All posts by rbowen



or …

Contemplation on the difficulty of writing poetry on demand


Words flow like …
What doesn’t flow?

Cliche: Molasses

More imaginative …

Traffic on circle 4 at
about 5:38
on a Thursday
when you just want
to get home

Like …

Honey left on the shelf
for a few years
until rediscovered as part
of a whiskey sour recipe found on Reddit
then set in hot water
to slowly
return to the right
golden hue – no more
sugar crystals

Flow like …

that last drop
of Grey Poupon
clinging to the corner
just out of reach of the spoon
when I just need
a little more for my sandwich

The words flow

Stream of Conscious

Stream of Conscious

July 4
S-Tree Campground
Sand Gap, Kentucky

Under the emerald canopy
time stretches
like salt water taffy


Funny word, that, attenuate
At Ten You Ate
Seems longer ago

I make a note
to look up attenuate
and make sure I’m
using it correctly

Alas, Freenode.

Today I got kicked off of Freenode for trying to help someone.

Every part of that sentence has backstory. It’s… complicated.

I started using freenode probably in 1998 or 1999. It was the place to go when you wanted to discuss free software. That’s 23 years ago. Freenode has become synonymous with free software support.

I expect most of you are aware that a few weeks ago someone took over the freenode network for no readily discernible reason. And things have gone downhill since then.

Meanwhile, I’ve kept trying to do my job. Part of which is supporting the Centos user community and ensuring they get the answers that they need when they need them.

Most of us moved over to Libera chat pretty quickly after the Takeover occurred. But like I said, freenode is synonymous with open software. And so the general user population, who haven’t read all of the assorted news, still go to freenode when they want answers. Aye, there’s the rub. Because when they get there, they are met with a toxic, juvenile group of people who have no interest in helping them, and are really just there to stoke their own egos.

Imagine, if you will, that you have been hanging out in the same Cafe for 20 years. You know everybody there. They’re all kind, with their own weird idiosyncrasies. But you know that it’s a comfortable, safe place.

Then, one day, the entire management has changed. There’s a few familiar faces in the customers. But for the most part they’re all new. And they’re screaming at each other. Swearing, making Nazi jokes, or just generally being vulgar.

That’s how the freenode thing has been for me. I have been on freenode almost every day for more than 20 years. Now all of a sudden the people running the show are juvenile strangers who seemed to delight in cruelty.

So, while my banishment today was not unexpected, it was a sad, pathetic end to a long era. Somehow, we have allowed this community resource to be taking over by a narcissistic millionaire who just considers it his plaything, or a way to get petty revenge. Tragic and pathetic.

Today, someone asked a question, they waited a reasonable time for an answer, and I told them maybe they should look over on for their answer. That was deemed worthy of booting me off of the network where I have spent thousands of hours helping hundreds of people solve their software problems. For 20 years.



Prompt from @WkendWordsmith

delicious, menus, employee

You order the clams
because they are local.
Also because they are delicious,
you say.

She and I enjoy the crab,
from far, far away,
also delicious.

The menu says “market price”
and we don’t ask the employees
how much, because we know
we will order it anyway.

The tradition fulfilled for
another year.

Track: Turi

Track: Turi
Turi, 1980
September 20, 2007

My ear on the rail,
something I’d read in a book,
I proclaimed sagely that
something was coming.
The thrum in the rail
a cicada buzz
heralding the approaching storm,
a minor earthquake
making the pebbles dance
a jitterbug with the distant diesel.

Or not so distant.

My companions scattered
leaving me lying on the ground,
my face on the fiery steel.

Around the bend
not twenty paces away
bigger than a house
it bears down on me
whistle screaming like a tortured soul.

Leaping for the side of the cutting
gaining the edge
just as the behemoth
roared past,
an angry beast
dragging vacuum in its wake.

Heart a running rabbit
trying to break through my ribs,
forty eight cars, pounding past,
each one no farther away
than the reach of my fingers,
feet scrabbling at the
crumbling red clay.
Ten, twenty, a thousand years
as the KR express
bellowed past, shaking the whole world,
inches from my slipping Batas.



around the next bend
and gone.

Fly and Douglas
on top of the cutting
laughing uncontrollably at my
weak kneed terror,
the scream I didn’t even know
poured from my lips

Then I, too, was laughing,
crying, laughing,
relief, terror, and
joy to be alive,
to be so very alive

Hate-based politics

I’ve had lots of opportunity lately to wonder about the Republican party and their hate-based politics.
As far as I can tell from what I understand about American politics, the Democrat party tries to constantly improve things – considering new ideas, new processes, and new programs. The Republicans, on the other hand, want everything to be the same as it was in the long-ago “good old days” (which, it turns out, weren’t so good for everyone) and so feel that anyone with new ideas is radical and should be opposed.
This is not to say, of course, that all of the Democrats’ ideas are good ones. Of course they’re not. A lot of them are stupid. But rather than engaging in actual conversation to figure out solutions, the Republicans simply choose to block everything and vilify the thinkers as [insert insults of the day] because it’s easier than actually thinking. Thinking is too much like actual work.
When you don’t have ideas, I guess it is natural to focus only on one’s enemies. Opposing ideas is hard, because you have to 1) understand the idea and 2) have a good alternative. It’s so much easier to just vilify and hate people.
Don’t like the proposal to save the planet? Of course not. It will be expensive, and take a lot of work. But it’s hard to argue logically against it – or even to debate the ideas and arrive at compromises – so let’s focus on hating AOC, on hating Greta Thunberg, (Bonus – they’re both women! That makes them easier to hate!) and anyone else that has ideas.
And who better to hate than brown people? You can tell who they are just by looking at them. No thought necessary. And, since they’re in a minority, it’s pretty safe to blame them for stuff, since they lack the political clout to do anything about it.
Trump is the logical conclusion of this trend. He has no ideas. He has no solutions to anything. All he has is hate. He built his entire campaign on hate, so it should be no surprise that he built his entire presidency on hate.
Immigration is an *ideal* place to focus this hate. Many immigrants are brown. Actual *solutions* to illegal immigration are complicated, expensive, and involve actually engaging with foreign governments to try to get to the reasons these people are coming to the USA. Better just to hate immigrants – much easier to sell.
Addressing a pandemic, too, is difficult, expensive, and involves working with a lot of people you don’t like. Better to focus on the “fact” that it came from China, and so is a problem caused by people that we hate. See? Problem solved!
Hate is cheap, easy, and spreads like wildfire without a lot of work.
Meanwhile, Republicans have boasted for generations that they are the party of family values, of kindness, of big hearts and small government. And, if they say it, it must be so, despite the complete lack of supporting evidence. Right?

What is a “social media web site”?

The Kentucky legislature is considering a bill to require “social media web sites” to not “censor” content which is political or religious.

It is immediately evident, from the text included in these screenshots, that the legislators in question have not the vaguest idea of how the web works, and what “social media” means.

This website, for example, is a social media website, in the original definition of the term. The concept was, when the term was coined, of social/public/citizen journalism. I am a “citizen journalist”, and this is a social media website, because I publish my content here, and allow for social/public commentary.

You can bet that I delete/hide/shadowban people who post comments that are not appropriate, and I plan to continue to do so.

I suspect that, to these legislators, “social media” means Facebook, Twitter, and some vague notion that there are other things, like Parler, which they might include. ie, massive scale sites, run by huge organizations with staff of hundreds of thousands. They seem unaware that there are hundreds of large social media sites. Here’s a list of some of the larger ones. Here’s a slightly more comprehensive one. Neither one of those even scrapes the surface of the thousands of blogs, newspaper comment sections, mailing lists, message boards, and so on, that comprise most of the Internet.

You do not have a constitutional right to have your content hosted on any of those sites.

They also have this bizarre notion that you, as a member of the public, have some kind of a right to make whatever comments you want on my website. This notion is not supported by the constitution of the US, or the constitution of Kentucky. Compelling a corporation to host the comments of random strangers on the Internet is contrary to any notion of free speech, and is equivalent to claiming that I have an obligation to leave graffiti on the walls of my house because it represents the protected speech of the random tagger.

Please know that if you comment on this post, and I find the comment doesn’t spark joy, I will delete that comment in a heartbeat, and I don’t have to give you any justification for doing so. The very notion that the Kentucky government will fine me $75,000 for doing that is absurd and unconstitutional.

Then there’s the even more complicated question of what constitutes a political or religious comment. I would say that practically any comment is political speech, in the right context.

Now, obviously, they don’t intend to apply this law to me, in the unlikely event that it would pass. Presumably they want to apply it to Twitter – a company that has no staff or offices in Kentucky. So there’s also the question of how they would have any power to enforce this.

I wonder how many other industries state and federal legislatures attempt to regulate without the barest attempt to understand. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess “all of them.”

Edit: I just found the original document – – and it defines a social media site (among other things) as a site with more than 75 million subscribers. While this changes the details, it doesn’t change the principles behind my remarks here.

I have placed an archived copy of the bill here.

Hate mail

A few weeks ago my work project made an unpopular announcement.

If you are not already familiar with the Linux landscape, and CentOS in particular, you will find that I am unable to explain the announcement to you without a 20 minute history lesson. Even with colleagues who are in the software industry, but are unfamiliar with the Linux distro landscape, it has been challenging to explain 1) what changed and 2) why people are angry.

The details of how operating systems are made are mostly boring, and you *want* them to be boring. If your operating system is getting your attention, it’s almost never for a good reason.

But they are angry, and their reasons are (mostly) good ones. That said, this announcement was an announcement, not a discussion. Which is to say, it’s the new reality, and people need to adjust to this change. Which is fine to say, but rather harder in practice.

This morning I sent out the monthly newsletter for the project, as I do every month. Except, this month, I’m getting a stream of hate mail, vitriol, snarky comments, and so on, from people who have evidently not read what I wrote, or who still feel that, somehow, their anger justifies them being terrible humans.

Look, I get that folks are angry. And I even agree with their reasons. But lashing out at *me* because you’re angry about a decision for which I’m the spokesperson doesn’t make any sense. Not only will it not change the decision, but it makes me less sympathetic to your complaints.

mod_pony is now on github

I got email this weekend from a computer science student in Italy, asking about mod_pony. He told me that they use mod_pony in their class as an example Apache httpd module, but that the original article pointing to the mod_pony sources was 404’ing, because my svn server has been retired.

So … I am pleased to announce that mod_pony is now on Github.

This is all a demonstration of the Internet reality that no matter how silly you are, someone, somewhere, is going to take it seriously.

(See also: Acme::Time::Asparagus for another illustration of this.)

Content moderation and community curation

When Parler started up their website with (supposedly) no content moderation terms of service, I was skeptical. I wrote about it at the time, but unfortunately did so on Facebook, making it more work than it’s worth to track down.

I ran a community website for 25 years (roughly) and content moderation was the most difficult part of it. Nobody wants content moderation, except when they do. If you take down my comment, that’s censorship. If you take down someone else’s, that’s setting the right community tone.

Every site has content moderation – it’s just a question of how it is done. It’s a question of deciding what is appropriate (or on topic) and removing things that are not.

On Parler, for example, if you make pro-Democrat comments, they get shouted down and are moderated by virtue of being drowned out. On Twitter, on the other hand, if you make pro-Nazi comments, they get actually removed. These are just two versions of the same thing.

But with a site like Parler, which was created, presumably, specifically to get past the unfair moderation rules of Facebook and Twitter, you have another problem. The site is specifically intended to allow the most egregious breaches of common etiquette and good manners. And, of course, to be friendly to the kind of thugs and fact-averse people who were responsible for storming the Capitol last week. This means that they’re continually going to be pushing the envelope, and then you run into a kind of content moderation that we all eventually are subject to – when your content actually breaks the law.

Calling for the execution of elected officials (or, indeed, of anyone) is a violation of federal law.

I ran into this with my Kenya website, when people were calling for lynchings and genocide. So, y’know, I had to do something about that. And after 25 years of that, I called it quits.

Parler has now encountered this same reality, albeit at a much larger scale, and for a much heftier bill. Anybody with any community website experience saw this coming, and I’m frankly astonished it took so long.

AWS has very very permissive content policies – basically “don’t break the law”. But when they warned Parler again and again, and Parler did not do anything about it, they had to take action.

If you refuse to moderate the comments of your community, eventually someone else will step in and do it for you.

And if you do it in a way that makes news in this way, finding another provider to host your content is going to be very tricky.

(Cory has an excellent discussion of this over on Twitter.)