2021 Year-Ender
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Categories: Modern, Not an expert

2021 Year-Ender

Victoria at sunset, fall 2021

Where now the blog and livejournal? Where the alert that was blowing?
Where are the drafts file and imagebank, and the wild words flowing?
Where is the strife about small wars, and the cathodes glowing?
Where is debate and discovery, and the archives growing?
They have passed like bits on a floppy, like tape in a dashboard
The sites have gone down one by one, by their owners abandoned.
Who shall turn the dry sheaves into green grass waving,
Or behold a sunken ship to the Sun returning?

With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien B.A.

So, 2021 is crawling out the door under a hail of bullets, arrows, javelins, beer bottles, and hurlbats. A lot happened.

I worked the 2021 election where Canadians told their representatives to go back to work and not ask for absolute power, and I got a part-time job with a large Canadian retailer after three years of unemployment.

I got vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic.

I finished the manuscript of my second book and am about to sent a draft around to contacts with the right interests.

I published my first article in a language other than English (Spanish, with the magazine Desperta Ferro).

I was interviewed by two podcasts and gave talks at two online conferences.

I finally migrated this site off Automattic’s servers onto servers in a country where I am a person with rights. I launched a static site for some of my side projects in another country like that (announced 15 April 2021 for people with those interests).

I helped compel a well-known university to take down its credulous webpage on the Gospel according to Walther Fritz.

I even got accused of spreading disinformation for publishing a peer-reviewed article explaining that there is no evidence that anyone before Peter Connolly made armour by gluing layers of fabric together!

There was one big difference from the years I have posted about before. Like some years of my life until 2009, and no year of my life from 2010 to 2020, I spent 2021 within a 60 minute bus ride of my family home. And I spent exactly one day under someone else’s roof for purposes other than shopping, medical appointments, work, and library research.

State of Corporate Social Media and Corporate Financial Infrastructure

Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.

Woody Guthrie https://www.woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Pretty_Boy_Floyd.htm

Centralized corporate computer systems have the problems which I have discussed in earlier year-end posts. Apple proposed to automatically scan saved and sent images to stamp out impiety disrespect to the emperor heresy Papism anarchism communism terrorism child abuse.[1] The labels change because the people pushing these laws know that once they have the power, they can use it for whatever they want (what they want starts with locating and hurting estranged exes and people who were rude on the Internet, and it ends in darker places). Paypal continues to steal people’s money, shutting down people’s accounts with money in them with no explanation and refusing to pay the money back.[2] Subscription social media company OnlyFans tried to ban sexy posts under pressure from Visa and Mastercard, banks, and reactionary Christians.[3] Very many of these social media and publishing companies embrace low-status subcultures to build an audience, then expel them when they reach a certain size. Meanwhile a Mastercard executives could not explain why the company was allowing illegal Neo-Nazi groups in Germany to fundraise on Mastercard. But moralizing about these systems is as effective at moralizing at a hungry mosquito. I am only including this paragraph because one day, as the Florentine humanist said, people will have trouble believing that the situation used to be so bad.


This year I figured out how to say that one of my central values is curiosity and a desire to learn. That is the value which drove me out of my room in Victoria to Calgary and Isfahan and Bärnau and the open web. That is the value which turned monolingual me into someone who is about to publish an article which translates sources in ten dead languages. That was the value which lead me to start posting on the open web, and the value which lead my activity to drop off as corporate social media replaced it. That was the value which lead me first to read, and then to meet, so many curious characters. For a long time, I thought that because I was trying so hard to learn about people who were different from me and to meet them in the middle, they would also know that the world was much bigger and stranger than their circle of friends and try to meet me in the middle. I am curious in the way Herodotus was curious. The word he picked to describe what he did was “to inquire” (historein). The people who rebuffed my offers were just not curious that way, and that is their loss.

This year I also understood something new about labels. I have been suspicious of them for the simple human reason that anyone who needs to say “I am this” is screaming that they might not be. Honest people don’t need to tell you they are honest, skilled people don’t need to say they are skilled. Labels can also get in the way of changing or discovering new things about ourselves (see Paul Graham, Keep your Identity Small). But I think some people like labels because they help them find people like them. It took me a long time to find L. Sprague de Camp and the material-culture geeks because I had to find them one by one and could not explain what I was looking for. Labels certainly can get in the way of finding like minds which don’t look or talk like you. And people can grab on to labels without doing the work of meeting the definition, or redefine them so people like me are no longer included. But bringing together like minds is powerful, and sometimes, just sometimes, labels help rather than get in the way.


“There is always rather a lot to fear, as a matter of fact,” said Merrihew. “It’s possible we should even be afraid of you.”

Garth Nix, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (2020) ch. 6 / p. 86

Some people can’t see a community with a name without thinking of ways to infiltrate it, divide it, and milk it for money and power, and very many people don’t respond to my polite inquiries in the ways I expect. But for them there are the words of another distinguished student of old and long-forgotten lore:

Fools, do you think you have conquered because my people are scattered? Because I have been betrayed and deceived by the communities I trusted? I am Herr Doktor Manning, and I call up wisdom from before my birth. The libraries are stocked, bookfinder does my bidding, and the bones of the open web have not yet turned to dust. As long as I kept trying to make people be scholarly I was weak. Now I know what I am, and I know who I can work with, and I shall be unstoppable.

My adventures in other communities in the 2010s did not always go the way I expected, but I still became Herr Mag. Dr. Manning and published my first book and half a dozen scholarly articles. I have a second book written and at least three more which I want to write this decade. Lets see where this takes me.

Blog statistics: pageviews and unique visitors were in line to rise about 10% in 2021 when I switched hosts in July 2021. My new host uses a different tracking service so statistics are not directly comparable. In April, May, and June 2021 I averaged 2545 views and 1196 visitors on the old site. In August, September, and October 2021 I averaged 3102 views and 1998 visitors on the new site. So the new decentralized tracker seems to record 20-67% more visits and page views than the old corporate traffic tracker. Visits and pageviews grew 61-78% from 2019 to 2020. As usual, the number of visits from search engines and the open web was much greater than the number of visits from corporate social media. As of 6 December, my tracker on the new host records 1940 visits from just google.com (not counting the various national google domains) and only 355 from Facebook, reddit, and twitter’s link-redirect service (a ratio of 5.46 to 1).

Edit 2022-01-16: The latest observation that links have a short half-life and there is no good way of making permanent references to digital works is Jonathan Zittrain, “The Internet Is Rotting,” The Atlantic, 30 June 2021 https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2021/06/the-internet-is-a-collective-hallucination/619320/

[1] See https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/08/apples-plan-think-different-about-encryption-opens-backdoor-your-private-life
https://daringfireball.net/2021/08/apple_child_safety_initiatives_slippery_slope A quote which encapsulates the basic issue is:

Apple’s Photos app already uses very clever machine learning to identify the content of photos in your library. Search in the Photos app for “dog” or “cocktail” or someone’s name and it’s going to find those photos. Trust in Apple is the only thing protecting iOS users from surreptitious abuse of machine learning in Photos now — which is no different from Android users’ trust in Google for the same sort of thing.

John Gruber, https://daringfireball.net/linked/2021/12/15/apple-child-safety-csam

Apparently, there are some people who hear about software like that and don’t run away screaming and refuse to touch it with a 16-cubit sarissa! And bless their hearts for having been sheltered from the world so well that they don’t see why letting anyone surveil you so closely is terrifying.

[2] See https://www.arms-n-armor.com/blogs/news/selling-swords-in-the-digital-age

[3] See https://thenib.com/payment-processors-vs-porn/

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