The wire

Well, looks like I might have cut things a bit too close for holiday delivery of the various Cuba-related stuff I’m hoping to distibute at Xmas this year. I finally got the text proofing on the book completed and went to submit it to the publication  service and their Pdf proofs show an unacceptable (and unsourced, in my generative InDesign files) tint to the type boxes. So that means I might not get everything wrapped up before Thanksgiving. Dammit.

We have one more, mercifully brief, trip this year. I’ve traveled more this year than I have since 1998, I think? What’s clear is that I hate constant travel maybe even more now than I did when I was younger. It takes me about two weeks to recover from a trip in terms of getting back to routine, doing the daily things that are necessary to the maintenance of a 21st century household. So if I take a trip that lasts five days, I have to project 14 days of recovery time to get back to efficiency with regard to data entry and financial management. So there’s a total loss of approximately 19 days for a short trip, in addition to the added expense of dining while away from home, renting a car, and lodging. 

Just drives me nuts.

Like wearing lead shoes

The flip side of running old tech is falling off the forum horizon, where the software and hardware you are working with lacks a critical mass of interested commenters and experts. I have been assembling and proofing a DVD of pics from out trip to Cuba to distribute in conjunction with some photo books and similar stuff for Xmas gifts. The book’s nearly done, looks great, and should be ordered on Monday. 

I thought the DVD was done more than a week ago, but I keep finding a persistent error in two slideshows, always on the same slides, even when the assets have been reencoded from scratch. I even rebuilt the whole project from scratch.

I’m using Apple’s long-discontinued iDVD. I started the process blissfully unaware that the software has begun to break in fundamental ways – for example, building slideshows from JPEGs, even ones exported directly to iDVD by Photos, produces a duotone bluish-purple pallette shift in iDVD which is obviously unacceptable. The solution is to export the pics and batch convert them to PDF, and the colorshift does not occur.

Now that was a solution surfaced via fora searching. But these slideshow hangs? Crickets.

Anyway, I think what I have to do is export the slideshows in question as Photos slideshow movie files, mpegs, hopefully with the sound embedded. I did that early on in the project as an experiment and found that the movie I had made lacked audio, so I had to lay that back in via iMovie. It was always time consuming to build these things, which is why people didn’t throw themselves into it with abandon when the tools were given to them. But this project is setting some records in this house.

Other thingummies

Speaking of what’s new and hot on the old hardware, I noticed a Wacom Fineline 2 on eBay for $25 shipped, compatible with my old-and-not-the-hotniss iPad 3.

I have used a Wacom Creative with good results (especially in Procreate, obtuse UI left undiscussed here) for years but the broad, spongy tip always left something to be desired, so seeing a small-nib pressure stylus for this elderly device at such a low price was a sure buy.

The jury’s still out. It’s no Wacom tablet-and-stylus combo, but that’s cool, I can always move a given piece over to the fancy monitor tablet I have. The advantage of working on the iPad is it’s always in my hand, whereas I have to go to the machine with the tablet attached for finish work.

Anyway, the pressure sensitivity is nice. There are some issues with nib alignment that are puzzlingly arbitrary. It seems as if the stylus is still limited to either a broader or a darker stroke when more pressure is exerted rather than interactively blending the two output variables, which remains a limitation rendering the input device inferior to the dipped-nib ink pen or brush.

But whatever, I have to go to my drawing table and set up my pens and find the right paper and where is my blue pencil and what the fuck did the cat totally chew off the end of this superfine sumi brush and so the superiority of availability remians apparent, even if my output is somewhat subpar.

Story of

When did I first read this? Must be 2001. Maybe, maybe before 9/11? I suppose within a week of hearing who Ted Chiang was? So maybe after spring 2002?

I haven’t reread it tonight yet. I have vague memories of irritation with the dead child motif. Very pleased to learn that the just-opening film “Arrival” is an adaptation of this story. Here’s hopin’ Ted got paid and got points.

Supermoon

Incredibly, there are no clouds tonight, and the advertised brightness boost of the supermoon has cast the world in dappled silver fire. Glad I was up to see it. Makes me miss summer and autumn full moons thirty years ago at the quarry or in the woods at midnight, when the night’s terrors were safely an ocean or a county away.

Rummaging

A couple of iOS apps I have been using lately that have lived up to or exceeded my usability expectations:

Chunky, a straightforward, calibre-compatible comic reader for iPad. Free. Significantly superior to the now-Amazon shackled, and therefore calibre-resistant, Comixology.

Marvin, the first iOS reader to acheive feature parity with the late, lamented eReader for PalmOS. The first! It’s a goddamn outrage. Neither Kindle for iOS nor Apple’s iBooks offer customizable color schemes for dark-background nighttime reading, nor do they offer autoscroll. eReader on even very old Palm devices which utilized an LCD screen offered a night-vision compatible, gesture-adjustable (both brightness and speed) autoscroll experience.

I’ve recently installed the iOS WordPress app, and it’s lacking  quite badly, specifically with regard to on-screen type render speed – even in very short posts, I find my typing running several words ahead of the cursor display. So to an extent I am on the hunt for an iOS word processor, although that quest is not front and center.

The other huge usability annoyance I have been fighting lately is iOS itself. I’m running 9.3.5 on an iPad 3, and that appears to be the final release on this hardware. WordPress’ difficulty with type seems to be associated with this operating system’s generally aggravating type rendering performance, something I note as well in the context of text-entry boxes on contemporary web sites and inside some apps. The biggest annoyance, however, has been Apple’s continuous and pointless manipulation of both text-selection contextual popups, autocheck for spelling, and the partial and unreliable abandonment of the initial conventions for cut-and-paste.

Previously, cut and paste functions were accessed via the always-mysterious action button (the little box with the upward-pointing arrow) and within the white-text-on-black popup associated with text selection. Now, in some contexts, a row of very un-iOS icons can appear above the keyboard when text has been selected and is available for a cut and paste operation – an arrow, a pair of little boxes, and another pair of little boxes. The icons are intended to represent cut, copy, and paste, in that order. Yet the dual dual boxes fail this communcation duty utterly. I can only determine their intended meaning because I have internalized a conventional order to the operations – cut, copy, and paste. The second pair of boxes would be better replaced with a System 7 style image of a paste brush, and why isn’t the copy icon here the iOS copy icon? The paste icon in this little row of inscrutable heiroglyphs actually looks more like the overall system icon for copy than this one. Absurd. Steve hates you, Apple iOS UI directorate.

Space

As long as I can remember, the only “adult” aspiration that ever interested me was permanent migration to space. It’s actually a quite childish aspiration. When I was younger, what I found interesting and attractive about it was the combination of technology and pioneering, pretty much exactly what the industrial and military propaganda of the day wanted me to, er, grok.

When I got older, what was attractive was the possibility of leaving everyone else behind, but not unkindly, of being granted the privilege of a socially-approved escape from the dreary day-to-day responsibilities of life, such as taking the trash out or assuring other people, or your pets, that you love them.

None of that’s ever gonna happen.

Another 9/11

Yeah so, Donald Trump won. Some things upcoming in the next four years:

  • Extrajudicial assassination of American citizens within the 48 contiguous states, vetted by secret courts.
  • Widespread use of torture, with and without oversight.
  • A significant uptick in ethnically motivated violence up to and including murder.
  • Concentration camps for various subcategories of people living and working in the United States.
  • Evident, back-the-truck-up-to-the-vault-levels of  public theft by administration flunkies. Widespread hiring of US GOP functionaries with specific experience at this exact thing from the oversight of occupied Iraq. Said criminals will be feted as heroes, possibly in a reality TV show.
  • Mass deportations of people suspected of being illegal aliens.
  • Large numbers of American citizens deported in these actions due to profiling, corruption, and predjudice.
  • An historic recession due to global loss of faith in the stability and jurisprudence of the United States.
  • A pointless war, or maybe several.
  • The implementation of loyalty statutes, framed as responses to the economic collapse and unpopular war and the consequent acts of violent resistance.
  • The abolition of termlimited and eventually electoral governance by the executive.

My dad and I were traveling together in Cuba in August and I went off on a rant about how the GOP were the absolute expression of the enemies of democracy and always had been during my conscious lifetime. I’m not limiting this shit to Reagan, here, I am specifically including Nixon, because that is the first GOP president of my lifetime to devote significant policy and campaign resources to, in Trump’s words, “rigging” his re-election.

He kind of shook his head in disbelief, even though he’s been hearing me rant about this since I was a teenager. Roughly, his words were “I just don’t see how that amounts to this ‘end of democracy’ stuff.”

It gave me pause, as in context I also understood him to be asking me to ask myself why over the course of my entire life I have had a clear tendency to view a certain American right political tendency as explicitly anti-democratic, as murderously authoritarian, and as essentially fascist. I thought writing about it might clarify things somewhat as I do think that there is a specific reason my psychology predisposes me to observe and highlight these viewpoints, events, and actions. Interestingly, my viewpoint is factually correct – American political, military, and intelligence leaders and personnel have actually engaged in this pattern of democratic suppression with increasing intensity over the course of my life.

Counterpoised against this, I suppose, would be the increasing social openness of American society, the midseventies efforts to limit the use of domestic and international espionage and assasination for domestic political purposes by both the FBI and the CIA, the currently highly contentious efforts to establish reasonable accountability for the use of deadly force by police officers, and the election of Barack Obama. Things change! Yet the implementation of these systemic tools of state repression has never slowed, and appears to me to have been even accelerated by such things as the Church hearings.

The toxic recombination of US Latin American foreign policy with the renascent Reagan GOP in the 1980s produced a ill-advised offshore industry of security consultants and international military education with a US-led emphasis on counterinsurgency tactics.  Those tactics can be summarized, roughly, as “torture, terror, and genocide,” that having worked well for Europeans in the Americas since the 1600s. These lessons were even brought to bear in the East with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

That prosperous anti-democratic polyp of the national security infrastructure has has sought and found ways to grow and thrive since the post-Vietnam era, swollen with red-faced rage and resentment at being reined in in the wake of their clients’ assassination, torture, and kidnapping operations in the United States in the 1970s. Prior ongoing purely domestic campaigns that employed the same tactics never excited similar scrutiny.

President Obama inherited a post-9/11 security apparatus that was designed by these murderous enemies of decency and absolutely failed to disassemble it. President Trump will inherit it as well, along with a venal crew of murderous racist toadies. He will not hesitate to use it to punish people he sees as personal enemies.

This actually is what the end of democracy looks like.

I probably am prone to seeing, to expecting this, in part because we lived in Chile in 1969 and on September 11, 1972, the elected Communist government of that country was overthrown in a violent military coup that kickstarted the era of death squad terror in Latin America. That news entered my head roughly at the same time as the news of Watergate, and so as a child I was taught that democracy is fragile and that American institutions are not, in the long run, actually committed to democracy, but rather to power.

My dad has seen the same stuff that I have over my lifetime, but he does not see this moment (or those preceding it which I have also seen as crises of democracy, such as Reagan’s arms and drug smuggling, GWB II’s judicial theft of a Presidential election, and the erection of a torture and assassination military and intelligence infrastructure) as necessarily even an aspect of an assault on democracy. He’s factually incorrect, of course.