I hate Facebook

I hate Facebook.

I hate it for what it does to the spontaneous online publishing. For making it almost impossible to reach any audience without conforming to their implicit rules.

You are stuck in a weird filter bubble, your friends and subscribers are equally stuck. Not all of you know anything about it, but some already suspect something is wrong.

Linear, non-algorythmic feeds gave equal opportunity to everyone to get some attention. Chronology was fair. Many looked for the best time to post, but this was the only way to cheat. With introduction of algorythmic feeds this fairness and simplicity of rules was lost. Your attention is now guided by a pseudo-intelligent software taught on big data that seemed somehow relevant to its creators. Your experience, you feelings, you very own needs are not and theoretically can’t taken into consideration. You are a datapoint, and if it fails for you, you are just an exception. An invisible variation on a DAU chart.

I hate that you have to become a marketer, a cheater, a crook just to get heard. Even if only by your own family. You are still given direct messages, but sometimes you don’t want any directness. You want to publish and to be heard. You want to read in a predictable manner and not to miss important stuff about the lives of the people you care about. You just want to enjoy your life with convenient instruments, not to fight against them. Yet you have to.

Telegram’s channels are a temporary respond to this, an attempt to bring back fairness. The default level of notifications for Telegram are highest possible: push notification on mobile. So even a couple of active channels can get you annoyed. Telegram is interesting as an example of recycled technology: it added very few things to what we had ages ago in IRC, yet it migrated to handheld electronics and played nicely on our desire for private to remain private, even if we have nothing to hide. Otherwise it’s old news, and I don’t think it will ever get as big as WeChat and it will fail miserably at channels in a while. The noisiness and how badly it fits for reading of long texts are just the superficial reasons for failure.

This would be a perfect moment to announce my Telegram channel, but I won’t.

On A Diet

I was prescribed a diet recently. I have stomach ache of unknown origin, and gastritis is your usual suspect. This tentative diagnosis always comes with a diet: you have to eat 6 times a day, preferably on a strict schedule. Your choice of food is limited; most of it comes boiled or stewed. Well, at least I’m allowed 70 grams o biscuit a day, some butter and 25 grams of sugar (which I don’t use). The serving are modest, and out of those 6 food intakes only 3 are real meals, the others are jelly, or briar brew, or just milk in the evening.

Apart from following the diet, I have to take pills 3 times a day to get my idle gall-bladder working (the condition is called biliary dyskinesia).

The surprising part about this limiting condition — I begin to like it. I was never good at structuring my life. Being self-employed or independent remote contractor didn’t help me lead a meticulously structured life. I always tended to stay late, to work extra hours, to have late dinner, even later supper or skip the meal altogether.

I know its bad. I’ve read tons of books and articles about circadian/ultradian rhythms and how important they are for health. I have a lot of health issues connected to my chaotic lifestyle which are only going to become worse if I stay the incorrigible offender I am.

Well the diet has started to change it all. My day evolves around drug intake and consequent meal. I’m only a few days into the diet, and I already start to salivate at exact time of a day, much like a Pavlovian dog. I don’t mind it: being reminded of my human condition, my dependency on food, and water, and warmth helps me stay humble. I’am reminded of my limitations, and a superimposed requirement to act within them, to respect them.

The rest of my daily routine lines up around my eating and it feels good. I finally have a skeleton for a day, a set essential requirements to build my life around. Even my sleep (which is a different matter) is already getting better: I have to sleep in order not to miss my breakfast.

Jumping on a Bitcoin bandwagon

As someone who doesn’t live in the woods, I’ve heard about Bitcoin a lot, but never found time to get into the subject properly. Well, turns out it’s not that easy to get your head around the subject — it’s hard. But this podcast guest-starring Andreas Antonopoulos, a Bitcoint enthusiast and enterpreneur has changed a lot in how I see crypto currencies and Bitcoin in particular. Actually, this two and half podcast is the most enlightening piece of information I’ve encountered so far (though I’ve just started my research).

Andreas is so enthusiastic about the technology that he has quit his day job, lived through his savings for a year or something until this hobby became to pay for itself. He’s now consulting several Bitcoin startups and works as a security consultant. What really struck me is his comparison of what Bitcoin is nowadays to what Internet was in early 90-th. It was a technology mostly no one understood because it was hard: email, FTP, browsers, protocols yada yada. But inevitably more and more people start using it over the time because of how convenient the technology is. The same applies for Bitcoin: very few people understand it, even fewer people use, but the technology in itself is so powerful it has a very good chance of becoming ubiquitous. (Unless it’s completely oppressed and banned by governments. Which is a possibility, no illusions here, presumably it’ll become illegal in Russia pretty soon.)

Well, anyway, I was so excited (just like I was excited about Internet and even BBSs in 1997) I decided I’d give it another try. Last time I downloaded the default client (Bitcoin-Qt) which appeared to be pretty slow, required dozens of gigabytes on my disk and it took it ages to sync with the network. This time I went with Multibit which was way more lightweight. Unfortunately, I’m joining the club right after Apple has decided to ban the last Bitcoin app from Appstore, so no mobile payments for me.

Anyway, I’ve spent several hours trying to buy some Bitcoin. Services like Bitstamp and Coinbase are slow and mainly for US citizens (they require US bank account/ billing address authorisation or charge extra fees for using credit cards). So I was looking for other options. Man, this is difficult if you are in Russia. I didn’t have to dive into deep web to do it, but the sites I had to go to were weird and didn’t look trustworthy. I ended up landing on BTC-E.com which seem legit enough (at least to Russian standards) and after transferring funds from one account to another and then another I bought my $50 worth BTC 0.0857282. Alas, although I don’t have to go through any humiliation authentication procedure, I have to wait for another 3 days to transfer my precious crypto currency to my private wallet. (Until then I might simply loose the money, but I assume the risk rather little.)

Although I still can’t use my virtual money, I feel content just like after my first email respond. We’ll see how it goes.

Love Bridge

I still remember living in “no Google times”. I was probably six or seven. I would see an unknown word written on a wall. An itch to find out what it means becomes intolerable. The word starts to possess me. I feel there is a mystery, and magic, and depth, and promise to it. I’ve never seen a real person writing anything on the wall. Why would they do it? They should have a good reason for doing it. And I should know the meaning.

The first way to clarify it was to look it up in a huge dark blue English-Russian dictionary. It was rather comprehensive (fifty thousand words, ten A4 pages for a 3 letter word), but failed at explaining street cryptography way too often. (I quickly lost my faith in an ability of all sorts of indices to illuminate life, although I still enjoy flipping through their pages in search of random knowledge.)

Then I could ask. As a timid kid I could only approach closest relatives, so chances of discovering the truth were low. So I had to live with an undisclosed secret until one day an answer manifested itself out of the blue. The truth wasn’t very inspiring most of the times: sophisticated cursing and musical groups.

But there was an outstanding case which found its resolution just recently. There was a huge inscription at the very top of a blind firewall of a building on the corner of Mokhovaya and Belinsky streets. It read “Jean Tatlian — Love bridge”. I used to see the graffiti twice a week on my way to art school. No one could tell me what it was. I could only imagine: a novelist. A romantic poet. A great lover maybe? A singer whose songs are so deep they make people climb the walls to express their delight and admiration.

A trivial answer struck me in a music recommendation service. Yes, a singer. No, nothing special, second-tier soviet-greek entertainer. So in a way it still holds a secret: was it a joke? A drunk stunt? Fortunate use of a scaffold by a fangirl? This I will probably never know.

New Year in Amsterdam

We saw the first fireworks from an airplane window. Dozens of them here and there, silent and toylike splashes, tiny sparks on a gleaming body of a city. We arrived to the Amsterdam Centraal Station by 8 p.m. Groups of 20-somethings, armed with beer cans, were marching out of the building to claim their ownership of the streets. Tonight people were the law, and the output of their reign looked like anarchy.

Petards were constantly blowing up on the ground covered with glass bottles and plastic utensils. An extremely unpleasant rain was pouring in. The smell of weed was omnipresent. Coffeeshops were packed, people crowded outside waiting to get in.

Chinese snack-bar serving noodles, asian man toiling intense evening hours in a non-stop cooking session: oil, noodles, shrimps, sauce, more oil… Several black guys waiting for their order while he cooks with no emotion whatsoever.

Wildly colored street lights, fluorescent marijuana leafs, inevitable Red Lights district, violet shop windows with naked women shifting from one foot to another, slowly showing their hips and stiff nipples — must be freezing inside. They lure with their fingers those who look deliberate and solvent while avoiding looking into the eyes of everyone else.

It’s around 12, we are cold, we need to go back to the airport. We see the do-it-yourself fireworks we were told about on our way to the railway station. It’s moving in an unpredictable tempo, like an orchestra without a conductor. Dozens of shots popping up in the sky, forming a noisy crescendo, than suddenly fading out to an almost complete silence disturbed by a mere couple of crackers, and returning to a more steady, albeit attenuated and still chaotic rhythm. Like an improvised play with no beginning and no planned ending.

The station is closed, there’s a huge queue for taxi. We chat in English to a small group of young folks ahead of us, a minute later we realize they speak Russian, they are Ukrainians. They ask us if we’ve tried anything. We forget to ask them about Maidan. A couple of senior men in a uniform are assigning people from the crowd to the approaching taxis. An italian family doesn’t want to stand in a line and requests a priority, but the taxi manager asks them to go away. Looks like this is not the process that can be self-organized.

It’s our turn, we get into the car. “Airport please.” Fifteen minutes into the trip the driver says in a calm voice: “Now it is officially 2014. Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year” — we respond.