Ben Crowder


Brief and no doubt boring update on internal tooling:

As of a few days ago, I’m planning to take Vinci (logs), Arc (notes), Storybook (fiction writing), and possibly Slash (blog) and smush them all together into a new, streamlined Django app called Writ. (Fundamentally, they’re all tools for writing, and there’s enough overlap among them that keeping them split out isn’t worth it to me.) Still in the initial design/planning stage. Looking forward to simplifying things a bit.

I’m no longer intent on using plain text as the data store for my apps. The main reasons I wanted to do this in the first place: a) archival durability and b) rampant minimalism. For the first, I’ll instead have all my apps export everything to plain text whenever there’s a change. It won’t be canonical, but it will be a redundant copy of the data so it’s even more archivally durable. As for the minimalism, well, sometimes one can go too far.

Lastly, I’m looking into hosting my site statically via Linode Object Storage (ala S3). Still exploring ramifications — redirects, etc. Main goal with this is to make my site more resilient, and even if the object storage part doesn’t work out, I’ll still move the site over to a new static engine (which I’m naming Cast, and I plan to write it in Go).

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New artwork: Why Weepest Thou? (a variation on Woman, Why Weepest Thou?).

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New artwork: A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit. Another style experiment to find something that I can do without making my back worse. This style — white background, more hand-drawn feel — is also one I’ve been wanting to explore for a couple years now.

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At work I recently had a use case for Go 1.16’s new embedding feature. Incredibly easy to implement (literally one or two minutes). Worked like a charm.

Tangential note that doesn’t completely relate but whatever, I’ll throw it in: every time I think back on embedding (which is not that often, thankfully), my brain gets all excited about compile-time execution in Jai and in Zig. (Both are languages I’ve only read about, to be clear. Might be time, though, to start building something in Zig.)

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Links #44

Tauri looks like an interesting lightweight alternative to Electron. Quill is the only Electron app I’m still actively using, but it’d still be nice to reduce its footprint a bit.

Ada Palmer on the Renaissance. Better than the Middle Ages? Doubtful. (Also, there was so much more plague over the centuries than I’d realized. Goodness.)

Robin Rendle on redesigning his personal site. The latter half of the post is what resonated most with me. Sometimes I feel like my site has gotten perhaps a bit too focused on smoothly delivering projects, at the cost of some character. I hope to restore some of that character over the next year.

Bartosz Ciechanowski explains internal combustion engines. His interactive diagrams are superb as always.

Donald G. McNeil, Jr., on the end of Covid. A fairly measured take, I thought. My wife and I are both fully vaccinated now, by the way, but we can’t unquarantine until the kids get their shots (mid-to-late fall is our current loose expectation on that).

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New artwork: Take up Thy Bed. (This was an attempt to go back to a style that I think isn’t as hard on my back.)

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Quick update on projects, or rather the general lack thereof these past few months.

Since messing up my back again in late February, I’ve seen a mild level of recovery, but I’m still far from where I used to be (which itself was far, far from normal, those good old days before I slipped on some ice and got spondylolisthesis). Some of the things I used to do (like art) now cause enough pain, whether immediate or delayed, that I have to avoid them.

I’ve also been dealing with some out-of-the-blue episodes of vertigo. So much fun, let me tell you. The worst seems to be over, but every time I turn my head things still get a little woozy for a couple seconds.

On top of my lovely collection of physical ailments, I’ve also been feeling mentally drained and exhausted after work each day. Not sure if it’s a side effect of the back and neck pain or if it’s 2020 finally catching up to me or if it’s the new job. (If it’s the job: my company just got acquired, so I’m effectively starting yet another new job. Exciting. I’ll write more about it soon.)

With all of that, I’ve effectively been taking a forced mini sabbatical from project work. Thus the prolonged silences.

The break has certainly been restful — lots of reading — but I do want to find a way forward with making things, even though it’s fairly unclear what that will mean. Whether I’ll ever get my back back to where it was. Whether the vertigo is a new long-term companion. Whether I’ll be able to keep doing the same types of projects. (Writing and programming are still fine, physically, so I expect more of both. Not sure about the rest.) Whether this begins the inevitable slowing down in life and what then follows. (Hopefully not yet!)

A quick endnote lest my somewhat bloodless portrayal of the situation keep humanity from seeping in (and to mix metaphors post-haste, I’m not casting my net to catch any pity here, just documenting what this experience is like in the hope that maybe somehow it’ll help someone someday): there have of course been many moments of frustration and anguish and discouragement. It’s devastating not being able to help out nearly as much at home. Not being able to roughhouse with my kids. A lot of time lying on my back trying to relieve the pain. (And a corresponding bump in the number of accidental naps. C’est la vie.)

The situation isn’t ideal, but situations rarely are. I’ll still keep trying to claw my way back up to better health, of course, but if this is my lot going forward, so be it. There’s not much use in pining after what’s unattainable. I’ve adjusted, and I’ll continue to adjust as necessary, and I’ll be fine.

Anyway, that’s the far too long explanation of why I’ve been mostly derelict in posting work here these past few months.

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New artwork: Let God Prevail.

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New artwork: Before the World Was III.

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Booknotes 1.6


As far as A Distant Mirror goes, I spoke too soon. Mired in the uninteresting-to-me Battle of Poitiers, I ended up abandoning the book once more. I now expect this to be a tome I read over several years, a hundred pages here and a hundred there. Which is something I’ve come to terms with.

I just finished John Seabrook’s The Song Machine, which I read in the hope of learning more about the process behind creating hit songs — anthropologically, not as something I intend to try myself. The dissonance between the hits the book covered and my own taste in music (film scores, some Broadway, hymns), however, ended up being strong enough that I didn’t really care for the history. Probably should have bailed early on. People who like pop and rock and hip hop, though, would probably like this book. (I hate earworms. So. Much.)

And mere minutes ago I began Madeleine Albright’s Madam Secretary, about her time as U.S. Secretary of State. Memoirs sometimes irritate me — overall, I think I’ve found that I prefer biographies — but I’m hoping this one doesn’t veer in that direction. And apparently this is the curmudgeon post where I get all my kvetching in.


Shimmerdark ended well. Enjoyed it.

After that, I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. The haunting Arthurian atmosphere was delicious, though I wish there had been more actual Arthurian elements. (Which just means I need to go find those sorts of books. This book doesn’t actually need to change.) Lovely prose, lovely character voices (or voice, rather — they all felt somewhat the same to me, but in a wonderful way that felt appropriate to the storytelling). And the boatman metaphor! Whew. I read The Remains of the Day just over a year ago and loved it, and I’m looking forward to Never Let Me Go and Klara and the Sun.

Lastly, I picked Cryptonomicon back up again and am now a third of the way through. Definitely earthy. Also, I knew that Stephenson is notorious for what you might call info dumps, but they’ve turned out to be fascinating, and the writing is so compelling and readable that I actually look forward to them almost as much as I do the story itself.

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