Lady Goosepelt

St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Category: The Present

The Longest Limp

I’m not disabled, just a terrible person. I’ve been called manic. Someone told me I’m “a prism through which light is refracted.” And I’ve had a complaint filed against me by a coworker who thought I was experimenting on him with a ray gun secreted between my legs. But I’m not disabled — I feel like that’s an important piece of information before we start.

Years ago, when I turned 21, my friend got me a walking stick with a bicycle bell attached so I could signal to pedestrians and other meaningless blockages that I was coming through. I loved it. But, like most of my things, the walking stick has spent the last ten years in my parents’ house in Sydney. Somehow it managed to survive the living carpet of mold that ate the family photos and the rust that turned the inside of my vintage computers into a moist, crystalline forest. But my parents are tired of housing what’s left and keep dropping hints they want it gone. My mother sent me a photo of herself next to a big, gasoline-soaked pile of my childhood treasures, one hand holding a martini and the other poised to flick a lit cigarette onto the pyre.

On my most recent visit I decided to cram as much as possible into my luggage to bring it back before my stuff went the way of Saint Joan. I wound up with two full suitcases toeing the airline’s weight limit, but I didn’t mind if one went over — even the excess baggage fees are cheaper than paying to send heavy boxes by airmail. Once, bamboozled by the shipping costs, I asked USPS if I could send something by seamail instead. There is an episode of The Simpsons in which Mr. Burns attempts to send a telegram to the Prussian embassy in Siam. The look the clerk gave him was the same one the postal worker gave me. Apparently seamail hasn’t been a thing for years.

That’s why I was determined to fit everything into my bags, which left only one problem — the walking stick. It wouldn’t fit in my luggage and it would cost hundreds of dollars to check in an extra bag. So I looked up the regulations and it turned out I could bring any amount of “Mobility Equipment” I needed. All I had to do was limp a little and I could carry it onto the plane for free.

So limp!” my dad told me. “You know how to limp, don’t you?”

So I limped and hobbled into the terminal dragging my heavy bags behind me. As I approached the check-in counters I realized I was passing more and more people in wheelchairs. And tracksuits in the Australian colors. Right after the Rio Olympics. And then it hit me — it was the Australian Paralympic team. I had just faked being disabled in front of the world’s best disabled athletes. I could not have felt worse — at least, not until the stewardess ushered me into the priority boarding queue. And seated me next to the only empty seat on the plane to give me some extra room. Because once I’d started I couldn’t stop. If I stopped limping now they’d think I had deliberately tried to get special treatment. I was trapped in my own unspoken lie for the next fifteen hours of the flight to San Francisco. And while waiting at the baggage claim. And in the taxi home. Because once people have seen you limping with a cane, God help you if you suddenly stop.

Mate!” Dad chortled when I told him over Skype. “You’re a genius. I should try that next time.”

But I know my walking stick is going to stay at home, at least until I actually need it. I can’t take it outside now — I never want to go through that again. The only problem is that, by coincidence, another friend also bought me a cane for my 21st — the kind with a silver knob at the top for beating up tramps and castigating beggars. And it’s still in Sydney. And I have no idea how I’m going to bring it back.


The Web is a Shot Bird

Mozilla caused a kerfuffle on the weekend by deliberately pushing an add-on to a lot of people’s Firefox installations. This add-on, called Looking Glass and accompanied by the ominous text “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS”, turned out to be a promotional tie-in with the TV show Mr. Robot. Like a lot of Firefox users tired of Mozilla’s fuckery, I’ve been nosing around for alternative browsers — but the state of the browser ecosystem is shockingly poor. A large number of alternate browsers out there are forked or patched versions of Chromium and Firefox, and the ones that aren’t are painfully underpowered.

What’s the reason for such low genetic diversity in the browser world? It’s because creating a Web browser is hard. The Web isn’t the Web it used to be — you can’t just slap together something that renders basic HTML and CSS and call it a Web browser. You now need something that can handle CSS animations, form validation, HTML5 canvas elements, secure encryption, digital rights management, FIDO U2F, and enough audio and video support to replace your default media player. On top of all that let’s not forget a JavaScript engine that doesn’t chug along like Steamboat Willie. Google and Mozilla spend a lot of time and money making JavaScript fly in their browsers, so good luck with that. So when aspiring young Jane or Jimmy says that someday they want to build their own browser, they’ve set themselves a practically impossible task. Just fork Chromium or Firefox instead and have 90% of the work done for you out of the box.

Why don’t I just shut up and make do with a truly independent browser, one that’s not based on Chromium or Firefox? Aside from being chronically underpowered and lacking features (just you try watching Netflix using qutebrowser or Midori; go on, I’ll wait), those independent browsers won’t support Chrome or Firefox extensions. I would never browse the Web now without at least an ad-blocker. My minimum suite of add-ons consists of uBlock Origin (ad blocker), HTTPS Everywhere (security), and Privacy Badger (privacy). I would no longer consider browsing the Web without these or equivalent add-ons because the Web has become an ad-infested, unsecure, privacy-invading stew. It’s like acid rain in all those old sci-fi stories where kids have to go to school wearing armor-plated raincoats. We’re all wearing the armor-plated raincoats now, and anyone browsing the Web without one is asking for trouble.

So this is the state of affairs: we have a Web that no-one can browse and no-one can build a browser for. It’s a shot bird, in my opinion, and probably beyond saving. Which hurts to say — I grew up online and spent a lot of very happy days making friends there and discoving the enormous quantity of stuff that was available to me for the first time (obscure music, digitized books, census records). But when was the last time you visited someone’s website? You don’t any more — you visit their Tumblr or their Twitter or their Facebook. When was the last time you downloaded an MP3 and discovered a new band you liked? You don’t — you let Spotify or Pandora make recommendations and stream them to you. The Web has been turned into an app delivery service and your browser has been turned into an app execution platform, all for the sake of companies that are harvesting users as their product. The Web has strangled itself out of all diversity and innovation. I’m not saying there aren’t still great things on the Web or that we should go back to 1997, but things can’t and won’t continue like this indefinitely. Something has to change. Until then, I dunno… browse Gopherspace or read a book. Ned Beauman’s got a new one out called Madness Is Better Than Defeat. Seems apt.


Stone Wildlife of San Francisco

I SEE YOU THERE.
I SEE YOU THERE. An owl at Poindexter Apartments.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.

While San Francisco does get visits from the odd mountain lion (the very odd mountain lion), most of the animals you’ll see outside in our beautiful city are made of stone. They’re frequently located on the sides of buildings just above the ground floor where they can perch, quite happily, and glare at people as they walk past. Judging. Criticizing. SCREW YOU, OWL, YOU DON’T KNOW ME.

I took a little expedition around the Tender Nob area with my new-ish 135mm lens and went hunting for some local fauna. The results are sometimes not as perfectly focused as I’d like, but apparently focus is a hit-and-miss thing when you stop down a 135mm lens on a rangefinder camera. Still, others came out perfectly, so there.

A horse-shaped hitching post.
A horse-shaped hitching post.
Leica M3, Lomography Early Grey 100.
An owl perched outside the Owl Tree.
An owl perched outside the Owl Tree.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.
A lion. Rawr.
A lion. Rawr.
Leica M3, Lomography Early Grey 100.
More lions. You can't move in this bloody city for lions.
More lions. You can’t move in this bloody city for lions.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.
STRENGTH OF AN EAGLE.
STRENGTH OF AN EAGLE.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.
More eagles on the Bank of America clock.
More eagles on the Bank of America clock.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.
A seal.
A seal.
Leica M3, Lomography Early Grey 100.
Another angle of the Poindexter owl.
Another angle of the Poindexter owl.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.
I'm gonna chuck the statue of Victory from Union Square in there too, because sea-horses. I'm guessing it was a naval victory.
I’m gonna chuck the statue of Victory from Union Square in there too, because sea-horses. I’m guessing it was a naval victory.
Leica M3, Kodak Ultramax 400.
Not strictly an animal, but DERP.
Not strictly an animal, but DERP.
Leica M3, Lomography Early Grey 100.

Certainly never send me any email here: gerald@fuzzjunket.com.