Rutabagas Vol. 3: The Softest Ware: Is

  1. What are probably appropriate attacks on assigning calamity to the hand-wavy concept of “human error”. Lorin strengthens his theory that human error probably doesn’t exist by considering complex, fault-tolerant systems like Amazon S3 incapable of receiving “human error” as apology or eulogy when there’s a hard drive failure.

  2. WHAT. Secret guerrilla human rights interventions by the artist collective GALA Committee on Melrose fucking Place.

For three years, as the denizens of the Melrose Place apartment complex loved, lost, and betrayed one another, the GALA Committee smuggled subversive leftist art onto the set, experimenting with the relationship between art, artist, and spectator. The collective hid its work in plain sight and operated in secrecy. Outside of a select few insiders, no one—including Aaron Spelling, Melrose’s legendary executive producer—knew what it was doing.

  1. There are widely acknowledged “hard things” in software development, but the pith used to describe them usually falls short or flat for me. But in less than 100 words jenniferplusplus achieves serious depth:

It’s a little bit shitposty, but it’s 100% true. People think cache invalidation is hard because it has no right answer, so it’s a question of iterating until you get a right-enough answer.

People think naming things is hard because it’s about communicating with each other.

People don’t even think about managing dependencies. It’s invisible. It’s about cooperating across time and organizations to do maintenance chores. It’s so hard and so unglamorous that people can’t even see it.

What’s important to observe here is (the appropriate, warranted, overlooked) framing of these software problems as social problems, not logical puzzles or struggles with language and framework semantics. Even cache invalidation, despite being a requirement in nearly any useful application that nearly every developer must address, escapes a general solution – meaning developers must continuously arrive at socially acceptable, technically sufficient solutions – but not total – as the seasons change and the desires of forces and actors in the system change. There is always more than one person at large in negotiating the solution, if even only a developer and a single someone using the software.

  1. jenniferplusplus again, but this time bringing Peter Naur’s lasting insights into the AI conversation: programming is theory building. Software developers are quickly discovering the usefulness of LLMs trained on code to assist in some of their more menial daily work – especially when working with common constructs (languages, frameworks) that are personally unfamiliar – but it’s hard to imagine LLMs replacing the core intellectual work which requires understanding: like the socially syrupy hardness they discuss in the above toot. Although we might imagine a generative computer program giving semi-useful suggestions for the complex|complicated|sophisticated|confusing real-world development scenarios if trained on the correct historical inputs for that milieu; and if you were stuck in a vacuum somewhere without recourse to more senior colleagues who possess similar tokens of guidance to steer you toward the right away to handle background jobs (without such an exhaustive cataloging as you’ll see ChatGPT 3.5 vomit below):

Handling background jobs is a common requirement in software development, especially in scenarios where certain tasks need to be executed asynchronously or in the background to avoid blocking the main application thread. There are various ways to handle background jobs, and the choice often depends on the specific requirements and the technology stack being used. Here are some common approaches:

Task Queues:

Message Queues: Use message queuing systems like RabbitMQ, Apache Kafka, or Redis to enqueue and dequeue tasks. Popular libraries for this approach include Celery (Python), Sidekiq (Ruby), and Resque (Ruby).
Job Queues: Platforms like AWS Simple Queue Service (SQS) or Google Cloud Tasks can be utilized to manage queues of tasks.
Asynchronous Programming:

Async/Await: In languages that support asynchronous programming (e.g., Python with asyncio, JavaScript with Node.js), you can use async/await to perform tasks concurrently without blocking the main thread.
Multithreading/Multiprocessing: Use threads or processes to run background tasks concurrently with the main application. Be cautious with shared resources and synchronization.
Background Job Processing Frameworks:

Delayed Job Processing: Libraries like Sidekiq, Delayed Job (Ruby), or Hangfire (.NET) allow you to schedule and execute background jobs at a specified time or after a certain delay.
Job Scheduler: Tools like cron (Unix/Linux) or Windows Task Scheduler (Windows) can be used to schedule recurring background jobs.
Serverless Computing:

Functions as a Service (FaaS): Platforms like AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, or Google Cloud Functions enable you to run individual functions in the cloud without managing the underlying infrastructure.
Database-backed Queues:

Database Queues: Store tasks in a database table and have worker processes periodically check for and process these tasks. This approach can use a library like Active Job (Ruby on Rails) or Hangfire (C#).
Container Orchestration:

Kubernetes: Container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes can be used to deploy and manage background job processing containers.
Job Management Services:

Job Management Platforms: Use specialized services like Jenkins, CircleCI, or GitLab CI/CD for scheduling and executing background jobs.
Webhooks and Event-Driven Architectures:

Event-Driven: Design your system as an event-driven architecture, where background tasks are triggered by events. Webhooks can be used to notify the system of events.
Choose the approach that aligns with your application's architecture, scalability requirements, and the specific nature of the background tasks you need to handle. Keep in mind factors such as reliability, scalability, and ease of maintenance when making your decision.

Quoting Nauru’s seminal vintage paper (1985, the year my brother was born):

The fundamental task of software development is not writing out the syntax that will execute a program. The task is to build a mental model of that complex system, make sense of it, and manage it over time.

  1. Another entry from tobi on the contempt culture of software engineers. (Where does this come from?)

So anyway this post is both a big “thank you” to the many nerds who are chill and easygoing and joyful, and an exhortation to others to free yourself of contemptuous, competitive attitudes, and re-embrace the intellectual curiosity that presumably once brought you into programming in the first place.

Rutabagas: Vol. 2: Japan transform , museums saving the web, c apitalism makes software bad again, and more

  1. Aaron Straup Cope’s talk notes for Wishful Thinking
postcard finnaire Sud Aviation Caravelle 1970s sfo museum


I read this post a few days ago and have since wandered through the hyperlinks to his other stuff. It’s clear that for some time Cope has been baking thoughts about the cultural heritage sector and its responsibility - “relationship” - to engage with emerging “virtualization” technologies and the techno-capitalist system.

(As I’m learning: he’s been committed to the web writ large, you can see it through numerous cyber- and hyper- textual projects playing freely in the “network of patient documents”; his own delightful euphemism. In these projects he goes deep for the web’s inherent nature of democratic, atemporal revisiting and recall." “That access to recall is what makes the Network special to me.” At first blush, these are not impossible conservationisms. As he says: “The point is not that our relationship with technology should end with the web.”

Reminds me of Avdi Grimm’s discussion of conservation:

“Healthy growth starts where it is, and both builds on and repurposes what came before. No clean slates, but also no bans on knocking down walls.”

Cope has chosen not to wave the white flag, and fends off the grievings, misgivings, and saudade of laments starting a decade ago.

We managed to build a lot of cool shit on the back of 56Kb modems. We built a lot of cool shit – including entire communities – on top of a technical infrastructure that is a pale shadow of what we have available to us today. We know how to do this.


Cope is saying: The (open) web is good, actually. Which is what Cory Doctorow picked up and so it found it’s way into my inbox.

In Cope’s newer account at hand from the 2023 Museum Computer Network conference, we get these thoughts reapplied to emerging virtualization technologies, VR, AR, particularly the “so called ‘metaverse’” (the name scare-quoted out of exasperation, maybe?). He wants to remind us that we’re not done with the web yet.

At the outset, Cope moves quickly to invoke a reminder about the museum’s networked power - it’s webiness; at the same time its implication in the network of patient documents:

…the practice of revisiting is the bedrock of the humanities. Revisiting is what distinguishes entertainment from culture.

The decade+-long struggle continues. We must understand how our bargains with techno-capital hegemony (apps, ad-driven social networks) deepens the threat against ideas (I’d add emotions, evolutions, revolutions) flourishing outside the corporate fence. What Cope describes as “time to warm up to ideas.”

I’m game. And Oh! The cultural heritage sector seems a perfect backdrop to wrestle with the threats of new tech. The material threats are lived: even pragmatically, the museum can not, may not, should not be able to afford the costs of bug-eye headsets and visors. The larger scheme is almost dialectic, smooth: the plunder and seizure of open-access-egress recall power while the cats keep entertaining my eyeballs. While Facebook’s controlled metering of power to content creators (colonial policemen) transforms cultural value from something that moves freely across past and future, geography; that’s cheap, abundant; that’s allowed to take root…organically (for lack of a better term): transforms into something judged too quickly, cast away, spent, ephemeral. (Remember, DIGITAL != EPHEMERAL). Prepping us for some greedy end, like recording everything we see because Cambridge Analytica and genocide, and… He says:

Namely that if you publish something online – whether it’s a selfie, a “hot take”, an essay or a multi-year project; anything really – and it is not immediately successful or viral then it was a waste of time and effort. It was not worth doing.

Which is insane. It is insane because that’s not how ideas take root.

It takes people time to warm up to ideas, especially new or challenging ideas, if only because we are busy just juggling the ideas and beliefs we already hold with the complexities of our lives in relation to one another.

It is also hard not to understand this idea as a deliberate of attempt to gaslight the web and everything that makes the web important.


We would do well to understand the web not just as a notch in the linear progression of technological advancement but, in historical terms, as an unexpected gift with the ability to change the order of things; a gift that merits being protected, preserved and promoted both internally and externally.

On time-traveling temporality, from back in…

The web gave us the ability to return to a thing outside the shared (or master) narrative at a time of one’s own choosing. Of shifting time in the service of one’s own interest or in the service of simply coming to an understanding of one’s own interests.

  1. Japan’s haiku poets lost for words as climate crisis disrupts seasons

  2. Ship/Show/Ask: More often than not web dev shops I’ve worked in are weighted toward the “Ask” strategy because of blanket policies. So even in cases where a team had reached a degree of trust that would allow for releasing with “Ship” or “Show” there were mechanical bulwarks in place. For example, physical restrictions to self-merge a Github Pull Request.

  3. It’s amazing what a small amount of imagination + green can do to the built world. In Japan, the Federation of Landscape Contractors holds a contest each year for best-looking garden on the back of a pickup truck. Some winners.

  4. Having worked tangentially to direct patient care in the health tech biz building industrial pharmacy software, these insights about how bad healthcare software can be resonate. Paper: You want my password or a dead patient?. Good summary with pull quotes from Fred Herbert from a short draft paper.

Rutabagas: Vol. 1: Careful with Octavia Butler, the Sex Forest Movement, Nat King Cole Sampler, and of course tech doomsayers

Originally posted as a micro website at Rutabagas are now sprouting here when the time is right. Volume 1 includes “found dates” – but later volumes will be less temporally registered (I think).

(Why “Rutabagas”? This was Zee’s fault when he extemporaneously blurted “Ross' Rutabagas” as a fake shop name to stand in for an example during a Zinc Coop ensemble sesh.)

  1. 10/06/23 - [r/Jazz] Nat King Cole Appreciation Post & [r/Jazz] Nat King Cole Piano Recordings

    When you need to deep dive into the influential piano playing of Nat King Cole that influenced greats like Oscar Peterson.

  2. 10/02/23 - Make the Golf Course a Public Sex Forest!: An excerpt by Anna Aguiar Kosicki

    <p>Discovered via Sophie Lewis’ <a href="">Patreon</a>.
    Book ordered!</p>
  3. 09/25/23 - Block the Bots that Feed “AI” Models by Scraping Your Website by Neil Clarke

  4. 09/25/23 - The Unreal Writer by Joanne McNeil

    Discovered via my mastodon feed, shared by Betsy Haibel:

    “This is happening with Octavia Butler in real time. Her daring and the moral complexity of her characters is swept away in recent assessments to create a coherent legacy—that of an earth mother tote bag caricature-icon. This is reading authors as flap copy, accessing the top layer of the writing, and refusing to convene with the messy human elements in the work. What are their books—any books—even for, other than for us to approach as humans, wandering around with their words and experience the extraordinary workings of another human’s mind?

    The snobbery against science fiction in the past and today’s cartoon icons of some of its weirdest authors comes from the same root: an establishment that doesn’t know how to read or appreciate it. The establishment needs the work digestible as buzzy fragments. The feral elements in what are now science fiction classics—the originality and experimentation—isn’t legible to them; which means even the most famous authors, when you encounter the work on your own, are likely to surprise you. Their mysteries as authors remain mysteries and to a more generous reader—that mystery is exactly what hooks you.”

  5. 09/24/23 - Apple fucked us on right to repair (again): “Parts-pairing” is a scam by Cory Doctorow

  6. 09/24/23 - 🎧 Bizarre and Dangerous Utopian Ideology Has Quietly Taken Hold of Tech World by Kelly Hayes