a web thing


Category: Musings

A podcast snippet

Like a pull quote, for audio.

Knowing my blog, in a few years this thing will no longer be supported and it will just be a dead frame. iframes are unreliable bastards.

If the below doesn’t work, just check out the screenshot below ;)


What I’m listening to

I guess people could follow me on Goodreads, but if I want to post more things here then I’ll start listing out my current books.

I have a hard time finding the most perfect, enthralling book (recommendations welcome) but I find lots of pretty interesting ones!

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

There’s a fallacy in that phrase, “if it’s free, then you’re the product.” This book talks about how you’re more like a cow being milked than the thing that’s being sold. Google creates products for you to aim your behavior (e.g. Search) in order to collect behavioral data to feed their machine-learned models, and they sell that to advertisers. You’re a natural resource, which helps them build a thing, and that’s the true product.

Okay I’ll stop there before I lose you.

This podcast I just listened to had a great interview with the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by @shoshanazuboff. I think listening to this podcast is the easiest way to introduce the book. Otherwise I’d write some long article here and I’m too lazy for that. So check out this episode from Mozilla’s IRL Podcast.

If you do want to read an article about it, there’s a good one on The Intercept.

Find the book at a local bookshop, at your library, or get it from Audible :)

Little pieces

I’m riding a train this morning to work. Not the subway but an actual train from Philadelphia to NYC. It brings back potent nostalgia for Barcelona.‬

When I was a teacher I would take a regional train from BCN to Molins del Rei. I didn’t mind the commute, in fact I got excited every time I got on the train. I got excited because I was SO new that I could feel myself getting better every class I taught.‬

I also loved the small amount of money. I can’t remember but I think it was about €60. I got paid daily, in cash. The day that it was enough to cover rent that month, felt like such an accomplishment: one more month I could make it as an immigrant.

In the United States right now that can be a heavy word, immigrant, but to clarify my circumstance: I moved to Barcelona with two suitcases of clothes, a good amount of savings and a plan to support myself teaching English. I used my savings, taught English, but was unable to secure a visa. So, being undocumented really limited my travel. I couldn’t hop around Europe as I hoped, but Catalunya was enough for me. I also couldn’t go back to the USA until I was comfortable with the possibility I’d be barred from coming back to my new home in Barcelona.

When I filled my envelope under the mattress markered with RENT, the rest was mine. Each day I went to work was another 40 to 60 euros for cheap beer, jamón serrano, galletas Principe, wine, subway tickets, pay-as-you-go cell phone “top ups.” They had ATM style kiosks around shopping centers where you type in your phone number, insert the cash, and then your available balance on the phone gets updated. Wow.

So, each time I got on a train I would look out the window and soak up the sequence of quotidian landscapes. I didn’t know how long I would be there. Each day was an exciting step and I just wanted to keep going.

I can’t help comparing this feeling to present day. Now I ride a train and feel that nostalgia, but rarely look forward to work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the daily reward and the Pavlovian effect has worn off. I definitely need work to pay the bills, but it’s no longer a day-to-day survival. I also don’t feel that daily progression that I did with being a new teacher. Now I work with a big company that only dares take incremental steps toward some undefined goal of “generate more money/customers.” Most employees aren’t needed for a specific day like a teacher is required each day for a class to happen. My work is spread out over the course of weeks, months, and then I don’t see a final result sometimes for a year.

There isn’t an inherent negative to taking the long view. In fact sometimes it is most valuable. [The Long Now Foundation] I also recall feeling a little lost in Barcelona, taking life in little pieces, with no idea how they added up to a big piece or what the next big piece should be. I’m sitting here on the train again, no longer at a loss for the big pieces, but missing the delight of the little ones.

Perhaps writing is one way to get them. Actually writing this very message feels like mixing the pallet of big and little, but to get meta about it, the act of writing is small in itself. I like that.