Weeknote, 30th October 2022

I had a week off work. I intended to get a lot of writing done, but I slept a lot and generally lazed around. The best-laid plans, etc.

I did get some writing done on a ghost story which I started thinking about doing in time for Halloween and, judging the slow pace I’ve been working at correctly, named “A Christmas Ghost Story”. I associate ghost stories with Christmas far more than Halloween, which, when I was a child, was something which Americans focused on but the British did not. We had fireworks to celebrate the day of burning Catholic plotters (something which never seemed to be in my Catholic mind) and Christmas. Pumpkins and trick-or-treating were weird American things I only learned about because I read a lot of Peanuts comics.

Christmas ghost stories were definitely a thing when I was a child, at least on TV. I’m not sure if that is true — I hope it is. It’s a connection with the Victorians (think of A Christmas Carol, an archetypal ghost story) and the ancient pagan midwinter festivals. Christmas is a time of miracles and strangeness, something which our consumer-focused version doesn’t really encompass.

Musk bought Twitter. It’s a strange world we live in when a wealthy buys up what he calls “the digital town square” and gets to decide all the laws of it, laws which he himself can, of course, ignore. Or perhaps that, too is just a sign that we haven’t moved past feudal lordships, despite our brief foray into democracy and believing that things should be done for the mass of people. Read the comments that people direct at Musk some time: there is a real sense of the commoners taking their plea to the lord.

I haven’t yet decided if I will close my account. I joined on 3rd December 2006 and was user number 39,093. That on its own makes me not want to close it, but I don’t think I will carry on using it much. It hasn’t felt like a healthy space for me to be for a long time. I’m more active on Mastodon, but that’s partly because it feels like early Twitter — so that might not be something I carry on with in the long term as the service evolves.

Meanwhile, I’ve also broken my MacBook Pro. It failed while updating to Ventura with an odd error, so I decided the time was right to wipe it and reinstall the OS from scratch. This isn’t the simple process it used to be, involving a disk image and some time. Apple’s reinstall process now involves downloading code, and watching a progress bar with no information to it… and, in my case, failing at the end with a baroque error about cryptographic signatures on the disk. There shouldn’t be any: I just wiped it.

Of course, when you wipe a Mac, you don’t really wipe it: it’s still connected to your iCloud account. This does not feel like progress.

Thankfully I know some of the most technical Mac people in the world, so I’ll get it fixed, but it feels like it’s more difficult to do this on a Mac now than it is on Linux, which doesn’t seem the right way around.

I’m thinking of rebooting my newsletter, mainly to distribute this. If I do, I’ll use Buttondown as a service, partly because it allows you not to track subscribers, something I’m keen to avoid. I don’t want feedback on what you’re reading or even to know how many people are subscribed, particularly. Data may be power, but creatively it can also be a prison.


Speaking of Linux, I wrote something outlining how to get Scrivener working on Ubuntu. Like most things about running Windows software on open-source operating systems, it’s mostly about ensuring you have the correct libraries and stuff installed for Wine to work with. But there are also some ways to make Scrivener look less like a Windows app and more like one native to Linux, which are worth doing if, like me, you find such a distraction when you’re writing.

I also wrote something on John Gruber’s defence of the iPad’s current line up. I can’t understand anyone thinking this confusing mess is deliberate.

Reading and watching

The main thing I have been watching this week is rugby, with both League and Union having world cups. And, of course, Andor, which has fallen into a very slow period. I have no idea what’s going on.

One exciting thing on the reading front: the marvellous And Other Stories (the publisher, not the clothing brand) sent me a collection of Ann Quin books, which means I have five slim, pretty paperbacks to go through. Quin was active in the mid to late 1960s, a working class woman writer who pushed back against the prevailing gritty “kitchen sink” style in favour of something more interesting. Every now and then, there’s a Quin revival, mostly amongst writers, but she’s never had the recognition she deserves.

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