Residency application, coastal birdwatching, flow charts, and an unexpected detour into 16th-century martial arts.

  • Residency application: Spent the weekend racing to clarify and complete supporting materials for an artist residency application. Crafting a team proposal with a lead resident, we had to be clear and concrete about our plans and interests, strategising about how best to meet a stringent word limit. We submitted just before the deadline, at midnight on Sunday.

  • Thick description: Stayed up late to read Clifford Geertz’s ‘Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese cockfight’, which I had assigned Tim as an introduction to thick description.1 Halfway through, I realised I’d never read the entire thing myself, having skipped some key theory modules during an undergraduate joint honours.

  • Exnaneta: I also worked through some new tutorial materials Tim uploaded to GitHub, using increasingly tortured kitchen analogies to bend my head around some key programming terms (how is a function like a rice-cooker, etc.). Took me a little too long on Friday afternoon to realise the Raspberry Pi was, in fact, working, despite its green light not staying on.

  • Too many flow charts: Earlier in the week, I followed David’s recommendation to explore Mermaid diagrams, working up a version of this convoluted custom task management system I’ve been tinkering with since December (see below). This morning, I followed up by generating a ludicrous flowchart outlining the rough plan for mine and Tim’s planned skill exchange.

Custom Task Statuses

  • Puffin hunt: Spent an extended weekend with D and my parents in the North York Moors, including day trips to Scarborough and the mist-shrouded Bempton Cliffs, where my choice of shorts proved wholly inadequate. Listening to a volley of voice notes from a friend while losing feeling in my fingers, as the rest of our party gazed hopefully over the North Sea, I eventually had to go and wait in the car. Lots of guillemots, fulmars, etc. Everyone except me saw a puffin.

  • Web development: Building on last week’s efforts, I tweaked and honed the knowledge graph and started populating my metaphorical compost heap with rough notes and placeholder content. Having added a ‘last updated’ timestamp to most pages, I’m now grappling with the challenge of rendering my (lengthy, somewhat shaggy) CV in a way that will be intelligible to the casual visitor.

  • Many Knightly Exercises: Robustly nerd-sniped by a schoolfriend’s brother, a historical European martial arts enthusiast, who reached out for help using machine translation on a 16th-century Bolognese fencing manual.2 Grappling with the problem consumed my Thursday morning, as I scoped options for piping the source text into an API vs. his locally hosting an open source machine translation tool. Might have promised him a text-chunking script.


  • Forkable architectures: Actual full-blown phone call with co-conspirator Rob on Friday night, after our efforts to connect over video were foiled by limited bandwidth. It was good to catch up; we talked about architectural education, versioning and forkability, the aftermath of this month’s West Midlands mayoral election, and lock-in and obduracy in Birmingham’s housing sector.
Next week:
  • Back into the Anarchive trenches from Monday to wrestle with the next set of texts, on alternative visions for technology.
  • Volunteer call on Tuesday as initial prep for the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Anthropology & Education conference in London at the end of June.
  • Sitting in on a talk by David on Thursday, as part of AIxDesign’s research on ‘Esoteric AI’; which is increasingly relevant to some ideas I’m exploring.
  1. Thick description goes beyond simple observation to interpret the meanings and symbols embedded in social actions. A cornerstone of contemporary ethnography, this approach underscores the importance of viewing cultures not as static entities to be dissected and categorised, but dynamic webs of significance, constructed and negotiated by individuals in their everyday lives. ⤴︎

  2. Captain Federico Ghisliero’s Rules of Many Knightly Exercises, published in Parma in 1587. Ghisliero was a Bolognese soldier, whose treatise, one of the earliest on the rapier, is notable for its use of geometry. Illustrations showing sequences of movement were added later, and vary between the few surviving copies. Mike’s translation in-progress is available here⤴︎

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