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2020: Project Review

To view other 2020 review posts, visit the main post here.


Outside of work, I had several projects this year. Frankly, I didn’t have a lot of success. Though I am glad to have been able to work from home easily this year, the workload and stress were extreme this year, even in an industry that is already know for high rates of burnout, suicide, and addiction (that industry being cybersecurity). This will be my most personal post in the series, with the rest being more focused on external reviews, and more personal examens not going on the blog at all.

Here’s how different efforts turned out (or didn’t):

Resilient

Resilient (here) is a project through my consulting LLC (Open & Secure) to share helpful & meaningful insights into various realms of resilience: “security, society, sustainability, and self.”

I originally thought the main output would be podcast episodes, as several people had asked me to do a podcast. I found it difficult to get through writing, recording, re-recording, editing, etc. in a timely manner. While I am very comfortable with casual conversations, presenting to key or large audiences, and writing effectively…it feels like podcasting combines these communication styles in a way that undermines what makes me comfortable with any of those styles. In conversations and presentations, you can read your audience, adjust, and respond. You also have the grace of it being a “work in progress” and conversational. Yet podcasts go into the world more like the written word: something recorded as-is, lacking the interaction with the audience. Thus, it feels like it needs the more careful planning and precision of the written word…but is still expected to have the conversational tone. Thus, the amount of work it went into making even (admittedly amateur) episodes.

So, I wrote more instead of recording more. I shared about some security tools. I wrote a few posts about COVID very early in the pandemic. I reviewed a couple relevant books. I started a Resilient book collection. I wrote about watersheds and the importance of thinking about our local ecologies. I made my Roam Research graph (notes) from OWASP and CSO50 conferences available to my full subscribers (all of which are comped, except for one person who was comped and made a subscription anyway!). Even with the conferences, I was able to attend far fewer sessions than I would like, due to work overtaking even my vacation time.

I host Resilient on a newsletter platform (one which allows for using RSS for the feed instead of email, and also supports the podcast episodes and forum/conversation posts). Like podcasts before, I’m concerned about the state of newsletters, with there being too many of low quality, too many not worth people’s time, and the impact on the medium as a whole.

I’m not looking to make big money on the Resilient. The primary reason it has a subscriber model at all was to keep some of the content opt-in and not available to the whole web (see concerns around podcasting, above). When I set the rate for subscription, I chose the cheapest option the provider allowed, and then added a discount on top of that via the payment provider. I offer a comped subscription to people that I know who sign up, and to anyone else who asks.

But I do think about the audience, the reach, and how often and how well I am delivering value to the audience. I’ve not posted enough this year, and not done as much analysis as I would have liked. I keep wondering if I should kill the project and move the items into my general blog.

Yet I also know there are folks specifically wanting or asking for the kind of material that Resilient provides, and it is the common theme of expertise in my life. So for now, it stays, and I look for ways to make it better as hopefully the stress and workload gets better in 2021. I welcome your feedback!

Northern Fires

I started the Northern Fires (Guernica) reading and writing project in May. One of the most interesting bands to me these days, Silent Planet, has a lyricist who includes many intelligent references in each song, and includes those in the liner notes (and YouTube video notes) for each song.

The idea of the project is to do a read through and discussion of those works for one of the songs: Northern Fires (Guernica). I haven’t found people that are interested in joining up, yet, so I’ve spent less time on this than on other reading.

It’s a shame I deprioritized this, because there are many lessons from the Spanish Civil War that are incredibly relevant to the world, today. I’m going to pick up reading and writing for this project more in 2021, even if others aren’t reading the works along with me. Maybe some will glean points from my commentary or be inspired to read along with some of the works.

40 for 40

I turned 40 this year, and expected to have a nice vacation and get a start on a project where I would dole out 40 bits of experience. The vacation never happened (for obvious reasons) and between that, stress, and concerns about hubris, I abandoned this project. Much of what I’d started collecting will probably make it into the next project…

DearKiddos

DearKiddos was something I started doing to process my lessons-learned and offer them to the next generation. For nieces, nephews, friends of kids, and youth at church.

This one was well-received by several folks, and I plan to periodically do more. I have many topics queued up to write, and will plan to get more out over the next year. I am purposefully avoiding writing too many too fast, so that I don’t get burnt out on the project.

Inktober

I had some vacation in October this year and thought it would be a good way to join this tradition. I made a few entries and catch-up entries which were frankly pretty bad…but I knew that going in. Though I wasn’t consistent and didn’t finish, I learned a lot (both about the drawing and the photography!) through the process. I’m not sure if I’ll do it in 2021, or not.

Home Office

My spouse and I used to have one room that was storage and a shared office. Since both of us are working from home full time now (and for a while still to come, it looks like), we converted that room to her office and the guest room to my office.

I’m happy with how my office is turning out, making it serene and suitable for focus. I installed two shelving units (including this one). I have one more item I’m still trying to get from Ikea, and I hope to get a reading chair when it seems safe to go shopping for those, again, but otherwise it’s been very good. I have a south-facing view, which means I get some nice views of the outdoors and sunlight.

Wet & Wild

(OK, this title is a joke. I wasn’t sure what to call this.)

I’ve been looking for acreage within an hour and a half our our home. Something with at least a few acres (hopefully 10 or more) and some water (like a pond, or lake or creek access). I’d like to have a place to camp and eventually build a cabin/cottage to our unique specifications. I want to preserve some of our ecology and plant some trees, maybe even re-wilding a space, depending on it’s current state. I also see it as an investment when a lot of investments are problematic, these days.

I’ve found a few things that sorta work with our criteria (including one I need to investigate further), but nothing yet that has made us move on a purchase. I’ll keep my eyes open still in 2021, and am open to leads!

I’ve also been getting prepped to go camping more, which I miss quite a bit. I got my Biolite stoves tuned back up, am preparing to remediate my dad’s old cooler (it has a crack in the internal lid), replaced our old tent, and got a cold weather sleeping bag.


What projects have you had this year? How did they go?

A song for Columbus Day 🎶

(which should actually be Indigenous Peoples’ day)

🎶: Silent Planet - Native Blood

The barren wastes, bearing down on me.1 Cracks in the clouds leave me wondering: Did the oceans dry out and return to the sky, for a privileged perspective of our final goodbye?

Pretend it’s a house of peace while she’s buried underneath. You built your Father’s house over my mother’s grave.2

Bodies - a mass grave collapse the concave floor. These sanctimonious steeples will meet us in the dirt. Because the earth is trembling,3 if only we had eyes to see it shake. Ignorant until we expire.

When the ocean fills our veins and the soil becomes my bones:4 Maybe we’ll fall asleep tonight to the madness in the melody poured out for slaves.

We were dressed in potential now we’re draped in sorrow.

Our race is a bloodstain spattered on a profane political campaign - manifest your destiny. Stripes and stars comprise my prison bars - the cost of liberty.5

Maybe we’ll fall asleep tonight to the madness in the melody poured out for slaves. Maybe this storm is a perfect score for wretched bodies washed ashore, poured out for me.6

The life I loved looking up at me: saplings struck like daggers hemorrhaging streams as the breath of my people return to the ground7 so forests can once more abound.

The suffering cross that overcame,8 the name of Love made concurrent with shame.

This melody - I thought it familiar it sounds like your heartbeat keeping time,9 then you turn and remind me that this pain has a purpose. And maybe we’ll fall asleep tonight.

Brought to you by the same band I’m covering in #Northern Fires


  1. South Dakota badlands [return]
  2. Indian Removal Act of 1830 [return]
  3. Proverbs 30:21 [return]
  4. Inspired by a quote attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe [return]
  5. The Dawes Act of 1887 [return]
  6. Matthew 5:45 [return]
  7. Psalm 146:4 [return]
  8. Christus Victor [return]
  9. *irregular - JLW [return]

Reading histories of the Spanish Civil War for #NorthernFires and the parallels to the reactionary scaremongering movements in the USA keep adding up. Example:

“Despite the moderate basis of the new cabinet, the right reacted as if the bolsheviks had taken over the government.”

Another repeated theme from Battle for Spain: people tend to simplify conflict to just about left/right, but the conflicts were on other axes as well: up/down (authoritarian/libertarian) and centralist/decentralist. #NorthernFires

I’m reading Battle for Spain as part of #NorthernFires and what is old is new, again. I’m not far in and so much of history is repeating itself.

Syllabus #NorthernFires

I’ve started a series where we’ll be examining the lyrics and source material for Silent Planet’s Northern Fires (Guernica). (See the Series Introduction if you missed it.)

Today, I want to share all the lyrics and annotations from the song, as well as links to which versions I’ll be using for the references. You won’t have to read everything I will be, but you may find you want to read some. Most of the referenced works are pretty heady, but they do include some great fiction, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Altered Carbon, 1984, and Margaret Atwood’s the Robber Bride. Hopefully you’ll want to join along with one or more of the works. But if you just want to read and comment on the posts, that’s fine, too!

The Lyrics

Ration my breath - terror clandestine in my chest. Mangled, I lay on a foreign forest floor. [1] Caught in an instant, divided by distance. Alone in the fray, clutching my trigger I pray as I make amends with death on a distant shore. [2]

Such is the fate of the nation state [3] despite the myths they propagate. [4] The narrative never fits the crime. Democracy’s died this death a thousand times. The masses kneel before the golden cross - held by the priest [5] who bows at the feet of the king. [6] We stand alone in the dust of what could be, fighting to find our humanity.

Bury me with my name in an unmarked grave - another casualty to the vanity of history. [7] The war marches on after the killing ends. [8] Take our lives: Colonize our minds. [9]

I’ve been digging through timelines, historical bylines; I find the fatal flaw in our design lies between thoughts we had and words we knew [10] - between what we’re told and what is true. [11] Who fuels the fascist? [12] A classist - inculcating the masses in passes… under the contrived countenance of contrition. [13]

The victor writes the story [14] - more often burns the manuscript. Set fire to a pyre, cremate the crimes that they commit. [15] But the flames kept us warm, so we bit our tongues and tasted scorn.

The bitter stench of finite men betrayed by the thieves they swore to pretend. The bell will toll [16] and in the end lay only echoes of what could have been. [17]

We stand alone in the dust of what could be, fighting to find our humanity. We stand alone in the dust of what could be; nothing we fought for will set us free. [18]

Throw myself, headlong, to the jaws of the beast: [19] The war machine that feeds for eternity. Throw myself, headlong, to the jaws of the beast: The war machine that turns for eternity. Throw myself, headlong, to the jaws of the beast: The war machine that feeds for eternity. Throw myself, headlong, to the jaws of the beast: The war machine that turns for eternity.

The References

Disclaimer: some of the links above are affiliate links through IndieBound. You can also find the collected books on Bookshop here

#NorthernFires

Altered Carbon the novel that inspired the Netflix Series is on sale for 3 bucks today.

This is one of the books referenced in Silent Planet’s Northern Fires, so feel free to grab it if you are following along in that blog series.

#NorthernFires

Introduction #NorthernFires

Ration my breath - terror clandestine in my chest

These are the opening words in Silent Planet’s - Northern Fires (Guernica), from the album When the End Began.

And thus begins a series where we’ll examine the lyrics and read through the annotations for this song.

“Wait, a song has annotations?” Yes! Silent Planet produces footnotes for their lyrics, citing influences and quotes. Northern Fires has 19! (You can read more about them in the syllabus post.)

To follow along on this journey, you can add the feed to your reader, or visit the posts page to catch all the entries. The video of the song (with lyrics and footnotes) is available here.

#NorthernFires