle the basics from first time, it's that well designed. The seemingly daunting menu system can be unpacked easily enough, too.

Ought to start a web page about outliners one of these days. Maybe even a whole wiki that would also include note-taking apps and so on.


Roughly two decades ago, I spent some time playing with AIML, a simple computer language for making chatterbots. People who knew me well engaged with my creation in a hurry, in bad faith, and dismissed it, despite being warned that it was a beginner's early attempt. Nobody seemed interested in a chatterbot at the time, for any reason.

Fast forward a few billion dollars in marketing money from megacorporations, everybody loves the likes of Siri and Alexa. Worse, you have so-called software engineers believing these things are actually self-aware. And then you have all the people acting surprised, as if the Eliza Effect didn't have a name and a Wikipedia article. This hasn't been news for over half a century!

Look. I'm a sci-fi writer. We'll get there. We should think about it early. It's cool. Until it's not. But for now be lucid, will you?


A few days ago I became aware of the new HTML Journal spec by m15o, a new way to easily format blogs for aggregation. My first reaction was to turn my nose, because it goes against accessibility best practices for use of headings in web pages, and also because it relies on ISO dates, which some people dislike.

Except it turns out that's not true: an informal poll quickly received unanimous support in favor of the format. Go figure! As for the other issue, it's still valid HTML5, and trying to "help" screen readers often makes things worse. Hopefully a future update will allow the use of level two headings for entries, as is proper. (Update: fixed as of 2022-07-05.)

Besides, it's so much easier to make a new entry here than with any SSG.


My problem with SolarPunk is, a sustainable future has no room for grand halls of brass and crystal filled with exotic plant life. Hopefully we won't all be dirt-poor farmers living in huts either (I dread the prospect), but we'll still have to tone it down. Like, way down.

In fact my biggest fear is that a sustainable future has little room for anything like modern computing. There's nothing sustainable about microchip manufacturing. Or even TTL chips. Or even discrete transistors. All those rare metals.

Some people put their hope in extending the useful life of existing devices, but that's a slow death, or rather it would be slow if they weren't designed to break down quickly. We're hosed.


It's been a while since my last tour of the wiki community, and things look... mixed. On the one hand, CommunityWiki seems well and truly dead, though of course wiki deaths are much like those of superheroes. On the other hand, I just discovered Melanocarpa, Bouncepaw's digital garden. Plenty of things to like there. I had no idea pipepunk was a thing, even though many of my stories feature scenes that belong in the genre, or thereabouts. And while my personal wiki has been dormant, I've been editing others, maybe more than before. So there's hope.


As a kid in school, it seemed obvious to me that some teachers were mean to us simply because they could; because we couldn't get away, or tell anyone, so we were designated victims. In other words, they were overgrown bullies.

As an adult, I know for a fact that it was 100% true.

Nobody in a position of authority, no matter how small, can be trusted one iota. That includes myself. And I'm only ever able to avoid causing too much harm in my position of authority, at least the kind that can't be fixed, in two ways: one, due to close oversight, and two, because like the Tin Man in Oz, I'm keenly aware that I have no heart and can all too easily hurt someone without noticing.


Ever ate sunflower seeds straight from the flower head? I have, while sitting on the fence between a wheat field and a concrete plant, with another kid I didn't know. It didn't matter. Sums up my childhood pretty well, really. On one side, a pack of stray dogs; on the other, the constant rumble of concrete mixers making the ground shake as they drove by. Sounds dangerous? Funny how I was only ever hurt by other people.

Nowadays the whole area is still a perpetual construction site, but the wheat is long gone. And bread just got more expensive.


The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny prominently feature the Pattern: a long, tortuous path that folds in on itself, but you have to walk all of it from end to end: no cheating, no going back, and no stopping. If you succeed, entire worlds become open to you; but fail, and you won't get another chance. It's hard; at times it will feel like trying to walk through a solid wall. But persist, and you'll make progress. Even if it doesn't feel like it for the longest time.

A similar sentiment is expressed in Gattaca, when the main character is confronted by his brother: you can't go back. Going back is simply not an option.

Romanian fairy tales, too, teach the same lesson. And many videogames as well.

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