The web site at parts-unknown.org has shut down

Trouble has been brewing for a while.

When I was laid off from my last real job in 2001, I assumed I would eventually find work in high technology, the career I started with (as a computer programmer) when I left college the first time (with an A.A. in Business Data Processing), burned out on in 1985, returned to (as a computer operator, ironically better paid than I ever had been as a programmer) in 1986, wound up leaving again in 1990, and got sucked back into at the the tail end of the dot-com boom in 1999.

I tried to keep my skills current but it was a losing battle. These kids in high technology simply don’t communicate technical information in a way that makes sense to me and they sniff that I should “learn to code” a lot (see above: I did). They don’t want to believe there are bugs in their code because they think they’re so brilliant their code doesn’t have bugs. They’re so interested in features that add unfathomable complexity that they forget the simple use case.

I nonetheless soldiered on, first hosting decentralized social network instances, hosting my own web sites, running my own DNS, running my own email, doing all that. Sometimes clumsily, but still.

I got to a point where I bought a fairly powerful system to use as a server and had a monster UPS to keep it up.

But because I haven’t found real employment, I have been concerned for a while now about the stability of my housing situation. Further, as my skills have failed to keep up with the field, I outsourced email to Google’s G Suites, DNS to Hurricane Electric, and my blogs to WordPress.

My main web site has been the problem. Parts-unknown.org is huge. It is my archive, the archive that supported my dissertation research, the archive that supports my blogging, supports my thinking. It hosts data I link to from from my dissertation and therefore, according to the American Psychological Association’s style guide, should be kept on line for at least five years (that would be until at least January 2021).

And with an upgrade to FreeBSD version 11, I started getting errors complaining that there were too many links in /tmp that I couldn’t iron out. The Drupal installation that hosts my archive has some issues I also haven’t been able to iron out.

The academic work hasn’t paid off either. I returned to school in 2003, finished a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. I’m still not getting interviews. I’ve observed in the past that a dissertation is where a lot of good research goes to die, and so it has been with my own dissertation which, to my knowledge, remains uncited.

And now I’m moving.

After eighteen years of an utterly failed job search, I have to do something. Lacking a real job is about more than just the job. Our social identities, the value we are accorded as human beings in society, the respect we are accorded, our access to social networks, and even our romantic prospects are all bound up with the value and respect accorded our jobs. A glorified taxi driver (I’ve been reduced to working for less than minimum wage with Uber and Lyft) simply doesn’t gain the respect of a tenured professor. I am isolated socially, surrounded by faux Liberals and pseudo-Buddhists instead of academics and scholars. And when people tell me to apply for jobs—after eighteen years of futility—I understand them to be telling me to go to hell, fuck off and die. I can’t even fathom what I should be applying for anymore.

I am heading to western Massachusetts, largely on the basis of Colin Woodard’s description of what he calls Yankeedom, a social-cultural region that values civic participation and scholarship,[1] and on my sense (looking from afar) of the market there for Uber and Lyft drivers. I am hoping for a synergy I was never able to find in California.

So something has to be done with the web site. Even if it means shutting it down. And that’s what I’m doing.

I tried hosting it on Google Cloud. This failed. I’m reluctant to try Amazon Web Services because I can’t figure out how much it would cost me. And other providers either fail to provide instances with large enough capacity or simply cost way too much.

And what this episode drives home to me is my sheer exhaustion. The truth is that I am now completely burned out on technology. I don’t want to make this shit work; I want it to simply work. And frankly, having turned my focus toward human science for my Ph.D., this just isn’t where I want my head to be.

So it’s down. And it’s not coming back, at least for the foreseeable future.

My blog, Not Housebroken, and my newsletter, The Irregular Bullshit, remain operational. All my email addresses will continue to function. And I have backups that should enable me to bring parts-unknown.org back if it should ever make sense to do so.

  1. [1]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011)

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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