Apple News

Apple News does this thing where you can block a news source, but any time that news source turns up on the Today page the space the story would have taken up is replaced by a notification that you blocked the source. It was annoying when I was just blocking CNN and other TV news outlets, but it got more annoying when I started blocking subscription-based channels I don’t want to subscribe to. My mind goes to what sorts of compromises and deals are made to keep, e.g. the Washington Post on the platform, with its mix of freebie loss leaders and subscription content.


“Blocking is not supported in Top Stories or other groups curated by the Apple News editors, who vet each story in those groups for quality and accuracy.”

I think where my acceptance of Apple’s whole “let go and let us” is concerned, I’ve found my demarcation line.

RSS is the way.

On a wider note: It feels like so many things that are bad are because we’re struggling to stay on top of all the things in the digital era. We’re delegating aggregation, curation, etc. to platforms that are worse decision makers than us because their bad decisions cost less and are more convenient than our good decisions. The tradeoff we make is that we get the ease in exchange for a quantum of financialized badness we’re meant to either ignore or endure.

Two decades ago, my impulses were super democratic, but I wanted to share my technical expertise with people that had less of it so they could participate in the Web as full citizens. It’s weird to me that I felt a little impatient with people about how slowly they were adapting to it all in, like, 2003. The Web wasn’t even old enough for middle school at that point.

When the big platforms started to roll in, I’d mellowed a lot and my thought was “this seems to be how people are going to participate.” It was super weird to me that friends were ceding basic connectivity to Facebook, and using work addresses for personal mail when forced to send an email, but I’d also lived through a cycle of hosting other peoples’ stuff, helping people who decided to self-host unfuck their little Red Hat servers, etc. and I didn’t like the responsibility. So whatevs.

Now? I don’t know what to say. I’m tired of the big platforms, I don’t care for the tradeoffs you have to endure for zero-interest-funded services, and I’m pretty happy with the little base of operations I have set up. I sympathize with people who don’t have the cycles to commit to things like figuring out RSS readers or mail hosting, or making an identity in the Fediverse, or building a blog, and who have to live with more acute tradeoffs. But I also don’t care to have much more emotion about it than I would about a friend whose mac-n-cheese recipe doesn’t involve a little extra effort in the form of a tasty mustard roux. Like, enjoy your mac-n-cheese, friend!

I think the thing that might have finally beaten it all out of me was the Muskification of Twitter and the Mastodon migration wave I came in on. People kept trying to turn the whole thing into this epic, moral, world-historical twilight struggle. That’s perfectly in line with the very neoliberal, very postmodern, very consumption-centric view of the world that would have us believe that no, actually, posting is praxis.

End on a positive note? Sure. My friend and former coworker Gene has a cool podcast about volunteering technical skill. That’s praxis. He reminds me that now that I’ve got some basics covered again, it’s time to go out and do something to help somewhere. Posting isn’t that.

Ugly but they work

A few years back when I was in the market for new hiking boots I ended up with Hoka Anacapas. They were still a relative novelty, and they stood out for their “neon pontoon boat” aesthetic. People were concerned about preserving trail feel with such a built-up, cushiony boot, but they worked pretty well for me and I’m glad I have them.

What wasn’t working so well were the lighter day shoes I was wearing as Al and I ramped up how much walking we did during the week. They were wearing out fast, blowing out in three or four months, and my back was noticing, so I gave Hoka Speedgoats a try. They’re classified as “trail runners,” but I found they worked really well for getting around on long walks in the city. They weren’t at all to my taste in terms of appearance, but I also didn’t like the whole whole “brown suede and mesh” aesthetic, either. I think, in terms of Hoka’s lineup, that they’re considered a more neutral build, so they look more “normal” compared to the more built up ones.

I got used to how they looked pretty quickly because my back and hips did a lot better with them, and because I could get six months of heavy use out of them instead of three or four. And even when they wore down to the point they weren’t great for long urban hikes they had a second life as longboard shoes. My one complaint was that the toe box was a little narrow and took a few weeks to stretch out.

When my last pair came due for a reup, I looked around at Hoka’s site and noticed the colors I’d gotten used to were gone and the ones that were available were somehow even more bright and un-me. So I went to the local outdoor store and shopped around and got some Merrell’s, reasoning that the Vibram sole would provide some of the stiffness and shock absorption I was probably getting from the Speedgoats.

It’s not lost on me that a minor back thing I would have walked off in a day turned into a multi-week ordeal at exactly the same time I started wearing those around. So … off they go. I just got my new pair of Speedgoats in the mail today: I went with a wide size, so they feel great right away, the color is definitely not my favorite but it’s not that much worse now that I see them on my feet. Since I know how much life I’ll get out of a pair, I just got normal ones instead of the Goretex version: These’ll be dead about the time the rainy season comes back.

Getting a good shoe is a joy. One of the bad things about getting older and caring more about these things is how you come to see the bigger product cycle. I have no idea how long Hoka Speedgoats will work well for me. It’s a matter of faith that they’ll do something to revise the line that’ll make them not work. They all do it, to the point that when I found an outdoor hat that worked for me I just bought three more and put them on a shelf in the closet. I’m grateful every time I see the newer, less breathable, worse version on the rack at REI. If I play my cards right, I may never buy that particular kind of hat again.

Time to sell the Himalayan

I’ve written about my Royal Enfield Himalayan. Just noting here that it is time to be rid of it. If you know anybody interested in a bike:

  • Low mileage
  • Cargo racks and metal panniers
  • Improved rear view mirrors
  • After market adjustable brake and clutch levers
  • Booster plug

It runs pretty smoothly, and the booster plug does a lot to help with rough idling it arrived with from the factory. It mostly comes down to taste. I’ve got another trail bike — my Yamaha TW200 — and I’m looking for something better for two-up date nights.

$3,500 firm.

Band of Brothers

When I was recently recounting Great Prestige TV, I left out Band of Brothers. I don’t know what put it back on my radar, but I rewatched it over several days last week. There are a few things about I’ve got a problem with, and a few more things I suspect I would have a problem with if I dug in more, but it’s pretty effective television.

If you went to jump school then ended up at Ft. Liberty (formerly Ft. Bragg), the show can’t help but have an effect: The streets are named for the battles and places. You were surrounded by the lore. You’re watching a show about the people you were told you had to measure up to. It’s not SpecOps or high speed stuff — it’s just rigorously trained, determined people dropped into battle, expected to take hideous losses.

Watching the show, feeling a sort of resonance during the jump sequence as they run through the pre-jump ritual, thinking about what they did … it put me back in touch with the feeling I had the first time I saw it, which was a sense of kinship, but also an awareness that I had no frame of reference for what they did or endured. I went to jump school because basic training was a disappointment and signal school was boring. People told me it would be hard, and a training sergeant who bought me a lemonade one night when I was on fireguard duty told me he thought it would help me make sense of the decision I’d made to enlist at all.

“You think you’re outsmarting someone, but you’re here for a reason.”

I was proud to earn my wings, but I still didn’t think jump school was as transformative as I’d hoped. It took years and a lot of distance to realize that the pride was still there.