• So how’s everyone doing? You all okay? We’re doing alright over here.

  • Why _should_ cyberpunk move on?

    I’ve been reading all kinds of “why can’t cyberpunk move on” articles lately, most famous of which is likely this Slate article. The general complaint is that cyberpunk foretold our present to some extent: dramatic wealth inequality, rule by corporations, and the pervasiveness of technology and connectivity to the detriment of community and personal interactions. What cyberpunk isn’t offering is some kind of solution to this problem. Most cyberpunk fiction is classic noir fiction; big heists and hardboiled detective work. At the end of the piece of fiction the crook gets away with it, or the crime is solved. Even in works that deal with potentially world-changing events like Metrophage, the narrative focuses on the impact on the main character.

    This is true, but I don’t beleive that it’s a valid complaint. Or at least, it’s not a real indictment of the genre. We have psychological thrillers, police procedurals, romcoms, space operas. Are they required to fix sociopaths, end crime, ensure we all have fulfilling relationships, or are headed for post-scarcity tech utopias? Genre fiction doesn’t need to focus on fixing things. It is perfectly fine for it to be fun to read.

    I will say one thing in cyberpunk’s defence: A long time ago I read a book that took place in a future where no one owned anything, and had to essentially rent everything they owned from the company store. It meant that anyone middle class or below was unable to change jobs, quit, retire, or vacation. They worked themselves to death, or they became destitute. Even as a kid, that future seemed plausible to me. It changed the way I think about material goods, and what we can give up for a life of luxury. Cyberpunk has the potential to wake us up to some of the worst excesses of our current society.

  • Depth year cont’d


    The problem

    Moving to England, and keeping our house in Toronto, we knew things were going to be a bit challenging. We researched the cost of living in Cambridge hard. I’m pleased with how close we came to what our actual ended up being. A few things we were low on (travel), and one pretty significant expense we missed entirely: activities for our daughter during school breaks. But those aren’t the things I’m worried about. What bugs me is the steady drip-drip of money from our accounts.

    The solution

    • Make plans: purchase plans, meal plans, plans for larger and irregular purchases. This gives me some upfront control over spending
    • Track expenses. I was writing down all our expenses when we first moved, but the costs were so chaotic and atypical that couldn’t see the point. Now I’m going to enter all expenses into Banktivity at the end of every day. Canadian housing income and expenses will continue to go into a spreadsheet that I update weekly


    The problem

    I have a health issue that requires some ongoing attention. There are also lots of things I can do personally to improve my situation. Thing is, my health problem doesn’t really have an impact on my day to day, so it’s easy to ignore. While I broadly follow healthy practices, I could absolutely do better. Mostly I need to lose weight and exercise more. My health focus is really about accepting that I’m middle-aged, now, and should be thinking about ways to get older better.

    The solution

    • Track my weight, and what I eat in LoseIt
    • Get back into running, and add some basic strength training
    • During the week no eating between 7pm and 10am
    • No alcohol, treats, or snack food during the week

    I’m actually already doing these things, and I’m seeing a benefit. I’m on track to be under 190lbs by the time we go visit family in Canada for Christmas, which will represent a 15lbs loss over the year.


    The problem

    Issues with focus seems to be a dominating part of the “modern condition”. We (I) feel it on two levels. There is the micro level, which is also situational, where we find it easy to get pulled out of what we’re doing. There is a fear we’re training our brains to be more distractible. And there is the macro level, at which there is so much to do, and we have an historically unprecedented range of things we can do, that it becomes difficult to pick just one thing. In my case I have bookshelves with unread how-to books, a Projects folder littered with partly completed apps or websites, bursting drafts folders, and aspirational purchases like Arduinos, a used MIDI controller, and shelves of barely-touched board and roleplaying games.

    The solution

    • Limit inputs: unsubscribe from things that aren’t adding value. Stop making impulse purchases. I’ve already mentioned these, but: set up Freedom for site blocking; unfollowing blogs, people on social media, and newsletters
    • Stop saving things to read later (just in case). Someone described a system for using Pocket in which they had a planned chunk of time during the day or the week in which they read through their reading list. If it didn’t get read in that time, it was deleted. I’m going to look into implementing a system like that. I’m also going to see if I can get my Pocket stuff on an ebook reader
    • Read books, not blogs or articles
    • Pick a thing to do each month, and focus on that one project. September’s project is setting up the infrastructure for this depth year. In October, I’m going to get back into fantasy computer programming like PICO-8, TIC-80, PixelVision 8, and the various Zachtronics machines
  • A depth (school) year

    I have recently become frustrated with a lot of things: the internet, how I spend my downtime, clutter, finances, a lackadaisical approach to my health, a lack of focus. I’ve decided that I need to do a bit of a reset. In part, this will amount to a depth year (or depth academic year, in my case, as I’ve started it along with my daughter’s school year). I’m also looking to start some new, positive habits. I thought I’d break things down here; you can see my professional intentions over on my other site.


    The problem

    Basically I fritter it away. I spend too much time on skimming tech news, political hate clicks, vapid and repetitive self-help articles (hello, Medium!), puttering around the house, and other things that feel like doing something of value. They are of little-to-no value. I truly believe that time might be better spent reading light fiction, playing a game, or watching movies. These things are not stressful, as the web so often is, and can be restorative.

    The solution

    • I thought about blocking stuff online with a hosts file or proxy like pi-hole, but these are too fiddly, and not great for phones. So I got a year of Freedom
    • I am always going to have a book or a comic on the go, and I am always going to have them on me. I was just loaned an old Kindle, and I have a Kobo, so this should make things simple. I’m also going to start gaming on my phone again. Always have a good alternative to the noise
    • I am unsubscribing from stuff like crazy, although I’m tracking what I’m unsubscribing in case I really miss. I am also unfollowing people on Twitter, because there’s actually value on that site if you ruthlessly edit


    The problem

    We made a big transit-Atlantic move at the beginning of the year. We sold or got rid of a tonne of stuff, and left quite a few things behind (because we totally did not understand how much we actually could have fit in our shipping container). We had to do a bit of rebuying to fill in some blanks. Once you get into the acquisitive headspace, it becomes self-perpetuating, and the solution to any problem becomes “find a thing on Amazon that does it. Digital clutter is also an issue. I have more books, games, apps, comics, albums, subscriptions, domain names, than I can make use of in the next decade.

    The solution

    • Unsubscribing helps, here. If I don’t see the ads, then I won’t be tempted. This is mostly about software and game bundles
    • Anything physical I need to buy goes into a spreadsheet, and I revisit it after two weeks to see if I still need it
    • I’m going to keep working on moving stuff out of the house (in addition to not bringing things we need, we brought stuff we didn’t. Oxfam and the Sally Ann have received many a box/bag)

    I’ll address more stuff in a forthcoming post.

  • Detail from the projection.

  • Camera obscura on my bedroom wall this morning!

  • They should make this into a t-shirt.

  • Beautiful light/kinetic sculpture inside the bike lock up (of all places) near Cambridge station.

  • I can’t shake this feeling I’m being followed.

  • Stop what you’re doing, they’re coming home.

  • Fueling up before swim lessons.

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