supernaut’s Links

Every blog used to have a Blogroll. But then they became sad; even WordPress got rid of theirs. Some people never heard or didn’t care. I discovered I’d never deleted my old link list, but it was also horribly out of date. I pondered updating it, but the idea seemed cumbersome.

Then I wondered if I could use my RSS feeds from my daily reading, all already categorised and downloadable as an OPML file. This would mean my link list would reflect the blogs and websites I’m actually reading now, and make redundant the need to have two separate lists.

… Turns out I can!

PHP has an extension called SimpleXML which can parse an xml file and spit it out however I might like and OPML is just an xml format. Off to the code!

I wanted to know if it was even possible first, but I ended up getting it all working, or at least dumping formattable text on the first try. From there to getting it nicely arranged by category was a much longer process, well, a couple of hours. Next to do is filtering, so I can exclude certain categories, and sorting alphabetically. As for the OPML file itself, I export it from my current RSS reader Feedly, and upload it to WordPress into a field using Advanced Custom Fields. It’s gloriously simple.

See all two-hundred-and-something of them here: supernaut’s Links

…(edit) Sorting alphabetically and excluding embarrassing categories achieved! For anyone interested in the code, it looks like this, and is largely based on Recently’s code, plus the filtering and sorting examples I found on Stack Overflow:

function supernaut_opml_feeds( $xmlObj, $depth = 1 ) {
	if ( count( $xmlObj->children() ) > 0 ) {
		echo str_repeat( "\t", $depth ) . '<ul class="opml-category">';

	$feed_list = array();
	foreach ($xmlObj->children() as $feed) {
		$feed_list[] = $feed;

	usort($feed_list, function($a, $b) {
		return strcasecmp( (string)$a['title'], (string)$b['title'] );

	foreach ( $feed_list as $feed ) {
		if ( ($feed['title'] != 'blah') && ($feed['title'] != 'gaah') ) {
			if ( isset( $feed['htmlUrl'] ) || isset( $feed['xmlUrl'] ) ) {
				echo str_repeat( "\t", $depth ) . '<li>';
				if ( isset( $feed['htmlUrl'] ) ) {
					echo '<a href="' . htmlentities( $feed['htmlUrl'] ) . '"';
					if ( isset( $feed['description'] ) ) {
						echo ' title="' . htmlentities( $feed['description'] ) . '"';
					} else {
						echo ' title="' . $feed['title'] . '"';
					echo ' target="_blank">' . $feed['text'] . '</a>';
				} else {
					echo $feed['text'];
				if ( isset( $feed['xmlUrl'] ) ) {
					echo ' – <em><a href="' . htmlentities( $feed['xmlUrl'] ) . '">feed</a></em>';
				echo '</li>';
			} elseif ( isset($feed['text'] ) && !isset( $feed['htmlUrl'] ) ) {
				echo str_repeat( "\t", $depth) . '<li>' . $feed['text'];
			supernaut_opml_feeds( $feed, $depth + 1 );

	if ( count( $xmlObj->children() ) > 0) { 
		echo str_repeat( "\t", $depth) . '</ul>'; 
		if ( $depth > 1 ) {
			echo str_repeat( "\t", $depth - 1 ) . '</li>';

$opml_xml = get_field( 'opml_file' );
$opml_file = new SimpleXMLElement( $opml_xml, null, true );
supernaut_opml_feeds( $opml_file->body );

Some musings on a simple, private cloud

Yesterday Google announced they were killing Reader, which has caused wailing, gnashing of teeth, general internet meltdown, and it trended on Twitter longer and harder than the new pope. supernaut has been around for longer than all three (previous pope included) and will probably outlive the remaining two, which has given me a little to think about as I simultaneously bash the command line in search of data anti-impermanence.

Despite my current roll of 300-something feeds, which I use to stay barely coherent on everything from astronomy to China, theatre, black metal, and porn, I’m not especially sad about the demise of Reader, as there was a time – pre-multi-device syncing – when it was unnecessary, and I hope the coming weeks will make that so again; monoculture leads to ecosystem collapse and so on. What it does denote is the precariousness of the current state of how anyone who engages with platforms that hold our data, and the urgent need for some non–open-source / GitHub mentality alternatives.

And considering I do the majority of my work in or around open-source and things that live on GitHub and other similar platforms, I can say that unless I am more useless than I can possibly imagine, the state of things is diabolical.

Some years ago, when my first webhost screwed up my domain registration and lost, I moved (thanks to Emile) to DreamHost, where I’ve been signing up others ever since. As far as cheap, reliable, ethical webhosting goes, I think they’re about as good as it gets – yes, even with the occasional downtime and other problems; I think they take what they do seriously enough that things would have to go very wrong for me to decide to move.

Late last year they began to offer DreamObjects, which is “an inexpensive, scalable, reliable object storage service for web and app developers and tech-savvy individuals” – basically whopping great amounts of secure hard drive – which I thought, “Ooo, I could back up my entire laptop to that! … if it were a bit cheaper …” which they duly are doing, and at 2¢ a gig, it works out to under 10,-€ a month for my 500 gig hard drive, so it becomes something of a no-brainer in terms of, ‘Yes, this is affordable”.

Affordable but conditional clause = ‘tech-savvy’. And now we return to the open-source mentality. I’m not especially tech literate. I couldn’t write a bash script from scratch to save my life, but I can scrape things together from various similar examples and usually my “repeat until unbroken” approach works, combined with trawling stackoverflow for error message solutions. So I approached DreamObjects with some fairly specific ideas of how I wanted to use it, and was prepared for a degree of gargling the command line.

Oh dear, did I gag.

Anyone who knows me, who has a Mac has been pestered to do their backups (anyone using Linux by definition has already done this, and Windows users can sod off), and over the years I’ve tried everything, all manner of syncing, local and remote backups, encrypted sparse disc images, rsync from the command line via SSH, TimeMachine and SuperDuper! and more that I’ve forgotten. I’ve also attempted various “in the cloud” services, which I’ve avoided for three reasons:

First, the pricing is not commensurate with the real costs of storage (effectively free); second, I don’t trust my data with anyone – I like privacy and I’m determined to stick with it as a human right; third, as evinced by Google Reeder, these things tend to die. Let’s forget for the moment the fourth: uploading 500gb of data and syncing it requires a certain monomanical effort.

So, DreamObjects meets the first, and conditionally the third (they’ve been around longer than I’ve been on the internet), and for the critical second … they’ve been good so far.

And off I go into the land of “backing up your life to the cloud”. Thus far I’ve tried boto_rsync, boto, s3cmd, Duplicity, Duplicati, GoodSync, xTwin, DragonDisk, Cyberduck, ownCloud… and currently (unsatisfiedly) settled on s3cmd. Most of these are command line tools which require building and installing and a degree of ‘tech-savvy’ that is way beyond the average person; others are proper apps but don’t make it easy (this is also to say most are designed for Amazon S3, so using them for DreamObjects is a bit of a hack), don’t allow for easy exclusion of files and folders, or are otherwise generally problematic, opaque, unintuitive, or just ugly.

Maybe to say that for most people I know on a Mac, TimeMachine is about as complex as they can handle or want to handle, and so backing up remotely needs to add at most one more straightforward step to this.

And this is the problem: none of what I tried is remotely simple, even if it was intended for S3 and I was hacking it to work on DreamObjects, the amount of suffering would cause most people to give up; the complexity of owning your own data in all instances from Reeder to backing up to FaceBook and Twitter is directly responsible for driving people to use free platforms where everything – security, privacy, longevity – is secondary to advertisers.

I looked at ownCloud also, which is close to my idea of a self-owned private cloud, and even that requires messing around with php and really, the whole rhetoric of self-controlled data in the cloud is just one giant elitist, chauvinist wank unless my (dead) Turkish grandmother can do it herself, without feeling confused or stupid.

Admittedly with DreamObjects it was also a test for me to see how possible all this is, because I’d like to be able to tell my friends, “hey, you can back up your laptop remotely for under 10 euros a month!”, so I have spent an obsessive amount of time messing around, and apps like xTwin come the closest to what I think is desirable, however what is crucial is that there isn’t a simple way to have remote backups that aren’t bound to some company like Amazon – or a simple way to manage RSS feeds that isn’t bound to Google Reader.

Given than cloud storage is so cheap now, having this as a ‘part’ of my or anyone’s computer is going becoming normal – it’s about where mobile phones were in 1998 – and I think some imagination is necessary to prevent a situation where this part of me is owned by a corporation with a specific agenda to make money off me, my data, and my privacy.

Using the cloud should be transparent; backing up to it as simple as clicking an icon – or setting once and then it’s automatic; my public presence, be it on the equivalent of Twitter,  FaceBook, G+, Reader, should be owned and controlled by me; that is to say while the interface of these networks might be public in the way these are now, my data remains with me, and is owned by me and I am not a saleable commodity of a corporation.

Or perhaps to put it another way, if we are ever going to have true personal and private clouds and social networks, we need the demise of Reader and we need open source and other developers to make simple software that isn’t bound to these monoculture platforms.

(s3cmd just crashed, and I feel like throwing a few hours at ownCloud…)

blog stuff

I shouldn’t be on my laptop today; I am bad. Working around 12 and sometimes up to 16 hours a day since the start of February without a day off is stupid. It’s a habit of mine and ends with me burning out and getting sick. Which I did a little over a week ago, and struggled through work last week by coming home and going to bed around 9pm. And there is always as much work as hours I will give.

So I said no computer work this weekend, and spent a beautiful, warm and sunny day in Kreuzberg yesterday cycling about, lying am Engelbecken after ballet with D (who is not Daniel, but I am always uncertain when or if to introduce someone new on my blog…), and home later at dusk, my windows open full all day and some cheese and bread and a rather irresistible Ayurvedic tea that reminds me I like mountains and cold places… sleep…

Instead, I decided over breakfast to redo my blogroll. As usual since last time some have come, some have gone, some I’ve lost interest in… Some new categories, as always imprecise needed to be made, splitting Science & Humanities into Anthropology, Astronomy, Language as well, somehow reflecting more closely my news feeds (which you can download here).

New arrivals, many I’ve been reading for some time whom I am rather fond of (and whom are being added as I write because I keep remembering, ‘oh, I forgot blah!’)… enjoy the reading.

FLESH WORLD read while listening to sunn 0))).
guerilla semiotics, who used to be someone else and is still one of the most interesting theatre culture writers around.
My Big Backyard queer farm life in the sub-sub-tropics.
Buck Angel”s Blog! possible one of my favourites right now, for his Porno for Pyros video if nothing else.
Sugarbutch Chronicles butch trans* dyke porn-lit.
Let them eat pro-sm feminist safe spaces BDSM critical theory (for wont of a better description).
Shenzhen Noted who used to be Shenzhen Fieldnotes.
tang dynasty times, one of my utter all-round favourite blogs these days.
an imperfect pen, more China/Asia anthropology.
Paper Republic contemporary Chinese literature and translation.
Shanghai Scrap fascinating for me documenting of China’s scrap industry.
earlyTibet, almost a pair with tang dynasty times.
Hazaristan Times, one of the few Afghanistan blogs not COIN.
Cabinet of Wonders mmm blogging on the Age of Enlightenment.
Material World visual culture anthropology.
Neuroanthropology a field I seem to be reading a lot in during the last year.
HiBlog: HiRISE Team Blog from the satellite mission, beautiful.
Mars and Me a daily blog of one of the Mars rover drivers from the mission start five years ago.
Philosophy’s Other current philosophy stuff.
Feminist Philosophers a philosophy blog I’m fond of.
The Oyster’s Garter Oceanography, my new fascintation (along with volcanoes again, but have yet to find many blogs on that.)


Oh, and one more in a category I read a lot but never seem to mention much:

i love typography mmm… fonts and design…


A notably slow Sunday, cleaning, washing dishes, reading The Subject of Gender that I am already certain will be on my list of best books of 2008 – she quotes Judith Butler in the context of mother-daughter gender relations in urban China… mmm makes me want to be an anthropologist. And so I decided to do some recoding of my blog.

Notice the bit to the right that used to list some blog awards I’d won or been nominated for has gone, replaced by the abstract concept of future but currently deferred gratification. Which is to say, the way to make me happy, hold vast influence and sway over me, ensure – if not lifelong, then a sustained sense of love and adoration from me of you, is to furnish me with the pummeled and thrashed corpses of trees laced with ink. Books. mmm…

I have a pile I seek to covet that would see me not leave the comfort of my bed for many weeks were all to arrive at once, and despite having just returned to university to do a degree in Asian Studies and International Politics, my interests lately seem to have returned firmly to Central Asia, the ~stans, Iran also, and bits of western China that make more sense to be considered in this geographic and conceptual region.

So I updated again my blog roll.

In keeping with the Central Asia thing, I’ve added several blogs I read from there I’m currently quite enjoying. Also as usual, many blogs have dwindled or I’ve lost interest or other things, so have vanished from both my daily feeds and of course from here.

But. Some new blogs in all the categories, some categories – Politics – gone, merged into others, and… I realised the difficulty when reading some of the intelligent, lucid, eloquent, passionate blogs from Central Asia or in Science the difficulty in finding really good blogs in certain areas, notably art and transgender.

Which isn’t to say they aren’t there, rather my normal method of discovering new blogs, following links in posts, or on occasion when bored trawling blogrolls works better for certain fields. Art and performance tends to come predominantly from reviewers rather than artists, or tends to focus on a very narrow spread, either geographically or by art form.

Trans blogs tend to fulfill multiple categories of partiality, except for in rare instances being highly single issue, bound by both language and culture to the noise swamping the blogosphere from the United States, often largely self-indulgent in that they are personal transition diaries, and if none of this then rarely having a grasp of feminism. Also the lack of crossover between trans women and trans men blogs is quite apparent. My favourite two tranny blogs stopped posting a while ago and it’s been difficult to find intelligent and funny replacements.

Collectively amidst all the blogs I read, I’ve noticed a need to make a conscious effort to find blogs that are written by women, especially in some spheres such as China and Central Asia. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suppose that 2/3rds or more of the blogs I read are written by males, and I do notice the blogs written by women have a markedly different emphasis. Also to find blogs that do not emanate from United States, and consequently do not suffer from the universalising tendencies of bloggers from there, most noticably in transgender and feminist blogs, though also in other categories, especially China and Central Asia. To find blogs that speak more than one language, and so act as a conduit to blogs, ideas, cultures, experiences, people that otherwise go unheard.

In realising the influence blogs have on me in terms of my education and understanding, the degree they contribute to my intellectual loves, I think I need to be a lot more considered in the blogs I’m reading and spend some time finding blogs or other news sources that contribute to a little more diversity than I currently have. But oh blogs are good, no? Thank you everyone who blogs for entertaining me, provoking me, making me think.

more feeds and things … and blogrolls

A little bit preoccupied today and doing busywork (yes, is a word), and somehow stumbled upon several rather cool blogs on geology, palaeontology, and archaeology and so did a bit of re-ordering of my NetNewsWire feeds and some shuffling of groups and things, adding, subtracting, sorting, the usual obsessive-compulsive behaviour that leads to nightmare kitchen cleaning bouts …


I’ve updated my blogroll a bit. Mostly just stripping out the old blogs that are no longer posting, some I don’t really read so much as I used to, some I have removed from my feeds altogether (it’s a disconcerting thing when a blog I kinda liked turned out to be quite rabidly pro-life, that is to say in non-Orwell-speak, anti-abortion no matter what suffering is incurred … made me feel a tiny bit ill)… ummm…

(A surprising number of China and Asia blogs have either died or are slumbering, but in their place, some quite nice new ones, and the specialisation over the last couple of years is really noticeable, not so much all generic China anymore, plenty of geographically distinct and special issue ones too.)

Adding new ones!!!

So many new, amazingly well-written blogs on everything I can ever think of, and the cool thing is so many of them written by intelligent, articulate, educated and forthright women.

I’ve tried to keep the list not so overwhelming. I tend to find new blogs from other blogs and a long and unsorted blogroll just causes instant eye-glaze. Also I tend to find new blogs from links in posts more often anyway, so the list here is mostly blogs I really enjoy reading as often as they post.

And … a newly updated RSS subscription list for all of you who went and got your free NetNewsWire reader in the last couple of weeks.

feeds and things …

Every so often someone asks, “How do you read so much stuff every day?” and rather than shatter their illusions of me with the truth that I am an artful manipulator and far too lazy to read when I could be a) sleeping or b) eating, I tell them, “Oh, I just have a news reader with all of the RSS feeds of the 200 or so blogs I read, I just refresh it every so often it updates automatically all the new posts”, and like with astrophysics, people hear, “bluurrbluurrbluurr”, and I think, “Waah! I really wish I could explain things so people would go, ‘Totally bodacious, dude!!!’, how good would that be?”.


Instead of opening all those blogs in separate windows in Safari and seeing if there’s anything new and experiencing disappointment, I started using NetNewsWire, quite a while ago, even deciding to pay for it (no!!! really??!?!), and have all my feeds from my favourite blogs, yes even yours, arranged into groups (I am, as you know prone to compulsive orderliness). I’ve also had my entire NetNewsWire subsciptions available for download from the bottom of my blogroll, so you can just download it from that link I conveniently provided, and import it into your favourite news reader, and enjoy my reading habits, including porn, and so spawn your own collection of blogs.

I never seemed to entice people into the seductive world of blog feeds, but ever since my recent success in getting a large number of friends completely addicted to and utterly in the thrall of Skype, and since the makers of NetNewsWire have just decided to offer that and the rest of their software for free, I thought the time is ripe.

Download NetNewsWire install it on your lovely Mac (delete all the unnecessary feeds that come as default, they’re kinda like the default bookmarks in Safari no one uses), download my rss feeds, import them into NetNewsWire (in the File menu), hit refresh (apple-shift-r), (be horrified at what smut appears and vow never to speak to me again)…

Fall in love with the joy of reading all over again.

I whore for syndication

Just a couple of days over a month since I started this blog, and about a year after I fell into the world of China blogs during my first attempt to deal with China withdrawals, and thanks to the joy of RSS ( que? ) I’m now on the Living In China Aggregator, and the sinosplice | china blog list. So, a big thank you for putting my musings on art, dance and China up there.