Filtered for reading

09.10, Wednesday 4 Nov 2015


Rod McLaren’s beautiful meditation on spreadsheets, and his spreadsheet art: Sandcastles and Spreadsheets.

The spreadsheet’s unreality is dangerously doubled because, while their ordered data and formulae always comfort you that you have authored a controllable certainty, most spreadsheets are mere conjectures, provisional plans, ideas or hopes.

Spreadsheets are dreams.

Read that, next time you have a rainy day with your head buried in Excel.

Rod’s essay is part of Beeker Northam’s larger project, Hand & Brain with William Gibson and several others contributing. Something to get lost in.


Donald Knuth helped define computer science. Since 1990, he no longer has an email address: I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.

Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.

He replies to his correspondence for 1 day every 3 months.

Joe Nelson ran with this… Going Off-Line. I will check email once per week, on Monday.

On Twitter and Github I’ll be entirely write-only. I’ll check replies/messages/issues on Mondays along with my email. …

I will eliminate all use of the computer that is not directly related to creating things. If I’m not coding, writing, or editing videos then there will be literally nothing to do. I am going to dissociate the computer from mindless fun, from the capacity to kill time online.

I like the idea of taking a write-only sabbatical.

(Actually, thinking about it, I reckon that’s why I’m enjoying writing on my blog so much. In the old days of blogging, a blog post was part of a conversation. Not today. Barely anybody replies, and when I do get a response it’s lovely or thoughtful and often both. But I don’t know if anyone reads these words; the links don’t get shared out so much. It’s very freeing, like having a notebook with a very slight incentive to better organise my thoughts. And my thoughts improve in that process. Write-only blogging.)


Will Self on Stonehenge:

“Don’t you worry about the monument ceasing to be real in an important sense,” I asked. “I mean, with all this messing about isn’t Stonehenge in danger of museumification?”

The balance between putting the past on a pedestal, and living in it and carrying it forwards.


A few years ago, I transcribed and put online one of my all-time favourite short stories, The Author of the Acacia Seeds by Ursula K. Le Guin. My favourite story not just for the ideas, or for the turns of phrase and the humour. But for the gentle, determined build into a wholesale decentering of what it means to be human, and a huge widening of togetherness and empathy to the entire cosmos. Which, it turns out, is what I love science fiction for.

But don’t read that.

Because here is a video of Le Guin reading from the Acacia Seeds at a conference and oh my goodness it makes me tingle.

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