Embrace egalitarianism though it is a thorn that rips your flesh. Embrace multiculturalism though it is a venom that dissolves your bones. Embrace freedom though it is a fever that saps your power. Embrace them with all your strength though you fear to bleed and collapse and succumb. Pull them inside yourself until they are your flesh, your bones, your power, your awesome crown.

Principles of King Crimson

Today an email told me about the upcoming summer tour of the English rock band King Crimson. They began in 1968 and they continue to entertain their dedicated fanbase after almost 50 years but I still only know one of their albums.

In 1995 their new album Thrak was recommended to me by someone in a record shop near my childhood home. Having never heard of King Crimson, I gambled with my lawn mowing money and I won big. I enjoyed Thrak hundreds of times before I lost the CD. Unfortunately the band has not licensed Thrak for streaming or digital download. I miss it, but not enough to buy another CD and a device to play it.

I respect King Crimson’s decision to demand fair compensation for their music. Their reasons are principled. It’s just a bummer that I can’t listen to Thrak on demand. They sell much of their catalog for download but not Thrak. That’s why this post contains no album cover art and no links to their beautiful online store and amazing fan community: retaliation.

Licensing a group work requires agreement from every group member. The membership of King Crimson has changed many times over the years, including more than twenty artists, which explains why different agreements were reached for different albums.

Anyway, the email contained a list of principles that made me think about cooperative, creative endeavors in general and sensible defaults in particular.

The Seven Principles Of King Crimson 

1. May King Crimson bring joy to us all. Including me.
2. If you don’t want to play a part, that’s fine! Give it to someone else – there’s enough of us.
3. All the music is new, whenever it was written.
4. If you don’t know your note, hit C#.
5. If you don’t know the time, play in 5. Or 7.
6. If you don’t know what to play, get more gear.
7. If you still don’t know what to play, play nothing.


Item 7 is my favorite. It reminds me that silence is not less important than sound.

WordPress memcached 3.0.0

Some software is so stable that it becomes stagnant. Yesterday’s update of the WordPress object cache drop-in for memcached flings it from both categories, back into active development where it is sure to capture the attention of WordPress site administrators around the world.

So much for drama and spin. All that really happened was this: I pushed a major-version update that finally allows `wp_cache_flush()` to work for WordPress sites using memcached. You probably shouldn’t care at all; you had better click away to a video of a suburban father longboarding with a short-legged dog.

In case you do care, it can only be because you belong to the elite club of techies who administer a WordPress site with the help of memcached. Our records on this population are scarce. By one estimate–surely a miscalculation–there are fewer than ten installations of this software in the world. You may call it hubris but I suppose the number might stretch well into two-digit territory.

What you few need to know is this: upgrading to 3.0.0 will instantly flush your entire cache. This will happen because the key format has changed. I didn’t bother writing any code to gradually migrate keys, nor do I offer any other strategy mitigate this potentially catastrophic effect. You should be keen enough to handle it.

Beyond that, you can look forward to fewer problems along the lines of WordPress getting stuck in a database upgrade loop. This is when you’ve upgraded your database but WordPress keeps insisting that you haven’t, locking you out of wp-admin. That’s what happens when `wp_cache_flush()` has no effect. That’s just how it was for multisite installations because memcached’s own flushing mechanism was too blunt for such use.

How it works is not too hard to invent. Cache keys are automatically prefixed with a number that pseudo-uniquely represents the current “flush count” of either the current site or the global cache. Flushing is accomplished by incrementing that counter so that stale entries are hidden to subsequent accesses. The counters are stored in memcached so they exhibit the same performance characteristics as the cache entries they marshal.

2016 is not the first time we have tried this. Eight or so years ago, the same strategy was attempted on what was and is the world’s largest WordPress installation. Sensing trouble, we backed away from the high road and skirted the problem by inserting proprietary code in our copy of WordPress. If you’re the type that wants to dive into the gory details of these hacks, we have a special place for you.

We revisit the high road now because time has taught us to lean into trouble. We cherish our scars and we regret having sustained so few of them over the years. Second, we want future projects to hold tighter to the ethos of open source software and pushing improvements upstream for all to enjoy.

Like all versions of WordPress and this drop-in extension, 3.0.0 is free of charge. It will cost you one or two cache reads every time WordPress generates a page. If you find this expense immodest then I hope you will contact me about your use case.

I hope 3.0.0 proves stable enough to vanish back into obscurity. If it gives you trouble, come find me and we can make 3.0.1 together.

Thanks to Peter Westwood for reviewing the code and suggesting an improvement.

Managing Challenging Behaviors in Neurotypicals

Restless Hands

[This is a long overdue repost from my old blog. It is both satire and very serious. It is satire in that it is very closely modeled on actual articles I see frequently online, and it borrows much of the tone and phrasing of those articles. It is serious in that I very much hope it will make the people who write, read, and share those articles think a little more deeply about what it feels like to be one of the people that those articles are about. It is also serious in that it is legitimate and honest advice for autistic people who find the actions of non-autistic people stressful and exhausting– as most of us do at times. We,  as much as anyone else, deserve to have that stress and frustration openly acknowledged. But I also hope that by turning the spotlight back on the majority, I can…

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