West 86th – Paperwork Explosion

“Machines should work, people should think.” The message repeats itself several times; it’s the core of the film’s techno-utopian vision. We can imagine IBM executives and lawyers and public relations agents sitting across a table from Jim Henson telling him to make sure he includes these lines in his film. What if, following William Empson’s advice to readers of poetry, we shifted the emphasis just a little bit? From “machines should work, people should think” to “machines should work, people should think”? Is it possible that the film might be trying to warn us against its own techno-utopianism? Read this way, the film is less an imaginary resolution to the problem of information overload in the modern era than an imaginative critique of this imaginary resolution. Machines should work, but they frequently don’t; people should think, but they seldom do.

Ben Kafka

via West 86th – Paperwork Explosion.

Fremantle Society website

I have recently started helping to maintain The Fremantle Society’s website (fremantlesociety.org.au), and it’s reminding me of why I work in IT and of how much I’ve been missing being part of any greater endevour (with people, I mean, and working together for some purpose — as I once did with the Coop, for instance). There are fantastic, passionate, intelligent people involved, and more than that — there is something to believe in! I don’t mean that in any too-deep way: just that it feels like the Society is not only an incorporated-body-that-has-meetings, but rather something of a focal point for people who see and care about a certain historical/communal aspect of Fremantle.

I have many ideas about the website redevelopment. At the moment it’s technical stuff: deciding between Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki, or something else, and the philosophical differences that software engenders (in the means of interaction and collaboration). I’ll post more, soon, about what we’ve been thinking about that. (I’m liking the idea of the division down the lines of there being The Fremantle Society, Inc. on the one hand, and the society of Fremantle on the other. The distinction between the incorporated body, and the actual built and social environment of the City that is the former’s raison d’être.)

That on which the coding rests

Just to intersperse this stream of codeish posts with something a little more real

I rode part of the way to work today, and then put my bicycle on the bus for the remainder of the journey. (An odd feeling, looking through the bus’ windscreen and seeing my little bike all alone out there, bobbing up and down in the rush hour traffic; but I trust in these new yellow bike racks. Incidently, one of the recommendations from the Assembly’s inquiry into Action Buses was that passengers with bikes should travel for free — the argument being that putting the bike on the rack takes time, and so in order to keep the bus on schedule the putting of your card in the slot should be done away with. Hear hear!) Then at lunch time (oh, that sweet half of an hour!) I went and sat under one of my usual trees and sewed a button back on to a shirt. I’d planned to bring the real shirt that I’m actually sewing at the moment (completely by hand, I might add; no machine at all) but at the last minute thought this button would do. It wasn’t nearly enough: days like this were made for lounging under trees, enjoying the incrediblely beautiful calls of the birds above, and picking away at some little embroidery or other. Being quiet and being present, and certainly not locking one’s self up in an air-conditioned high-rise.

Bring on the recession, I must concur with Mr. Monbiot! Because (and I must appologise for the cliché) the Really Important Things have got nothing whatsoever to do with Economic Growth! But what I do, all this coding, is (it seems) very dependent upon this Growth, and so now I am sad…

How CGDNs might help build a sense of belonging.

My brain is feeling pretty groggy at the moment, so excuse any pointlessness in this post. Not that there’s ever any point to my posts, but that’s beside the point. I’m at work, almost thinking that the afternoon’s nearly half-gone and so, well, what’s the point of doing any more work…

There are, in Australia, these new things called Community Geographic Domain Names, or CGDNs. They are domain names like ‘lyneham.act.au’ — that is, they are domain names in which every component is geographically localising. This is fantastic! I think that having a place online for one’s locality, a place that is easily discernable for new people or new places, has got great potential to act as repository for local stories, knowledge, history, and whatever else people want to use it for. Imagine moving to a new town, and finding the town’s entire history (well, a bit of it anyway) available for browsing, and writen by the very people in it. Like a hiking hut’s register (the book that hikers leave messages in on tracks like the Bibbulmun) but for a whole suburb, town, or region.

I am vaguely thinking about seeing what sort of support there is in the food co-op community for us registering acton.act.au. But maybe I should wait until I feel a little more dedicated to a place — which is actually what I find so interesting about this idea: that it might help people feel more attached to where they live and the people around them. That’s got to be a good thing.

Kerrie Tucker’s revamped site

During the last few days I’ve been working with Margo Kingstong and Kate Tucker on porting Kerrie Tucker’s website to WordPress. I’ve also set up the new ACT Greens online merchandise shop, Green Shop. So I’ve probably had about enough of sitting at here at our kitchen table hunched over this laptop; why I’m not out of here I don’t know, but I did just want to mention those things.

Also, I’ve been back in the workshop — getting it ready, at any rate, to be a workshop. That’s a bit exciting.

But enough for now, I must get to the coop.

Relying on, but not trusting, technology

I have been sorting through my (digital) photos lately, uploading the good ones to my website. It’s drudge-work, peaceful in its way like all drudge-work, and now and then I stumble upon a particularly nice shot, or one that evokes some pleasant memory, and so I don’t mind doing it. My idea is that this little computer is likely to one day get broken or stolen, and I don’t want to lose everything.

I’m also doing it becuase I’m keen to have fewer belongings, and boxes of photos and old journals are something of a weight (literally and figuratively, obviously). I want to simplify. A bag and a box and a backpack. A computer, three books, and a hat. Hip flask, pen, and waterbottle. Although I’m never going to get rid of my Waterman or Moleskine, I’m coming to the computer to vent that creative energy that in a more perfect world would probably be put into woodwork — and at least I don’t end up with a chair to carry with me from house to house.

It’s not that I think of the Internet as ‘simple’, or even particularly reliable. I don’t. I quite understand its utter complexity and reliance on most of the most unsustainable things in the modern world. And I don’t like that. I’d much rather have a little stone hut and a few chickens.

But here I am, in Canberra, studying I.T. I do rely on the Internet, and I’m going to continue to upload my photos and writing, and just not worry about it. I might print a few things, if I really care about them, but at the end of the day if the Internet stops I’ll be far too busy planting gardens on the freeways to worry about losing a few photos.

End of the day, end of the week.

I am exhausted, but strangely not completely sick of this assignment. It’s beer o’clock, and I’m going to the pub. Part of me wants to stay and keep going—while I’m going well an’ all—but I think I’ve just deleted a function from the file I’m working on, and I didn’t notice for ten minutes. Sigh. I think I’m probably tired, and it’d be a good idea to stop now. At least I’ve got a few good ideas about how to procede (once I’ve recovered the lost code…)

I want to fill in more of the Bicycle post from earlier, give me something to work from as I decide what I need in my toolbox and what’s just extraneous ballast, then perhaps I’ll sew a nice tool-roll for it all.

Procrastination

I’m lost today, lost in a dull quagmire of concurrency, Ada and the oppresive weight of too much stuff. I have an assignment to do and I understand very little of it. I suspect that I could figure it out, but I can’t be bothered. If I could see clearly the important things, in life I mean, that would be a start. But I can’t.

I have my bike, which I like at the moment; and woodwork which I will one day return to; and mostly and day-to-day I have this funny old world of computing. (Which latter I find so tedious today that I’m not sure why I’m writing this.) I like the order within each of these three things and know that that’s much of what draws me to them; I hate their order too, because in these times when I need it most I can get none of it. I know, academically, that it’s there, but I can feel nothing. Sadly, without the guidance instantiated by these activities I become lost sometimes. What’ll I do?

In case you didn’t get it, this post is pure procrastination.

Yet again, the Great Divide

Often, when I’m sitting in a lecture about concurrency, say, or sketching a possible design for some program, I actively love the fountain pen that I’m using at these times. Engaging with I.T., I find such great comfort in using such an old and ‘outdated’ technology. I usuallly don’t find this particularly interesting, becuase it seems to be a sensible reaction to being surrounded by and immersed in Modern Technology (oooh!). However, I’m blogging about this today becuase I’ve come back to a feeling that I was quite used to at one point a few years ago, at art school: I want out of all this computing, I want to get away from it all and not have my head spinning painfully with the unbearable complexity of it all. I want to get back to the workbench, and I want to blog about what I do there.

It seems that I can’t walk the line. I fall to one side of it, only to take pleasure in using the tools of the other side. I say I want to be completely with one branch of the dichotomy — technology these days — but can’t do so without yearning for the other. It rips me apart. I just wonder whether the divide is less consuming from one side or the other.

What I was going to say was that I want to get back to a workbench, and keep a journal of my work, probably on the web. Maybe even that I want to go and make furniture with my dad in WA, who knows?

In fact, fuck this!! I don’t want to be miserable about this! That’s not why I sat down to write. It’s too jolly cold here, that’s the problem, and I haven’t had my customary tipple of sherry yet.

I want to go home. I want to live with my friends in a nice house, and go to work in a furniture workshop with my dad. I’ve been away too long.

Grepping

Global Search Regular Expression Print.

An’ there I was, thinking McKenzie Wark was aluding to some pre-1976 use of this term. ‘Course he wasn’t, A Hacker Manifesto is way fully for geeks who’d know how to search, and what to call it.