Welcome to the Halfman newsletter. Please don’t ask me for any explanations. I don’t know. I’m Jim and I will be your host for the next, roughly 11 minutes of unbound joy that comes all tidily wrapped with a bow with this newsletter.
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It’s that time of year again! You know when the Zamboni man comes down the chimney and brings gifts to children of the world. Also just in time for a new collab with Halfman and Zamboni for this holiday season.
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With my elite programme you will learn all my super secret tools for a sort of average life filled with random, unexpected and life altering decisions made with shockingly little consideration. You will learn how to spend decades of dedication to crippling and thankless lifestyle pursuits like skateboarding and punk rock to find the inner you, that is you, for you.
If you were wondering where I dug up this content mill effluence to bring you not one, not two, but three blog posts, fear not, there were no children chained to desks typing away for me, nor any AI model used in this. I just typed with fury typically reserved for the state of my corporeal decay or pointless armed conflict.
Three things I’ve never been able to do
- Use the word “a propos” properly or without hating myself
- Be the guy from the cover of “Paranoid” for Halloween which I’ve been thinking about for roughly a quarter century
- Tolerate any post, article or whatever, whether from a millionaire or Medium wannabe shit-poster, where the author has decided that line after single sentence paragraphs is somehow writing.
Istanbul, Constantinople and a million other places all at once all the time
Constantinople is a Babylon, a world, a chaos. Is it beautiful? Marvellously. Ugly? Horribly so. Do you like it? It fascinates me. Shall you remind? How on earth can I tell! Can anyone tell how long he is likely to stay on another planet?
(Edmondo de Amicis, Constantinople, 1877)
Sure, there was this going to where Europe meets Asia for work and that, but there was also ingratiating myself in a level of gorging on grilled anything that those continents haven’t seen in a while. Turkish grilling game is fierce. If you don’t believe me check out this Kasabım’s grill cam. That’s right, they have a live feed of some dude in the basement grilling the shit out everything. Unprecedented and unstoppable.
Much has been written about the cats of Istanbul, and you can better your bottom dollar I’m going to throw mine in as well. They’re everywhere, which is exactly what everyone else says. A colleague asked why there are so many and why Turks love cats so much, even having celebrity cats, like this Gli that lived in a 1663 year old building. My only guess is that a.) they’re awesome and/or b.) the city was ravaged by bubonic plague for centuries and I imagine, as the Spanish did with their sailing vessels at roughly the same period, that they required loads of cats to try and kill the rats that would spread disease. Just a guess.
But this cat was just amazing and really hard to steal so I didn’t.
Venkatesh Rao, philosopher of sorts and thought consigliere to the tech world’s stars was apparently there, and wrote easily a way better description of the week than I ever could.
Rather apt, as I’m sure others have noticed, that this event is happening in Istanbul, the place that invented the Deep State, and the origin of all those pesky Byzantine generals who provide the historical raison d’être for the whole crypto scene.
But nobody did notice besides you Venkatesh. Byzantium lives on in weird ways. One thing for sure nobody noticed was that there were next to no actual Turks at any of these conferences, and just gaggles of internationals parachuting in to talk about technology that could help people such as the aforementioned privacy and security starved locals which no one talked to.
I went to Arby’s in Istanbul
I agree with the ancient belief that nostalgia is in fact a disease. I avoid it when I recognise it, but all too often succumb to its bittersweet embrace. But holy shit there was an Arby’s there in Istanbul Airport. This wafer shaved beef wrapped in soggy disappointment was a substance that hadn’t coursed through this failing body in decades and boy was I ready to help this body fail some more. But it, like the lahmacun I had the night before was something I knew I couldn’t get back home in Ljubljana. Like I said, a disease. The really messed up thing is that a cursory look online shows there to be dozens of Arby’s in and around Istanbul. And with the grilling above, it’s unthinkable.
Browsers decide our lives don’t you know
It’s not often where one is floored by a community governance discussion, but that fateful Thursday in Istanbul I was. Sure, I’ll admit, I was just on my way to the loo and then passed the room with a slide with something about laissez-faire so popped in and saw Robin Berjon talk about the root of our web experiences being a series of stumbles and engineered use in real life.
Fact: Browsers are designed with tabs to focus use on the URL bar and search. All browsers are funded by Google search. Full stop. Apple, you know who aren’t poor, get US$ 19 billion a year just for having Google as the default search engine in their browsers. No browser today makes any money without Google search and this is probably wrong considering these things are how we mainly use the Internet. So they’re still as bad as Arby’s.
Fuck it, I’m saying “UX” now. I fought the acronym (shorthand for “user experience”) forever because among other reason, I have a masters in “interaction design,” and well, I always liked the idea of this mattering to someone one day. Which it sort of never has professionally. So in classic fashion doing this too late as there will be some sort of GPT add-on that will replace me forthwith I’m sure, I say I do UX. Perfect timing as always.
Open Source Street Fight
It all started with a dude’s recalling of a Mozilla conference in Brussels and it running into a lot of high powered Belgian beer basically most people aren’t used to and a British stag do all at once. And then went from there. The open source software community of which I’m a fan and I guess part of, is not known for being tough, but I couldn’t let this idea go, of various open source software teams having it out. Here are some of my favourite imagined, bare knuckle, street rules fights.
Red Hat support vs. Blender render team
Apache dev ops vs. VLC Media codec team
The Lightning Round
How does one engage well with difficult ideas?
Wrong, you put on any of Black Sabbath’s first four albums, smoke ’em if you got ’em and then consider the fleeting sunshine.
Everything you’ve ever learned about brand consistency or typography for that matter is wrong
Be extremely wary of anything no matter how altruistic it claims to be with a promotional video
Effective Altruism have one by the way. They claim to be a movement doing good, but they’re selling something, don’t worry.
The question is am I selling something? Be very assured Halfman is a post-anti-profit operation and at this point hopelessly beyond a cost centre.
Exchanging 3d stuff
So this whole blockchain thing is supposed to let you be able to take anything digital with you. Fine. But how do you make it fit? This is 3d we’re now talking about, how do the meshes, textures and all that port from one thing to the other? I need answers damnit.
Recreating the past because swords are cool
This project summary tells a little bit about trying to use new tools with historical exploration and recreation, which frankly they of course should be, but I have a sneaking suspicion that nobody can smell any money in this, so cool things aren’t being done. But the question is how cool right? It doesn’t have to be Hollywood production, but I should be able to see Romans walking around somewhere relatively easily shouldn’t I?
I love, love, love The Museum of Failure so much words can’t even describe it.
You know the bit about failing fast and all that? If only that were the case. The tech industry likes to say this, but they don’t do it. This is because there is insane amounts of money thrown around for the past two to three decades and sunk costs.
But the bit about documenting the failure is something that never happens in tech or the news. It is talked about flippantly and never really relished, swam in like this does.
What the web and all that was supposed to have been
You know just really good, nice, well laid out websites. Beautiful and thoughtful. Crafted and all that. You can tell that this had a lot of time spent on it. So imagine the exact opposite of the dude you knew twenty years ago whose feed pollutes your feed while you wonder why there are even feeds, what good they do and why you care. So yeah, essay and just photos and text. Graphic design, goddamnit, like it’s supposed to be.
Political Androgyny in Space
Sure enough, because the space race wasn’t for all mankind, it was for two cold-warring sides who had to argue via ludicrous amounts of mechanical engineering, in fucking space mind you, who wasn’t going be “getting the business” as the astronaut Young said.
Long look finance
I always love a little bit of who the hell would have known economics is actually as old as the hills. This little tidbit from Byrne Hobart, Risk: Too Much, Too Little, the Wrong Kind, or the Wrong Measure? and Romans is just fascinating.
Equity markets didn’t really start developing until German mines sold equity interests in the 15th century. But ancient Rome had a sort of local index fund in the form of tax collection rights, which were bought in advance and represented a claim on local economic output. The Visigoths and the like were not especially interested in the sanctity of Roman contracts, so these, too, were a long-term zero.
The Internet and humanity in the face of it is saved once again
It’s hard to understand File Life if you dig too deep into it. It’s about people contributing files and travelling with USB drives. There is a travel log. There are no colours. I want to bathe in this website. It is a website, not some bullshit meme. Again the craft thing without the bullshit leather apron and the flat white. In fact, there is only one column of text and image, slow consideration and a break from the bullshit somehow.
Emily specialises in graphic design better than you or I ever could
Shoutouts that make me proud
Spelling and supremacy
My English is super confused up because of some sort of oh-you-silly-little-idiot-yank casual discrimination, thanks to studying in London. But anyhow, spelling used to not matter. Like not matter for hundreds of years, but now it does somehow. Will it continue to matter when machines are reading and writing for us?
Learning to swim
I might be blonde and blue eyed but my parents were refugees nonetheless. Thus I’ve always had an especially soft spot for someone who will risk drowning with their children in the middle of the sea or walked across the Alps (that’s right just like my old man and the Sound of Fucking Music did) to try and not die with their family where they’re from. This small and honest documentary about the last shitstorm or pain and suffering of humanity which we barely even remember five years later, AKA Syria. Remember that old chestnut? Bless this woman and her son for sharing, to be fair, a rather large and comfortable house with a pool. In which this guy learned to swim thus the title. I haven’t done much in comparison which is potentially sadder if I were to allow the pity party. Ooof. Time for a coffee and some first world problems like which markdown editor I’m going to use moving forward.
If you’re reading this newsletter you’re generally doing fine, no matter how shitty your day is or how fucked up the world is, in some messed up way, tomorrow is always another day no matter what.
Halfman endorses: Local-first web, És shoes, The Spyrals, walks in the sun, regional hockey leagues, staring at rivers from bridges, Istanbul, Disfear, John Scofield, Elder S/T (which curiously somehow never listened to before), pen and paper even just a little bit everyday, burek, kids listening to jazz without even having to force them.
Oh yeah, watching hockey will give me a fucking heart attack one of these days.
This entire joint is made with no damn LLM. Believe that.