obsessive facts blog

  1. My disappearing act

    Why the site went dark (and why it's back)

    I remember the feeling of compulsive resolve last summer as I disconnected and pulled my web server out of my closet. Along with my laptop, a monitor, some clothes, and my dog, I hastily packed everything into my growling muscle car and drove north. Despite having barely three hours of sleep I continued driving for twelve hours, through a tropical storm and into the mountains. When I reached Nashville, Tennessee, I called it a night and booked a room for myself and my dog at a plush hotel that caters to traveling recording artists. All day I had appreciated the opportunity to drive and think, and that night I appreciated the bed as I sank into a restful sleep.

    My marriage of 18 years was over, my life was permanently altered. I was reminded of a semi-lucid dream decades ago when I discovered the ability to move so fast that I could tear myself through the fabric of the universe itself into a new spacetime, a parallel universe. The only downside? You can never go back, no matter how fast you move, how desperately you tear. Nothing would ever be the same.

    Since then, my web server stayed packed away as the rest of my old life began to fall apart; divorce, the commercial failure of my company, mass layoffs of the team I had built, deep depression, the recent loss of my own job being just icing on the cake. A pessimist would say I am ruined, or that I wasted nearly two decades of my life on a failed marriage. But I'm not a pessimist and I think I learned some valuable lessons.

    1. You cannot change who another person is.

    You should try to be a better person, a more loving person, a better communicator, a better lover. You should try to improve all of the things you can control, but some things are impossible to control, and you shouldn't try. Instead, think about what you want and what you need out of a relationship and figure out if the other person is willing or able to meet you there. And note that being willing != being able.

    2. Human beings can take a lot of damage.

    "They say" that moving is one of the most stressful things a person can do. And also divorce. Oh also losing your job. I experienced all of these things in rapid succession and it was very stressful, it completely sucked, but it also wasn't the end of me. After rolling with enough punches one becomes an expert at rolling. In for a penny, in for a pound. That mentality almost made it fun.

    3. A chance to start over is a gift.

    It's easy to fall into ruts, personally, professionally, etc. A runner or weight-lifter would call this "hitting a plateau." In my case it was feeling like a lizard. A sense of extreme inertia can make it hard to self-examine, much less achieve the volition necessary to break away from patterns of mediocrity. Having the rug pulled out from under your life conveniently forces these issues to the forefront; when forced to adapt or perish, there's really only one constructive path forward. A chance to start over is a gift from fate, whether you wanted it or believe in fate.

    In that spirit, I've revived this web site. It's been going in one form or another since 2004 or earlier and I want to keep it going. The old web server is still packed away (RIP); that thing was powerful but sucked down electricity like it was going out of style with its 140 watt TDP. I've put together a much faster server that sips power, and took the opportunity to upgrade the operating system, the Ansible deployment system for this site, and the node version for the code.

    I still have to figure out what's next for me, but I'm feeling optimistic about my future.

    Posted 2023-04-26 04:20:00 EST by henriquez. Comments
  2. How to not use Twitter API to backup & delete your profile

    Twitter is really dumb and everyone should delete their accounts. I wrote a different piece on why, so let's just accept that premise. OK, well deleting seems scary because many people have spent years posting on Twitter with tons of original content and photos and whatever. The idea of deleting all of that just to spite Twitter is pretty extreme. But Twitter doesn't own your data—you do! So take it back.

    In this post, I'm learning as I go with Twitter API and hope to accomplish the following:

    1. Get access to Twitter API fuck it
    2. Use Twitter API to download all my old tweets and photos just scrape it
    3. Delete all tweets from my Twitter account
    4. Bonus: put the content formerly known as tweets on my own web site

    So let's get started and see how this unfolds.

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    Posted 2021-06-12 04:20:00 EST by henriquez. Comments
  3. I got bored of being a lizard

    but I still like hanging out in the swamp.

    About a month ago I wistfully recounted my enviousness of the compost lizard and his life of sedentary corpulence. I resolved to be more lizard-like in my own ambitions and have since given it an honest try. However, upon reflection of my life as a lizard, I've realized that it's not a life for me.

    The lizard exists solely to consume, become obese, and to proliferate reptilianism upon the world around it. These Lizard Imperitives map precisely to the set of ambitions that define the lizard-life. There is no place in the mind of a lizard for ambitions of the human soul; art, empathy, the pursuit of knowledge, friendship: all of these are irrelevant to the lizard. The raison d'etre for a lizard is to be a lizard, nothing more, nothing less.

    I knew all of this going into my experiment and hypothesized that it would be therapeutic. Since many of my own soul ambitions are difficult to fulfill while my creative energy is monopolized by a career I eventually want to leave, I figured that switching to the mindset of a lizard would provide comfort and resolve as I push forward towards the next phase of my life, a new life that hopefully provides me more creative space to realize my true ambitions.

    But while I did find comfort in the lizard-life, I did not find resolve, for the Lizard Imperitives leave no room for resolution beyond satisfying the narrow requirements of the lizard. Latent ambitions have no place or relevance; they simply do not exist. Certainly no true lizard resolves to eventually not be a lizard anymore. Thus, to become one with the lizard it is necessary to fully abandon your humanity and be a lizard, nothing more, nothing less.

    I am now interested in the chain of neuroticisms that lead me down this path. My shame at being a sell-out, a corporate shill who abandoned his art for money, a prostitute, a hypocrite, a poser; I could make the pain go away by becoming a lizard! Except, even as a lizard I was still a poser, for I refused to fully commit to the Lizard Imperitives and abandon altogether the ambitions of my soul.

    So the experiment was interesting but it also failed. I do have some other experiments to try, but ta ta for now.

    Posted 2021-06-02 05:43:00 EST by henriquez. Comments
  4. One of these days I'm going to drop out.

    I said it last year, and the year before, and it's still actually true. One of these days I'm really going to drop out. I'll quit my job and focus on my art. I'll become a full time weirdo and stop being a poser; I'll stop being a hypocrite.

    I'm just making stupid money and it would be stupid to quit right now. One of these days my niche is going to collapse, like everything else. Time and time we're told again "it's not inflation—it's just that the stuff you want to buy is all coincidentally more expensive than ever due to [not inflation]"

    I remember first it was food, then it was rent. Back when I was freelancing, the pace of life was slowly increasing around me. All I could do was run to keep up, faster, desperately trying to avoid being chucked off the back of the runaway treadmill.

    Our dear leaders told us to suck it up. They declined to prosecute the architects of the Great Recession; instead our Department of Justice accepted billion-plus dollar settlements, aka bribes. As I ran, I watched my friends get chucked off the treadmill, never to recover. We were told they were just lazy, entitled millenials. I had to reinvent myself out of necessity (did I?)

    In any case, I'm not complaining. I'm happy that I did not crash and burn. Now I'm like my old pal the big fat lizard, sleeping in a compost pile and eating every bug and worm that comes my way. Sleeping and shitting and thinking lizard thoughts. But I still dream.

    Posted 2021-04-24 04:20:00 CST by henriquez. Comments
  5. We are not prisoners of groupthink.

    How I stopped worrying about "cancel culture" with this one weird tip.

    This is a response to the Gareth Roberts essay titled "We are all prisoners of groupthink".

    A common theme on the Internet is selection bias. We seek out content and interactions that fit our sensibilities, beliefs and emotional disposition. Social networks have exploited this tendency, drawing us into filter bubbles where we are algorithmically bombarded with content designed to maximize our "engagement" with no regard to damage done in terms of our psychological well-being or intellectual isolation. This makes us better consumers, but reinforces divisions between individuals and poisons any possibility of meaningful discourse, instead favoring shit-flinging competitions between so-called "keyboard warriors." This is well-documented, the social media companies are aware of it, and they don't care because division makes money.

    Our filter bubbles are designed to comfort and placate us while we're force-fed promoted content and offers and idealized imagery. Our collective ability to think critically has been siphoned away; anything that remotely challenges our beliefs is seen as a threat or an attack. Over time this has lead to the ridiculous notion that "words are violence," and from this, the rise of cancel culture, the First World pastime of mobbing, doxing, and socially destroying anyone who dares to voice an unpopular opinion or do something stupid. This cancel culture was born of social media. Sure, some might blame other factors like liberal arts education but really they're nothing new to society. But I'll tell you what changed.

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    Posted 2020-07-10 11:40:00 CST by henriquez. 1 comment