2021 December 28
2021 is ending. Here are some assorted notes about what happened this year and the state of things.
The pandemic continues.
In typical fashion, my country continues to do what it can to keep the coronavirus around. Vaccines are artificially restricted through patents. (Bill Gates has so much blood on his hands...)
While they don't have much power compared to governments and corporations, the people of the USA are still doing their best to keep COVID-19 alive. I live in a high-risk city, so masks are nominally required in public places. Despite this, only about half of all people I see when I go out wear them.
I'm as careful as I can be. I've gotten 3 shots so far (the initial 2 doses and a booster), and I rarely go out. I have that privilege.
I haven't done a good job of keeping up with new music, but I'll talk about the new albums I remember listening to.
Content warning: violence against women, sexual assault, and abusive Christian themes
LINGUA IGNOTA released a bunch of new music, in particular SINNER GET READY. I didn't like this album.
I think the mood just felt less extreme than her previous music. In LET THE EVIL OF HIS OWN LIPS COVER HIM, Kristin Hayter established a musical style which mixed slow, despairing classical music with clear Christian influence, with wrathful harsh noise and extreme metal. In ALL BITCHES DIE, which I consider her best album, she perfected this style.
(For context, I believe "WOE TO ALL (ON THE DAY OF MY WRATH)" was the first LINGUA IGNOTA song I heard, so that style is probably what I most expect of the project.)
I liked CALIGULA, but it felt to me in some ways like a departure from her previous style. There were more tracks. It felt more classical, less harsh, though there was still plenty of discordance. I felt like this album leaned harder into its religious elements, focusing on Christian abuse, as, for example, "FOR I AM THE LIGHT (AND MINE IS THE ONLY WAY NOW)" had on the previous album.
It's hard to listen to LINGUA IGNOTA. It's discomforting. It's frightening.
I also found SINNER GET READY hard to listen to... but mostly because it was slow and musically repetitive, and I had trouble paying attention to it. Basically, this album felt to me too much like actual church music and not in-your-face enough.
In fairness to this new album, I have only properly listened to it all the way through at a time once. I might learn to love it with time. But I didn't particularly like it, and I don't really want to listen to it more.
Halsey released a concept album titled If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power along with a movie about a queen who murders her abusive husband then discovers she is (possibly supernaturally) pregnant. The album explores Halsey's own pregnancy and relationship with their body and gender through it.
I actually only listened to the album as a whole recently. The only song I've heard enough times to really have an opinion is "I Am Not a Woman, I'm a God", and I really like that one. I can't really speak for the rest of the album, but I enjoyed it.
Ice Nine Kills
I like Ice Nine Kills, but I haven't listened to that much of their music. Mostly I know Every Trick in the Book (which is a fantastic album, by the way) and a few singles.
The band released a new album this year, The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood. I haven't listened to The Silver Scream 1, and I'm listening to Welcome to Horrorwood for the first time as I write this, so this is a very preliminary opinion, but I like this album. It sounds like Ice Nine Kills, and they have a good sound.
Ashnikko released a short mixtape titled DEMIDEVIL this year. Overall, it's not really my style, but I appreciate queer music, and it has some catchy songs like "Deal with It" and "L8r Boi".
Lil Nas X
Speaking of queer music, I haven't listened to the album Montero, but the title song, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" is really good!
I really haven't been paying that much attention to new music. There isn't even any black metal on this list.
For the most part, I keep my personal life private, so I don't have much to say here.
I'm working on going back to school. I submitted a handful of applications to PhD programs in CS. I want to study cryptography in grad school. I don't know for sure what I'll be working on, but I have identified one research question which would be worth exploring: How can we make key verification/PKI easier without introducing centralization or sacrificing security? I'm thinking about writing a longer post exploring existing approaches to this problem (WoT, better UX like QR code/emoji verification, cross-signing, public key as identifier, blockchain-based PKI) and their issues and limitations.
Since I'm planning to move in the summer/fall for school, my life until then is strange and liminal.
A lot of things happened this year in software projects I've been watching. Here are some of them.
- Debian 11 ("bullseye") was released as the new "stable" branch.
So much happened in Matrix. See The Mega Matrix Holiday Special 2021. Here are some highlights:
- FluffyChat made it into F-Droid.
- FluffyChat 1.0.0 was released with better support for spaces.
- Spaces replaced Communities.
- Synapse got a much-needed efficiency boost.
This was also the year when I finally decided that I like Matrix.
- The Oxen team demonstrated that it's possible to do onion-routed video calls using Lokinet.
- Scribe, an alternative frontend to Medium was published, and it has joined Invidious, Nitter, and Bibliogram on my list of essential tools for adversarially making the modern web usable.
- Tor 0.4.6.8 finally deprecated v2 onions (the shorter .onion addresses).
- Tor Browser 11.0 introduced a new UI from Firefox ESR 91.
- iOS client Siskin IM version 7.0 implemented font scaling.
- There's talk of implementing Matrix-like cross-signing in XMPP's OMEMO, which would make key trust management much easier.
- youtube-dl stopped getting updates for almost 6 months, so I switched to the actively maintained yt-dlp fork which also has additional features like SponsorBlock.
Some software I started using this year
- Arch Linux
- FreeTube (post)
- I2P (post)
- Libreboot (post)
- Lokinet (related post)
- Qubes OS
- SchildiChat (related post)
Here are some posts from the past year I read and particularly recommend.
- Back to the Future with RSS! - great post explaning RSS for beginners
- How does WebRTC End-to-End Encryption work? Matrix.org example - This is a post about WebRTC, but it gives what I think is a very good, not-too-technical explanation of how Matrix's encryption works in general.