Lately Review

It's Friday and I have a bunch of links, notes, and accomplishments to share.

First up, jfm and I have been continuing the discussion we had about task lists in a new discussion of the /posts/mobile-productivity-challenges. I've also imported some conversation from facebook (to a discourse page, since removed) following up on the :Cyborg Analysis and Technology Policy post that I made this last week. I'm really really proud of the extent to which the comments and edits that I've gotten have made my writing and thinking clearer on these subjects.

Also, a thanks to the people who have done things like fix links and correct stupid typos. Sorry to have caused the trouble, and I'm eternally grateful for the helping hand.

Next up, I wrote a tutorial for a reader who commented in the Make Emacs Better thread. The question addressed how to load optional functionality and "contributed" lisp code in emacs, and I wrote a little tutorial on how to load .el files in emacs. I think of this as a very basic and straightforward piece of customizing emacs; but it's sufficiently complicated and counter-intuitive enough that I think a little bit of documentation is in order.

The above also marks the debut of a documentation section within the wiki, like the code section, that I hope to update every now and then as I write tutorials and reference material that I think someone may be able to use. No promises, and feel free stash content here as well. It's all gravy.

Speaking of the code section, I wrote a little script that I use as dbl, that I describe in the Epistle Linker. Basically this little function goes through a directory and creates symbolic links to that directory in a specified directory and mangles the names of the file (prepends a few charters and changes the extension.) You an read the code, but it makes it possible to use a service like Dropbox without disrupting your local git setup and file organization. There's a known issue with Dropbox that makes it slightly less than ideal, but what can you do.

When I was posting the epistle-linker, I realized that I had probably forgotten to mention the fact that I have this nifty little bit of glue that uses a procmail filter (you do use procmail, don't you?) to deposit note to a particular email address (configurable) into an org-mode file for filtering. This is ideal for emailing your brain (i.e. org-mode) an item from your phone or tablet, say.

And finally: I have an external link. I think this follows nicely from the "how to work and 'live' in the mobile world." Apparently ecl, an embeded Common Lisp implementation, has been built to run on Android and iOS. How awesome is that?

That's all I have. I (finally) finished the April/May issue of Asimov's, I subscribed to Clarkesworld, as if I needed more short fiction to read and distract me from everything else. been I've reading Iain M. Banks' Excision, which has been a great deal of fun.

Other than that. It's been a pretty quiet couple of weeks.

Links, Reviews, and Updates

While this week flew by in many respects and I only got a couple of posts out, there is much change and progress afoot. This post is an attempt to catalog some of the work I (and others) have been doing that hasn't made it onto the blog:

  • Discussion of the "Better Task List" post by jfm`. Including spoilers for posts that I hope to have ready next week.

  • Further discussion of the make emacs better post. I'm thinking that it's probably nearly time to split that into a few pages. There's a lot of great content there and people have added a lot. I'm a huge fan.

  • Not a link, except to say that I did some fairly substantial tweaks of the site's design, which is probably only worth mentioning because I suspect most people read the site on RSS. Different fonts in the headers, and I rearranged the masthead to be a little more clean, and changed the links a bit.

  • I'm in the slow process of cleaning up the Cyborg Institute site which I've neglected for far too long. I'm importing a lot of the content that I wrote over there, notably sygn and tubmle-manager. Next up, some straggling blog posts, and a clean up of the existing content to match my current projects and work.

  • The knitting posts, which is collected separately from rhizome posts is in full swing, and I hope to be able to post a few things there every now and then.

  • There's now a real tag index and a tag cloud that looks like something. I'd avoided putting together a page like this for some time, because there were a lot of junk tags and enough really big tags that the cloud didn't really work. I've mostly cleaned that up, leaving the wiki with a rather awesome tag cloud

    I've also found a few things on the web that I think you might enjoy on the web:

  • A new blog called observatory. I've been talking to the author a bit. I realized that there aren't very many blogs that are so verbose. I suppose ByteBaker is another example, but there aren't many of them around.

  • undo-tree-mode is a nifty little emacs hack that makes undoing and redoing much less complicated and weird. (From that make emacs better discussion.) Though I have to admit that I no longer have a problem with the default behavior, even if I know it's a bit counter intuitive.

  • I've been reading Strange Horizons more than I have in the past, thanks mostly to instapaer and InstaFetch for Android. I was particularly found of Genevieve Valentine's column/review of a glorious mess of a movie trope.

That's all I have for this week.

Comments Undo-tree also allows for undoing based on time (see here), apparently a feature that vim has.


Though short, this week has been pretty good. I've been doing cool things at work, I've been writing and posting blog entries, and fiction(!), I'm on top of email, and the sweater is growing. I hope this isn't just a fluke and that I can keep this up and also expand slightly into doing a bit more reading. Small steps.

I've done a little bit of work on the wiki and site. Notably, selected entries are mirrored on Planet Emacsen. Also consider the following links to updates on the wiki and other sites:

  • Discussion of "/posts/make-emacs-better", which has been incredibly productive and an interesting discussion of emacs adoption and use by non-programmer niches. I think this discussion and the original post connect pretty well with a post that made the rounds a few weeks ago: Lets Just Use Emacs
  • A link from my father on the history of computing. I replied to him with Code Quarterly Interview with Hal Abelson.
  • I've also collected a few LaTeX System links, of related projects, ideas and collaborators. I've also had a few conversations that I need to transcribe into the wiki. Watch this space.
  • Then there's emacs-instapaper, which isn't exactly a FaiF web service, but the functionality is great for the subway, and I like being able to keep Firefox closed more of the time.

That's all for now!

Links on Technology, Blogging, and Emacs

A mostly technology-centric collection of links:

  • Emacs starter configuration scripts. I can't, for the life of me, recall why I went looking for this, but last week I ended up with a whole host of basic configuration files that people have published. I've thought about doing this for my own files, but I've not had it properly cleaned up and working in a non-embarrassing way in a while. Most of these are on github, which is a phenomena that could tolerate some investigation, but no matter. Here they are, linked to by screen name: ki, elq, jonshea, larrywright, defmacro (har, just got it), jmhodges, technomancy, markhepburn, and al3x. I'd love to collect more of these, so maybe comments or the cyborg wiki.

  • Adjunct to that, a few more cool emacs and related links and points: First, paraedit which is a little tool which makes editing lisp easier, as well as an org-mode tip from Nathan Yergler about using org-rembmember with firefox and ubiquity. which might be of interest to some of you. I also have in the file [this link about yet another lisp dialect (yald?) called Lysp, but I don't have much more than that. I, on the other hand will have more to say about this in the coming few weeks.

  • My **friend Chris Fletcher discusses his experience with contemporary blogging services** in this post. I'm not sure. Right? I mean blogging is so different today than it was when I got into it. I remember when you handed FTP credentials to blogger so they could publish your blog with their system to your site. Surely people don't do that anymore. One of the things that I noticed at Podcamp (more on that on another post) that, frankly horrified me a bit, was that there was a whole class of bloggers who wanted to do "this thing," but they had no interest in running their own website or making that investment of time and energy.

    And maybe that's what blogging has become. In a lot of ways doing a blog is something anyone can do pretty easily, and having a website is no longer a big part of participating in this discourse. While I'm a big fan of independence, and I don't think the technological burden is that high. "Doing websites," very much made me the geek I am today, so I'm not sure. Having said that, LiveJournal has never easily fit into a niche: It was blogging before there was blogging. It was social networking before we said that. It was subculture/niche before that became the thing. If I had more time in my life I'd figure out some way to study and capture that history.

  • For all of you OS X Desktop User Interaction Geeks, there's this thing that lets you hide unused windows baked into the window manager. I think. I have access to OS X, but I don't really use it enough to give this a try. GNU Screen and lots (and lots) of Emacs buffers make it possible to keep a lot of irons on the fire without getting distracted.

  • A **good example of a zshrc** file if that's your thing. I think it's my thing. Alas. I'll write more about this once I get more used to it and figure some things out. Mostly, I'm finding that one can use it as a pure superset of bash without ill effect.

Links on Post-Publishing, Gender, and Post-Humanism

For your consideration:

  • Paul Grahm on the Future of Publishing, which is of corse pretty darn spot on. Follow up, I guess to this link from the last link dump post. I think it's generally true to say that the "post-publishing" world is here, as most writers/content producers--or the young and successful ones at any rate--are already working in post-publishing business models.
  • SF Signal Mind-Meld about Short Fiction Anthologies. In a lot of ways I think short fiction "anthologies" are a great thing and answer a lot of needs in publishing. It's a sustainable way to publish short fiction (in the way that magazines aren't terribly,) anthologies have the potential to be greater than the sum of their parts (and thus better than single author short story collection.) And they're typically great fun to read. The aforelinked article does a great job of showing the thought process of the editors and anthologists that make these collections possible.
  • Organic Memory Transfer and neurotechology, I'm more interested in the limitations of input/output than in the "brute power" problems that Katz raises in this article, but its interesting.
  • The Professionalization of blogging As an independent blogger myself, this article seems to mostly be true, though I'm not particularly happy about it, I must say. I'm interested in how the rise of the "big professional blog" integrates with the ongoing collapse of the media industry.
  • Rough Type - Questioning Accidentalism I seem to be on a "posting links about the media today." This one, is pretty historiographical, which is an approach to this "evolution of media" topics that I approve of with great vigor. I just wish there were a way to sort of say to the world, "lets do something different this time." Alas.
  • Gender in the Free Software World no matter how far away from Women's Studies and "gender stuff," it seems to follow me. That said, this article, which comments on some gender-related activism, if we can use that word, out of the FSF. The news is a bit old at this point (old links are old,) but I think the analysis here is pretty much spot on, and I'm not sure if I have anything that I could add to this. Go read. Also this which I'm still reading/groking thinking about.

Woot. Tabs closed for now.

Links on Knitting, Emacs, Free Software, Cultural Studies, and the Future of Media

I have an absurd number of tabs open, and I'd like to present some interesting reading that I've had on my plate for a while. Nothing incredibly current, but all of it's good stuff. For your consideration:

  • Interlaced Knitting Chart from Kim Salazar who is a master knitter/crafter. I've enjoyed her blog for years, and I keep coming back to this pattern and I'm interested in figuring out how to integrate it best into the project I'm thinking of working on next/soon.
  • This Thread about Package Management in Emacs, which is an incredibly essoteric subject, but I think it's a useful conversation, and I think something that will--if its implemented--make emacs even more awesome, and make it easy to spin off specialized instances of "emacs distributions," which I think will help emacs be more helpful to more people. I'd like multi-threaded support though.
  • I've had this article about Open Source Business Models open in my browser for weeks, and my mind boggles at it. I tend to think that Free Software and Open Source have pretty much the same business models as all software businesses. There are companies that make money on licencing free software (i.e. Red Hat, Novell), there are a bunch of companies that provide services and custom development around open source software (too numerous to cite,) and there are scads of companies that have businesses offering services that are enabled by open source software (i.e. every Internet company, but Amazon is a great example of this.) So I'm not really sure how to respond to this. But it's there, and now I'm closing that tab.
  • Open Source: The War is Over or so one blogger thinks. I actually think there's some truth to the idea that proprietary software is mostly a failed project, and most people realize that--moving forward--open source methods and practices are ideal for technology. But I think "winning the argument and beginning to move toward open source," and "the war being over," are two different things. Furthermore, I'm not sure I'm comfortable equating "enterprise adoption of open source," as the singular marker of success for Open Source (let alone Free Software).
  • Michael Berube on Cultural Studies in the Chronicle
  • I guess it's hard to really take me out of the academy. I'm a huge geek for this kind of stuff still. I guess my thoughts are:
    1. Michael Berube might be a great blogger, and I think the thigns he's thinking about in this peice are quire useful and worthwhile, but as a piece of writing, this article is too short to really get into a lot of depth about anything, and too long to be easily read
    2. American Academic Marxism is a mostly failed project, and I think the "inter-discipline" of Cultural studies has been a poor steward of said.
    3. While Cultural Studies is a liberating interdisciplinary proposition, it's pretty unbalanced (English+Sociology) and I think a bit more economics and anthropology would be helpful. Berube is on the right side of this argument but I think he's too kind to CS on this point.
  • Gina Trapani's Smarterware got a new look and it's both amazing and I think points out the importance of leaving design to the professionals. Good stuff.
  • Against Micropayments and the Media Industry Interesting post, that gets it right. The future of media and publishing of all forms is something that I think about more than a little bit. If people are ever going to pay for content again, it's going to have to be tied into the way that people pay for connectivity, which is also a non-scarce resource, but one that we've grown used to paying for. There's some unpacking and investigating to be done here, for sure.

link collection

I seem to have collected a rather lot of links that I think and hope you'll find as interesting as I have. (Some of these are old, but still relevant):

In the vein of my economic/political posts of late, I came across the blog of Alexandre Enkerli, a nifty anthropologist and ethnographer that I found via Who says microblogging doesn't have value? In anycase I have a couple of links, first a complaint against journalism, as a field, to which I'm incredibly sympathetic. I should probably write some more about journalism, both with regards to its social impact, but also about ongoing collapse of the journalism business. More importantly, however, Enkerli wrote an interesting piece about "a global network of city states" about government and institutional organization, which I rather liked. I've been thinking recently about institutions and governance as a part of the series on co-ops, and I think I'm going to make a foray into something more governmental here, soon.

Moving on from the economy, a couple of posts from futurismic which is one of my favorite blogs that I don't read enough. It's in the boing-boing vein, but Paul Raven is made of awesome, and I enjoy the niche. In anycase, this is a bit older, and it's a post announcing another post where Douglas Rushkoff suggests that the economy isn't worth saving. And then another from a few days later about the fantastic nature of the us economy.

I'm not sure how I feel about Rushkoff's theories, and I certainly don't think he's the theoretical oracle of the networked age, but his thinking inspires pretty interesting thoughts, even if it's semi-orthogonal. Can things be semi-orthogonal?

Finally new territory. I've been reading ultrasparky since, gosh, 2000 or there abouts, I think. Dan (sparky) wrote a post where he contemplated the recent history of blogging and in doing so expressed pretty much exactly how I feel about the current state of blogging. Read it, it's good stuff.

And, oh look here, it's a yet another Drupal-based, niche social networking site targeted at 20 and 30 something technologist-types. You're probably uninterested, but it's my niche, damnit. Also speaking of my niche, there's a new social networking site for gay/queer geeks/nerds, calld For those of you who care, I suspect it's running on DotNetNuke.

And now for some miscellanea: mongodb, a database engine that doesn't have schemeas. like couchdb, only, less erlang. It all depends on how it gets used, of course, but I think Erlang is a good thing for couch, but who knows. Also: a bibliography of academic resources related to teaching and learning in second life. And an academic journal about information technology, policy, and culture (with an Australian focus), called fibre culture. I was particularly interested in this article about Schizoanalysis as Metamodeling, because I still have a lot of affection for Deleuze and Guatteri and their theories.

Finally an article, by O'Reily Editor Andy Oram, called From Open Source Software to Open Culture: Three Misunderstandings. And then a debate about the emacswiki. For background, EmacsWiki is really a working document and a discussion of different approaches--emacs already has a good manual, so the wiki fills a different niche. The wiki, as a result is very rough, coverage isn't consistent across areas, some pages are basically discussions while others are more formal documentation, and the software is simple while the design is straight from the late 90s. I think it's brilliant, but not everyone agrees.

That's all I have right now. Enjoy!

Wednesday Update

I've been writing a great deal in the past few days: blog posts, the seed content for a wiki, fiction at a somewhat impressive pace (for me). While (at press time) there are still lots of things on my plate and storms on the horizon it's very true that doing creative things, getting work done makes it considerably easier to do more creative things, and to get more work done. The stuff on my plate and the storms on the horizon in another seem less threatening. It's not logical, but I'm not going to argue with that.

Of note: I posted another story to Critical Futures from Chapter 6 of Knowing Mars, this is the last scene in this chapter, and I'll post it in three chapters. After that, we're going to get PDFs of Chapters 4-6, and I'll be posting more about that in time. Thanks to everyone's replies to my post about my emacs process, both on the thread and on I'm much impressed with all of your wisdom, and assistance. I didn't know about wdired-mode which I shall explore, and while I did know about magit, I hadn't gotten around to trying it yet. Here I come.

One last thing, if there are any perl, ikiwiki, CGI::FormBuilder, Dreamhost wizards out there, I would be very flattered and indebted if you'd take a look at this bug report I filed on ikiwiki, I'm having some sort of minor problem with CGI form generation, which is such a minor bug that I'm highly annoyed at the concept. On the one hand, it's a lot of effort to get ikiwiki working under these conditions, on the other hand it doesn't make a lot of sense to pay for a really robust server (with root access) for what will really be a minimal amount of content. Anyway, your help would be much appreciated.

ps. sorry for the late content.

pps. if you record a podcast over a skype (or other VoIP service) with Audacity and you're running Ubuntu/Debian/Linux... I'd love to hear from you.