Work on Shtory continues, but has been a bit slow. The first three weeks of January were a pretty wild year, what with the fascist coup attempt which nearly resulted in members of Congress being lynched, and in the end just barely managing to keep some semblance of a representative democracy intact long enough that now we have a chance to actually improve things. So it was a little hard to concentrate for a while there.
That said, I still expect to have Shtory up to nearly-MVP-level functionality this week, and “ready enough” to put up on github by the end of the month.
The tentative feature list for the V1 milestone is:
local operation only — no following remote users
shtory list command and lisht alias (also the default behavior of shtory with no arguments): list users with current stories, marking users with unread stories with a *
shtory post command and posht alias: read stdin until EOF, then post to current user’s story
shtory read command: read all unread posts from followed users
shtory read <user> command variant: read all current (read and unread) posts from specified user, whether or not current user follows them, if they have not blocked the current user
shtory follow <user> command: follow specified user, if user exists and has not blocked current user
shtory unfollow <user> command: unfollow specified user, if current user follows them
shtory block <user> command: block specified user from following current user or seeing their stories
shtory unblock <user>: remove specified user from block list, allowing them to see stories from and follow current user if they choose to
This doesn’t fix the underlying conditions, but it does shift the possibility space.
And not a minute too soon. In many ways — often aesthetic, but also his unabashed corruption and criminality, willingness to openly embrace the extreme right in ways even Reagan wouldn’t — Trump was anomalous, but in just as many he was an inevitable outcome of what we are accustomed in the United States to calling “conservatism”. (In the GW Bush era, we used to call it “movement conservatism”, trying to draw a distinction that might always have been more spurious than we wanted it to be, between it and a more “traditional” notion of “conservatism”; but “movement conservatism” won decisively, and there is no other kind of “conservatism” anymore.)
The transfer of power doesn’t instantly fix any of the horrors Trump inflicted, but it does prevent him and his array of accomplices and sycophants — the Millers, Bannons, Barrs, Pompeos, Kushners, et al. — from continuing to worsen them, and it gets a lot of open white nationalists and would-be genocidaires out of positions of power. It doesn’t fix the underlying conditions, too many and complicatedly interrelated to get into here, but it does shift the possibility space: it’s not a given that Biden will do everything right (indeed, it’s a given that he won’t do everything right) but it’s a more realistic possibility that he can be pushed to do most things better.
Fascism isn’t dead, and the next four years will, I fear, see a lot of homegrown right-wing terrorism; there’s going to be a lot of work to do in and out of politics to try to make real progress on repairing the harms of the past and building a better future. A lot of that work will be done pushing against the Biden administration, not necessarily in cooperation with it, but it’s still a plain fact that this government will not be so resolutely opposed to progress as the previous one was, and will be more responsive to pressure toward doing the right things.
We can’t be sure of a better future, but there’s a little more reason to hope — if enough people work hard enough at it — for one than there has been for the past several years. That’s not nothing.
Democrats in Congress are looking to pass a $15/hr federal minimum wage as part of their first big bill when the Biden administration takes office, so naturally Online is full of Discourse about the minimum wage.
First of all, $15/hr is more than twice the current federal minimum wage, which has remained unchanged at $7.25/hr since 2009 — the longest stretch without an increase since the federal minimum hourly wage was first passed in 1938.
The previous record-holder was 9 years, from the 1981-01-01 increase to $3.35, to the 1990-04-01 increase to $3.80. In 2020 dollars, those are the equivalent of $10.03 and $7.68 respectively. (I’m using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator for all relative value figures in this post.) $3.35 in 1990 was worth the equivalent of only $2.26 back in 1981, or $6.77 in 2020; in other words, over that nine year span, someone working full-time — that is, 40 hours a week, with two weeks off a year (that should also be reconsidered, we should consider a 20- or 30-hour week the “full time” standard and organize our society accordingly, but that’s a whole other argument) — at minimum wage went from making the 2020 equivalent of about $20,000 a year to about $13,500 on 1990-03-31. Then the next day, our hypothetical worker got an oh-so-generous raise, of about $1800/yr in 2020 dollars.
The careful reader will have noticed that one thing that happened in between those two minimum wage increases was the entirety of the 1980s, and all of the economic, societal, and moral damage that the Reagan era did to the United States. Indeed, if you look at the 2020 equivalent minimum wage over time, there are two very distinct eras: from $1.00 ($9.72) in 1956 — I’ll use the “nominal (2020 equivalent)” convention from here on, to save typing — to breaking $10 at $2.00 ($10.61) in 1963, a high of $1.60 ($12.19) in 1968, through to the 1981 increase to $3.35 ($10.03); then a sharp drop in the neoliberal ’90s, and hovering in about the $7.50–$8.50 (in 2020 dollars) range ever since.
If our worker starts a full-time minimum wage job on January 1st, 1979, and works 2,000 hours a year without fail for 42 years, bringing them up to today, their pay has declined from $5,800 ($22,120) a year to $14,500 in current dollars. Over approximately the same period, median rent in the US has gone from $308 ($1031) in 1980, to $600 ($1226) in 1990, to $1064 ($1287) in 2009 when the minimum wage was last increased, to $1588 ($1669) in 2018.
Rent as % of Pay
Annual pay at minimum wage vs. median annual rent, per the sources linked in this post
Obviously it’s been some four decades since it was even remotely possible to live on a single full-time minimum wage job without other ways of generating income or reducing costs. Indeed, even an increase to $15/hr — $30,000 at full time — would only return minimum-wage workers to approximately the 1980 norm of spending “just” two-thirds of their pay on rent.
A quick note here that opponents of raising the minimum wage like to insist that it’s “not meant to be a living wage,” that it’s supposed to be for “starter jobs” for teens who still live with their parents, etc. But this is an absolutely ahistorical claim in the first place — at the time the original Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, it was understood to establish a wage standard that would support a “minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being, without substantially curtailing employment” — and wouldn’t be morally acceptable even if it were true, because the plan fact is that millions of people who are not dependent teens supported by their parents do, in fact, work minimum-wage jobs. This is all the time I’ll spend on that garbage argument.
So ultimately my position is that passing the biggest minimum wage increase we can as soon as we can is great, and if that means the increase is only to $15/hr in order to get a bill passed in Biden’s first hundred days, well, that’s fine. It’s a lot better than not passing an increase or taking longer to pass one, and it’ll help a lot of people, but it’s also not enough. (I believe I read, though I don’t currently have a source to link, that the bill would also close the loophole that allows employers to pay disabled people less than minimum wage, which is very good if true; I don’t know whether it would eliminate or even change the tipped minimum wage, which is also something that really needs to be done, because that’s a major vehicle for wage theft.)
The thing is, the government has data on various costs of living around the country. If someone asked me what the minimum wage should be, I’d say: it should be automatically set every January 1st to the higher of 1) whatever it currently is, or 2)
let r1 … r10 be the median rent in the most recent year for which data is available, in the 10 largest cities in the country
then let r be the mean of r1 … r10 (r1 + r2 + … + r10) ÷ 10
then let y be r × 12 to give the mean annual rent
then let s be y × 3 to give an annual income high enough to pay that rent and still have a decent standard of living
then let w be s ÷ (40 × 50) for full-time employment, giving an hourly wage over a year of 40-hour weeks with two weeks off.
If we assume the median rent figures above are close enough to current to substitute for r, instead of hunting down the individual components of that mean and calculating it, then we have r = $1669, y = $20,028, s = $60,084, and w = $30.04/hr is our new minimum wage.
So $15/hr is a big improvement, but it’s literally only halfway there, and unless the law is changed to incorporate a formula (maybe like mine, though mine is very off-the-cuff) for automatically adjusting it on a regular basis (maybe every year, maybe every two or five years; I think more than five years without an adjustment is clearly too long), even raising it to the $30/hr it should currently be would only be good enough temporarily.
Nothing’s funnier than a joke about something people have long since stopped talking about. Introducing shtory: stories, for the Unix shell. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.
First Snapchat introduced its “stories” feature as a broadcast alternative to its original model of sending self-destructing snaps directly to individual users; then Facebook was rebuffed in trying to buy Snapchat and Mark Zuckerberg directed Instagram to reproduce an identical “stories” feature in Instagram, prompting all kinds of jokes about what software would have “stories” next.
Then in 2020, Twitter announced its — also identical — feature, this time called “Fleets” (see, like “tweets”, but they’re “fleeting”), and there was a whole new round of jokes.
In particular, Jef Poskanzer tweeted:
And I thought, “heh. that’s pretty funny.”
And then I thought, “you know, I bet I could actually write a program to do that.”
And then I thought, “that’s a terrible idea.”
So, obviously I’m doing it. Introducing my new project: shtory — Snapchat/Instagram/Twitter-style stories, for the Unix shell. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.
Everyone knows nothing’s funnier than a joke about something people have long since stopped talking about, so in keeping with that principle I hope to have an alpha of shtory ready to put up on github by about the end of the month. Ultimately the concept here isn’t very dissimilar to the traditional Unix utility finger, which displays the .plan and .project files, if any, that a user has in their home directory; but individual poshts in a shtory will, like their social media inspirations, only live for 24 hours before being automatically deleted, and I plan on implementing more granular privacy controls of the type we’re used to in modern social media, like follow lists, blocking, locked accounts, mutual-only posts, etc.
Well, it’s 2021. 2020 was pretty bad! it’s gonna take a lot of work to make 2021 good, but maybe we’ll all manage it together.
One positive change I’m making is that I’ve quit Twitter. I don’t currently plan to delete my account — it’s useful to have posts here automatically linked over there, and there are a lot of people there I’d hate to lose touch with, so if the account stays accessible they can at least find out why I’m not tweeting anymore — but a couple of weeks ago Twitter notified me that it was my tenth anniversary on the site and asked if I wouldn’t like to make a commemorative tweet with a special “10” graphic they’d prepared, and I thought, well, ten years is definitely too long to be here.
I have more thoughts about the ways in which “social media” as it currently exists, and Twitter in particular (I quit Facebook about ten years ago, so I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of its current state), is bad for us as individual people and as a society, and why, and what might be better; and maybe at some point I’ll organize those into a post here. I want to work on, and write about, more software projects first, though, so look for more on that soon.
Anyway although time is largely fake, there’s something nice about choosing to mark the new year a few weeks after the solstice — it’s about when we start to actually notice that the days are getting longer. It’s been a few months of it getting darker and colder, and it will stay cold, and even get a little colder yet, for another couple, but we can see it’s starting to get a little lighter, and we know it’ll get warm again, we just have to get through the hard depths of winter.
A metaphor, if you like. Happy new year, wear a mask, don’t go to restaurants or weddings or bars or generally spend time indoors with or near people you don’t live with, get the COVID vaccine as soon as you can, don’t vote for Republicans, tip servers and delivery people extra, do what you can to help other people.