On Blogging As Thinking Out Loud

Weekly Musings 127 – On Blogging As Thinking Out Loud:

By embracing what Tom Critchlow calls small ‘b’ blogging, a blog can be a medium for thinking out loud.

What do I mean by thinking out loud? Putting ideas and thoughts out on to the fields of the web. Those ideas and thoughts don’t need to be fully formed. They can just be the seeds that you scatter in the the soil of your blog. Those ideas and thoughts can be plants that you tend. They can be ones that you let wither. Or they can be something you uproot and transfer somewhere else.

Those thoughts that you think aloud can be mutable — they change, they grow, they adopt new forms as you learn more and as you think more deeply. You can also abandon those thoughts because they don’t interest you as much as they once did or because they’ve led you to an intellectual or emotional dead end.

You can use your blog to continue exploring that thoughts and ideas that take root, that capture your imagination. It’s a process that can take weeks, months, or even years before your thoughts and ideas take their final form.

But you’re not limited keeping your thoughts and ideas on the blog once they coalesce …

You can use a blog to test your ideas and thoughts in the crucible of public opinion. Posting those ideas and thoughts on a blog can be the catalyst for engagement. It can be an opportunity to expand on an idea or take it on a tangent via interaction with others. There’s also the potential for being battered about by trolls, but that’s a hazard of modern online life isn’t it? … 

By thinking out loud on the web, you might get someone else thinking about the ideas that you’re putting out there. That could be friend or follower, or a stranger from the other side of the world who stumbled upon your blog thanks to a happy accident. That interaction and engagement, in turn, might get you thinking more deeply about your ideas. Maybe even ideas that you set aside because you didn’t think they had a grip on your imagination.

That said, the blog you use to think out loud doesn’t need to be for a wide audience. It can just be for yourself and those closest to you. The blog can be a public notebook or space, kind of like a digital garden. You can refer to it whenever you want, wherever you are. Unlike keeping idea in notebook or in a note taking tool &mdash in which ideas can easily get buried under pile of notes many of us take each day — your thoughts and ideas are out there to remind you of them. Unless you publish to your blog several times a day, those thoughts and ideas won’t be so easily mislaid.

There are no stakes involved in using a blog to think out loud. You have a space, maybe public and maybe private, to exercise your thoughts and ideas. You have a chance to let those thoughts and ideas flow. The wonderful part is you never know where that flow will lead you.

I appreciate Scott’s take on this. I definitely agree, best exemplified by the time I was in Seoul and did a thought experiment about getting rid of Midori, my car, literally titled Thinking out loud about: Cars; or the absence thereof. I did not sell Midori, and I am happy with that decision. I was also happy about how my SO humored me.

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Security policy as death contract

I worked with a customer in the waning days of a significant security breech. The customer vocally committed to making cyber security a top priority. *

This commitment included efforts I worked on.

Another item this commitment included was an updated security policy.

The two came into conflict — the new policy, written during the breech and approved immediately upon recovery, was absolute. Part of its strictness was a lack of a clear policy exception process.

The other problem is that the policy enacted while in reaction-mode was not time limited.

Fast forward 6 months and my team and I are ready to implement a bunch of positive security changes to the customer environment, measurable and demonstrative positive changes to the customer environment. Other actions by others are also in process.

We can’t make the changes needed because of the policy. There is no clear exemption path, no clear exemption requirements, and fear about what happens to whomever allows an exception to go forward.

In the calmer, reflective time of the better part of a year between the initial breech and our exception discussions, the customer agreed that the new policy is poorly written, misunderstood, and should be revised.

The policy is so absolute in its wording there is no clear path to doing anything about it until the next general policy review in something like 2023.

Meanwhile, multiple security tracks to improve the security posture effectively stop for eighteen months. The customer is still on the hook to pay for the contracted services in the interim.

Takeaway: anything done in the immediate aftermath of a security breech should be time limited. Some things will be through the nature of subscription or contract. Those that aren’t, like new policies crafted during or immediately after a breech, should have a time limit.

  • The customer did not mention what existing priority would get demoted, a mistake. If everything — or too many things — is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
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Today’s obligatory post

In point of fact, these days on 9/11 I don’t tend to think about it much at all, which is I think a healthy thing.

(Via Whatever)

It is healthy to go on. It’s unhealthy how it is pervasive.

Here’s how I plan to spend this 9/11: As if it were an ordinary Saturday, which, god willing, it will be.

I got a haircut, beard trim, and shampoo. I am at a brewery. Later I will cook some dinner.

I will also live my life within the day. Both the remembering and the living are important. The country came to a stop one day, twenty years ago. It’s all right to keep going now.

Me, too.

My issue is with the performative remembering, the “misery porn” aspect, of any tragedy where people chose to let that moment — or any similar tragedy — define them. If one isn’t appropriately miserable on this day, they say, one is somehow less than those who emote strongly.

The dearth of print

The Chattanooga Times & Free Press publisher Walter Hussman, Jr. today announced in a letter to subscribers that the paper his family owned for 110 years is going digital-only 6 days a week. Subscribers will get an iPad and will read the Monday through Saturday news through an app. The transition is expected to finish in June, 2022.

This disappoints me.

I’m no Luddite, but I enjoy an analog newspaper reading experience. My morning routine is built around:

  • Starting coffee
  • Getting the paper, even in the rain and snow and dark of night
  • Finishing the coffee
  • Stationing myself in my recliner with blue lights, some focus sounds, and my coffee at hand.
  • Cracking open the paper

When I read the paper, I disassemble it. Interior pages are pulled, sections are folded and remolded depending on where the story continues, and one specific comic is pressed up against the most microscopic lens bit of my bifocals to be able to read the tiny text.

Reading the paper sometimes takes 20 minutes. Sometimes it takes 2 hours.

The remains pile up to the right of my recliner. Sometimes it is a few days before they are interned for recycling. Sometimes they become kindling. Sometimes they are bits I will save. Sometimes they’re packing material, wrapping paper, filler, saved for a friend to use in her yard, a hat, or a broach, or a pterodactyl. The OSS taught agents in the field that one can fold a newspaper in such a way that it can become a dangerous weapon.

Take that, iPad!

I’m disappointed with the publisher’s letter. He states,

Readers told us at first they were dubious and reluctant, but after reading the newspaper on the iPad, a large majority liked it better than the print edition

Reading the news on a tablet, or a phone, or a laptop is a series of compromises (I am a paid digital subscriber to all of the below except for Google News):

  • Apple News is inundated with advertising, is hard to train (I want news, not long form character studies or opinion pieces or the history of the paving tile, on a weekday morning), and makes sharing difficult; lots of low quality sources
  • Google News is full of click bait and advertising; lots of low quality sources
  • The New York Times makes you move back to the main page to move to the next article, and depending on how long that takes you the main page could be refreshed; they also are way too into their multimedia articles which I usually find to be more flash than substance; reading the NYT in the web browser is a better experience, and it shouldn’t be
  • The Washington Post resurfaces the same articles over and over, even if you’ve actually read it; their headline banner photos are huge; the news stream never ends
  • The Wall Street Journal … oddly, might have the best news reading interface I’ve seen in a while: swipe left similar to book reading to page through an article, it moves on to the next one, and when you’re done with a section, then you move back to the main page; it updates the main content once per day

The best app I used was the New York Times Windows 8 app on my old Surface Pro 3 & 4 PCs. It had the navigation the Wall Street Journal has, was easy to use, and the reading experience was the richest I’ve experienced digitally. It was killed of in the mid 2010’s.

The Chattanooga Times & Free Press app is some amalgam of the paper’s digital proof with transcribed copy. One can flip through by article but the reader ends up with a lot of pages that are only captions for pictures or graphs. Bylines are deemphasized. Navigation is overall clunky. Sharing requires an extra blocking interface to let you know things like “the URL has been copied to your clipboard”.

Take today’s paper for example. In case you live under a rock, it has been 20 years since terrorists hijacked planes and killed thousands of Americans. While I will never forget that day and what transpired in its aftermath, I also do not want to relive it through my memories or other’s. This new format does not make it easy to skip what I uncharitably call “misery porn”.

It also makes it hard to skip award show coverage, or the Olympics, or other zeitgeist moments that can quickly overwhelm news. Skimming my eyes over the printed page makes for a better filter than paging through what is essentially a giant PDF.

The other benefits listed are standard tablet features, not something specific to this transition. Again, I’m disappointed with the publisher’s letter. It was disingenuous at best.

I understand the financial realities the paper faces. Chattanooga is fortunate to have a daily paper. I am sad to see the daily print operation go. If this change keeps the paper running for 10, or 20, or 50 years without becoming the click-bait AI generated pseudo news other cities get, I will be happy.

I challenge the Chattanooga Times & Free Press to do better with their “digital paper” in its new form. I will be here to give them guidance. And do keep the Sunday print run for as long as you can.

Long live the news! Long live the Chattanooga Times & Free Press!

Chinese Youth Announce That They’re “Lying Flat” and Resisting the Pressures of Modern Life

Chinese Youth Announce That They’re “Lying Flat” and Resisting the Pressures of Modern Life:

The “Lying Flat” movement taking hold among young people in China involves doing exactly what it suggests: working little, resting a lot, and cultivating the most minimalist lifestyle possible. Unlike Timothy Leary’s 1960’s mantra, “turn on, tune in, drop out,” lying flat, or tang ping (躺平), takes no stance on a countercultural ethos or the consumption of mind-altering drugs. But it has caused the authorities alarm, even among English-language observers. Consider the Brookings Institute headline, “The ‘lying flat’ movement standing in the way of China’s innovation drive.” Standing in the way of innovation is a cardinal sin of capitalism, one reason the “niche Chinese Gen Z meme” of tang ping,Jane Li writes, “is ringing alarm bells for Beijing.”



The phenomenon began — where else — on social media, when 31-year-old former factory worker Luo Huazhong “drew the curtains and crawled into bed,” Cassady Rosenblum writes at The New York Times. Luo then “posted a picture of himself [in bed] to the Chinese website Baidu along with a message: ‘Lying Flat is Justice.’”

His manifesto (above) claimed the “right to choose a slow lifestyle” by doing little work to get by, reading, gardening, exercising, and, yes, lying prone as often as he liked. To further elaborate, Luo wrote, “lying flat is my sophistic movement,” with a reference to Diogenes the Cynic, the Greek philosopher “said to have lived inside a barrel to criticize the excesses of Athenian aristocrats.”



Diogenes did more than that. He and his followers rejected everything about Athenian society, from work and marriage to the abstract reasoning of Plato. Luo might have turned to a more traditional source for “lying flat” — the Daoist principle of wu-wei, or non-doing. But lying flat is not so much about living in harmony with nature as it is a state of exhaustion, a full-body admission that the promises of capitalism — work hard now, rest hard later — have not and will not materialize. They are phantoms, mirages, precisely the kind of fictions that made Diogenes bark with laughter. The truth, Rosenblum writes, is that for “essential” workers at the bottom all the way up to the “inner sanctums” of Goldman Sachs, “work has become intolerable. Rest is resistance.”



In a work culture that celebrates “996” — 12-hour days, six days a week– rest may be the only form of resistance. Political repression and lack of upward mobility have fostered “an almost monastic outlook” in China, writes Li, “including not getting married, not having children, not having a job, not owning property, and consuming as little as possible.” Since picking up tens of thousands of followers online, the lying flat movement has become the target of a censorship campaign aimed at stopping young Chinese workers from checking out. One government-backed newspaper called the movement “shameful,” and news agency Xinhua unfavorably compared “lying flattists” to front-line medical workers. The original manifesto, Lying Flat groups, and message boards where users posted photos of seals, cats, and themselves lying flat have been taken down.

Zijia Song writes of tang ping as partly a response to a traditional Chinese culture of competitiveness and overwork, but notes that there are similar movements in Japan, Korea, and the U.S., where “Black activists, writers and thinkers are among the clearest voices articulating this spiritual malaise and its solutions,” writes Rosenblum, “perhaps because they’ve borne the brunt of capitalism more than other groups of Americans.” Whatever their national origin, each of these statements defiantly claims the right to rest, posing a threat not only to the Party but to an ideal of human life as endless overwork for shiny trinkets and empty promises, during a global pandemic and climate crisis that have revealed to us like nothing else the need to slow down, rest, and completely reimagine the way we live.

Related Content: 

Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More

Brian Eno’s Advice for Those Who Want to Do Their Best Creative Work: Don’t Get a Job

Will You Really Achieve Happiness If You Finally Win the Rat Race? Don’t Answer the Question Until You’ve Watched Steve Cutts’ New Animation

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

(Via Open Culture)

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An Actual Party of Death, Now

It’s genuinely astounding to me. The GOP messaging machine has for decades done a fine job at making poor and middle-class white people vote against their own economic interests through the clever use of aspirational messaging and veiled racism, but the fact it is now actively working to kill off its base by extending a pandemic — and the base is loving it — really feels like a floor. What else can you do, once you’ve killed off your base? The phrase “eating your seed corn” is made for moments like this.

(Via Whatever)

Funny this article showed up in my feed right after I posted this.

So … right?

I do not like my verbal ticks.

I hate when they invade my writing.

The 2 I’m trying to address are verbal: “so” as a sentence opener and frequent conjunction; and “right” as a sentence ender and frequent conjunction (with “and” and the afore mentioned “so”).

“So” is the pernicious one. I use it as an interrupter, as a non-sequiter bridge, and general purpose conjunction. “So” infected my writing, especially informal writing like email and on this site.

Solution: I’m highlighting my use of “so” in my main writing platform, Gnu Emacs. I’m going to find a way to mark it in other apps in order to review my “so” use.

“Right” is something I picked up listening to a colleague. His speech is littered with “Right?” when he is trying to make a point. He uses it as I describe above. Talking with my colleague I often point out where his “right” is wrong. And now I hear myself using it in the same way, when I’m making points and convincing someone (maybe me?) that I’m correct.

Solution: a long term one, I am training myself to become hyper aware of “so” and “right” in my speech, similar to how I’m hyper aware of when I sound like my Dad. I love him, but I prefer to fight my own verbal ticks.

Personal liberties -vs- public health & safety

Which is more important: personal freedoms or the health and safety of the country?

(Via the Poynter Report)

I act toward health and safety. That should surprise no one. I cast a critical mind to how I define both personal freedoms and health & safety – and how it is defined by various governments.

Today, here are my thoughts:

  • Mask mandates are “a matter of health and safety” and not an infringement on personal liberty. It is personal safety for the wearer and those around the wearer.
  • I endorse requiring vaccinations except for those with a medical exemption.
  • Individuals have a right to choose not to get the vaccine, but they don’t have any right to be around anyone else and put others at risk, vaccinated or unvaccinated. This includes religious and parental opt-outs.
  • I support state and local governments requiring masks.
  • I support employers requiring workers to get the vaccination.
  • I support businesses refusing service to the unvaccinated, but would prefer they use 2020 approaches to serving the unvaccinated via methods like on-line ordering, contactless curbside pickup, and outdoor seating.
  • I support banning the unvaccinated traveling by airplane or mass transit. Masks for all should be mandated.
  • I support sporting events and concerts barring the unvaccinated. Indoor events should require masks.
  • I support every school’s right to require students to be vaccinated in order to return to campus. There should not be a parental “opt-out” where the child gets to attend school and events if they can be vaccinated but don’t. Younger kids should be masked at all times. Parents who exercise their opt-out bear the financial and educational burden of their choice.
  • Federal, state, and local governments should not interfere with how schools deliver education to students when public safety is an issue; banning remote learning is short sighted.
  • Regular COVID testing is not a replacement for masks and vaccinations.
  • I support a federal vaccination registry with a strictly limited scope and oversight by an independent ombudsperson.

As always, I reserve the right to change my mind on any of these based on new empirical information.