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Northern Arizona

Last week we had a wonderful trip through Northern Arizona.

Itinerary: starting in Phoenix going Northeast through Tonto National Forest towards Winslow. In Tonto, we met our first surprise, which would become a recurring pattern: whereas we expected Arizona in April to be hot, and we were prepared for hot, it had some really cold spells, and we were not prepared for cold. We started in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by cacti and sun, but one and a half hours later in Tonto, we were driving through a veritable snow storm, but fortunately, just as it was getting worrisome, we crossed the ridge and started descending towards Winslow to the North.

The Colorado Plateau on the other side of the ridge was then pleasant and warm, and the next days we traveled through and visited the Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and more.

After that we headed for the Grand Canyon, but temperatures dropped so low, and we didn't have the right outfit for that, we stayed less than a day there, most of it huddled in the hotel room. Still, the views we got were just amazing, and throwing snowballs was an unexpected fun exercise.

Our last stop took us to Sedona, where we were again welcomed with amazing views. The rocks and formations all had in common that they dramatically changed with the movement of the sun, or with us moving around, and the views were always fresh.

Numbers: Our trip took us about 950 miles / 1500 kilometeres of driving, and I was happy that it was a good Jeep for this trip. The difference in altitude went from 1000 feet / 330 meters in Phoenix up to 8000 feet / 2400 meters driving through Coconino. Temperatures ranged from 86° F / 30° C to 20° F / -7° C.

What I learned again is how big this country is. And how beautiful.

Surprises: One thing that surprised me was how hidden the Canyons can be. Well, you can't hide Grand Canyon, but it is easy to pass by Antelope Canyon and not realizing it is there. Because it is just a cut in the plateau.

I also was surprised about how flat and wide the land is. I have mostly lived in areas where you had mountains or at least hills nearby, but the Colorado Plateau has large wide swaths of flat land. "Once the land was as plane as a pancake".

I mentioned the biggest surprise already, which was how cold it got.

Towns: it was astonishing to see the difference between, on the one side, a town such as Page or Sedona and on the other side Winslow. All three have a similar population, but Page and Sedona felt vigorous, lively, clean, whereas Winslow felt as if it was on the decline, deserted, struggling.

The hotel we stayed in in Winslow, La Posada, was a beautiful, weird, unique jewel that I hesitate to flat-out recommend, it is too unusual for that, but that I still enjoyed experiencing. It is clearly very different from any other hotel I ever stayed in, full of history, and embracing themes of both suicide and hope, respectfully trying to grow with the native population, and aiming to revive the city's old town, and it is difficult to really capture the vibe it was sending out.

For pictures, I am afraid I am pointing to my Facebook posts, which should be visible without login:

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Crossing eight time zone borders in three hours

Hopi Nation is an enclave within Navajo Nation. Navajo Nation is located across three US states, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Arizona does not observe daylight saving time. Navajo Nation observes daylight saving time. Hopi Nation does not observe daylight saving time. You can drive three hours in that area and cross timezones eight times.

All of the individual decisions make totally sense:

Arizona does not adhere to daylight saving time because any measure that makes sure Arizona residents get more sunshine is worse than bringing coals to Newcastle, as the saying goes. They are smart to not use daylight saving time.

Navajo Nation uses daylight saving time because they want to have the same timezone for their whole area, and they are also in two other states, Utah and New Mexico, which both have daylight saving time, so they decided to do so too, which makes totally sense.

And Hopi Nation, even though it is enclosed by the Navajo Nation, lies entirely within the state of Arizona, so it makes sense for them to follow *that* state.

All the individual decisions make sense, but the outcome must be rather inconvenient and potentially confusing for the people living there.

(Bonus:the solution for these seem obvious to me. Utah and New Mexico and many other southern US states should just get rid of daylight saving time, just as Arizona did, and Navajo Nation should follow suit. But that's just my opinion.)

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New home in Emeryville

Our new (temporary home) is the City of Emeryville. Emeryville has a population of almost 13,000 people. The apartment complex we live in has about 400 units, and I estimate that they have about 2 people on average in each. Assuming that about 90% of the apartments are occupied, this single apartment complex would constitute between 5 and 10% of the population of the whole city.

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A conspiracy to kill a browser

Great story about how YouTube helped with moving away from IE6.

"Our most renegade web developer, an otherwise soft-spoken Croatian guy, insisted on checking in the code under his name, as a badge of personal honor, and the rest of us leveraged our OldTuber status to approve the code review."

I swear that wasn't me. Although I would have loved to do it.

(first published on Facebook March 12, 2024)

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35th birthday of the Web

Celebrating the 35th birthday of the World Wide Web, a letter by its founder, Tim Berners-Lee.

Discussing some of the issues of the Web of today: too much centralization, too much exploitation, too much disinformation, all made even more dire by the development of AI.

What to do? Some of the solution the letter mentions are Mastodon, a decentralized social network, and Solid, a Web-standards-based data governance solution, but it recognizes that more is needed, "to back the morally courageous leadership that is rising, collectivise their solutions, and to overturn the online world being dictated by profit to one that is dictated by the needs of humanity." I agree with that, but find it a bit vague.

I first was terribly annoyed that the letter was published on Medium, as this is a symptom of the centralization of the Web. I say, completely conscious that I am discussing it on Facebook. Obviously, both of this should be happening on our own domains, and it also does: I link not to Medium, but to the Web Foundation site, and I also have this posted on my own site and on my Mastodon account. So, it is there, on the real Web, not just on the closed walled gardens of Facebook and on one of the megasites such as Medium. But there is no indication of engagement on the Web Foundation's post, whereas the Medium article records more than 10,000 reactions, and my Facebook post will also show more reactions than my Website (but the Mastodon page could be competitive with Facebook for me).

I want to believe that Solid is the next important step, but Leigh Dodds's recent post on Solid, and particularly the discussion in the post, didn't inspire hope.

Simia

Gödel on language

"The more I think about language, the more it amazes me that people ever understand each other at all." - Kurt Gödel
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Rainbows end

Rainbows end.

The book, written in 2006, was set in 2025 in San Diego. Its author, Vernor Vinge, died yesterday, March 20, 2024, in nearby La Jolla, at the age of 79. He is probably best known for popularizing the concept of the Technological Singularity, but I found many other of his ideas far more fascinating.

Rainbows end explores themes such as shared realities, digital surveillance, and the digitisation of the world, years before Marc Andreessen proclaimed that "software is eating the word", describing it much more colorfully and rich than Andreessen ever did.

His other work that I enjoyed is True Names, discussing anonymity and pseudonymity on the Web. A version of the book was published with essays by Marvin Minsky, Danny Hillis, and others. who were inspired by True Names.

His Science Fiction was in a rare genre, which I love to read more about: mostly non-dystopian, in the nearby future, hard sci-fi, and yet, imaginative, exploring novel technologies and their implications on individuals and society.

Rainbows end.

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From vexing uncertainty to intellectual humility

A philosopher with schizophrenia wrote a harrowing account of how he experiences schizophrenia. And I wonder if some of the lessons are true for everyone, and what that means for society.

"It’s definite belief, not certainty, that allows me to get along. It’s not that certainty, or something like it, never matters. If you are fixing dinner for me I’ll try to be clear about the eggplant allergy [...] But most of the time, just having a definite, if unconfirmed and possibly false, belief about the situation is fine. It allows one to get along.
"I think of this attitude as a kind of “intellectual humility” because although I do care about truth—and as a consequence of caring about truth, I do form beliefs about what is true—I no longer agonize about whether my judgments are wrong. For me, living relatively free from debilitating anxiety is incompatible with relentless pursuit of truth. Instead, I need clear beliefs and a willingness to change them when circumstances and evidence demand, without worrying about, or getting upset about, being wrong. This attitude has made life better and has made the “near-collapses” much rarer."

(first published on Facebook March 13, 2024)


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Feeding the cat

Every morning, I lovingly and carefully scoop out every single morsel of meat from the tin of wet food for our cat. And then he eats a tenth of it.

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Dolly Parton's What's up?

Dolly Parton is an amazing person. On "Rockstar", her latest album, she covered a great number of songs, with amazing collaborators, often the original interpreters or writers. In her cover of "What's up?", a song I really love, with Linda Perry, she changed a few lines of the lyrics, as one often does when covering, to make a song their own.

Instead of "Twenty-five years and my life is still...", she's singing "All of these years and my life is still..." - and makes total sense, because unlike Linda Perry she wasn't 25 when she wrote it, she was 77 when she recorded it.

Instead of "I take a deep breath and I get real high", Dolly takes "a deep breath and wonders why", and it makes sense, because, hey, it's Dolly Parton.

But here's the line that hurts, right there when the song reaches its high point:

"And I pray,
Oh my God do I pray!
I pray every. single. day.
for a revolution!"

She changed one letter in the last word:

"for a resolution"

And it just breaks my heart. Because it feels so weak. Because it seems to betray the song. Because it seems to betray everything. And also because I might agree with her, and that feels like betrayal too.


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