2022 in review

The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. - G’Kar

I had a vague intention to blog more this year. In the absence of having done much of that I’ll try to hold myself to a year’s end post.

I should state that I left out the next lines of G’Kar’s quote, which is “No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.”

I didn’t choose the quote for the implication of coming darkness, but rather the sense of possible futures. For me this has felt like a year of transition, change and reflection, personally and for the world at large.

I have a sense of large, slow movements, like continental plates, or a theatre set being quickly rearranged behind the curtains, and foreboding (or anticipation) of these forces aligning or colliding somewhere in our future.

That makes me sound like a bad horoscope, but this year the unknowns continued to multiply - war in Ukraine, the pandemic festering in its memory-hole, the rise of “ai” technologies of worrying capability, dead Queens, the electoral fortunes of the centre- and right-wing in various countries, protests in Iran and China, and Twitter’s second Mad King; all of it will add up to something, but I don’t know what.

(The done thing is to assume human civilisation is headed toward immediate and total collapse. I don’t think we will get through the century unscathed, but my assumption is that there will be people on the other side of whatever bottleneck we pass through. Whether G’Kar is right about our futures being born in pain, or whether my hapless optimism is correct, remains to be seen.)

On a personal note, I was happy that I was able to move this site to an org-mode and ox-hugo based workflow. Since I use Emacs for a lot of things, it makes it easier for me to remember how the site works and make updates to it. I feel a much stronger sense of ownership over the site than I did when using Squarespace or Jekyll. I really detest working with web frameworks, so it was nice to get to a point I’m happy with.

The content for this website, as viewed in Emacs org-mode

I will very slowly next year start adding some older posts I found on an old Tumblr to this site’s post archive. I used to post a link to a youtube video almost daily in 2011 and started posting a daily-ish photo for a few months in 2012, so I’ll bring those posts across too for the sake of nostalgia and getting it all in one place.

Again using ox-hugo I created a similar Emacs-powered website for my three thousand dreams project. I’ve had very little time to work on this but it feels like a natural evolution of the project as I wrestle with exactly how to continue to use ai-generated imagery for the project.

3thousanddreams.net as of 23-12-22

I feel like manually creating text to go alonside the images goes some way to offset the ethical considerations of the usage of ai art in the project, although I’m sure some people disagree. I’ve added an ai artwork disclaimer to the “about” page of the site too. I’m finding the increasing sophistication of ai art tools is of minimal value to this project; the impressionistic and muddy quality of the earlier generators is much more interesting to me at the moment.

The lower quality outputs are impractical for any imitation of art styles or artists (though I exclude prompts of this type anyway), and it feels nice to deliberately use a “outmoded” method of generation (big-sleep, though I’m guilty of including an occasional Midjourney image as well) in that it runs against the grain of the bizarrely aggressive ai-art boosters, and that I don’t need to pay a subscription fee to the people working to try and feed artists into the shredder.

I’ve only added a few images to the site (alongside their little micro-fictions) to the website so far but it’s opened up a range of new narrative possibilities. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the background stories behind the images, how to present them, and what workflows to use to manage this.

Playing with Obsidian’s Canvas feature to test visual mapping of hyperlinks

As I’m figuring this out, images will be added to the library behind the Mastodon/Twitter three thousand dreams bot fairly slowly, though work continues to happen behind the scenes. Lots of love to all of the Mastodon followers who favourite, boost and reply, you’re the best.

I had planned to create a few new bots this year, again finding that time got away from me, but managed to get garbagecollection up and running (please send me pictures of bins), and I’m hoping to build up more contributions and increase the posting frequency a little bit next year.

I also got quite far on a planetary system generator written in Processing, intended to be used as an image bot, but I got stuck on some (likely very elementary) trigonometry stuff that I have no enthusiasm for. If you know basic maths, get in touch so you can explain it to me. I also asked Chat-GPT to explain what I needed and it’s created some Processing code for me that I haven’t had time to test yet.

WIP of solar system generator

There are a few other bot concepts in various stages of development, and hopefully I can finish some of these next year. (It’s likely they will only make it to Mastodon.)

I spent some time getting a basic literate programming setup in Emacs as well, after having finally understood what org-babel was for. As with so many Emacs things, packages that seem incomprehensible to me at first later turn out to do something really useful I’d wanted all along without realising.

I’m only using org-babel for literate programming rather than combining multiple languages, but adapting a few existing programs into an org-mode format full of documentation which can be tangled to create the actual file/s is very useful for someone like me who only jumps into projects infrequently.

I’d like to give a special credit this year to Royksopp, who released an enormous volume of wonderful music this year; I was in the top 0.5% of their listeners on Spotify this year, so I must have had them on heavy rotation.

And that’s all. See you next time.

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