4 tagged with #metawriting

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i'm torn, always, between the urge to preserve every scrap of human existence and the sense that all things ought to be purged once they are complete. these desires are always selfish; i personally benefit from the work of people and things long past, thus i feel some sense that current creations ought to persist into the far future. but then, sometimes, i think about a distant future human who might have access to the things i have extruded into existence, but without the context of my actual existence, and i feel a wringing in my gut.

i believe that the best way to understand things is to get my hands dirty in them; i've participated in processes i didn't understand, contributed to systems that i later condemned, built up infrastructure i won't admit to in public. this is fine, i tell myself. this is how i learn.

i've been proofreading machine-transcribed texts that have been scanned from books in the public domain, but do not yet have a digitally portable existence. it's mind-numbing, to have my eyeballs pass over marks on a screen in two columns, remembering that one is a source, an 'image file', while the other is a desired output as a 'text file'. conceptually, these two things are different, but visually, they are frustratingly close.

the easy parts are to correct errors in spacing and spelling, translating little flecks of ink and dust on the scanner bed into coherent text that can be easily transported and manipulated into a variety of formats for print, screen, text-to-speech, etc. the hard part is when a jumble of unfamiliar scribbles appear, and i need to stare at my keyboard in despair while trying to decide how to communicate those parts of 'image' into some format of 'text'.

at the same time, i'm taking a class on the history of books; we do exercises in hand-scribing to understand pre-machine copying process, we look at parts of printing presses and the books that resulted from historical manufacturing, we touch parts of old skin and wood and metal that was invented and assembled so that one human could transfer a thought to another human.

some days, i look at the errors that happen from context being lost in that transfer, and worry less about if we're doing it right now, because we've never done this right. we can never do this right. writing is an approximation of language, which is an approximation of thought; books are an incomplete model of someone's worldview.

these buttons i am punching on this machine to ask it to record a very specific integer that can be sent to other machines to turn them into a script that another person might read, this is an incomplete model of my worldview.

25 January 2018 21:39

This is Just an Interface

I am rarely satisfied with my workflow for anything, and I suppose this is a good thing; it drives me to reinvent and improve.

At the moment, I type up my posts on a local machine, run spellcheck, then run a script that will scp it to the appropriate directory on the live server. The only purpose of the script is to save a few keystrokes (then again, isn't that the point of all scripts?) From there, I ssh into the live server and fire the script that generates the entire site.

It's starting to dawn on me that the more files I create, the longer it will take to generate, since every single page needs to be modified exactly once whenever a new post has been created. However, the payoff is that this only needs to happen whenever I make a post, not whenever someone else visits. There is an appeal to static pages, which I've carried over from when I ran a similar bloglike over a decade ago, only I updated each page manually, with an army of text files for copypasting reference.

I think the only reason I like writing code is because it allows me to do things that would otherwise require a prohibitive amount of copypaste.

In any case, I finally got around to writing a paginator for the tag views, which included recycling a little snippet of code for generating the page number navigation; months back, I spent an aggravating afternoon beating my head against a pile of scratchwork to make that loop sensible. Thanks, past me, for saving me the trouble of having to come up with that bullshit again.

26 March 2014 18:34

Electric Sheep

Selecting the first predicted word that comes up on my mobile keyboard, including the first one, until hitting a loop:

I am trying to decide if you are in the semester is going to be a while we've been trying to get my hands on the way out of the house for turning 18 the same time his wheels suddenly became nearly useless front-mounted rudders the same time his wheels suddenly became nearly useless front-mounted rudders the same time his wheels suddenly became nearly useless front-mounted rudders.

Selecting only the right word:

you should be the best thing that is not an option in my mind that I can vaguely I was just thinking that we can do that with you on a daily deal on it for you guys think we can do that with you on a daily deal on it for you guys think we can do that with you on a daily deal on it for you guys.

Selecting only the left word:

the only way I see the world is not the only way I see the world is not the only way I see the world.

I have some strange thoughts regarding explicitly teaching a device to put words together the way I would. It can never generate an idea on its own; it's all pure syntax dumping. The results are not quite legible, yet feel as if it is trying very hard to create something.

That's a silly thought. Machines don't try, they just do. Anything else is projection on my part. If nothing else, this should just fuel my paranoia regarding data collection; this is something more intimate and personal than a list of contacts and passwords.

03 March 2014 09:42


This happens to me every time I buy a new notebook. There's angst about picking the one I feel like carrying around, there's the automatic copying over of data that I store with every notebook, and then there's the agonizing decision of how to violate the first page. At one point, I saved myself the trouble by filling the first few spreads with mundane calendar-type scratchings, just something to break up the image of a blank page. All that does is move the first true blank pages further into the section, but conceptually, it changes things enough to keep me from worrying.

I've been rolling over the concept for this page for months, and only started coding it days ago. At this point, I feel that I'm in danger of enjoying metathinking, rather than thinking, so I'm leaving this post here as a reminder to myself that this exists for a reason beyond just having a convoluted mess of subroutines to sort out.

18 September 2013 19:32

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