Michael Pye, The Edge of the World:

…We’ve seen how plague became the reason, just like terrorism today, for social regulation, for saying how children must behave, for taking away a worker’s right to choose what work he wanted, for deciding which of the poor are worthy of help and which are just wastrels. Plague enforced frontiers that were otherwise wonderfully insecure, and made our movements and travels conditional. It helped make the state a physical reality, and give it ambitions.



Last, next.

52: Shenandoah (Maple)
53: Clandestine (A)

(I apparently missed taking a succession picture of 51 to 52.)

Maple, Clandestine

Last, next.

50: Shenandoah (Birch)
51: Shenandoah (Oak)

Birch, Oak

William the Silent:

One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere.


Last, next.

49: MN Red
50: Shenandoah (Birch)

Red, Birch

Being shy, an introvert, an HSP, and having social anxiety are four quite distinct (if sometimes related and overlapping) states.

Using the term “introvert” to refer to all four does a disservice to each, and can be confusing to folks who are none, or only one, of these.

And none of them are the same as being “anti-social.”

On Morning Pages


Joyce asked about morning pages. Turns out I’m feeling chatty this morning. So.

Despite some big differences in goal and method, I think of morning pages as a focussed subset of journalling, so I believe there’s considerable overlap in how to build each into a habit.

I’ve been journalling fairly consistently for about twenty years (and sporadically for some years before that). From late 1999 to early 2004, I exclusively used an ongoing Tex-Edit Plus document on my Mac. In 2004, I transitioned over to a notebook & pen/pencil, and I’ve been all-longhand ever since.

About four or five years ago (right around the time I first learned of morning pages, actually), I split it into morning page “journaling” with a “logbook” in the evenings. I started the “logbook” because I was getting frustrated that my journal entries were often derailed by dwelling too much on all sorts of daily “surface” things (what I ate, what I did, where I went). Instead of seeing the daily stuff as a distraction from writing about the “important” things, I honored it by giving it a separate braindump all to itself.

This gave me permission to skip over all that quotidian stuff as I journalled, and to move onto the next “layer” down – opinions, impressions, preoccupations, fears, rants, etc.

The therapeutic aspect of morning pages is at least partly about giving those “inner characters” of your psyche – the ones with the uncomfortable, unpopular, or fragile opinions – a chance to have their say in a safe, contained space. This can be very hard, and the “rest” of you may put up a lot of resistance — like wanting to give up simply because you “can’t” make it to three pages, or your handwriting is too “ugly,” or any of a million other excuses…

If you find you’re faced with a lot of internal resistance, Julia Cameron, of the Artist’s Way, suggests deleting the document or shredding the pages right after you finish writing. That way, you have an ironclad retort to the inner voice that’s so peevish about spelling and handwriting, and to the inner voice that’s worried that anyone will see your horrible terrible shameful thoughts.

I try to be very forgiving of the “rules.” The original Artist’s Way morning pages are supposed to be three pages, longhand, period. Well, sure. But as Robertson Davies says, “Forgive yourself for being a human creature.”

Habits are often built from whatever’s already convenient and easily available (that’s why most habits are “bad” habits). So if an iPad keyboard is more convenient than a moleskine and a pen, then okay. And if you find you have a 10- or 20-minute block of time right before bed rather than in the morning, then go for it. If you don’t always write three whole pages, that’s okay, too.

Make it your own, let it be what it needs to be, rather than what you’ve been told it’s supposed to be.

If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

How Mad Men Should Have Ended


I still haven’t watched Mad Men all the way through, but my wife has, and her reaction to the finale was very similar to @janwillem’s reaction.

This reminded me of a comment I posted in a long-lost forum or comment thread somewhere, just after the episode had aired and was generating a lot of heated talk, with comparisons to other iconic TV finales. This was my own hot take. Enjoy:


Sounds of a man waking from a bad dream.


Don Draper is in bed next to Suzanne Pleshette.

He looks around room, bewildered.

On the dresser, he sees snow globe with a miniature hospital inside.

Hitman walks in from master bathroom, stepping over many balled-up white socks that spell the word “GOODBYE”.


“It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”


Some reflections on “When Leaders become Followers”

There was an excellent piece this morning by @schuth asking “what happens when we think about our online environment as if it were a physical space.” He proposed a thought-experiment that considered two online spaces as though they were two coffeeshops with very different community standards and management styles.

The piece showed how difficult it can be sometimes for us to understand online “spaces” in the same way we understand spaces out in the physical world. A child’s bedroom, a prison cell, a coffeeshop, a sports arena, a barbershop — it’s hard to imagine confusing any of these spaces for any of the others if we were to actually walk in and look around.

But online, it’s different. If we don’t understand the nature and purpose of the space — or if we’ve been misled about its purpose — then our expectations will always be at least a little out of sync, both while we’re in that space and also when we take those expectations with us into other “spaces,” no matter how alike they may seem to us.

Broad, shallow similarities can mask deep, essential differences. How I set up the kitchen in my new house is very different from how I would design a commercial kitchen in a restaurant. Sure, they’re both “kitchens,” but one is a hearth, and the other is the core workshop for a commercial venture.

To that point, I want to build on and modify William’s original metaphor of coffeeshops. As apt as it is in many ways, it’s not completely accurate in others. (Of course it can’t be: comparisons are always between things that are at least somewhat dissimilar…)

The coffeeshop analogy captured the sociable aspects of the two spaces, but I honestly don’t think Micro.blog (and the IndieWeb movement in general) is trying to be another privately-managed commercial space. Twitter may very well be a coffeeshop of sorts, but Micro.blog definitely isn’t. This is part of why some of the Twitter expats are bewildered by Micro.blog.

So comparing Twitter to Micro.blog is perhaps like comparing a shopping mall to a farmer’s market in a public park. In the shopping mall, all purposes and uses are subordinate to the commercial activities; in the farmer’s market and the park, the commercial is only one activity among many.

The crucial distinction here is that one space is public and the other is private. That is: No one “owns” a city park the way someone “owns” the interior of a shopping mall (or the interiors of the stores in that shopping mall). No one owns the Internet the way someone owns the content of a single website.

So, according to this definition, Micro.blog is public to the extent that the content that wends its way through the timeline doesn’t belong to Micro.blog. MB is a gathering place, the way the farmers market is a gathering place.

A coffeeshop sells coffee, and the “social” space it offers is secondary. In many ways that space is no different from the branded mugs and merchandise it sells. There’s no intrinsic reason why coffeeshops should have comfortable seating areas; it’s as much tradition as anything else that we’ve come to expect a coffeeshop to be a gathering place as well as a point of sale. A place with amazing coffee in an otherwise inhospitable or tiny space with no comfy chairs can still thrive.

And if Micro.blog really were a coffeeshop, what exactly would it be selling, to whom, and why? For example, I haven’t paid a penny to participate here at Micro.blog. I have a free username, and I’m simply pouring my blog’s RSS feed into Micro.blog’s timeline. I’m not Micro.blog’s customer exactly, and I’m certainly not its product.

I am, however, paying someone for web hosting and domain registration. So that made me think that rather than a business that sells something like coffee or a commercial space filled with shops and businesses in which social spaces are offered as an afterthought or as a loss leader to make the product more appealing to its customers, Micro.blog is more like an aggregator of many different independent endeavors, almost none of which are commercial in nature.

Say I’m a farmer with a whole farm of my own, forty miles out of town. I set up a stall at the Micro.blog market. The stall is sorta like my farm’s RSS feed: the farm is out there regardless of whether I maintain any sort of presence at the market. And if I get banned for my offensive racist speech, I still have my farm. People can come visit it directly, or I can set up a new stall at other farmers markets, or off the back of my pick-up on on the sid of the road, with hand-painted particle-board signs: “sweet corn, kohlrabi, offensive racist speech, tomatoes”…

Or maybe I do crafts in my living room, and I just set up a stall at the market every weekend to peddle my sculptures made from tongue-depressers. Or I’m a self-employed poetaster with a letterpress in my basement, and every weekend I show up with a portable typewriter to bang out improvized poems for a buck each, and a stack of weird broadsides.

The tomatoes, the sculptures, the broadsides belong to us, not to Micro.blog, and if we part ways with M.b., we take everything with us.

But the only way we could possibly consider Twitter or Facebook as farmers markets — that is, as aggregators of content — is to say that Twt/FB lends you the gardening supplies and a little plot of soil, and they make all the money from your tomatoes and racism. And if they kick you out, you lose our plot, and you lose your tomatoes. (Your racism, however, is yours to keep.) They really are more like businesses that own the space you’re gathering in, and they exploit your identity to sell spectacle.

Communities can thrive in both public and private spaces — we are, after all, social primates and we’re gonna try to coalesce into communities and tribes and cliques pretty much anywhere, no matter what — but we should be very careful not to equate the two. No matter how similar they may seem, a space in which community isn’t the first priority is very different from one in which it is.

And no community can survive long anywhere without clearly defined (or at least clearly understood even if hard to define) standards and strong moderation. And that brings me to the next and possibly most important distinction between different sorts of spaces. Cost.

Maintaining a community, even if it’s a secondary purpose — a loss leader to get people in the door — is expensive. Do we pay for it through taxes whether we use it ourselves or not, or do we charge fees of only those who use it, or do we find corporate sponsorship, or do we pay with our time through volunteering, or some mixture of these? Every answer is fraught. The rhythms of a community are shaped by every choice it makes, and by every choice that is made for it.

But, you know, I’m really annoyed by how pervasive the notion of business-and-customer is. Why do we go to all these storefront, shopping mall, coffeeshop metaphors? Is it because we’re all either the piper or the guy who calls the tune (or the schlemiel with the Spotify subscription)? The commodification of everything?

Sure, everything requires resources of some kind, directly or indirectly. The meter is always running. I paid someone my time (and my skills, which in turn cost time and money to acquire) in exchange for money, some of which I passed on to my landlord and the utility companies in order to have the space and time to sit here and tap away on Micro.blog.

But not every model is a business model. I am not a business, I am not a brand, I am not a customer, I am not a product. I am a member of many overlapping human communities, one of which is right here inside Micro.blog’s RSS timeline.

Businesses can foster community. But community is not a business. The minute Micro.blog smells like a business, I’m gone.


Last, next.

48: MN Blue
49: MN Red

Blue, Red

Nameless Decades


Remember when decades used to have names? The Thirties, the Seventies.

According to the naming conventions of the twentieth century, we should be in the the late Teens right now. But I’ve heard absolutely no reference to this term. And I think I’m in the vanishingly minority of people who refer to the previous decade as the Aughts or Naughts.

I have three theories as to why the last two decades have had no agreed-upon title.

The first is grammatical. The obscurity and ambiguity of how to spell and pronounce nought/naught/ought/aught led people to give up and simply say “the two-thousands” instead, even though this sounds confusingly like it should refer to the twenty-first century (or even the third millennium) as a whole. And then we just fell out of the habit of referring to the current decade in any way at all.

The second is, well, a bit more eschatological. The very idea that a decade can have a name, and even a personality of sorts, is itself a product of the nineteenth century, when each decade began to have a century’s worth of events, innovation, and “progress,” and we were all ramping up for the millenarian twentieth century, otherwise known as the end times.

Well, the end times have come and gone, and now we’re adrift. (Honestly, who seriously believed we were going to make it past the year 2000 alive? I sure didn’t. It’s been a continual shock to me that I’ve had nearly nineteen years of bonus life I hadn’t been planning on. That’s probably why I’ve spent most of it in a stunned daze, aimlessly goofing around on the Internet.)

So (according to this theory) it just seems naïve to us to persist in this antiquated convention of naming each decade: endlessly discussing its traits and blemishes, and speculating about when each one really started and ended. (The Sixties began, for example, with the Beatles on Ed Sullivan of course — but did it end at Altamont, or Kent State, or the Manson murders, or Nixon’s resignation, or the fall of Saigon?)

My third theory is that for most of the last two decades (if not before), each year has had a decade’s worth of events, innovation, and “progress,” so perhaps a decade has gradually become simply too broad and baggy a designation to have much value anymore.

But “anymore” is a tricky word. Who knows what’s ahead. Maybe we’ve always been adrift. But names, even fanciful and misleading names, can be a comfort. In fact, names are often all we have. So when we refrain from naming something, it’s a puzzle that demands some sort of explanation.


Last, next.

47: Wednesday Blue
48: MN Blue

Wednesday, Blue

Drake’s Equation & the Church


@frostedechoes recently wrote an interesting post on Dunbar’s Number and the Church.

It’s worth reading on its own, but I initially misread the title as “Drake’s Equation and The Church.” He replied, “If I could figure out an angle, I would definitely post about Drake’s Equation and the church.”

Well, here’s an angle.

I don’t know the answer to this and I don’t know how to go about finding an answer, but:

Do any Church authorities grant the possibility of an infinite universe, populated by countless souls — perhaps even an infinite number of them — in need of salvation?

If so, there are three options to consider:

(1) Did Christ visit each of these infinite worlds sequentially, to redeem them? (This might explain why Christ hasn’t managed to return yet: He’s still working his way through the Andromeda galaxy right now and it may be quite some time before He gets back to us. But that’s okay, it’s an infinite universe, God has the time, and He’s playing the long game, right?)

(2) Did God send a separate Christ to each world simultaneously? (This possibility wreaks havoc with the already shaky concept of the Trinity, not to mention hopelessly complicating the Christological question of homoousios versus homoiousios — is each Christ the same Christ, or are they infinite copies?…)

(2a) And what is God to do when some of these visitations don’t “take”? Maybe the New Jerusalem is in full flower on the third planet from Altair, and on a few worlds in the Greater Megellanic Cloud, but here on Earth, it was a seed on stony ground.

(2b) What if we’re the only planet in the universe on which the program didn’t play out properly? How humiliating that would be!

(2c) And given the infinite timespan, will God try again later, like in forty million years? Did He try before? Were there dinosaur Christs?

(2d) And if God could send multiple Christs to different planets, why couldn’t He have sent several Christs to all the various societies on Earth; to China, North America, Australia, etc?

(3) Or!… Did Christ visit only once, and only us, — and not even all of us — and now it’s our job to get the heck out there and proselytize the cosmos? In which case, shouldn’t we be investing more heavily in STEM?

All this may seem rarefied and abstract, or glib, or even insultingly snarky, but it goes to how our theological assumptions inform our relationship to other creatures, and how we treat them. Do they have souls, or do only humans have souls? Do you have to have a soul in order to be treated with respect, kindness, mercy, love? If so, does that mean some humans don’t have souls?

What if we make contact with another species, one in which Christ has redeemed them all and they are hoping to convert us? And what if we can’t keep our fingers off the goddamn trigger?

And we don’t even need to imagine alien planets. What about dogs, dolphins, chimps? Do they have souls? And if so, shouldn’t we be trying to convert them? Or are they all living in a prelapsarian innocence? Or… did their Christ get the job done, and they’re now all living in post-parousian bliss? If so, will they at some point try to convert us?

And we don’t even have to imagine other species. If you are a bully or a thug, or you support bullies and thugs — how can you claim to be a person of God? How can you hope to face your god with a clear conscience, when you made no effort to live with kindness and mercy; with the humility to imagine that others may be more enlightened than you; without considering the possibility that you are fallen, and struggling to be upright and good; without even imagining that you could be wrong? And if you are incapable of treating others with respect, or kindness, or mercy, or love — or worse, if you simply can’t be bothered — maybe it’s because you don’t have a soul.

In other words, if you have no problem with that cruel meathead in the Oval Office, and the feckless kakistocracy he’s assembled, if it never crosses your mind that one of those kids in the cages at the border might be Christ Herself returned to test you, to judge you, to save you — then what the fuck are you doing calling yourself Christian? For that matter, how can you consider yourself human? Find your soul. Find your humanity.


Last, next.

45: Coastal (SF)
46: Kraft (lined)

Coastal, Lined

Last, next.

44: Kraft (lined)
45: Coastal (SF)

Lined, Coastal

Afternoon light.

afternoon light throuogh an open window, slanting against a couch and a bookshelf, and reflecting off the hardwood floor beside a rug

Last, next. Kraft Lined. 43, 44.

Kraft Lined

Last, next.

42: Pitch Black
43: Kraft (lined)

My first Lined Kraft since the first pack back in 2014. This is one from the Lined 3-pack they sent as part of my Quarterly Subscription starter set.

(A few hours later: I already love it! The next three will be Lined Kraft, taking us through the spring.)

Pitch Black, Lined