I finished watching Long Way Round while waiting for new episodes of Long Way Up. The adventure travel reminded me a lot of blogs I used to read when I was in high school1 and college2 and dreaming of studying abroad in Japan and living in Japan in general.

In those days, we’d blog, maybe post a bad photo or two, and commented on each others’ sites. Nobody knew each other in real life, but, over time, you’d get a real sense of community. You were of course following the posts, but there were also a regular cast of commenters that you’d also get a sense of knowing. It felt authentic…and innocent.

Why can’t we have this today – but on larger scale? How would you even find these sites on the modern web? Everything is hidden behind “the algorithms” and or paid for by a marketing campaign. Can you even find them?

1 Sushicam.com was a great photo blog by a guy living in Japan. I used to have a few prints of his and also bought his old Canon 10D – until my parents said “If you have enough money to buy a camera, you have enough money to pay rent”.
2 Justin Klein was a great blog from a traveling programmer. Not just Japan, but all over the world.

One of the tasks left for me to improve the sustainability of my website is to reduce the size/transfer of the images on my site. This is actually two tasks: optimize the images themselves, two lazy load images so they only load when scrolled into view.

I’m not too interested in lazy-loading images as it would require adding more Javascript and client-side execution. So I plan to focus on optimizing images in place for now.

My blog is powered by WordPress, so it should be as simple as installing one of the many “image optimizer” plugins. However, for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to image optimizing happens on their servers, or they want to use their CDN to delivery my images, or the plugin just kinda looks spammy, I haven’t taken the next time.

My designed image processing shouldn’t be too difficult – just call pngcrush and imagemagick depending on if I upload a png or jpeg file.

I’ve asked myself how do I address image optimization on my website: do I write my own image optimization plugin? Or do I do something else?

I haven’t written PHP in a very long time I don’t partially fancy developing a new WordPress plugin. But it could be nice to make a nice, clean, no fuss plugin available for others to use.

However, I’m leaning towards “something else” and think a more generic solution might be better. i.e. What if I had a small daemon (probably Python, maybe Rust as an excuse to learn it?) to monitor a directory and automatically optimize the images when they’re saved. This way no plugin is required and it could be used no matter the blogging engine.

Typically I always have had a side project that I work on before or after hours. However, with Covid-19 and everything else going on in the world I decided that rather than add another stressor to take a step back and focus on my mental and physical health.

To improve my physical fitness, I’ve been working on developing a regular running habit again. To improve my mental health, I’ve been focusing getting enough sleep.

In both of those aims my Apple Watch and iPhone have been a key tool in keeping me on track.

My watch reminds me to stand up and tracks my runs. I’ve also started a running club at work and while we can’t run together, we do share our runs on Slack and set running goals each month.

For sleep health, I’ve setup Downtime everyday from 8:30pm – 5:30am, as part of my Screentime settings. This disables all apps on my phone, except phone calls and apps that I specifically allow. The only apps that I allow are Runkeeper, Music, and Overcast, as I use them when running.

I didn’t think Downtime would have much of an effect at first, but I discovered that it prevents me from doom scrolling while in bed. And it turns out that limiting your intake of doom directly before and after you wake up, does wonders for your mental health.

The other setting that helps drastically is Bedtime. I aim for 8 hours of sleep a night and have set bedtime from 8:30pm – 4:30am, everyday. Notice that Downtime doesn’t end until an hour after I’ve woken up – giving me at least an hour of time with “just me”.

45 minutes before bedtime I get a notification that it’s time to start winding down and notifications disappear, my phone dims and I get a nice banner that say things like “Good evening. It’s time to start winding down.”. Removing the notifications and making such a simple display makes it much less tempting to pick up my phone.

When I first heard about these features I thought they sounded a bit gimmicky and they wouldn’t work. But they do. In the past two weeks I’ve averaged 8:29 hours in bed at 7:36 hours asleep each night. And each morning I feel refreshed.

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping this year, give yourself a break and try Downtime and Screentime.

The title says it all, doesn’t it? Patagonia has been putting these great tags on some of their shorts that read “Vote the Assholes Out”, to encourage people to vote out the climate change deniers that are in office. They’re not saying vote liberal or conservative. Just to vote the assholes out.

I love seeing simple and clear advocacy like this from Patagonia. I wish more companies could find the courage to do it too.

I’ve sent in my ballot to do my part to end the madness, have you?

I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. Much of the information presented I already knew – big tech mines all of our personal data and manipulates us to increase screen time in whichever way they can.

The movie itself has a story in-between the interview clips that help demonstrate the effects that social media (and cellphones) enable within a family. In one scene the son’s cellphone’s screen’s cracks and the mom says that she’ll replace it if he can not use his phone for a week, since, as he says “it’s no big deal”.

The algorithms notice his usage has changed, i.e. stopped, analyze that similar people in his area haven’t changed their usage and start a “reactivation” sequence, to suck him back in. To tempt him to open the app they find a recent event that will entice him back in and, like a drug addict, he’s back.

It reminds me of the seemingly random push notifications I get from instagram when I haven’t used the app in a few days. Nothing is random with social media, but it didn’t occur to me that they were trying to “reactivate” me and just how slimy that is. There’s no regard for the “user” – only their advertisers, which is their real user.

Most of all, watching The Social Dilemma makes me grateful for the indie web, communities like micro.blog, and apps like Sunlit that allow social media without algorithms without manipulation for advertisers, powered (more or less) by RSS and other open standards.

Having a blog again, especially one weekly post is changing how I interact with the internet. It’s making it fun again.

Like most I had a blog in the early 2000’s and it slowly faded from use with the rise of FB, Twitter, and other social media. But by limiting myself to those platforms, I also limited how I could share.

There is no “save draft” of a tweet. And you can only fit so much nuance in 140 280 characters.

Now, with a blog, when I find something that looks like I’d want to share or I might want to share, I simply append the link to the latest The Week post. Then, either throughout the week, or in the 15 minutes before posting, I expand upon that link, maybe even add some context. Sharing has become more about than just sharing some random link or video. I have the space to show how it relates to me and make it personal, rather than just a simple retweet that gets lost in the stream.

I didn’t realize it, but I was missing that space. My own cubby on the internet. No longer being locked into a format, time, or design decided by someone I don’t know gives me a place I can call home.

No algorithms. No ads. Just me.

I’m not a New Yorker. I’ve only visited New York once for a week 4 years ago. But I think this oped by Jerry Seinfeld So You Think New York Is ‘Dead’: (It isn’t) is spot on – New York isn’t going anywhere.

Yes, Remote everything is becoming the norm, people are moving away from world class cities, but it won’t be forever. The cities won’t vanish, they’ll do what they always do: change.

There is an energy in the big cities that you can’t find anywhere else and can’t replicate remotely. While I’ve been nearly 100% remote working for the last 7 or 8 years, I always felt recharged by my trips into the cities. And when this is all over, I look forward getting back in the mix of things.

This past week was the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. I found this article “Hiroshima” on the New Yorker that goes into detail about the actual experiences of survivors in the days and weeks afterwards and it’s sobering. Not just because of single event, as they’re all sobering, but the sheer volume.

It’s a long read (~100 pages) and well worth your time. What’s more is that it’s not based on long-ago recollections. This article was originally published in August 1946.

I rarely finish books that I start reading. Usually I’ll get what I need out of it, plan to finish it, and start a new book in the mean time. Some may shake their heads in disbelief, but I don’t think this is a problem.

While I feel like retain “a lot” of what I read, a few months down the like and I usually only remember the gist. I’m wondering if I couldn’t retain more details if I were to take notes when I read. Writing down notes physically on paper is an option, but transcribing them so I can easily reference them becomes a burden. My handwriting is also horrible as I write with paper so rarely.

One thought that comes to mind is to setup a personal wiki where I can just store anything and everything, including notes on book and articles that I read. I could easily link/categorize content. I don’t necessarily want to make everything I read and write fully public and managing which page are private, which are public could become a chore.

The other thought is, I have this blog why don’t I just write what I learn here. Start interspersing notes about books / magazines that I read here on this blog. It should help me retain more of what I read as well as help people discover new and interesting topics.