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Thoughts on .. An Oldschool Approach

Over the last few years aside from being quite quiet, I’ve been getting more into Steampunk and I’ve been reading The ArchDruid Report, I especially recommend his serialised Retrotopia story. I started toying with the idea of an oldschool approach as my appreciation of Steampunk deepened, my other reading helped. The runs headlong into the fact that I’ve also been quite taken with the idea of running my own personal cloud service. Which I have managed quite sucessfully. Right now though, I’m seeking a simpler solution with fewer points of failure.

There are a few problems with the public cloud. I believe that there’s an unthinking trust in public cloud services but as the Free Software Foundation point out, there’s no such thing as the cloud, just other peoples computers. This was part of the thinking behind rolling my own; the idea that a sudden shutdown, change of terms & conditions or bankruptcy could leave me scrambling for a replacement or bereft of my data. Further to this we seem to be seeing more and more security breaches and as we race forward at what seems to me to be a reckless pace, I find myself wondering what trouble we’re storing up for the future. I’ve made no secret of my pro-privacy and pro users rights stance before and I have to admit watching a jump to ProtonMail after the recent US election made me feel quite justified in my concerns.

So, I rolled my own. It’s a valuable exercise for the experience, I can’t deny that, but it adds a lot of complexity to an already complex situation. Your service is also publicly available, though not advertised. This does mean that whilst such a service is probably not worth going after, the extra worries relating to security and administration now fall on your shoulders. Someone who has their focus on another field of endeavour might not be able to setup their own cloud service, nor might they want to learn. To be honest, I’ve found that for the needs of a single person, cloud based calendars, notes and task lists are overkill. That applies no matter who hosts them.

Wondering what came next, I thought back and remembered that I used a paper based system for notes and tasks to get me through a very difficult time of my life some years ago. I retried it and have found that it’s served me perfectly well ever since. I switched to a paper based diary to compliment things and it’s going very well indeed. Of course, this does mean that you run a risk of losing the paper diary, but after the first year most anniversaries and birthdays are in the previous years diary and copying appointments to an A5 desk diary or decorative wall calendar minimises that risk for a trivial effort. I can also attest to the pleasure of looking back through the previous years diary and reminiscing while copying over birthdays and anniversaries, a pleasure you don’t have with a web calendar.

I find that the most important thing is to keep your system as simple as possible, it’s tempting to go overboard with priortising tasks and categorising everything, I’ve found that this should be resisted as the categories are superfluous and you should already know your priorities. From my position as a person in search of the simpler approach, it works quite well. I admit that taking notes manually and keeping a paper diary sounds odd, especially for someone who can do the things I can with a computer; It’s not so odd when you factor in my Steampunk leanings and I find it frees the mind from clutter, you don’t need to maintain things and to be honest it simply frees up time and energy for other areas.

Thoughts On .. The New World of Denial

I recently spent a little time reading an article in a British newspaper called “The Independent”, the article makes the argument that we’re not in a “Post Truth World” but in an age of lies. I read the article and on reflection, I have a small comment I’d like to make on this subject.

Our opinions and views of the world are, as I’ve said before, simply a map to our understanding of the world. They’re not the world itself and aren’t always inaccurate. I’ve said this about religion before, but it’s as accurate to say it about politics. So it is with the process of BrExit, things were said and opinions given and it’s turning out that the final say in this is not with the people who did the saying and giving. Indeed this past week saw the departure of the UK Ambassador to the EU and the disclosure that only people who have positive things to say about BrExit are allowing to see the minister in charge of our BrExit. This isn’t a good sign. What if after hitting the iceberg, the captain of the Titanic had only allowed people into his presence who had good things to say about the state of his ship? We’ve all watched the election of Donald Trump, though I watched it without much surprise. I’ve been following The Archdruid Report for many months and his explanation of Trumps appeal made sense. But after doing some reading, I’ve no faith in him either and it seems that our “Post Truth World” is looking more like a “World of Delusion”.

So many things have been promised, 400,000 post BrExit jobs, £350 million for the NHS, a wall along the Mexican Border paid for by Mexico, and it’s not the people who are making the promises that have the final say in whether or not these things are possible. The story seems depressingly similar with the issue of Climate Change. The incoming US administration doesn’t seem to want to know, doesn’t want it to be true. Once again, the final word in this does not belong to any Human agency on either side of this argument. It belongs to the Earth, the situation is what it is regardless of Human opinions. The Archdruid’s opinions seem similar to my own on this, that things are now unfolding as they will and we’ve been reduced to spectators; we’re just along for the ride now. My own view is that this will be our humbling and it’ll happen no matter what our opinions are on the matter.

So, how does this tie in with my usual angle on things? Simple. If we’re wise, we try in our Human and imperfect way to work with the nature (Tao) of what’s in front of them. This needs a willingness to recognise our own denial and to call bullshit for what it is, we need to accept that “things are as they are” and that “it is what it is”. It’ll mean losing a lot of ego as we realise that we’re very often not getting the final say in events, very often all we’ll be doing is trying to mitigate events that we’ve no hope of controlling.

I must be honest and I’ve gotten moaned at for saying this sort of thing before. The processes of Climate Chance are as much part of the Tao as anything else; in this case the Tao of “This Is What Happens When You Use The Biosphere As An Open Sewer For Decades On End.” On the political front, I can confidently predict that we’re going to see upsets for the people who think we can have everything we want. I think it’s going to be more a case of us needing to cut our cloth to increasingly difficult times.

Thoughts on .. BrExit

So, the vote happened and the Leave camp won by a very narrow margin. Speaking as someone who was in the remain camp, it’s a disappointment but at this stage we simply have to accept what is done is done. Taoism does help a lot with accepting things that we can’t control; with accepting situations that we didn’t choose. It will, I believe, be quite useful in the coming months and years. “Things are as they are”, that’s a phrase from the Tao of Pooh that’s very relevant to this situation and especially to the notion of a second referendum.

Let’s be honest, on the face of things the stream has flowed on past that. At this point a second referendum would simply muddy waters that are already far from calm. We’ve burned our bridges and what’s done is, I’m sorry to say, done. I’ve already decided that I won’t sign the petition on that principle. We need to move on, the decision now is how to protect the principles we care about in a post BrExit Britain.

The future? Well, we’re already being revalued and I think we can expect our national deficit and debt to come under scrutiny. I strongly suspect that the coming years are not going to be entirely kind. I’m presently watching the Irish situation nervously and doubt I’m the only one. I’m also remembering that the global financial system is very interconnected; the unforeseen consequences could be nasty here. Could we find ourselves being a scapegoat for another global recession? As I write, the UK has recently lost its triple A rating with one global credit agency. Things have now gone a long way beyond fixing with a second vote, I suspect a good many things are now our of our hands..

In my opinion the key thing here is that everyone simply and calmly accept the fact that this is where we are; there’s no going back, we burned that bridge. In the same way as the older people on the news saying they voted Leave because “we remember the old days”; those days are gone and will not be returning. Our job now is to build a better future and the road is going to be more difficult than it needed to be. The blame game is one thing that must not be played.

There are a couple of Taoist stories I could use here that seem relevant, the one I will choose is the story of “The Lost Horse”

A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?” Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?”

A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

As we can see, what seems like a disaster can have a silver lining and what seems like good fortune may exact its own price. What is certain is we’ll see our ups and downs, blessings in disguise and also unexpected drawbacks. The road ahead is not going to be smooth, it’ll takes turns for the worse and for the better. What matters now is the attitude we meet those turns with.

We left Europe, what makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?