Vikshepa Blog

Mental Distractions

26 Mar 2023

Keep software simple


In the early 2000s when I began to use Linux, a lot of things seemed a bit experimental and iffy. I would install and reinstall distros and software. Nowadays I feel that it is generally more stable, and there are long periods when everything works just as it should.

But occasionally things still go wrong. After installing a new version of Darktable photo editing software in a flatpak, the application started to crash. The problem was with the database - I hate databases; they so often seem to be a source of problems. I've now gone back to an earlier version of Darktable and hope that it will be quiet.

In between, I learned a bit about another photo editing program, Lightzone, which seems to be simpler and doesn't have a database - a plus, from my point of view. But still something wasn't right - there's always a learning curve.

I think a better solution to these matters could be not to require elaborate photo editing software at all - my new old Fujifilm X10 is capable of producing good results that do not need editing - other than cropping and rescaling - which I can do adequately and easily in XnView.

I have been having other software issues as well, with both the fediverse servers I use. Epicyon didn't work for a couple of days, and now the site won't open again. Hubzilla has suddenly stopped allowing me to add photos to albums that I create - probably a file authorization problem that has come since upgrading to a new version.

I think the solutions to these problems are probably not too difficult - but they will take time to identify, and I ask myself whether this is something I want to continue dealing with. My blogging software is so much more simple and trouble-free. "Simple and trouble-free" is irresistably attractive. Social media software is better for repeating or linking to posts and images that have already been published in my blog, while following others who have interesting posts. I'm not sure that I really need to run a server at all for that.

Figure 1: Seen on the internet

My current blogging software is a simple Lisp program created in and employing emacs. The photo gallery software is another small php program that doesn't depend on a database. I didn't create either of these programs, but the possibilities for something to go wrong are slight, and the system is fairly secure, since anyway the whole caboodle is uploaded from local files. Still something went wrong the other day, after a Chromium update. The blog began to use a wrong font. I solved the error by changing the font's file-name from a *.woff to a *.woff2, if I remember rightly. That wasn't too painful.

Tags: software
24 Mar 2023

Back from America


Back from the US to the turmoil of this Jewish-Israeli intifada, which is only getting worse. With this people and government it's like the cliché about when an irresistable force meets an immovable object. So far neither are giving way though the government is showing more signs of stress than the people on the streets are showing signs of despair.

I'm jetlagged - should be asleep now. Besides the change in time zones, there have been two daylight saving time switches: first in the US and now here.

I went for a walk with my new old camera on Thursday to learn more about it. I've posted a few photos. Spring is about at its peak here now and the greenery is lush, with more rain predicted for the weekend.

Tags: actualia photography
18 Mar 2023


I am in the US for the last ten days. I came over because my brother was in hospital. He drove himself there just in time, in the middle of a heart attack; collapsing on the hospital floor. They gave him CPR and snapped him back, and, in the following days performed catheterization and angioplasty. However, he suffered another three cardiac arrests afterwards at the hospital, where he also needed CPR. I arrived just before they installed a device called an Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which is considered necessary in order resolve a problem known as arrhthmia, where the heart is not able to maintain its normal rhythms.

After this last operation, he has been all right. He was released a few days later with mainly bruises to show following the various procedures they administered. They sent him home with about 16 medicines, some of which he is supposed to take temporarily for a few days afterwards. He must change lifestyle habits that contributed to his medical emergency. The question, as always, is whether he will succeed.

In the early few days of my stay I stayed at a motel, then at an Air B&B within walking distance of the hospital. Afterwards I came to stay with my brother at his one bedroom basement apartment. We've been having long conversations. I think that a person that came so close to death but survived must have a reason to go on living. To place this in a spiritual frame, if someone almost died but has returned, there must be further karma that they need to work out in this life. My suggestion to him is that he will try to discover what more he needs, or desires, to further accomplish.

His life-long interest has been photography, and he has given me an old camera, which I have been trying to study, with the help of YouTube and other sources. It's a Fujifilm X10.


Anyway, he assures me that this is the kind of camera that I have been looking for. Despite being released several years ago, it still gets excellent reviews. People recommend it for the type of photos I like to take: nature, travel, streets, self-documentation. It's small and tough enough to take anywhere, which is basically what I want - so I'm hopeful and eager to get out with it. The camera I've been using, a Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS45, developed a problem of dust within the lens or sensor, which leaves artifacts on the photos. Fixing it will be expensive, so there is a question of whether it's worthwhile. But I never really liked the results that that camera gave me. I like mainly its size and tiltable screen. Anyway, I'm glad I'm not buying another new camera, fresh from some factory in China.

Early experiments

fan old camera

A few others from today are in the photoblog.

Tags: cameras, life
14 Mar 2023

Saving our sources of inspiration

Spirituality is an important human impetus. It provides meaning to our lives and helps us to see beyond the horizon of our known world. Without it, existence would be flat and two-dimensional. With spirituality, we regain a sense of wonder at a universe that seems to transcend our finite understanding and diminished view.

Unfortunately, everywhere we look, religion, which often serves as the vehicle for spirituality, appears to be polluted. Churches with dangerous, predatory bishops. Corrupt or violent ayatollas. Murderous hindutwa extremists. Rabbis with hands soaked in blood. Buddhist monks urging genocide; avaricious gurus, vile gun-toting adherents of every creed. Whereever you look, among established faiths and new ones, our sources of inspiration are sullied by these associations. Even putting aside all the extremists, most of our religions are infected with a patriarchal world-view, homophobia and archaic values that need to be left in the trash can of history.

The urge is to shrug off all religion, to throw the baby out with the bath water. If we wish to take the time and the energy, we can do so. We can work through the core material with which religion and spirituality deal and chalk out a way for ourselves. We can ask the right questions, and maybe find solutions that we can live by - perhaps drawing these from an eclectic mix of the world's spiritual teachings or divining new ones.

However, if we don't have the time, the wisdom, the capacity or the inclination to follow that lonely route, we may need to adopt a religion or a spiritual guide, and not allow the the obvious and super-abundant pollution to touch the sources of our inspiration: to protect the weak candle of our belief from the foul wind; to let the beauty of a faintly heard bhajan wash our soul; or let the adhan wake us, for "prayer is better than sleep".

Tags: spiritual life
15 Feb 2023

Diary: software, blogging, estrangement

piwigo logo

Befuddled by FOSS

The new woman who is set to replace me when I retire in a couple of months seemed a little surprised today. First of all there was a screaming match going on in the next room over the submission of a fundraising proposal. I wasn't paying much attention to it as I was busy trying to explain some things about the job (maybe that surprised her too). Then, when I got into explaining about Piwigo (the photo gallery software we use), and kept praising the recent changes introduced by the "developer", she asked me what I meant by "a developer." She is used to big companies with hundreds of developers, not free open source software. She said she didn't feel safe otherwise because "What would happen if the developer goes away?"

So I pointed out that Google (whose software we also use) is guilty of dropping so many applications - just yesterday, I had mentioned another one (Currents) that they are dropping. And I pointed out that if Gmail one day becomes unprofitable, Google could drop that too. "And look at Twitter…" And then, I said, it isn't so strange to be using something that doesn't have a powerful company behind it, because the same is true of many essential parts on which the whole structure of the internet is built! Finally, I showed her the Piwigo website, which says that the application has been around for 20 years and is used by numerous universities, etc.

This is really insignificant

I think that most people with the audacity to publish what they write probably think that they have some essential contribution to make, or something important to tell or sell humanity, and usually this is true. So I feel a heavy responsibility to explain that none of this is true here.

Hardly anybody reads this stuff and they have no good reason to do so. This is, rather, a compendium of unoriginal reflections on the life and times of a forgetable nobody. Whatever ideas are expressed here will certainly have been stated more cogently by people with greater intelligence. If you haven't come across the ideas already elsewhere, you are welcome to restate them in a better way, without credit or, instead, to use them as a prime example of flawed understanding, with or without credit.


Those flags…

With the above thoughts in mind, I listened this evening to a podcast on the Haaretz site by journalist and TV anchor woman Ilana Dayan. She felt that the judicial reform that is going forward is so significant that she had to step out of her usual role as a presenter of content and to analyze its deep negative impact on Israeli democracy. She made me aware both of my extreme ignorance, and of how much of an outsider I am to Israeli society and culture. Her presentation was erudite and informed. But it also had the essential quality of issuing from an insider. Her gut feelings and trust in Israeli society are based on her familiarity with the way things work and the way Israelis think.

I lack all of that. I can't and don't feel like an Israeli. I'm not even sure that I know what other Israelis, especially those who are involved in politics, are really feeling. I simply know that I've emotionally rejected the reality in which they feel at home. I cannot sympathize with a national group that, on the one hand, is proud of its democratic institutions while, on the other hand, it denies basic rights to Palestinians. Somehow Ilana Dayan, who, as an investigative journalist, has a much keener understanding of how the system works, and how it is skewed against Palestinians, can juggle that, and still come out thinking that she is blessed to live in this country.

There was another Israeli journalist, Yossi Gurwitz, whose early death was discovered on Monday. In his later years, he became an anti-zionist, called for BDS, castigated religion and the state. Yet I somehow feel that even he was speaking out of the Israeli experience; existentially linked to the Israel he rejected.

The rejection of an insider is different from the rejection of an outsider. I'm an outsider to Israel as I'm an outsider to the other countries I have lived. I'm a stranger to the national life of those countries as well as to their institutions, such as their academic life, culture, news media and other facets of civilization. Wherever I go, I live on the outskirts, and without the least regret.

My experience is not unique - it's surely commonplace. Perhaps even the majority of people, or a growing number of them, are rootless in a similar way. If I'm more aware of my position, or am more self-reflective about it, it is probably because I have lived so long in a country that is like Israel, which places a high value on the nurturing of its national identity.

Tags: foss, nations, blogging
Other posts
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.