Jason Becker
2024-05-23

I want a better camera I will:

  1. Actually carry around with me.
  2. Mostly have a point-and-shoot experience— I just want to think “cool!”, then spend a few moments considering framing, take my picture, and get right back in the moment.

The iPhone still feels like that camera.

2024-05-21

At every conference, once I deliver my presentation I just crash hard.

Communities converge on an understanding of how they are supposed to feel about something very rapidly on the internet. It seems to take no time at all for influential voices to emphatically determine what views are Good and Right and what views are Wrong. The Good takes are rapidly understood and the community as a whole uptakes this posture. The Bad takes and apostates are rolled out just as quickly to be shunned.

We have to make clear who is in, who is out. The views now share are required for participation.

No, this is not about cancel culture or some right wing left wing thing. It’s not about any one event or topic– it’s just about how faster communication gives our self-organizing impulses super powers.

There are a host of complex issues that are decided, at least from the perspective of various communities. These topics can range from Middle East politics and warfare to whether streaming music is ok. That’s not a joke or exaggeration– I’ve seen people write with equal fervor and I’ve seen whole sets of people group together online to take down the apostates on both of these issues.

This is not all bad. Shame is a powerful social and cultural tool to shape behavior. Norms are powerful. I think it’s great that most people can’t and won’t talk about members of the LGBTQ community the way we used to because you’ll be immediately shamed and dragged. I am perfectly happy at times to directly confront someone and ask if they’ve really thought about the consequences of what they’re saying or expressing.

But it does mean that there are many things that are not safe to share. I don’t think it’s always safe to play Devil’s Advocate or “try out” an argument or even an identity to see how it feels. Something that was easier in a smaller, anonymous or at least pseudonymous internet was seeing what it took to deeply make an argument before deciding for real what you believe.

It also means that sometimes when your peers and people you respect have all decided what the “right” view is, it’s very hard to comfortably express a less strident, more lukewarm, more timid, and possibly more complex or nuanced take, especially if you’re not ready, willing, and able to present a dissertation about your view point.

The way I’ve chosen to operate in this environment is to listen to the intensity of others. The best indicator for me that I should sit something out is when I cannot muster the same passion, conviction, or care the rest of my community finds. This almost always means one of two things:

  1. I will end up agreeing with them, but for various reasons, I need to listen more and more carefully to be convinced. My own mind and emotions take a lot more evidence to get to the same conclusion my peers made it to right away. 1
  2. Folks are jumping on a bandwagon and squashing nuances and loudly proclaiming the easy thing. Anything I add to the conversation will drain me of all kinds of energy, likely ending in the person I’m talking with claiming they held the same belief that I do the whole time.

In both of these cases, I don’t need to speak. I can just listen. And eventually, I can decide that if we’re not heading toward the first case, I can stop listening. I can just opt out. It’s not a conversation, it’s a signaling competition.


  1. I marvel at the moral clarity some people have in what seems like an instant. Especially when those people’s views are held long term and when I end up agreeing with them, sometimes over the course of years considering things. My first thoughts virtually never have such clarity, and I am quite likely to change my mind over time. ↩︎

Shorter version of my last post: I find comfort in the fact that I don’t have to participate in every conversation. I am a little disappointment that some conversations are reserved for people I trust with the ephimerality and privacy of a spoken conversation.

2024-05-20

The most clearheaded takes on the Apple ad are those that point out that the backlash is a consequence of Apple’s current relationship with the broader community of developers, customers, and our culture. The literal, visceral response feels silly– it’s not about the ad.

It’s a gift to have thoughtful people in my life.

2024-05-19

What a win for The Verge’s redesign. This kind of post about Blue Origin today would have been a Tweet. And that sucks. Now it’s the kind of post that has me checking The Verge’s homepage a couple of times a day. Blogging is still a great format for journalism.

2024-05-18

This week on Core Intuition, Daniel and Manton discuss the cost of some “.blog” domains. Somehow (maybe because I registered the first day it was possible?), I pay only $29.99 a year for json.blog.

I am bored with iPad discourse but holy hell pricing one out really brings into focus how the Pro is insanely expensive for what most of us could do with it.

2024-05-14

me: “I wish people would stop calling individual blog posts ‘a blog.’” monkey’s paw curls

A financial planner I haven’t talked to in 20 years emailed to thank me for something I’d written on my blog which was super nice but they opened their email with “I just read your substack and it was wonderful” and now I’m a little mad to hear the nazi-loving email service is a generic phrase synonymous with “personal essays” in business people’s minds already.

Andy Baio and Matt Haughey both breaking me.

Elsa just pulled the classic move— cut the slice of pizza in half, take it away. Eat it, then return and eat the other half anyway.

We have not had one dang clear night during these magnetic storms.

2024-05-13

Work is pushing me up to the 16” MBP. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good bags for this size class. Before I “just” buy yet another chocolate bag from Waterfield, what are your favorites? I tend to avoid backpacks (sweaty back) and use it 90% in a work context and on planes.

So, how much further is the podcast advertising market about to crash when private equity decides that Squarespace should kill its ad spend?

2024-05-12

An interesting side effect of writing music with a band again– my mind is now constantly filled with music. I think I’m always tinkering with little melodies or songs deep in the background, but now that I have an outlet for them, it’s like they are pushed to the forefront.

I’ve been here before

I had a vinyl collection from 2007 until 2011, when I decided to divest. It was small, but had a lot of great stuff. Some of the records really did sound better, but mostly because the early 2000s were flooded with remasters that were getting on board the loudness wars and compressing the shit out of tracks.

I don’t honestly remember much going into the decision to dump the record player. I think in the end, I just wasn’t using it that much. It was work, and I had no love for a tea ceremony in my 20s..

The Rethinking

In recent years, I’ve been lightly rethinking vinyl. I like a collection (I have … hundreds? Thousands? of books even though most of my reading is with eBooks). I like well-made objects. And in my world of indie post-rock, math rock, and various other hyphenated music with guitar, heavy vinyl pressings are becoming more and more common. I love streaming music (RIP Radio)– I discover more new music now than at any other time in my life (except maybe the first 6 weeks in a college dorm abusing the hell out of OurTunes). But I don’t love how small artists are treated, financially, by Apple or Spotify. I hate that what I pay is not divided among the artists I listen to, but instead thrown into a global listen count. If I spend an entire month listening to nothing but covet, they should get all of the money from my monthly fee that goes to artists. It shouldn’t matter that I only played that album 10 times that month.

I can’t bring myself to pay for digital files of songs I already pay to access, and I can’t be bothered to painstakingly curate a huge MP3 library. Those days are gone. Although I have no opposition to pay for digital media or software in general, I’m not sure my principles extend to buying the same thing effectively twice. But vinyl could be an interesting way to buy something a little different and support the artists I love.

None of this was helped by moving to Hampden in Baltimore, which has a seemingly rad record store right next to my favorite bookstore. I often think about, and then studiously avoid walking in after spending far too much on books I’ve already read.

That small itch, supported by the fact that there’s plenty of gear to geek out over, probably would remain unscratched. But now I have a new problem.

The Enabler

Elsa is vinyl curious. And by vinyl curious, I mean that Elsa has decided that the vinyl experience is something that should be a part of our lives. She knows what she’s doing, fully aware that this is the kind of thing that takes prodding me just the tiniest amount to turn into a reality I sink time and money into. She has out her prod, and it’s electrified.

So now I have to figure out what record player to buy, whether or not I need to drop extra money on a special cartridge and supplies to clean dust off. I need to think about storage, where the record player will go, and how to make using it more convenient in our lives. I get to open about 100 tabs for the next month to just buy the obvious thing.

In the meantime, after years of feeling bad that I just “skipped” this part of music, I made a Band Camp account and started preordering some records.

Yes, I’m aware that Jess bought a record player when she went out to Seattle.

I didn’t feel like pulling out my receiver to double check, but realized I could just scroll through the labeled inputs. Confirmed that’s one thing I don’t have to buy.

A picture of a black receiver with its digital display saying “Phono”

2024-05-11

I haven’t read Keenan’s post yet, but I did read Troy’s followup, so I may as well confess: I don’t care about lyrics.

Troy writes:

The music is what ultimately spoke to me most. It always has been. I write the music first and the words that go over them are an afterthought.

I write music. I never care about the lyrics I write (and more often don’t bother writing them). When I listen to music, I have no idea what a song is about, and I don’t care. It doesn’t enter my mind, even if I can sing along to every word. For me, vocal performances are about creating sounds like any other instrument. The words don’t matter, except in cases where the sounds are impacted by the words. For example, a particular turn of phrase, emphasis, or pacing might catch my ear. But it’s my ears not my brain or heart that is captive– I’m noticing how the word choice leads to a percussive alliteration that leads to the inflection in the singing that makes the sounds I like.

I’ve discussed this with friends, not surprisingly, in reference to Taylor Swift, who Troy also brought up. I cannot relate to the adoration about storytelling and lyrics. So I’ve never been into Taylor Swift. I’ve never come across a Taylor Swift fan who doesn’t love lyrics and care about the poetry. I don’t even care about poetry.

This isn’t some badge of pride or honor. It’s an observation. There are seemingly two audiences for music: those for whom lyrics are a critical part of the experience and those who seem to not experience lyrics at all.

I’ve always been the latter.

Want to see a millennial die?

We are as far away from Matchbox 20’s debut as that album was from The Beatles (White Album), or if you prefer, the disbandment of the Yardbirds and formation of Led Zeppelin.

The pace of storytelling in X-Men ‘97 is insane.