Fundamental Reconditioning



There is evidence–that I think most people are aware of at this point–that posting certain kinds of content on the internet is a sign of a narcissistic personality. Though I would argue that there is a certain breed of teenager that lacks the self-awareness to even know that this is arguably a bad thing. Duck faces in selfies are only a particularly visible manifestation of this weird tendency in today’s youth. A culture of young people brought up in the digital age without actually understanding what that means and being absolutely utterly clueless about how it all works.

Digital natives? Not a chance. Kids today don’t know how a computer works any more than grandma does. They know how to operate an interface. They understand how to swipe and to text and to post pictures. I have had students who had never actually realized that Clash of Clans is a computer program written by humans. Completely oblivious to the fact that computers are really stupid and need lots and lots of human hours by smart people to be made to do anything useful at all. Or anything entertaining. They don’t get this. When something goes wrong with their computer, they don’t know how to fix it.

One day, I had a drove of iPhone wielding sophomores eagerly awaiting new iOS version drop. Talking about how sweet it was going to be. The weird thing about this is that while I get that they were excited and had I an iPhone, I might have been excited as well, but I feel like we would have been excited for completely different reasons. They were excited because the icons were getting a makeover. The physical feel would be different. I would at least be able to temper my expectations with the knowledge that those sorts of changes are purely cosmetic. A software update is still just a software update. It’s just company doing its job, maintaining base code, expanding functionality, fixing security loopholes, or maybe introducing new ones for the government to exploit. It’s incremental. So what if the icons got a makeover? It’s still basically the same device with mostly the same functionality. What’s cool is the under-the-hood stuff. Or at least, it’s the stuff that I think is cool.

Lollipop gave the Android OS a new Java runtime which is arguably a huge step, but in the minds of everyone out there who has a Galaxy S5 holstered at his/her hip, it’s irrelevant. What do they care that apps will load faster or that ART has faster and less frequent garbage collection, or that it compiles to native machine code! They don’t. All they actually care about is that it seems different and maybe just a little better. Without the accompanything interface tweaks and reskins and the big Material Design push, they would not really be aware that anything had changed. It might feel smoother. It does feel smoother. But that would be it.

And arguably that’s the point. We build interfaces to sheild people from complexities. We as programmers build interfaces to sheild ourselves from complexities as well. It’s why we like frameworks. Frameworks keep us from rewriting the same boilerplate code every time we want to build a web page. Frameworks and IDEs increase efficiency dramatically, but they also make us lazy. Interfaces make us lazy. They make us forget (or not even be aware) that (for example) the tcp/ip stack is a monumental mess of poorly documented, convoluted spaghetti code. used to have a different theme that was written entirely by me in HTML, PHP, and CSS. It was really great in its heyday when I first built the blog, but it was time for a new interface. Something with a more modern look. And so I thought about building my own from the ground up again. But you know what? My heart wasn’t in it. So I used one of the WordPress defaults. And I don’t even feel bad about it.

Oh, sure I’ll customize it and put my banner ads back (which you people never click on anyway), and add personalized header bar and maybe some cool bootstrap stuff, but the underlying code will stay mostly as it is. I will save reinventing the wheel for another day. For another website. So it’s fine. I am being lazy. I am using an interface to get something done rather than putting it off. Am I no better than the selfie-posting teenager? Maybe a little bit. At least I have a bigger vocabulary.

Wo denkst du, du gehst?

Self-Publishing. Really just for fun?

This is sort of my little nod to xkcd. It is by far my favorite webcomic. Possibly the best of all possible webcomics.

I’m being a little hard on self-publishing and these days, it is largely undeserved, however, I think the point remains valid, at least for the foreseeable future. Self-publishing is clearly the wave of the future. Many people are doing it and some are making money at it. Blogging is an obvious example of self-publishing that has the ability to create a revenue stream for an independent blogger. For instance, I have made all of five dollars in the last couple years of writing this blog. This represents an actual monetary loss, of course, since I am loaded with hubris up to my eyeballs. No blogger or wordpress domains for me. No, I had to go out and buy a domain and host the bastard myself. I host through inmotionhosting and while I could not be happier with their product, I do take a yearly nontrivial pocketbook hit.

But it’s different when it comes to self-publishing that story that you sat down to write. There is a stigma to it. It’s like, “Why did you self-publish? You couldn’t get it published anywhere else?” This is a perfectly valid criticism, because often it is true. There are few people out there who opted to self-publish for idealistic reasons without ever sending it off to a publisher (though they do exist).

If you are published by a big publishing house, then you have instantly gained a certain amount of credibility. Of course, publishing houses are notorious for publishing terrible books. But that’s just it, isn’t it? For every hack musician that makes it big, there are a hundred exceedingly talented garage bands that never get noticed and only have their little groupies in their hometowns. There’s something personal about that, but you can’t make a living off it.

Self-published authors are the garage bands of the literary world and there is a certain sort of ronin samurai honor in that. They are not beholden to a daimyo. They have no feudal lord. They are independent, rogue artists, who are the future of the art. They are legion and it is from them that the greatest artists emerge.

It is technically the Kindle which makes it all possible, of course (and the B&N variant, the Nook). There are on-demand self-publishing print services like CreateSpace, but, by and large, self-publishing became a thing of the past after the printing-press became corporate. I mean, Ben Franklin self-published (he ran a print shop). But Amazon is sort of bringing back the heady, whimsy-filled days of self-publishing. When anything was possible. Anything. I suppose you could look at it as though Amazon is their daimyo, but it is like this big, indiscriminate daimyo that doesn’t care if it has a bunch of totally weak samurai running around, but I’m inclined to think that, since most of it happens on the writer’s terms, it’s not so bad. So they sell that novella for $.99, and they only get to keep $.35 per copy sold. The customer isn’t out anything if the work is bad. They can always pick up something else. And that is the key to selling a $.99 novella. Indeed, the very format of the novella is likely to make a resurgence as a result of the self-publishing wave.

Anyway, all of this is bringing me to an important announcement. I have self-published a novella. It is called The Harbormaster. It is a martian novella. It is on sale now in e-book edition at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You literally can’t go wrong picking it up. It’s very fun.

Oh, and if you don’t have e-reader, smartphone, or tablet, there are PC and Mac apps for both Kindle and Nook editions. If you don’t have a PC or Mac, then you couldn’t possibly be reading this unless you’re some sort of technomancer wizard and probably don’t need a kindle or nook in the first place.

Technically, I get more money if you buy it from B&N, but I think if you click on this handy Amazon Affiliate link, I might actually make up the difference:

And here’s the link to the B&N page in case you have a Nook (or just like B&N).

Wörter wie Honig.

Locutus of Dobbs!

Part of my continuing Bob-Dobbs-themed photo-editing series. GiMP was used.

I already posted this on facebook. But I want proof that I designed it first. You know, just in case someone wants to hire me as a graphic designer.

Behold, mortals! Submit your slack applications in triplicate or be assimilated!

Bonus Content! See the world with new eyes!

And so it has come to pass that a new banner has been created. I would be remiss in my duty if I did not tell that, in true subgenius fashion, I wasted almost an entire day at work doing this

The laser bird took the longest (paths, overlays, alpha channels, annoying), but the Obama-Dobbs is my favorite, and so has a place of honor here in the post. All hail the slack master! He robbeth from the rich and keepeth for his own pockets!