So yesterday’s newsletter about planning for the future upset a sizeable portion of my small readership, enough that I got multiple complaints. I was told that it, and my newsletter so far, have been “unnecessarily antagonistic” by multiple people.

To everyone who felt the same flurry of emotions but didn’t encourage me to talk about something else: thank you. But the response makes me think, maybe I should explain what this newsletter is. After all, some of you got subscribed automatically from Patreon, and others might not have read the about page.

 

That page encourages a development of knowledge about certain topics, among them decolonization, both through this newsletter, conversations we have, and external resources. To help y’all with that, I’m going to share some items tagged decolonization from my reading list. Some of these will be academic, some casual; some very broad and some specific.

Now, that might seem like one hell of a reading list. But before you get too tense about the number of resources (nevermind the length,) I want you to mull over a few questions:

  • How many resources have you read that present an uncritically colonial view of our world in the past year? Nearly every political, economic, tech, social report, it’s all written with the assumptions that colonial society is better, without ever even acknowledging what it’s better than.
  • Is there really something more important to do with your time than emancipate yourself from your dependence on the contemporary kyriarchy; colonialism?
  • Do you know of a better framework for conducting that emancipation?

Too many, probably not, and probably not, are the likely answers. So click around, find some sub-topics that interest you enough to give a foothold, and happy learning!

(And as you read know: even decolonization is now being criticized by Indigenous land defenders for having become a colonized philosophy: this is an active process of education and exploration of our world, not a static thing you can memorize, enact, and move on from. Like Tuck and Yang famously said, decolonization is not a metaphor.)

This email is for folk who, so far, have experienced most of this year through headlines and social media discussions.

Things are worse than it’s easy to believe. Unemployment is worseDeath tolls are higher. Anecdotally, there are four new homeless camps within a half mile of me, all bigger than the one that existed before COVID, and more than a dozen people have died in these camps. (Reminder, I live in a very prosperous neoliberal university town.) I distribute now a couple hundred pounds of food a day, and it still isn’t enough to make a meaningful dent.

If you don’t feel, acutely, the rapid slide into poverty that has occurred for most of our nation: congratulations, you have more time to prepare. Please, I’m begging you: take advantage of it to by listening to your impoverished neighbors and community, and taking steps to work with them directly. Regardless of who wins the election, there are many million new Americans existing in a state of subjugation. If you aren’t one of them, you’re the subjugator, and I implore you to do everything you can to change that relationship.

You all have a week to figure out how you’re going to react to the various possible outcomes of the U.S. elections. You’re probably waking up to news about a new Supreme Court Justice, and that the Senate went on recess before passing additional relief. Social media discussion about how this threatens reproductive rights, and puts people on the precipice of eviction.

Please try and understand: most of my friends weren’t able to access reproducive healthcare, before COVID. Even before Trump. It’s never been available for them. (I am the healthcare available to many of my peers.) Most of my friends can’t qualify for leases because they’ve been evicted too often. don’t have healthcare, or the means to qualify for a lease, and haven’t for almost a decade. (It’s only in the past five years that I’ve had any sort of stable housing, and at the moment it isn’t stable at all; my landlord/boss is actively trying to convince the sheriff to ignore the eviction moritorium because they dislike that I distribute free food.)

The things you’re scared of, the risks you’re facing, have been here for years for some of us: and not distant abstract “other Americans,” but like, me and my friends. People you know. People whose efforts you benefit from: not just in that we keep providing the services that maintain your society, but we keep providing words like this, that help alleviate the ignorances y’all hold around your privilege.

These consequences you’re waiting on, to motivate you to action, have already come for the majority of your fellow citizens, and it is your continued support of our oppression that inhibits our ability to organize.

I’m not going to spend much time guilting you for relaxing into the stability that Collaboration provided so far. There’s enough of that in my other writings, and from other people. What I’m going to challenge you to do is make clear plans about how you’re going to make this world better, regardless of how the election goes. Come Wednesday morning, are you going to fight your HOA to allow gardens to be set up? Are you going to go talk to a restaurant about donating waste food? Reach out to local mutualists and ask if they need help?

Do real things that directly challenge the many mechanisms of oppression which you’re currently cooperating with. “Releasing an open source blog engine” or “boosting some non-white social media posts” shouldn’t count. This is real shit, and it requires real action.

A couple days ago, people who follow certain events all woke up to headlines about a DMCA takedown that GitHub received for hosting copies of Youtube-DL, a command-line script that lets you download videos off Youtube. (The DMCA, or Digital Millenium Copyright Act, is a U.S. law that says folk can’t host material that infringes on copyright or is primarily for infringing copyright.)

The notice came from the RIAA, Recording Industry Association of America, because they feel that by hosting Youtube-DL, Github is hosting material that is primarily for infringing on copryight.

There are a lot of good arguments about why that claim is bullshit, even assuming the legitimacy of “intellectual property,” made by people with state-granted privilege to issue opinions. So, I’m not going to talk about that.

Instead, I’m going to repeat a point I’ve made often to people elsewhere, but not yet through this newsletter:

Those who operate computers for commercial organizations in exchange for funding (“developers,” in a word) fill a role similar to religious officials in our society, going far beyond the concrete actions of their role: due to computer operations being incorporated into nearly all forms of labor, this developer class has authority over nearly all facets of human life, at a very individualized level.

This social position lets “developers” have a massively disproportionate effect on our popular culture: their values are mimicked throughout the world, in big and small ways.

It’s those developers I’m talking to.

What in the fuck are y’all doing? Look at my newsletter from yesterday. Your society is on a genocidal rampage right now. Let’s take a breath together, and consider: is the RIAA sending Microsoft a letter really that important?

(Spoiler: my answer is actually, “yes, kind of.”)

So, from my perspective, the RIAA and Microsoft are both basically denominations of the same death cult, and what they’ve done is they’ve exchanged a magic letter that adds to the Litany of the latter denomination, giving it just cause to excommunicate certain members and burn their contributions to the community.

Put another way: the Church in Spain has some nascent anarchists in some rural parishes, so the Pope signs a letter clarifying that “yes, that’s not good,” and so now those rural parishes stop letting in the anarchists, and burn down the anarchist’s patch of tomatoes growing next to the cemetary.

Put that way, to me, this seems really important. Whether it’s viewed as economic, political, or spiritual, it is destruction with the intent to repress. And I honestly can’t think of many things more harmful to our ability to survive than repressing our ability to create new solutions to problems we encounter.

But, put this way, it begs the question: are there other ways we’re repressing our ability to create that are more urgently harmful?

A photograph of some field peas growing out of milk crates, also some lemon balm and a few varieties of succulent.

The majority of our food comes from, or is fed by food that comes from, proprietary seed: vast libraries of magic scrolls chain together to bind your wrists against replanting the seed you buy routinely at the grocery store: bean, corn, tomato, squash, pepper. You probably have at least one seed of one of those somewhere in your kitchen. You might have hundreds, or thousands.

And if you were to plant them, and the Church find out, you would be asked to pay your Indulgences, and the plants you grew would be destroyed.

It doesn’t stop at the illegal gardening (or piracy), though. Most of y’all probably stream your TV and movies and music, but was that a choice you made or a consequence of the abundances and scarcities within you culture? Most of y’all probably don’t save seed: is that a choice you made or a consequence of culture?

What I’m trying to say is, even ignoring the direct repression, we have had our ability to create repressed for so long that most of us don’t even feel the ability. The “real world” that most people live in is one that’s interacted with via magic scrolls like laws and currency, not one of life, air, and water.

…Which is probably why people love to get interested in dramas like the RIAA/Github thing: if they live entirely within the constructs of kyriarchal society, of /course/ the machinations of kyriarchal society are the most interesting thing in the world.

And it is interesting. I agree. But… as an analogy for the massive harms we’ve already let happen to us, when we let our ability to create in the material world get repressed. It is such a valuable story, in that way.

But, on its own, the only repression at hand is our ability to create within kyriarchal society, and if the threat of that repression greatly threatens you: again, breathe. And recognize you’re saying you need the kyriarchy to be creative, and start exploring how you can change that.

I received a few replies to my “Settlerday” newsletter. To generalize, people wanted to express something in response, but felt uncomfortable saying “thank you.”

I replied to one person individually but now that I’ve gotten a few emails, I’ll just share the message widely:

I think gratitude is usually the right emotion for most situations.

It’s just important to be particular in what one is grateful about!

In this case, being grateful I put in the labor to compile it seems appropriate to me, to which I think I’d respond, “And I’m grateful to the people who shared these experiences first- or second-hand so I could do so easily.”

I imagine those folk are grateful to the others fighting with them that gave them the security to share their part of the story, and those folk are grateful to the storytellers, who are also grateful to the audience, and then I’m grateful to you for reading, in a big loop of reciprocal gratitude.

This notion of perpetual gift-giving is actually the concept bastardized by “Indian giving:” we are, whether we recognize it or not, engaged in a system of mutual reciprocity. So, lean into it.

In that spirit, thanks for reading!

Normally when I talk about what I broadly categorize as “settler nonsense,” I do it through short posts, usually right after I’ve digested whatever the nonsense was. As I said earlier this week in a newsletter, I’m planning to stop doing that, and instead put together a weekly look at what settler nonsense I saw through the week. This week I wasn’t on the computer too much, and still ended up with around twenty-five instances of nonsense.

Continue reading

Hey folks! I hope everyone’s week has been going well. I’ve enjoyed the little conversations some of us have been having through the week.

Today I’d like to announce a small little project I’m working on: HashUp.

 

I’ve always been dissastisfied with the physical act of writing: with pen and paper it’s slow and requires a fair amount of concentration to write smoothly, and with computers… well, there’s What-you-see-is-what-you-get style editors like , which I dislike: I’m not trying to typeset a document to be printed, I’m trying to write! Unfortunately, most non-WYSIWYG editors and formatting languages like are similar in the same fundamental way: they exist to facilitate visual formatting, not help an author encode semantic meaning.

I pretty much never want to, when I’m writing, record that a certain word is italicized. I want to, maybe, record that it’s emphasized: modern HTML has at least come that far, letting handle the styling past that semantic.But more likely, as a writer, I want to say, “this is a foreign term,” or “this is a character’s internal monologue,” or, “this is emotional.” All of those are usually conveyed by adding emphasis through italics, that’s not guaranteed, and beside, emphasis isn’t nearly as precise.

When I was using -mode, I got in the habit of using its macros to wrap text that might otherwise be emboldened or emphasized, so that it could also be, say, if the document was being exported as , changed to link directly to my website.

But that was clunky, and by now I’ve drifted rather far from Org-mode, and I’m not even using , the only text-editor Org-mode works in, right now! HashUp is my solution to my current problem, of “I don’t know how to format the text I write in a way that makes it useful to me, later.”

It’s influenced by a lot: what I talked about above, but also using social media and other programming languages.

At its most basic, it’s simple: start using hashtags in your writing, and the HashUp processor will replace them with whatever string you’ve configured. If you want to do something special with that hashtag, throw a pair of {} after

the word, and fill them in with the arguments to the relevant processor function. (If there’s no relevant function, the text is untouched.)

It has a bunch of limitations: there’s no nesting or scope-awareness, so any opened block needs to be closed, for example. And it requires either writing your own processor functions, or me writing a standard set and publishing that.

But! It’s definitely a lot closer to what I want than Markdown, even after just an afternoon tinkering.

Has anyone else tried their hand at a custom markup format? If so, I’d love to see what you came up with!

Howdy folks! I hope everyone’s been having a decent week so far. I’ve been getting really anxious after the sun goes down myself: where I live gets targeted by fascists because of the free market, and the election is getting closer.

Speaking of the election, how about Bolivia, right? Imagine having the ability to vote against US imperialism! Sure isn’t what folk’ll be doing in a few Tuesdays here State-side, huh?

Alright, with that bit of doomsaying out of the way, I’d like to again explicitly thank y’all for reading these newsletters, and subscribing (if you have). I’ve really been enjoying the conversations that have come up in response to them, too!

Now, to explain this email’s subject: Talkative Tuesdays. Some of you might be familiar with it, but basically: Tuesdays, my partner has a lot of video conferenced lectures for school, so I’m usually sitting around on my computer, so I’m not coming in and out of the home while they’re talking. This has made Tuesdays, by far, the day I’m most active on the Internet. So y’all are invited to reach out to ask any questions you might otherwise feel would be a labor, or just make small-talk, and I’ll probably have time to promptly respond!

You can’t tell me engineering

is not the place for Indigenous issues.

As long as you live with us

and as long as we drink

from the same watersheds

my Indigenous issues are yours.

So when I say include our voices,

I am not asking for permission.

I am telling you to listen.

And yet I am still met with isolating silence.

Does it make you uncomfortable?

Do your hands sweat

and does your seat start to shake?

Does your worldview tremble?

Good. It’s about time.

I have been made uncomfortable for over 130 years.

You’ll be just fine.

So listen carefully as the words of

my grandmothers and grandfathers

roll off my tongue

in a language your soul will hear.

The above is from The Future is Indigenous by Anpo Jensen, Oglala Lakota masters student in Stanford’s Environmental and Civil Engineering program. I strongly encourage y’all to read it: there’s been a lot of colonial journalists writing this year “we need to [appropriate] Indigenous lifeways to sustain colonialism” and it’s nice to hear the truth under that claim represented, from someone doing the work the rest of us are imitating.

I also want to share this video about the advantages of bamboo for Indigenous peoples of Cambodia. There’s one farm near here that does bamboo, and they’re slowly working to build up their stock to share it with the communities of Karen refugees around the area.

And finally, Joy Harjo on the power of poetry. Harjo is the incumbant poet laureate, and the first Native American to… hold the position? I’m not sure the proper “etiquette” around the poet laureate.

I’m going to close out this email with some Instagram and Youtube channels that @eliot_jude@Instagram.com recommended for me:

(Heads up: this piece is pretty US-centered, but everywhere has real estate so just replace the names with whoever your local kyriarchists are.)

So because I do building maintenance for a “commercial” building, I try and keep up with the wider trends in that market. Which brought me to read this Politico piece, forecasting commercial real estate as the next economic crisis. Great. But what I want to highlight is the hyper-focused zealotry presented through the article’s quotes:

“Sometimes people forget the depth and breadth of what commercial real estate is…What’s at risk here is both the ability for people to stay in their apartments and the ability for people to go to their jobs. So unless there’s a stimulus, there’s a lot less to go back to once we get back to normal times.”

That’s Mike Flood, some sort of high priest for the death cult. What gets me is the implicit threat here. The “risk” Mike mentions isn’t something natural, like heavy winds or slipping in the shower. It’s a threat from real estate investors: if they aren’t given their blood – excuse me, money – then they will kick people out of their apartments and change the locks on businesses. It isn’t that the “ability” of people to have housing and businesses will be lost: it will be actively taken away, by people like Mike. More from Flood:

“The worst-case scenario is you take the shining asset in all of commercial real estate and potentially create a liquidity crisis, and quite frankly, a situation where people are put out on the street… [The unfunded eviction ban] transfers the risk to the borrower and the lender.”

Now, wait a moment. The risk [of the loan] will be between the borrower and lender?

I’m pretty sure that’s how loans are supposed to work! The risk isn’t supposed to be put on some abstract relation (in this case, “customer,” what a gross way to talk about “resident,”) to the borrower!

Mike’s “put out on the street” is stereotypically passive language for a politician, playing into the same deflection his earlier discussion of “risk” did. But this last part, but where the risk is… I think it’s important we all sit and recognize that the person in charge of mortgages for commercial and apartment buildings thinks that the risk of those mortgages should be on tenants.

The people who created the house of cards already blame us for it being unstable. And, speaking for my employer: their blame-game is working.

There’s one more thing from the article I’d like to look at:

Eighty-seven percent of public pension funds and 73 percent of private pension funds hold real estate investments.

That’s the article’s author, who seems to be using this source. I tried digging a little deeper to find out what amount of each of those funds was invested in real estate: of the 87% of public pension funds invested in real estate, what percent of their portfolio was in real estate?

It seems like the answer might be about 11.5%. Something worth considering: I know a fair portion of folk reading this have savings or investments. What percent of your own investments are invested in sheer naked colonialism and the exploitation of, as real estate folk call you, “human capital stock?”

Here in the US, some of us are on the brink of what’s going to be the greatest number of evictions in our national history, during a pandemic. And in a supreme irony, it’ll be our neighbors, sitting safe in isolation, remote-working and living off savings, sharing Instagram posts about the inequalities of capitalism, motivating it, in an act of open colonialism.

(Already in this apartment building, half of the units have emptied because people were unable to pay rent and wanted to avoid eviction during the moritorium window, and of those, half were turned into airbnbs.)

I have concrete plans for how to get involved in my community when the blood cultists come to squeeze these bricks for more money: I strongly encourage y’all to do the same.

(Photo of “indigenous sovereignty” spraypainted on a concrete barricade.)

 

In the fantasy world of Teraum, there is a character named Barnabus Trent, who for a while ran a shop in the town of Bellybrush. That town sold items gathered from all over Teraum… but most were from such distant lands that any context or meaning they had beyond “pretty trinket,” was lost.

A drawing (by Stirling Little) of the alligator that hung from the ceiling of Barnabus’ shop. Rumor had it he let it loose at night to stop burglars but wrestled it back up to the ceiling each morning. More than one farmboy signed up to sail to Gnalens after seeing the alligator.

But Barnabus didn’t really mind: getting them out there was enough that some people, with enough interest, might seek out the original context.

That’s about the attitude I have toward my website these days: it’s for people looking to collect “trinkets” of information. The medium, the Web, simply doesn’t really allow for the kind of context-building that might be necessary to make sure something has proper meaning. (That’s part of why I’m moving more and more into my email: as critical as I am of most aspects of modern computer use, direct conversations between people is pretty cool.)

Anyway. I have a lot of trinkets I’ve collected, but most of them aren’t really accessible: they exist scattered across private git repositories, flash drives, etc.

As discussed in a previous newsletter, I’m planning on separating my data from my procedures (though now I’m considering using JSON Schema, not XSD). I’ve begun that process, by starting to record things as Lua tables, and write schema.

For now the whole project is called Barnabus, after the curio-seller: pulling in all my little bits of data from around various computer stashes, and converting it to Lua.

Since it’s not too hard, I’m also writing some procedures to take the resultant data and turn it into a webpage, so that for the first time in a long time, a large portion of my past work will be available online.

You can view that code at Cyberearth Systems, a Gitea instance where I’ll be sharing my code moving forward. (Yay community hosting.)

I hope everyone had a decent weekend – mine was relatively busy, but just hauling boxes of food around for the community, which is hard to complain about. Next weekend, I’m going to try out a “Settler Saturday,” post, where I share all the “settler nonsense” I see through the week and provide my perspective on it. A lot more than just the Mi’kmaqi “Lobster Dispute” happened this past week, and I want to make sure I’m forwarding on knowledge of those events to y’all in a way that’s meaningful and timely, without cluttering your email overly much. (If you hear of any sort of “settler nonsense” you’d like to be included (and aren’t a colonist yourself) please feel free to share it with me!)