Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
The Eternal Aftermath
Date: 2018-Oct-13 21:44:15 EST

I keep thinking there are large defects in how I see the world in terms of my personal happiness - early in life I put off a lot of things for later that would make me happy, in the idea that I was setting the stage for happiness; I admittedly got a lot of benefit from this in some senses, but I think I was a lot less happy than I might have been, and years spent unhappy might not actually be that beneficial after all, even if the concrete and puritan measures of success smile upon it. I never really stopped, but instead as age crept in, and perhaps more pointedly, years of prolonged depression muddied my mind and personal narrative, now I'm also looking backwards for happiness, being nostalgic for times that were never happy, but in which I was more together. It's strange. I am left with a lot of emptiness, and yes when I am engaged in a good debate or discussion, online or not, I feel a little alive again, but that's just a fragment of life - the chase, and is missing out on a lot of dimensionality that I think I should have. There should be people around me, and duties, and things I care about in my life longer term outside of my job. And there are not. It's just neglect - a low self-detruction without an audence. Still, I carry these ideas forward as as another part of me. A duty to ideas.

I recently finished Crosscode, which was rather successful as a game - it made me feel things, but didn't feel quite as painful as LifeIsStrange. There was a spot of novelty in how the designers made the protagonist's facial expressions very emotive, and it worked very well. Probably time to take a break from gaming for awhile and catch up on reading. On that topic, I keep thinking back to Ubik, both the book, and the person (former coworker at Dropbox who left well before I did) who introduced me to it. And the uncaring politics tied to that. I am so glad to be outside of big tech for now. I know some people are proud when they climb high in that tower of arbitrary rules, incompetent managers, and political struggles. And that's after one gets in the door; something that I know firsthand and through my former students to be a highly shitty and random experience from the top-tier tech companies like Google and Dropbox down to smaller places. It's not awful in the same ways everywhere, but it is awful everywhere (and I think the efforts to make it more standard actually usually make it more awful). Anyhow, I have come to treasure the less-complex ties I have with former coworkers from those times now, absent the backdrop. And it's easier for me to be a relaxed and reasonably sane person outside there (even given that my emotional life is a well-hidden mess at the best of time).

An ex of mine from the Pittsburgh years is in town; good to see her again but it's also pretty complex. I am often struck by how different our mental worlds are ; things that she seems to think are very easy are very difficult for me, and often vice-versa. I've internalised this in theory, but in practice it's hard to know what, in broad areas of life, are the intrinsically difficult things versus things we either make difficult for ourselves or which touch on a personal weakness.

I'm sometimes weirded out at some kinds of remembering-things ; I don't know if a sequel to Mary Poppins, for example, was useful or necessary, but when I was thinking of the old series and lead character, the name "Julie Andrews" popped into my head; it seemed unlikely to me that I actually remembered the actress's name, but that's apparently what I did, despite not having remembered ever having taken an interest in her or having ever looked this up. Strange how this works. Were it boolean data, I would be tempted to dismiss it as statistics, but as a string? Not so much.

A few takes:

  • I'm pretty down on Vox as usually offering the most self-serving, unprincipled, and ugly takes on populist liberalism. Seeing this title: The Supreme Court: Should We Abolish It? - is pretty cringeworthy. Slate offers some of the same. Nevermind how recently the supreme court provided gay marriage (even though I would argue this was not the ideal route), and historically has provided much of the same. The beef I have is that the purpose of the Supreme Court is not to advance liberal values, and our support for it should not be contingent on that. It is a structurally necessary part of our system; removing it would leave us with a lot of new questions to answer, but before we consider its removal we still should have an idea why we'd remove it in the first place. Neither of these articles offer good answers, and at least the Slate article has the added ugliness of pretending that liberals alone can save democracy; I see this as naive. Our nation's political system mirrors its legal system in that it functions best when it's adversarial, burdened by norms, and civil. The only way I know to restore a broken sanity is to preserve that.
  • I keep going back and forth on whether to get a smart hub; I know I don't want Google's (dumb no-camera decision), and a reasonable alternative seems to be from Lenovo, but I face the usual problem of the old hardware not disappearing when I don't need it anymore. And it honestly works fine. While if I somehow lost all my stuff I might make different choices, I'm getting to be wary of buying for small improvements and ending up with tons of old hardware sitting around. Or throwing it away.
  • Peter Kogler has some pretty interesting "location" art. Unfortunately to visit most of it I'd have to make a trip to Europe. Perhaps worth it.
  • I've been thinking about visiting Argentina. I've never been to South America, and a number of people I've worked with from varied parts of my career are from there.
The cold is in the air again. Today was the first day where I felt I needed to wear clothes for warmth rather than just modesty. And so the end of this year too is coming in sight. No progress on my new year's resolution - still haven't been on a date. I guess maybe there's still time.



Viscerality of Offense
Date: 2018-Oct-12 15:14:07 EST

I'm not aiming to, but I feel a kind of visceral offense when I see someone believing deeply woo things. Recently I came across someone on Twitter grumbling at their local state lottery commission for "running out" of some number they liked to bet on, and I poked fun at them for not understanding statistics. Twitter's great for a certain kind of citizen go-getter-ism, as we can usually respond to adverts and poke fun at a product, or a celebrity, or whatever. I hope this leads people to be less passive than the generations that were used to TV (which allowed but ignored participation, or at least restricted its impact to others itting next to you when you're watching whatever you're watching). There are dangers to this lessened passivity in that we don't know how to handle activism well and easily let extremists win arguments because we're too annoyed to argue, or don't know how. Anyhow, I'm not so bothered by people who believe in religion - religion is a little less slam-dunk to argue against, and significantly works in areas that science hasn't given us solid understanding of yet. Plus there' a lot of other stuff in religion - non-fact-claims or things that may look like fact claims but are difficult to imagine digging at with empiricism (and there are fuzzy thinkers like Sam Harris that dive into these topics and stumble at the first hill).

I'm a little weirded out at the visceral offense I feel at it. At the end of the day it's tempered by my general attitude of "but.. it's your choice", although at other ends of the same action I might be comfortable placing limits; I don't think the state should be running gambling (nor should it permit large-stakes gambling, and perhaps it should produce structural difficulties like making it hard in contract law to enforce the exchange of properties), and for things like homeopathy I am comfortable with at least banning advertising and perhaps banning the commercial part. Meaning we don't have to make the nonsense easy but don't have to restrict the consumer.

Although with that there are still issues; I recognise that there are plenty of cases where the state can not outright ban something but they can make it really hard, where that use of state power would bother me were it something I approve of. I'm not going to entirely avoid methods because I don't like how they could be applied, but I want to make sure I don't think of this as "it's done a certain way, therefore any limitations that come out of it are not things I need to justify" - the different means may change somewhat the degree of justification I need, but it can't be carte blanche.



Anxious Fall
Date: 2018-Oct-09 19:36:43 EST

My two youngest sisters visited part of last week and this. Was great to hang out with them and reminisce. Feeling some generalised anxiety now, which might or might not be related - I keep worrying that I missed the boat in terms of having kids and a family, and it doesn't help that I'm still not outgoing enough to meet people and start relationships. At least I think the worry is tied to the generalised anxiety, although I really don't know - the feeling doesn't surge when I think about the topic. Maybe it really is just chemical with no topical sensitivity. Not a good thing.

Google's yearly product release was earlier today - new phone (ordered, with accessories), new product that wasn't quite what I expected - Google Home Hub which inexplicably doesn't have a camera (which damns it enough that I don't see myself ordering one - if I were to get it it'd go in my bedroom and I'd want to use it to VC with my sisters and their families), and no new high-end chromebook laptop (which I was kinda hoping for because I made a barely visible crack in my Pixelbook's screen, only visible from some angles but the imperfection bugs me and makes using the stylus a little bothersome). On the toy front I have new Google-Assistant-enabled smart plugs, which will be kinda useful in letting me command more things with my voice at home. Not deeply amusing, but it's something. I keep feeling bothered that nearly all the deeper meaning in my life is tied to work, not people. Philosophy is great but I need more.

Represented connectomics at a recent openhouse at the foundation - it went rather well. Was able to talk about our work to the general public, which is a treat. And by all accounts it went well. Was one of the better attended booth. Glad I had a naturally appealing topic.

Games I've been enjoying recently (which I should write reviews for):

  • CrossCode - very cute JRPG, sorta. Tricky puzzles, lovable characters
  • Hat in Time DLC - great to see more content, but the new content is super difficult
  • We Happy Few - Loved it, but it felt too short. I wanted to linger longer, and the second half of the game (itself divided into two parts) were designed to rush you through. Looking forward to more DLC. Catchy music.
  • Moonlighter - Good short-term adventures that contribute to a greater purpose. Got to the last boss, found it way too hard.
I've been waning a bit in terms of my interest in Kingdom of Loathing. I think I've exhausted the novelty added before this current bout of playing and that means the daily commitment to play a certain amount doesn't work that well for me for now. May get back into it when there's more new stuff (holiday content is always good)

Politics? And other things?

  • The Kavanaugh hearing is something I didn't get enough into to follow as much as a lot of other people. Had the Dems been able to get away with it I would've (as I've said before) had them refuse to allow anything to get up to a vote on Supreme Court nominees until the Repubs nominate and approve of Merrick, as a way to restore the damaged norms from the end of Obama's presidency. On Kavanaugh himself, as usual there's the difficult problem with sexual assault allegations that they're very difficult to prove because the difference between consensual and nonconsensual activities can leave no external markers. All this is made more difficult by the alleged acts having happened a long time ago. As I have always done, sometimes at cost of loss of friendship, for most allegations of criminal activities I don't judge if it happened until and unless the courts have spoken. I get the feeling that some of the anti-Kavanaugh activism is not restorative-of-norms but just empty rage - I don't thnk that's compatible with political pluralism; given the status quo as it was, Trump was going to nominate a judge, almost certainly a conservative-nationalist one, and people needed to accept that. That said, if the claims could somehow be proven, Kavanaugh would not be suitable to be a judge (Trump hasn't shown much skill at vetting people, or really any of the other things required of him, so it's not surprising that this nonsense keeps coming up), and I understand (but cannot agree with) people who decide not to take my principled neutrality on allegations of crimes pending court investigation. Did the behaviour of Kavanaugh in his defense disqualify him to be a SC judge? I don't know, I didn't watch. If we imagine an innocent person accused (or a person who believes themselves innocent - there is a distinction), would outrage at the accusations be justified? Perhaps. I am wary of having trials that would disqualify reasonable people reacting reasonably, but I haven't watched the congressional hearing so I just know what I'd look for had I paid attention. I'm just rather tired at the moment and didn't have the intellectual energy to look into this. Feeling pretty exhausted watching populism damage a lot of norms I care about - I understand, accept, and even advocate regular transfer of power between conservatives and liberals, to check crazy ideas of each and hopefully preserve some longer-term values. Berlusconi-style populism is a departure from that though. And I'm not the sort who dreams of leaving the US when things get hard, because I'm a hardliner on free speech and no other country I know of takes it as far as we do here. People file police reports for racist speech in Canada and the UK, for example. If our ship is sinking I'll be going down with it. But I'd rather us not sink, and this is all quite tragic, particularly as I see my side follow its opposition into the gutter. I can respect what Collins said on the topic - seemed measured and reasonable and surprisingly interesting.
  • Bummed about G+ shutting down, but not surprised. The smell of neglect was creeping in in a very internet way - pornspam comments. And I was already starting to check out, mentally. But any loss of human ties hits me hard, particularly because I have so few IRL and I liked a lot of the people there. Even though they were starting to check out too. Was a good way to have my ideas challenged and to challenge those of others, in a longer form than Twitter makes easy. I feel a little weird that they're sunsetting consumer G+ but keeping the corporate version - I think what few corporate users they have probably significantly come from people being able to play around with the open version, so it would've made sense to keep it even as a loss leader. Oh well.
  • Also unhappy about Google Inbox shutting down. Very unhappy. GMail's normal interface feels so backwards to me now.
  • An interesting fact-check by Politifact about Beto's claim that one can be too gay to adopt a child. This fits a general pattern where the law does not explicitly prohibit something, but it permits private actors to act in ways to make something very difficult. These situations are often very hard to work through (in the cake case, for example, I feel it amounts to compelled speech, but in the adoption case, I don't think there's a free speech issue at stake, particularly when they're acting as a state-paid proxy for a state function - facilitating adoption, although there may not be a super thick line there)
  • Amusing example of a shortsighted decision by a special interest group - Shetland lobbied for a ban in Scotland on showing their land in a small box. This means that maps of Scotland will look ridiculously empty. There's a lot of other weird stuff in the act that amounts to favouritism - it's not particularly decent on the other points either. Fortunately the map duty only applies to official maps, although I find this requirement obnoxious enough that I'd probably scrub Shetland from most maps were I to be making maps of Scotland for some reason, until this requirement is lifted. ... Although all this talk of Shetland reminds me that it's a place that I'd rather like to visit someday.
  • I'm not fond of the new Code of Conduct for the Linux kernel. It was put in by a pretty nutty activist - anyone who brags about how angry they are or uses words like "cishet" isn't somebody I'd want to tell the time of day to. There's a lot of this going on in various technical projects, unfortunately. And it's not really doable to just suggest we don't need any code, as a number of stories I've heard from female developers has made clear. I want such codes to cut minimally though, ideally using fairly narrow and understandable notions of harassment and aiming more to prevent unwanted contact without worrying so much about offense. If two people can't exist at the same conference who could work productively together but one person honestly believes the other is sinning or hellbound (but can explain why in a calm way and also otherwise treat them the same), then the code of conduct is overreaching. Better to either accept clashes and insist they not disrupt, or put certain topics entirely out of bounds for work (regardless of the angle someone has on the topic).
  • There was another Sokal Hoax, although I think everybody's too exhausted by national politics to pay it much mind. Or perhaps people already know/feel (YMMV) that those fields are already not credible.
  • The source code to MS-DOS (1.x and 2.x) was recently released on Github, and Apple LOGO as well. Lots of memories involved in both for me.
  • This is a great and creepy science story about a monster black hole. Sometimes I like to read about gigantic stars and other weird stellar objects. Despite some gut fear.
  • On Strumia's talk on Physics and women: In this case while I don't feel I have enough information to judge the case entirely, I am leaning against seeing Alessandro Strumia's talk as acceptable, primarily because it raises doubts in terms of whether he would treat both genders the same in the workplace in terms of career advancement. I don't mind offense, but damaging reasonable belief that the dry mechanics of the workplace will focus on individual merit rather than extraneous factors (even if there is a difference in the means of populations of scientists, which is itself a scientific question that I don't know the answer to but also don't much care about) is not acceptable. I would need to see the slides to know for sure if that's the case though.
  • When I first read this I was deeply surprised, although then I read they were talking about client code rather than the internal rSERVER monorepo for server-side code. Still an impressive feat.
The Deep Space Nine retrospective movie (which I kickstarter'd at a fairly high funding level) is seeing its funder's release this Sunday. Super looking forward to that. I've been having a lot of bad migraines recently on the weekend recently - worse than normal. Hoping that doesn't interfere.



Staggering Feet
Date: 2018-Sep-17 01:23:48 EST

I recently saw a video on YT talking about behaviour of pet cats - one of the points that stuck with me is that cats rarely talk to each other but they talk a lot to humans. This does fit my memory, but I'm surprised I never noticed it. And there's still the question of what nuances I should read into it - there's a sample bias in that I only am around to see some cat interactions, while my cats are there at my home all the time. And a lot of my interactions with my cats come down to them bothering me for food or water, so it's structural. They mostly talk to each other as warning when play fighting gets too rough. I wonder too if talking for them is a second resort, to be tried after body language (which I presunmably only would sometimes pick up on). It's a fascinating topic and something that now resides in my head as another data collection impulse. Like a TSR from the DOS days.

I feel some empathy for Rick Scott in this circumstance, in that any kind of historical analysis is tough. I don't think I would or should get down to a short answer were I to be asked this - at the very least I'd start with the distinction between what we knew then and what we know now, and move on to analysis of effects, principles, and so on. To really get a yes or no answer, the question would have to be phrased differently.

Given how happy I was to see superdelegates largely drained of influence in the Democratic Party, I am still intrigued at various articles about it. There's a certain tendency to decide that certain groups deserve an extra balancing effort in our political representation, and this does go against that tendency. I don't have very strong feelings about this (the way our elections work do legitimately have this effect), but I've come to lean against that tendency, to the level of feeling enraged by the way NYC community board members are not elected, they're handpicked to be representative along whatever lines politicians find representative. This, I think, makes them illegitimate.

This article on CDProjectRed is in my view entirely wrong-headed - to argue that poking fun at some kinds of activism necessarily means hostility to whatever cause they're poking for is making an unfortunate leap, and if widely adopted would leave us unable to criticise bad activism.

CNN has a ranking of 2020 potential democratic candidates. They have at least 1 serious error upfront - that further-left candidates are winning, but it's still an interesting list. Among them:

  • Elizabeth Warren is someone I would wholeheartedly support for higher office, even though I wish she were less less forceful in congressional interrogations
  • I am wary of Kemala Harris (significantly because she is from California and the political culture there is more PC) but haven't yet seen much about her that actually bothers me. If she runs I'll need to learn more
  • I could support Biden, but reluctantly because I think he is very poor on foreign policy
  • I am wary of Kirsten Gillibrand for her stance on ICE (I think it's done just to appease nutty activists and I don't want the party to do that). Would need to learn more.
  • I think Bernie Sanders is too old to be president and I don't know where he is on foreign policy. If he's nominated I'd support him, but I don't think at this point he's the best choice.
  • I don't trust or respect Cory Booker.
  • I don't know much about the rest. If they become prominent I'll study them
There's been some backlash against Netflix pushing for Ciri, a main character in Witcher 3, being recast to be a minority race in an upcoming TV series. I am usually a little irritated when I feel choices are being made in fiction writing for activist purposes rather than what's good for the story or true to the world the story takes place in. I'd rather we societally turn our backs on authors that do that, and in our personal notions of canon, expel their works - "smells like activism" is a sour, unworthy scent. That said, I don't think it's ever appropriate to harass authors or actors or directors over stuff like this. We're not entitled to have fiction written to our whims, particularly when with any story, the pen is waiting there for us to weave what we like (if in our heads and in doujin) with whatever stories we have heard. For those of us who consider DrWho to have ended in the classic series, who is going to come to our doors and insist we change our views? Nobody. So there's no reason for us to harass others just because they got their canon turned into a movie or a comic or whatever. We still have our own canon, and harassment is not acceptable.

There are interesting issues with this call not to call Alamo defenders heroic. Namely, does one need to fight for a side that's geopoltically decent in order to be a hero, or is it enough to fight for one's community? Could someone defending a kibbutz built on stolen land be thought of as heroic? Could the attackers? Could there be heroes on both sides? Looking at the history of Texas, I think the American settlers were, at least as a group, dastardly and deserved to lose; the Mexican government offered them a place to build with the understanding that they would be Mexican citizens, and they broke with that. I am unsure how to define the word hero though, so I don't feel I can reach conclusion on this issue. I feel I at least know how I should think about it though.

Here's a cute article on Batman and fighting crime. I am intrigued to see a different critique of Batman from mine (I think Batman is mentally ill and deeply irresponsible, and don't consider him at all a hero), focused on more of a rehabilitation ethic. It's unfortunately unfulfilling in that it doesn't suggest a solution for the characters so much as a change in the narrative world to encourage readers in healthier directions. I would rather accept the given world and make Batman harsher. The Injustice storyline goes further and lays out the spectrum, albeit populated mainly at the extremes and gently suggesting that the death penalty is akin to fascism (Injustice Superman being essentially that).

Finally, Politico asks a fascinating question - what would a socialist America look like. There are many potential answers depending on flavour, but the flavour I'm imagining would be heavily Technocratic, influenced by Nordic countries (although getting the worker protections right would be incredibly fiddly), and still a weighty player on the world stage, in favour of healthy international norms. The cradle-to-grave care that is occasionally promised and talked about in the UK would be a guideline, but with fairly skeptical analysis of each right we might grant people. Economically, competition between collectives would be a norm for business.



Glimmers in the Eyes
Date: 2018-Sep-15 03:47:28 EST

I've been having a weird health issue turn up more often - hoping it never gets too frequent. The weird shaped afterimages one gets from scrunching one's eyes too hard - I've been getting them occasionally randomly for awhile, making it a bit hard to read things. It feels like maybe I stared at something too bright for too long, or something like that. Possible this relates to a weird non-migraine headache I'm having right now that I've occasionally gotten before - may correlate. This headache is easy to miss because compared to a migraine it doesn't hurt that much. Will have to keep an eye out for this correlation in the future.

Recently someone I follow on social media - much more into the "social justice" camp than I am, was devastated that someone he looks up to (another "social justice" sort) saw one of his posts and blocked him. It bothers me that he seems to assume that he legitimately did something wrong and needs to improve. A long time ago I largely cut myself off from most impact of criticism by others, particularly activists; I decided that the definitions and the estimations that others have (of me and otherwise) are theirs, mine are mine, and they don't need to have anything to do with each other. For practically everybody, were they to offer harsh criticism, it wouldn't bother me much unless their estimation implies some other kind of impact might come (e.g. they won't want to work with me on a project), and any bother would likely come from that. It probably helps me maintain this that I pretty much hate activist-style thinking and find it easy to discount people who do it, but it is more broad. I know that all sorts of terms, from privilege to all sorts of isms or phobias, are very definition-heavy, and even when I agree that something fits in the bounds of one of these, I'm also not going to accept that it's always wrong to be for all such words that can get that suffix. And so I've pre-defused a lot of things that might otherwise bug me. I recommend this to others - it's a lot less stressful than what I remember it was like before.

Been thinking a bit on felony disenfranchisement - I think of it much like I do the death penalty - I am entirely okay with it in theory, but there are too many things that need fixing with our current system for it to work fairly and until they're fixed, I can't approve of it in practice. At least not broadly. The main beef I have with it is that the definition of a felony doesn't line up well with crimes that should be considered serious enough to disenfranchise, and I accept the secondary argument that selective restoration (based on personal convictions of judges acting with little guidance or oversight) is a very dangerous tool. This issue was brought to mind by a recent Jon Oliver segment on it.

Been rereading the Darksword series. It still feels juvenile, but I'm also still enjoying it.

Recently came to realise that one of the perspective-defining ideas I've been chewing on for awhile - "it's okay to be from somewhere", might be seen as a moderate stance between two extremes:

  • That when we visit another culture we should learn a lot about its norms/taboos and try to fit in
  • That when we visit another culture we should be careful not to do so in order to avoid appropriation
It's not exactly that simple in that at least some people who are concerned about appropriation mainly are concerned about some kind of inappropriate use - for example visiting another nation and dressing as one of their peons might be okay but dressing up as a tribal leader would be inappropriate because that rank was not earned. And there are all sorts of other possible ideas in this space too. Still, I had not recalled that second argument until now and it's interesting to see that perspective shifted a bit.



Winds within Clouds
Date: 2018-Aug-28 03:15:44 EST

Tomorrow's the trip. I had a nice wrap-up (or at least, ready-to-put-down-for-a-bit) with some things at work today, which was nice. There's a data server called DVID that's been kinda frustrating for me for awhile, in that it was taking ridiculous amounts of RAM to generate tiles for data I had loaded into it. I've been learning to work around those limits (and will have to get around putting a diff together to improve its docs). I also think I've figured out how to work around a bug with loading segmentation layers that's rendered the main documented way of doing things not usable for us; there's another API that has no sample code and isn't that well-documented that I wrote a util to talk to. I'll try that last bit when I get back.

I haven't started packing yet, but my train's at 14:00 or so tomorrow so little is lost in putting it off until now or even tomorrow. Most important thing is to get the devices I'm taking with me into a well-charged state, which I'm doing. Might spend some time tonight trimming the schedule more. Intrigued that Richard Garriott will be there; he's one of the few legends out there that I've never interacted with at all.

A few thoughts on things:

  • Awhile ago I commented, on Twitter I think, that I felt NYS's Governor was likely in the wrong for using government officials to push businesses away from the NRA (I don't have particularly strong feelings about the NRA one way or another, and I don't have strong views on gun regulation either - I'm pretty neutral). The ACLU filed a brief in support of the NRA position here, which I am glad about ; there's been concern about the ACLU wavering on its core mission and instead aligning itself with liberal politics. I really don't want it to do that - it smacks of tribalism. I hope this is a sign that the ACLU will recommit to civil liberties and reject being selective.
  • Even if he's a very good leader, I think PM Ahmed needs to take active measures to stop his cult of personality. It's unhealthy.
  • This needs to happen more often - taping of sexually inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. It takes things beyond a clash of claims by providing something concrete, and at least for those of us who care about evidence, it lets us feel comfortable in demanding people face consequences.
  • I recently got into a discussion on twitter on community boards in NYC - they're appointed rather than elected. An advocate of them felt that this is a good thing both because the elections would be expensive and that appointments ensure a diverse representation. I find this very hard to trust, and it effectively undermines their legitimacy in representing neighbourhoods.



The Big Run-Up
Date: 2018-Aug-26 19:36:55 EST

DragonCon is coming up, and like with the last few years, I'm going through the app and starring all the things I *might* be interested in going to, basically so I have options that I know I'm possibly interested in while there. Chances are I'll have a migraine for part of my time there, but that's okay. I've figured it in; it's just part of what I have to work with. I have a good amount of reading material queued up for the train trip, which I'm quite looking forward to.

Today I spotted on Twitter a HeterodoxAcademy thing in Washington^2 where they advertise having interesting conversations with random people. I went; it was pretty good, although one of the conversations went on a bit long and was a bit too focused on me.

Yesterday after work we had one of our social events, and I chatted more with a coworner and his wife that I've always felt generally positively about ; he and his wife are from india, and we talked about world politics, Indian culture, faiths in India, and challenges in reforming healthcare. It was one of the better conversations I've had in a long time. It's often so hard to find people capable of a good conversation, but today and yesterday have been bizarrely good.

Right now, I'm enjoying a rest at a Think Coffee near where I live, near 14th and 8th. Or is it 14th and 9th? I don't remember. Doesn't matter. They're playing some rather nice jazz. My phone tells me it's some Miles Davis. I've recently been impressed a lot at the musical tastes at some places I frequent, from here to the rolled pizza place right around the corner from my home (which plays French Jazz) to the Art Cafe (usually South American contemporary music).

I gave my first Chaos Eng meetup with an intro talk. It went well I think, and one of the Netflix engineers that pioneered the name of the field was there and was able to contribute more insight.

Forgot to actually post this on Saturday, now it'sSunday and I'm in the Art Cafe. The place is hopefully doing well now - it has a lot of people a lot of the time, so provided they know what they're doing it *should* be doing okay.

The Unix subsystem stuff continues to be awesome on ChromeOS ; I'm slowly expanding my use of it and apart from needing to be aware of the networking configuration, everything I try is doable. Font sizes are a bit wonky though.



In the Hands
Date: 2018-Aug-11 15:33:49 EST

A memory:

My father and I had done karate together for awhile at this studio - we were not in a hurry to get particularly good, but it was a way to spend time with him, and it was fun. Eventually the studio closed (I think they were not making enough money to stay open) and the guy running it, who looked kinda like a middle-aged kinda muscular hippy, offered to sell my dad the training materials he had. I got around to asking him about certain things he did with his fingers when displaying moves, and he said that he did that because it looked cool.

I don't think I reacted much at the time, but it left an impression. Sometimes things really are pretty simple and not that meaningful.

I still believe that a good metric to understanding life is to try to pull a lot of meaning out of things people say and do, but I'm also wary of pulling meaning out that wasn't there to begin with. Although later in life I layered on "death of the author" in the sense that one can get life lessons from people that they did not intend to teach, and this generalises easily to cultural products as well. If someone reads a lot into a story or artwork that the author did not intend, that may not be great communication but it is great personal journeying.



Flying Water and Falling Air
Date: 2018-Aug-05 22:12:50 EST

Perpetually finding it weird how scarce a thing attention is, within myself. I keep training myself to be more conscious - to do something I think humans rarely are meant to do - to stay in "figure it out" mode for longer periods of time. And I can manage that, with some difficulty. I think it has and will continue to change me, and it imposes some kinds of hardship, but to me this is what life is about - those moments when our mind is open. In doing so, I feel another constraint ; not having a lot of energy with which to make change. I'm often okay with this; not all thought need produce results, but on occasion I wish to it's still hard.

Work? Going well, I think. As always I end up using some of my skills more, and some barely at all, but I've found a happiness in that the things that bug me - mostly relating to how we do infrastructure, which feels really creaky - don't bug me all that much. And I find myself continually carried by a sense of wonder at the natural universe. That's pretty amazing, enough so that I don't mind putting the part of me that likes making arrangements out of order and chaos to bed. At least for the foreseeable future. I'm still going to selectively reach out to past coworkers who seem suitable to see if they might want to join us. I have a fondness for a lot of them, even though I usually kept it a distant fondness. Being close to people is still very wearing for me.

Spending part of today at a local place called ArtCafe; I keep forgetting this place exists, but it's very pleasant. The owner and his family that run it are from Spain, I think. Reminds me how I noticed yesterday that Citizens of Chelsea is run by an Australian family; I'm not used to seeing those nationalities heading abroad for entrepreneurial adventures.

A few thoughts:

  • Worrisome to see accomodation taken way too far. I've known a few people who went through Yeshiva who really regretted it; they ended up with poor social skills and knowing nearly nothing about broader society, giving them a really tough time holding down jobs. I'd probably ban them if I could.
  • Facebook's agreement not to discriminate in ads seems pretty nutty to me; worries about discrimination only make sense in a few realms of life, and what adverts one sees are not one of them. Beyond that, I think this would make adverts far less effective, perhaps on the level of television or less. I don't understand the motivation, unless I'm reading this all wrong and this isn't social-justice handwringing so much as privacy. But I don't think I am. And apparently they were pushed by Washington state.
  • Not sure why, but apparently Osacio-Cortez and Sanders are spending political capital on trying to elect a Muslim to governor of Michigan. I don't really support this, not because I see Muslims as particularly unfit to rule compared to Christians or Hindus, but because I don't want religious people, particularly people who openly talk about their religion, to have political office. It should be legal for them to run, but I see religion as a defect rather than a positive trait. Not that any single trait should damn people, and I have had good friendships with religious people. But to me it was always a minus on the ledger.
  • San Francisco is trying to get tech workers in the city to not use in-company cafeterias. I can understand why, not really sure what I think about it. I enjoyed the in-company cafeteria when I worked at Dropbox, and have enjoyed it at other places; it helps with social cohesion within a company. At the cost of reducing it with the rest of society. And sometimes, particularly in SF, that mingling is awful because San Francisco is an utter shithole. As NPR recently did a good article on. Social Justice advocates have done their best to make it hard to talk about this problem; with any luck this will backfire against them and reduce their ability to close dialogue on other specifics.
  • It's good that people have examples to help them be less sensitive, in this case a ridiculous concern over offending people who still define Pluto as a planet. As is generally the case, I'm fine with people having divergent definitions; the problem comes when they try to force others to use their definitions. Most people are really bad at handling this kind of thing.
  • I'm not sure what to think about this payment mechanism for coding schools; in terns of aligning incentives correctly (for a trade-specific school), it's great, but it bothers me in that it brings non-transactional payment into education, and those feel more invasive. Almost as if someone is selling part of themselves. I know these are not entirely without precedent though. Maybe part of it is also that I think treating education as either a gift or a simple transaction feels more compatible with the nobility of the trait, and gratitude for the recipient. Plus it gives more control to the taught immediately after all the lessons are done.
  • This report is deeply worrying - that traditional Republicans are as a pattern losing primaries to Trump-style nationalists. It's worrying both in that we can expect shit policies from them, and because it's doubtful that our democracy will survive the new dichotomy. Either they won't win any elections, in which case single-party Democratic rule will be disasterous, or they'll win some and our politics will be brutal and uncooperative.
  • I had to read over this very carefully, but I think the NRA is probably in the right here, in that having elected officials using agencies of the state to pressure private businesses against ties to an advocacy org based on its stances is a terrible precedent and damages ideas of free speech. It may already be happening to some extent, but it's easy to understand it by flipping around the particular groups invokved to ones we're comfortable with.
  • Let's wrap it up with one of the more interesting concerns in the sciences - machine learning can (with lots of ground truth data and tons of expensive training) produce networks that produce human-like levels of performance. I've seen this up close in my current job at work. The concern of "science without understanding" is better understood as engineering without the preceding science. And, just like finding a tribal remedy that we don't understand medically, we could theoretically poke at our own products to understand them better, with the odd conclusion that we are adding new targets for something like biomimicry. We'd be adding to something like the natural world without immediately understanding it. It's bizarre to be in that position.



Ideas found in old drawers
Date: 2018-Jul-29 23:08:54 EST

When my cats were talking to me earlier today, it got me thinking about limits to our communication, and why those exist. Human languages are a technology suitable for thoughts from the highly abstract to future planning to the immediate, with an added usefulness in ordering one's own thoughts. Cats are more struck in the president and anticipation of the near future, and their language is much more limited. Could we imagine them having enough overlap that there would be a smooth gradient where we would have complete understanding of their language and then some? Why didn't nature do this for us? Why is there not a universal language? And then I thought about this some more and realised that lack of a common tongue may even be advantageous between human tribes, allowing for private conversations and deception and group cohesion, with natural selection offering even stronger cross-species benefits for unintelligibility. Should the crocs, hippos, and bison all speak the same tongue? Probably not.

My workplace has been closed for awhile due to an exploded water pipe near Madison Square. It reopens tomorrow. I am looking forward to this; I find it hard to be productive at home, and I both want to get stuff done and to be able to show others that I got stuff done. It also should be good to get back in the gym habit.

My recent trip back to Texas was nice; got to spend time with two uncles and my cousin Conner and some other family, catching a little slice of each of their lives. Also got some rather nice boots (Allen's Boots in Austin) and enjoyed some really great Chinese food in Houston. We did a Segway tour of the latter; I was a bit slower than the rest because I was uncomfortable at high speeds, and this may have annoyed them (and the two others on the tour), but I was overall happy with it.

While I was down there I chatted w/ Mark on something I've been thinking about for awhile - the oddity that people can tell when music they've never heard before is being misplayed. He noticed something that I missed before - that there's a narrow-form reason why a lot of errors are immediately obvious - musical keys are pretty concrete and misplayed notes usually fall out of key. My original fascination is there, but diminished in that in-key wrong notes, or bad improvisation would be a lot more rare and probably less immediately apparent. So this is disappointing because it diminishes the interestingness, but it's a reminder that it's important our ideas be challenged.

I also met the CEO of Conda, briefly. I wish we had had the time to talk further. In prep to chat with my cousin I learned more about what the company is doing, and the thing I'm using of theirs is more of a side-product (AFAICT).

On the way back from Texas, I found myself grabbing the airplane wall whenever the plane shook; some part of me knew that this was just instinct and that grabbing onto the wall would not plausibly be helpful (at least to the extent that the grab felt like a life-saving-urge rather than a don't-get-banged-up one) if the tube of metal I was in were to begin to plummet, but I find myself pretty comfortable with the idea that not everything we do in life must make sense; if it makes me feel safe, I'm intellectually comfortable doing it.

DragonCon is coming up. Looking forward to it, and also to the Amtrak ride down.

I recently have been getting into "The Good Place", a philosophically-aware comedy. Such things are pretty rare in public media, and they're doing a good job so far at portraying philosophy as having relevant things to say in real life (even though the character who brings these ideas in is himself not a doer).

Recently have been chewing on an indea - for most of the "holy books", or alternatively earth-shaking philoophical works (e.g. Rawls' Theory of Justice), could they be written today in our current political climate? Legally? Without being blasted as bigoted? I suspect the answer is often "no", both because of generally shifted social mores and because at least right now critical theory is one of the few cohesive sets of ideas with a grip on American culture. What should adherents think about this (if correct)? I hope they'd be willing to step up, realising this, and speak louder in the form of offering alternative frameworks of meaning and values (N - "write new values on new tablets"). Not every philosopher must, but I think there's a collective duty for us to undermine consensus on any single philosophy (or faith) when it grows too bold. Read too simply this sounds like anti-philosophy, but we should instead read of it as being for the practice of philosophy rather than its product.

On the sneakiness of language - in politics people get a lot more frustrated with a locked door than with a wall. People think about walls as part of the lay of the land, while a locked door is a restriction to rage against. The surveyor or philosopher may see them as the same, while the savvy debator may convert one into the other to get people to stop thinking about some possibilities.

Through Quillette I've been following, at least for now, a Rabbi Josh Yuter. A recent tweet of his reminded me of a particularly traditionalist perspective on tradition that ties into conservative politics - the notion that the test of time provides validity. There is something to this, but it's easy to overstate. The test of time at best provides supplementary validation for a set of ideas, in that if one cannot reliably develop ideas of causality to fully understand a domain, one at least knows that the ideas tested are not grossly destructive. If an economic or social theory regularly results in destruction, it's a good sign that, at least with all the specifics present, it is not viable. These ideas not leading to destruction doesn't indicate that the ideas tested are actually positive. I offered the idea of a family tradition dating back centuries of always tapping one's nose right before a meal. Here we understand the mechanisms of food and health and so on well enough to know that the nose tap does nothing, but without understanding those mechanisms, the "stood the test of time" would still be present.