Skip to main content

The Indieweb, the open web, and now: the “decentralised web, or DWeb.”

We used to just call it the web.

Little has changed except for the fact that people are now rightly suspicious of the centralised services.

And I’m willing to bet that the term “DWeb” does not catch on.

This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan (Books 2018, 24)

I don’t know where I learned about this. It’s been sitting on my Kindle for a while. I have a feeling that a friend recommended it on Facebook. It’s subtitled “An Hallucinated Oral History of the Post-Punk Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Environs 1978–1986,” which annoys me, but only because of that “An Hallucinated.” Not because it’s a subtitle. I like subtitles.

And this subtitle describes its book extremely well, especially with respect to that incorrectly-articled vision. It’s the fictionalised biography of a band called Memorial Device. Or at least that’s partly what it is. It verges on magic realism at times. It’s presented as a series of interviews and parts written by other contributors (as opposed to the supposed author, “Ross Raymond”). The actual author does a fine job of presenting those different voices and making them sound different. The whole thing reads like an actual music biography where the author has drawn on the experiences of a range of people as well as their own experience.

The hallucinatory part comes from the way some of those people speak, or write. They are variously damaged or otherwise otherworldly, and their mental strangeness comes across well — or is it the world that’s strange?

Airdrie is in the west of Scotland, not far from Glasgow, so it’s very much the same part of the world I grew up in. This feels very realistic: there was a similar swathe of bands inspired by punk and the post-punk/new wave/new romantic scene around Dumbarton and environs. None of the characters were as much larger-than-life as some of the members of Memorial Device — or at least not that I knew — but that’s why this is fictional, I guess.

Not the best thing I’ve read this, year, but not bad.

Serial‘s Season 3 trailer just dropped. Jumped to the top of my podcast queue… dated 1st July? Today, for the record, is the 5th of September.

Probably just a mistake, but it’s odd behaviour.

I’m not at all sure about this new “Gutenberg” editor they’re adding to WordPress. I’ve installed the plugin version to try it out. Gutenberg is a change to the web-based editor in the WordPress dashboard, not a separate app. I typed up my previous post in MarsEdit, as is my wont, and uploaded it. The Gutenberg plugin imported it nicely and displayed everything as you’d expect. But it turned all my Markdown into HTML.

That’s not what I want, and it’s not how most Markdown-processing plugins — notably WordPress’s own Jetpack — handle Markdown. Instead they keep the source document as Markdown and only convert it to HTML when the page is requested. That’s what using a dynamic CMS means, after all.

It appears that you can get Gutenberg to keep the Markdown as it is, if you type it into what they call a Code Block. So I’ll have to hope that @danielpunkass updates MarsEdit to send posts to that kind of block once Gutenberg is the default. Assuming the WordPress API lets you do that, of course.

Chile Trip Part 1: There and Back

We’re not long back from a family holiday to Chile. I plan to write several posts about it. I’m going to take a thematic approach, rather than a purely chronological or location-based one. Though some will be that kind, too. There will be pictures, but not so much in this post, as it’s about planes, airports, etc.

First, then, the whole business of travelling to another continent, and to the southern hemisphere of our amazing planet.

Getting There

We flew on Latin American Airlines, or LATAM. They were pretty good. I have no complaints. Maybe not as good as British Airways to New York a few years ago, but certainly much better than the budget airlines. The only thing was that we couldn’t get a direct flight. There just don’t seem to be any to Santiago. Though a taxi driver told us towards the end of our stay that BA have one direct flight a week. If so, then either we didn’t find it, it was on an inconvenient day, or it was really expensive. Or any combination of those.

So we had a multipart flight out: first to São Paulo, then on to Santiago via Rosario. That was just a stop at another airport, without leaving the plane. Though some confusion in the booking system meant that we had different seats for the second part. We were not alone: it was all a bit chaotic, as new people boarded and wanted to sit in already-occupied seats, as people who were staying on didn’t realise they had to move. Still, it got sorted out.

Also I didn’t realise till later that Rosario is actually in Argentina. It doesn’t count as visiting a country if you stay airside, but still, interesting to have touched down in two more countries than we planned to.

Above all, it’s a long journey. Around 6000 miles, and about 22 hours, if memory serves.

Jet Lag

We didn’t suffer too much from jet lag going out. Except… almost every day for the entire three weeks I woke up around 4 in the morning. Usually got back to sleep OK. Our clock-time confusion was confounded after about a week when the clocks in Chile went forward by an hour. It’s the tail end of winter there, so it’s the start of summer time. But it’s earlier than when clocks in Europe change, relatively. Also it was only Chile: in Bolivia and Brazil the time was unchanged.

Taxis Home and Abroad

While I’m on travel I’ll just touch on taxis. Chilean taxi drivers, in common with those all over Europe, get out of their car and help you load your bags into the boot. This happens everywhere; except Britain. Or at least, except London. When we were getting a cab when we were coming home I was struck by the fact that all these people were struggling into the stupidly-designed-for-luggage black cabs with no help from the driver.

And then I was ashamed when it was our turn, and the driver did get out and help us. But it’s uncommon.

Internal Flights

Chile is distinctive on the map for its length. It runs almost the entire length of the continent. So there are some long distances to travel if you want to see much of it. As it is, I couldn’t say that we saw much of it, but we did see some very distinctive areas. Notably the Atacama Desert and the Lakes region.

They’re quite far apart, though, so we took some internal flights. All by LATAM (we should have signed up for their frequent-flyer programme), and all fine. Security at the airports was generally less intrusive than it is here. We didn’t have to take iPads out of carry-ons, and I once went through security with my metal water bottle full! Radical.

Long(ish) Distance Buses

The only other trip we took was from Santiago to Valparaíso, which was by bus (coach). A couple of hours. Very comfortable, if you could avoid hitting your head on the badly-designed overhead screens.

Santiago Metro and Valparaíso Light Rail

Santiago has a decent Metro system. You get a contactless card like London’s Oyster cards, called Bip!. Which is a great name, in my humble opinion. It also has the advantage over Oyster that you can make multiple journeys simultaneously with one card. So for a family of four, for example, you just put enough money on the card for everyone, and tap in four times.

I don’t really know why Oyster doesn’t support this. My only guess would be that they thought it would cause too many complaints with people accidentally being charged twice.

Return

Coming back took even longer: 23 hours in airports and planes, but 27, 28, if you count getting to and from the airports.

The weird thing here was that we flew from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro; then, after a four or five hour stopover, to São Paulo. An hour and a half there, and finally on to Heathrow. I don’t understand why it was like that, but as I recall it was the only available option when we booked the flights.

The annoying part was that — seemingly because the Rio – São Paulo bit was a domestic flight — we had to collect our luggage in Rio, and then check it back in. We went landside, got Brazilian entry stamps in our passports, all that.

We took off for Heathrow at 22:10, which made it 02:10 in the UK. So I wanted to get to sleep, but first I wanted to eat. On these long flights, though, they don’t rush to serve food like they do on a short European flight. So it was, I think, around 4 am before I could close my eyes.

Adjusting back home wasn’t too bad, though. People always say it’s worse coming east, but, apart from sleeping late on Bank Holiday Monday, I didn’t have too much trouble.

Gilded Cage, Tarnished City, and Bright Ruin by Vic James (Books 2018, 21, 22, 23)

Also known as the Dark Gifts trilogy. I bought the first while at the recent BSFA meeting where Vic James and Lucy Hounsom, another fantasy author, interviewed each other. I enjoyed their conversation so much that I bought the first book in each of their trilogies.

I don’t read fantasy much, and I don’t really care for dystopias in SF, as I’ve mentioned before. So this being a fantasy dystopia, it shouldn’t really appeal to me.

But it turns out it’s great.

Apparently it was pitched in jest as ‘Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones in a world where Voldemort won.’ And… yeah, I guess. I haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones, and the time period is more-or-less present day. And none of the magical people (or Skilled ‘Equals’) is as out-and-out evil as Voldemort. But it’s not a bad description of the setup.

The idea is that there are people with magical abilities — referred to as ‘Skill’ — and they are the aristocracy and rule the country. Or at least they have been since Charles the First and Last was killed by one of the Skilled, and they — also known as ‘Equals,’ ironically — took over running the country. Britain is an ‘Equal Republic.’ One thing that annoyed me at first is that there is no mention of what happened to Scotland. It appears to be part of Britain in the present day, but Charles the First (in our reality) was before the Acts of Union. Although not before the Union of the Crowns, so I suppose the Equals just took over Scotland too, by getting rid of the monarchy.1

Anyway, the worst part about the rule of these magical Equals is ‘Slavedays,’ wherein everyone is required to spend ten years of their lives as slaves. They get some choice in when they do it, but while you’re doing it you’re a slave, with everything that implies.

I found it hard to cope with the idea that people would just quietly accept this state of affairs. But I suppose if it’s been that way all your life, and it’s the law of the land… But I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t people revolt against it?

Not surprisingly, of course, a trilogy like this is not about the maintenance of the status quo.

It’s really good. Well worth a read.


  1. Something of which under normal circumstances I would heartily approve, of course. But not the way it’s described here. 

Same Desert, Same Day

Two places we visited in the Atacama Desert, yesterday.

[aesop_gallery id=”4950” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

This seems to be my personal altitude limit, though:

Screenshot of the iPhone Compass app, showing an altitude of 4990 metres.

Can’t wait to get the photos off the big camera and see what they’re like on a decent screen.