Minecraft mountain

My focus has been all over the place lately. A couple weeks ago, I got back into Minecraft. I’ve played since its very first release, when I was in college, and since then, my interest in it has been tidal, waxing and waning but never fully disappearing. It really is quite a good game–there are so many satisfying behavioral “loops” that bring me back.

I also installed Minetest, because hey, I like the idea of supporting open-culture projects. Buuuuut, I’ve been having so much fun with the richness and depth of Minecraft’s existing content that I’m concerned Minetest will just feel like an off-brand knockoff. I should give it a fair shake, and maybe I will at some point… but right now, when I want to play a voxel-based survival/building game, I can either play the very familiar Minecraft, or I can fire up the novel Minetest and try to learn the new (and less polished) ins-and-outs of that game. One option sounds like work when I want to be playing.

And that kinda speaks to where my mind is at right now. I had a big surge of task-focused energy a couple weeks ago, when I built my garden beds and did a bunch of interior household tasks. Now, I find myself retreating a lot more. I spent the last weekend playing Minecraft and Kingdom of Loathing and sitting on the couch with Rachel, watching several episodes of Mindhunter in a row. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but it’s not quite where I want to be. It felt good to make progress on things that mattered to me.

If I think about it, I’ve found myself in the same place with a lot of my projects right now. I’ve burned through a lot of the easy stuff: replacing cabinet hardware, upgrading my computer, buying an inkjet printer, building garden beds, purchasing the hardware for my Friendica instance. And with the easy stuff out of the way, I’m now facing the actual work–a lot of which I feel unequipped to handle and which I feel less capable of steering away from failure. So I’m facing a mountain of perceived snags, like:

  • Can I transplant my plant starts without killing them? How do I transplant my plant starts?
  • How are we going to organize our third garden bed, especially since bed #2’s carefully plotted layout got disrupted?
  • Have I failed at starting seeds because all my starts are leggy instead of stout?
  • What is causing my computer to run out of memory every day or two?
  • How do I get my damn printers to work with my computer?
  • How do I set up a shared music server for my wife and myself that minimizes data duplication while maximizing accessibility?
  • Will we ever be able to afford all the electrical work in this house that I want done? Is that prudent?
  • Is it responsible to have several computers running in this house if the outlets are ungrounded (and I therefore can’t use surge protectors)?
  • I should really start backing up my data–but what should I back up? How? Where? And how do I do that with multiple computers?
  • Did I properly duplicate data from my laptop when I moved to my desktop last year? Is it all moved?
  • Relatedly, do I have unnecessarily duplicated data? What is safe to delete?
  • How can I make all emoji appear in color on my desktop instead of some being in color and others rendered in black and white?
  • What can I remove from my old laptop to make it faster?
  • How can I write this blog post about the value of “magic” and ritual in a way I’m proud of?
  • What roles do Scuttlebutt, my Friendica server, and my blog play in my online presence? How do I want to use them?
  • Why the heck is my blog stripping the authorization headers and preventing me from using the IndieAuth plugin?
  • How do I decouple my WordPress installation from the LDAP plugin it uses so that I don’t get login errors every time I update the package?
  • How can I make (or commission) a little 3D-printable case for the Iron Clays poker chips I have sitting on my desk?

I could go on… but I recognize this is interesting to nobody but me. 😜 As I see it, though, the common thread is that all of these next steps require work. They require me to research and make decisions and try things. There’s not an easy answer, just hard work.

And hard work is harder when it feels like it’s all on my shoulders. Rachel doesn’t understand my server projects or my computer issues–this is not a slight, it’s just not where her interests or knowledge lie. The vast majority of this feels like solitary work, at least right now, and that just makes it ten times harder. I wish I could invite people to my house to look over my shoulder and guide me, or even just to sit in solidarity with me.

Because work that’s shared always feels easier. I grew up with a large extended family, and several times a year, we’d converge on my grandparents’ house for work parties. We’d spend all day trimming branches and hauling debris and planting gardens. It was work, yes, but it was social, too. It was shared.

Maybe I need to find some creative ways to make my tasks a bit more social–even if I’m still the only one doing the work. I’ve reflected before that the work of building a stronger, compassionate, anti-fascist world feels impossibly daunting (and anxiety-provoking) when I see it as a task I have to figure out on my own, but like Good (and Achievable) Work when I see it as a project to be distributed and shared. Perhaps that thinking extends beyond political work.

And maybe, when I don’t see these tasks as burdens I have to bear on my own, I won’t feel the need to escape to digital voxel worlds.

Behind the Scenes

Now that I’ve fixed some URL rewriting settings, I think it’s safe to announce that this blog has now officially moved! I’m no longer at spencerdub.me/blog; instead, this blog now lives at blog.spencerdub.me. Also, I’ve changed the URL permalink writing rules, dropping the year and month from the URLs in favor of simply including the title of the post.

I’m announcing this mostly to keep a record. If I did it right, you shouldn’t have to do nearly anything; I’ve been wrestling with redirect rules in the hopes that most old links to my content will seamlessly lead to the new locations. I have found one strange side effect, though: spencerdub.me/blog/ now redirects to Blogathon Post #1.

Not sure what’s up there, but it’s kinda amusing. I’ll try to fix it later if I can figure it out.

Anyway, update your bookmarks!

a post (gRegorLove)

Hey Spencer, thanks for the kind words.

Have you seen indiebookclub.biz? That’s a little tool I’ve put together that makes it easier to post those read posts to your site. It’s via Micropub and there is an indieweb plugin that adds Micropub support to Wordpress sites, so you might be closer to achieving this than you think!

I’m not super familiar with the WordPress plugin, but the IndieWeb WordPress community would be happy to help with any questions. There’s a dedicated chat channel for WordPress if you want to stop by. More details at indieweb.org/discuss.

Hey gRegor! Thanks for the response. I really love being able to ping back and forth from my own site like this–man, the IndieWeb is cool. 😁

I hadn’t seen IndieBookClub, so thank you for the recommendation! I haven’t looked into Micropub at all yet. Maybe it would behoove me to do so.

And I appreciate the link to the IndieWeb chat. I’m an infrequent face in there, especially in #wordpress. I think I’m a little concerned about asking too many support questions!

Thanks again.

What Is Communist Anarchism? (The Anarchist Library/Vanguard Press)

What Is Communist Anarchism? is an introduction to the principles of anarchism and anarchist communism written by Alexander Berkman. First published in 1929 by Vanguard Press, after parts of it had appeared in the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, it has been reprinted several times under several different titles, including Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism and What is Anarchism? Because of its presentation of anarchist philosophy in plain language, What Is Communist Anarchism? has become one of the best-known introductions to anarchism in print. Anarchist Stuart Christie wrote that this text is "among the best introductions to the ideas of anarchism in the English language". Historian Paul Avrich described it as "a classic" and wrote that it was "the clearest exposition of communist anarchism in English or any other language".

An incredibly thorough and accessible primer that still holds up 91 years later. Berkman writes with clarity and charisma.

I’d recommend this to damn near anyone.

Spring 2020 reading list

Since I don’t yet have a cool “Reading” page like gRegor Morrill’s, I figured I’d instead share the books that are currently at the top of my to-read list.

  • What is Communist Anarchism?, by Alexander Berkman. I’m currently reading this one, and am about 80% through. It’s damn good and shockingly relevant, despite being over 90 years old. You can get it for free at The Anarchist Library, by the way.
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, by Sarah Kendzior. Sarah Kendzior is a modern-day Cassandra, who has been warning us since before the Trump presidency about the authoritarian threat he presents. This is her latest book, all about… that.
  • The Reactionary Mind, by Corey Robin. I learned about this one from Ian Danskin of Innuendo Studios, whose ongoing video series The Alt-Right Playbook I can’t praise enough. Ian shares his research for the series in a research masterpost and occasionally on Twitter, which is how I learned about this one. I’m very eager to learn more about the history and development of modern conservatism through this book.
  • The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer. Also an Innuendo Studios recommendation, this free book consolidates decades of Bob Altemeyer’s research into the subject. Danskin recommends it as “One of the most useful resources I’ve consumed so far”.

I’m not expecting this to be fun reading, but I think it’s going to help me develop a more thorough understanding of our modern political moment.

gRegorLove.com: Reading by gRegor Morrill (gRegorLove)
A summary of what gRegor Morrill is reading and wants to read.

I really like what gRegor has done here, by aggregating his to-read and reading posts to form an overview of his reading.

I wish I were handy enough to make this happen for myself, but I’m so totally clueless when it comes to development. I also frequently feel like I’m fighting against WordPress to really IndieWebify my site.

I’m not used to thinking of my website as less than, like, 90% of what I want from it. But since discovering the IndieWeb, my dreams for my site here have far outpaced what I’m currently capable of, so I’m stuck looking at things like gRegor’s Reading page and admiring them but feeling incapable of properly making them happen myself.

It’s a bind!

The Answer to All of Your Social Distancing Loophole Questions Is No by Rachel Miller (Vice)

In late March, the director of the CDC warned that 25 percent of COVID-19 cases could be asymptomatic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is advising the White House on coronavirus, said last week the figure could be as high as 50 percent. FIFTY PERCENT!!! One out of every two people could be carriers and not know it. You could be a carrier and not know it.

But a lot of folks are still approaching coronavirus from a place of, What are my personal odds of illness, and, if I get sick, of surviving the illness? versus, How can I not harm other people? It’s not just people who have been inside for a couple weeks without symptoms, either; people who are sick are engaging in astonishing mental gymnastics to convince themselves that, yes, they might have COVID-19, but they aren’t actually that contagious, and anyway, they are bored and want to go for a jog, so can you please leave them alone about it!!!

...Viruses don’t operate by potential carriers’ best intentions. They operate exclusively by our actions. No one is leaving their house thinking, I am going to be the superspreader who kills a bunch of people by running some errands/taking a walk with my friend/meeting up with a Tinder date today. Yet thousands and thousands of people have died.

COVID-19

Garden beds at sunset

I woke up and started my morning on the couch, a hot mug of tea in front of me and my journal in my lap. I’ve always been a journaler, of course, but that’s taken on new importance in the last month, as I’ve felt some duty–as well as a desire–to chronicle what my life has looked like during this historic crisis. I will someday be a primary source, if for nobody more than myself and my people.

Continue reading
This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For by Laurie PennyLaurie Penny (Wired)

This is because late capitalism has always been a death cult. The tiny-minded incompetents in charge cannot handle a problem that can’t be fixed simply by sacrificing poor, vulnerable, and otherwise expendable individuals. Faced with a crisis they can’t solve with violence, they dithered and whined and wasted time that can and will be counted in corpses. There has been no vision, because these men never imagined the future beyond the image of themselves on top of the human heap, cast in gold. For weeks, the speeches from podiums have suggested that a certain amount of brutal death is a reasonable price for other people to pay to protect the current financial system. The airwaves have been full of spineless right-wing zealots so focused on putting the win in social Darwinism that they keep accidentally saying the quiet bit out loud.

The quiet bit is this: To the rich and stupid, many of the economic measures necessary to stop this virus are so unthinkable that it would be preferable for millions to die. This is extravagantly wrong on more than just a moral level—forcing sick and contagious people back to work to save Wall Street puts all of us at risk. It is not only easier for these overpromoted imbeciles to imagine the end of the world than a single restriction on capitalism—they would actively prefer it.

COVID-19

This is a beautiful essay about imagining something better. It’s both an obituary and a rallying cry, and I strongly recommended you read it to the end.