mental health cat

Chin Curtain

(rhymes with blood capsules)

Did you know that motorcycle helmets fitted with chin curtains can accummulate CO2 to the level of causing cognitive impairment, particularly while you wait at traffic lights? RyanF9 told me, so it must be true; he has a chalkboard and the manner of a highschool teacher.

“Chin Curtain” has always struck me as a gross combination of words, reminiscent of the kind of awful beards that plague cariacatures of BOFH dudes from the 80s and 90s. Now greybeards I guess. It’s also what I call the weird bit of dark beard I get just around my adam’s apple - the rest is grey, almost white now.

But it is a thing, and (admittedly due to the gross thought of it rather than anything based in reality) it is an accessory I have never fitted to my moto helmets despite most decent ones coming with it.

I’ve been thinking about the early web and pre-web a lot lately, mostly because I’ve been spending a lot of time and back-burner attention at the SDF. The Super Dimensional Fortress is a pubnix (public access unix) site which has been around since 1987. I discovered it just last year, and started investing more time in it around the time the Twitter diaspora began late 2022.

Last year was a bad year for me in many ways, but connecting with other members of SDF really helped me get some life back into my bones. It’s an old white guy hangout for the most part, though there is a large contingent of non-anglo folk, and it’s not a completely woman free zone; it definitely does not display the toxicity one comes to associate with such spaces on the Internet, at least not in my experience so far. I have been particularly enjoying aNONradio and the attendant damgud chatter in the klunky old commode cli chat.

One of the most appealing aspect of this retro-computing community is the embrace of previously considered to be defunct modes. For example, they support and host, a collection of text only sites (“phlogs” if you will, and even if you won’t). I love this idea of the “smolnet”, or the “internet’s basement”, where the pace is slow.

This brings me to the web of documents (or the web of text, or something like that). I think I’ve been slightly radicalized by SDF, and users like screwtape in particular. I’ve long found the interactive centralized web to be frustrating and less usable over time. Part of that is getting old and having attention problems - hypertext has always been a little problematic for me in that way. But most of it is, it is now dawning on me, not me at all; it’s the cursed reality of shit software and corporate hegemony.

I recently read a good article called The Market For Lemons by Alex Russell about the disaster which is browser app programming in 2023. Alex is a little angrier in tone than I would normally like - I’m often alienated by tone and the use of cariacature as a kind of straw man - but generally I’m totally on board with his thesis.

There’s no way to orient yourself on the modern web. Often you can’t use a site without Javascript, and dynamic UIs are usually awful. Sometimes they’re quite hostile - their failures are implicitly blamed on users, and in the case of banks and governments, their shit software can actually prevent access to essential services. I have had Canadian govt site support people unironically tell me to try using Google Chrome so I could interact with my HST small business CRA account. It doesn’t take much peeling back to get to the toxic sludge at the heart of that advice.

Security is also non-existent, but every effort has been made by browser makers to disguise that truth. Even if you trust the implementation of the cryptographic proofs that underpin SSL, the chain of proofs always leads to a trust anchor, an entity that you must trust in order to have a basis for trusting its delegated authority. Those anchors have been shown repeatedly to NOT be worthy of trust. Do you even know who they are? And what properties do you think are underwritten by this process?

So I think the web of text is back! I thought we were lost, but the Twitter diaspora has crystalized a process that has been underway for a while, accelerated by the public foot-gunning that large web companies indulge in. There is a re-decentralization in progress on the Internet, and I’m here for it.

That’s why I’m writing more on gopher, and hanging out in commode chat on SDF servers, listening to wonderful nerds playing music, reading about the retro-future, talking about yoga and hippie living. I wish there were more women and black people there, but I’ve come to realize that my community of hackers actually already has a huge diversity of LGBTQ+ folk, as well as what my kids often call “spicy white” people - filipino, latinx, east asian etc.

The smolnet is smol, and slow to respond, but that’s a feature not a bug. In another post, I’ll get into why that’s awesome and how it relates to some deeper thoughts about community, local and global truth, and friction as a feature of successful collectivist societies. For now you can get the gist from my home gopher hole which is to be found at gopher:// so long as it isn’t accidentally unpowered or dynamic dns hasn’t failed to update.

Keep your chin curtains clean and open, let the sunshine in. The web is dead, long live the web.