When we were walking in the heath yesterday, we came across this creepy looking fungus with deep red shiny droplets oozing from it. Gave me the heebie-jeebies. I looked it up when we got back, looks like its scientific name is Hydnellum peckii. It has a few common names. “Strawberries and Cream” is one of the cuter names, “Bleeding Tooth Fungus” is probably a more accurate one. Unless you suffer from trypophobia, it’s worth looking up online. It’s not edible, supposedly it tastes pretty bad, but apparently it contains an effective anticoagulant.
I moved to London from SF in 2010.
We live in a flat in a terraced house, I think it was converted to flats some time in the 80s or 90s. It’s a standard sort of place with a low wall that separates the front “garden” (all flagstones) from the pavement. People stop and sit on the wall to chat all the time. No idea why, and no idea who they are. Maybe it’s perfectly butt height? Or the perfect width? Or it’s well positioned under a big, fluffy tree? Who knows. It’s kind of nice.
This past Saturday, I went on a guided foraging walk with Daisy in east London. Got way too much sun!
It was so helpful to have a guide. I’ve considered just trying it with a book, but it’s hard to beat being able to ask questions and watch the way someone else watches. It reminds me of learning how to draw or paint, part of learning how it works is learning how to change your perspective. So it’s useful to observe the way someone else sees things. I’d still like to get a good book about it, but now I feel like I have a better idea of what I’d like to get out of that book.
The walk was from 10:30am to 2:30pm with one bathroom break but pretty much no other stops. Didn’t really need to stop for lunch since we were grazing anyway, but we did pause at the floating bakery. I had one of the best muffins I’ve ever had, felt like I needed to lie down afterward. He’s open Friday to Sunday, worth checking where he’s at online since he moves around a little.
Another Musarc gig coming up this weekend, this time we’ll be in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Info & tickets
Finally got round to reading Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds. It’s great, a graphic novel with the sort of heroine you don’t often see and a crime plot line with just the right amount of drama / pulp. And excellent illustration, of course!
Went on a great walk in Epping Forest with SB over Easter weekend. It was ridiculously nice out for April.
See below for the route we took, very roughly speaking. Next time I think we’ll explore some of the northern bits, supposedly that takes you through farmers’ fields.
someone screaming downstairs
we ignore it for a bit
happens a lot, it’s a narrow street, drivers get angry
but the screaming doesn’t stop
and the screaming moves, she’s running
we look out the window and down
a man in the middle of the street alone, blocking traffic, filming, wearing a motorbike helmet
shiny puddles on the pavement, from the middle of the road up to the sidewalk
a black hat in the middle of an intersection
all the cars backed up
askew and no honking
there’s a shirtless boy crouching against the fence
(I say “boy” because he’s so lanky, but he’s in no way a child)
the puddles lead to him
he leans on to something just barely out of sight
the woman is there now, she’s in a dusky pink headscarf
she is still screaming
then there are five people
then there are fifteen
(where is the ambulance? where are the sirens?)
a woman with short brown hair and a red jumper gets out of her hatchback
her little boy is in the front seat, craning his neck
she tries to help
more people rushing out of sidestreets and estates
the woman in pink is still wailing
the boy is still crouching
the woman in red has done what she can
or could not
she gets back in her car
the man who was filming is gone
the sun is nearly down
a large man bursts out of the building opposite
his hands on his head, in the air, clasped behind his neck
he sprints inside suddenly, trailed by others
so many voices and directionless running
finally sirens, a helicopter
(where does a helicopter land in east London?)
a police van flies over a speedbump
a medic jumps out and runs to the crowd
he is confronted by the woman in pink
“YOU *HAVE* TO STAY CALM”
he yells over her
she turns and runs away
he gets through to the shirtless boy
eventually the boy gets up
no top in his hands
left shin of his grey sweats soaked in blood
a friend runs up, puts his arm around him
the police struggle to disperse a frantic crowd
the large man is back, his sobs carrying over everything else
cyclists come through
nearly in the middle of it before the realise what is going on
cordons go up, people ordered to stay back
(where do you go after something like this?)
boys pace endlessly
sudden bursts, trying to push through
the shirtless boy has a foil blanket and shuffles away
at the cordon he is gently turned back towards the scene
he’s not done yet
the large man is heaving with tears, suddenly rushing the medics and being held back
he collapses on the hood of a car
the woman in pink is still wailing
the large man tears at himself
boys sneak through the cordons to see their friend
neighbours lean out of windows
so many spectators
he’s finally in an ambulance, in foil
medical wrappers blow around the street
the black hat is gone
Last night, I saw the immediate aftermath of a stabbing on Arcola Street in Dalston from the top floor of Cell Northside in a shared corner studio with large windows looking east and south. It was surreal, as if in slow motion, and completely impossible look away. It felt like an hour, but later on I realised it was probably 15, 20 minutes max. It was hard to understand what was going on at first. I kept hoping it was something else, maybe that he had been hit by a car (how does that make it better?).
News reports say that he’s stable, and that two suspects have been arrested. I think that the shirtless young man probably saved his life.
I didn’t really know what to do after that. Writing down what happened helped me stop replaying it in my head.
I don’t know what to say beyond this, and I’m not 100% sure why I’ve published it here except that it feels important to share and to remember. The anguish was unbearable.
Last night was my third Agorama Server Co-op meet up in Rebecca’s Flat, a delightfully dilapidated space at Raven Row. I think it was actually the fifth though, I missed the last two due to illness which was a real bummer. The weekend jam sounded particularly great.
This particular meetup was more informal and a little smaller than usual. It ended up being a really nice, wandering conversation on the multifaceted possibilities of the distributed web, what it could look like.
The notes below are a sort of a prompt dump, snippets I wrote down at the time because I didn’t want to forget it or wanted to look in to it more. See all Server Co-op write-ups here.
Dark Crystal is now up and running on Patchbay (ssb client). Got Samsung funding, woohoo! Possible to create bot that receives shard? Think they’re trying to avoid that, the human element is kind of critical.
What about physical crypto? Microdots are worth checking out. Microdot tattoos?
Asked what ppl think about potential threat of quantum computing to modern cryptography methods, response was a little not as I expected (this is why I come to these things!). Personally I’ve been feeling a little tin-foil-hat-y, but general consensus from the other voices in the room seemed to be pretty ambivalent since the theory far outstrips the practicalities currently. Which is true, but it also just feels kind of like an arms race (particularly since it involves hardware / infrastructure). Whoever cracks it first wins the golden goose unless we can come up with cryptography that works against it. GP then mentioned the post-quantum crypto contest with NIST due to end pretty soon, looks pretty promising. I didn’t realise there was that much going on with quantum resistant algorithm research, so that makes me feel a bit better. I guess my concern is still there though, to a big degree. Banks, for example, are on notoriously crappy tech that is rarely overhauled. What of them, and the other institutions we rely on? Oh lord, and voting tech…
Got talking about what I’d been up to (not much, see first para…) and mentioned that I ultimately decided not to move my site on to Dat, partly due to scale issues w/ static site generators (read more on this) but more to do with the fact that I think I’d rather use Dat for something new and neato, rather than just repurpose something that already exists and is doing ok in it’s current form. Then we started talking about static site generators more generally and someone mentioned Pelican, which I hadn’t come across before. It’s written in Python and originally released in 2010 (!), so up there with Jekyll as one of the earlier static site generators.
HL demoed his mother-of-all-apps for us, it looks *so great*! Absolutely something I would use. Really excited to see where he takes it. I need to look in to Hypercore and Expo a bit more. The first I’d heard of, the second not so much. Apparently Expo is a cross platform app framework built around React Native. Ppl could not say enough good things about it and honestly, it does look fantastic. Particularly as a tool to dip your toe in to app waters, so to speak.
Towards the end of the demo, the conversation wound through lots of different topics. Blockchain, platforms vs aggregators, a bunch of CS history (need to read more about that…), the sustainability of open source, etc. The rest of this note details snippets from this part of the conversation that I need to look in to more.
Services / apps / platforms I’d like to look in to a bit:
- Mapeo, an “open source, offline-first map editor”
- Manyverse, kind of Scuttlebutt for your phone but better (shouldn’t suck the life out of your phone trying to sync)
- Node.js for mobile apps
- Webrecorder, like a personal Wayback Machine; also, did you know you can sometimes find YouTube vids that have been taken down archived on the Wayback Machine?
A reading list. (Some of these links are painful to open, some orgs really need to cool their jets on the pop-ups and trackers):
- The Bill Gates Line, an article on platforms vs aggregators
- The Internet Was Built on the Free Labor of Open Source Developers. Is That Sustainable?; does free mean questionable accountability? “Beggars can’t be choosers”
- Unleashing Colombia’s Full Potential Using Blockchain Technology, an editorial from the Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Why There Will Never Be Another Red Hat: The Economics of Open Source, published in 2014
- The Curse of Xanadu, published by Wired in ‘95
- Whatever happened to the Semantic Web? from Two-bit History
- 50 Years Later, We Still Don’t Grasp the Mother of All Demos
- The Father of Mobile Computing is Not Impressed, an interview with Alan Kay on Fast Company
Some soundbites. These are paraphrased points made by others that I found super-relevant. Bits in square brackets are added by me for clarity:
- “Ordering is the toughest thing to sort out” [when it comes to ledgers / append-only logs]
- “Biggest problem with blockchain is the definition of consensus, and how to establish consensus”
- “Article 13 [aka the “upload filter” provision] is forcing people’s hand, we’re going to see a lot more of this.”
- “So much of this bullshit has come from chasing the technology and not the needs.” Related: “But seriously… does it need to be an app?”
- “The future of the web will be much more about interoperability than a black-and-white, decentralised vs centralised approach.”
- “Porn is a canary in the coal mine for whether a piece of tech is ready for primetime.” [Is someone using it for porn? Ok, it’s going to gain traction.]
- “Could we ever have another Xerox PARC?” “Probably not, research now is just too results-driven. A report every week, and sometimes the funder has already indicated what they’d prefer your results to be.”
So many distributed / decentralised web conversations get quasi-evangelical about how this or that tech will save the world. Why does it have to be winner takes it all? Different needs require different technologies.
We recognise biodiversity as a fundamental requirement of a healthy, thriving biosphere. Why don’t we champion technodiversity in the same way? Embrace the chaos.