Stock and flow

I’ve been thinking a lot about a concept from economics called stock and flow recently. Robin Sloan wrote a piece about it a few years ago:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
  • Flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but I think we neglect stock at our peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: oh man. I’ve got nothing here.

(I came across this when Merlin Mann got on the topic of why (and whether) kids these days obsess over small things (like backpacks, or pens) much more than people of his (and my) generation do, in episode 78 of Reconcilable Differences. He carried the discussion over into the next episode of the Do By Friday podcast where he talked about it with his much younger co-hosts Alex Cox and Max Temkin.)

The stock and flow concept pops up in all kinds of contexts. The one that struck me recently was personal reputation: to what extent it’s bankable, and how it evaporates over time.

Wild

When I see the album cover for Snow Patrol’s new album Wildness

Cover art for Snow Patrol's album Wildness, showing an astronaut on a blue background with birds flying by

I immediately think of Jon Davis-Hunt’s art for Adrianna Tereshkova in his and Warren Ellis’s new Wild Storm series.

Character Adrianna Tereshkova in astronaut suit, teleporting her team

(I’m enjoying the comic more than the album.)

Kenesha saying _Explody_

100?

My walk the other week took me through the village of Zuidschermer near Alkmaar, where I walked past a sign for the “100 van Leeghwater”, a 100km walk being put on for the second time this year:

Sign for the 100 van Leeghwater 100km walk

I was four and a half hours/25km into my walk at that point, feeling a bit tired and sore because my right heel had developed a blister very early. My first reaction to the sign was, “LOL no.” Walking a marathon was enough. I accidentally did a 50km walk last year, and the longest walk I ever did was a 57km walk when I was still at school. A 100km walk would be double what I’ve done recently, it would require training and preparation, and a ton more podcasts than I usually accumulate in the course of a week.

But the sign stuck with me. I looked at the website when I got back home, talked about it with Abi, with my parents when I was over with them last weekend, and with some friends in Edinburgh last week… and I’ve registered for it.

Now I just need to figure out what my training regime will look like. There are plenty of resources online that tell you how to prepare for a marathon run; there seems to be far less information on how to get ready for a 100km walk.

John runs marathons, and one of his tips was to practice running (walking) on tired legs by doing intermediate distances on two consecutive days. With that in mind I plotted out a 20km loop around Zaandam. I did it clockwise yesterday, and then anti-clockwise this morning, in just over 3 hours. My recent long-distance walks have all been one-way trips, and I’ve taken public transport or been driven back home at the end of them. That’s fine for one-offs, but for training purposes loops will be a more efficient use of my time. I figure that if I increase my loop distance by 5km each week, I can build myself up to a 50km back-to-back weekend before the walk.

That’s still only half of a standard 4-day march at Nijmegen, at which 47,000 people are taking part this year. In terms of long-distance walking challenges, there are still plenty of frontiers left for me…if I make it through this one.

Honestly, This World

In the week since Scott Hutchison’s death I’ve been listening to a lot of Frightened Rabbit, obviously. Less obviously, I’ve also gone back to the album Honestly, This World by The Moth & The Mirror, a short-lived Scottish band that featured (amongst others) Stacey Sievwright and Gordon Skene (who was also playing with Frightened Rabbit at the time). I love this album, in particular the tracks “Germany” and “Fire”.

What I hadn’t spotted until this week, probably because I’ve only ever seen it at tiny sizes, was the airplane on the album cover that all the birds are following. The phrase “Honestly, this world…” already yields a mental picture of someone shaking their damn head. Now I see it in the artwork as well, it’s a beautifully subtle verbal and visual facepalm.

Album cover for Honestly, This World by The Moth & The Mirror

This is actually similar to a tattoo idea I had been toying with: a band of bird silhouettes around my arm, with somewhere amongst them a sly Airbus 320 — to represent the amount of flying I have done over the last five years. I might still revisit this! If I do, this album cover will give it the extra weight of a wonderfully obscure musical in-joke.