Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
Worries on rule of judges
Date: 2018-Mar-22 00:10:33 EST

For a long time I've read the occasional complaint, from all over the political spectrum, about rule of judges - to be something ridiculous. Usually because it was used to analyse a particular situation where there was a very simple explanation for why the law works the way it does.

I think I've come to see a sense where this complaint makes sense; there is a lot of effective regulation that comes out of broad interpretation of various legal ideas, and a bad working definition easily leads to legal or civil risk without there being any explicit law to point to. It's also worrisome that often these interpretations probably have little public support and would disqualify a lot of the mainstream from various kinds of work (I use the word "disqualify" here a bit loosely, meaning that were they to act by their conscience in various jobs, they would face legal or civil risk). One case in point is harassment, where a traditional understanding would be that it's unwanted contact, but in many large tech companies HR will tell you that it's expression of certain opinions on social or political issues that might offend somebody. Could we point at laws that define it that way? Usually not. It's just interpretations.

I'm not arguing for originalism or legalism on these topics, but when interpretations impose effective requirements outside what the mainstream might accept, that's a problem.

Some subtle points of grammar
Date: 2018-Mar-21 22:19:10 EST

Due to weird weather, the office is closed today; the weather is pretty wild but I get stir-crazy if I don't go out at least a bit most days. I lugged (this was tiring) my microwave as well as some more kitchen supplies over to the new apartment, which is starting to feel a little bit like it has some of my personality now. Doesn't feel like home yet, and definitely not livable yet, but it keeps inching forward and the more stuff I move the more this move feels like a real thing.

Wandered through the snow to ThinkCoffee - a locally acceptable coffeeshop chain. On the way I spotted many businesses closed today, and two variants on some very specific phrasing - "due to inclement weather we are ..." and "due to THE inclement weather ...". The word "inclement" seems to have caught on, but I find that "the" to be interesting. The subtle meaning difference I get between the two phrasings is that the first is phrased as if the listener is not aware there is inclement weather (the way I'd write to somebody not local, or someone meant to read it some time in the future), while the second is phrased as if the particular inclement weather is already known to the reader. The difference being that the first has an implied "some", the first refers to something somebody already has on their mind. I don't know how many other people would read this the same way, and it is nice that both are gramattically correct and the meanings are close enough that variances in reading/writing won't lead to any serious differences in understanding.

Still preoccupied with thinking about the years going by, and the families my sisters have founded and my failure to do so. As well as that interplay between the two female geeks and the pickup artist series here (I briefly wrote about this on G+). I don't think I could imagine adopting the mindset the guy does, but it's interesting to note that of all the advice he gives (Which as the two reviewers note, is often accidentally good) I've generally done almost exactly the opposite of what I'd need to do to build good romantic ties with people. But it has fit very much with how I see the world - few frills, strong intellectual independence and respect for it in others, mistrust of self and others, strong beliefs and perspectives curated over the long term. These are not attractive traits.

Weird to have what's essentially a weekend day in the middle of the week.

Last night I had one of those perfect hugs with Tortfeasor - we took a nap. Weird how emotional these things can be. Maybe part of it is that I don't get a lot of human contact these days. And that I really care about my cats.

Transition of Home-feeling
Date: 2018-Mar-18 19:34:07 EST

In theory I should be able to introspect and observe whether my feeling that a place "is home" transitions smoothly when things move over, or that certain things impact that feeling a lot more. In practice, I'm observing myself as I do this move. I've been interested in this before - for the last several times I've moved. I've joked that "home is where the tea is" or "home is where the high-speed internet is", but those are just quips.

My gut feel is that certain things are almost inconsequential - low emotionally-impactful things not highly visible that I don't interact with much don't matter as much. A bed counts for a lot, as do things needed to make a place minimally comfortable were I to stay over. Computers and internet and recently google assistant devices count for a lot too. And art. This is the theory, anyhow. Trying to feel out how true it is as I carry loads over when convenient.

I could be going at this much more vigourously, but there's no rush; I have a very long overlap. I wish that were not such an expensive preference.

Company and Creed
Date: 2018-Mar-18 19:16:17 EST

Went to RHPS again last night. Same mix of things I like and things that make me a bit grumbly. Weird to think how long a history I have with that subculture, and how it has evolved. Probably 25 years. I think it was in High School that ... Jen? Maybe that was here name? Brought me to a showing. I barely have any memories left of her except that she had a very liberal mum and a very conservative dad, she was very liberal herself, she was the only out lesbian I knew of in the school system, and I remember an argument we had about the draft; I felt (being a proto-libertarian at the time) that the draft was an injustice and that expanding that injustice to women was a wrong. I think she listened only to my conclusion rather than my line of reasoning, or perhaps didn't trust that line of reasning, and she decided not to talk to me for a week or two. That hurt. We hung out a lot though; I didn't really care about her sexual preferences and maybe she found that refreshing, plus I think we made good sounding boards for each other as we figured out what we thought on some issues.

I have the keys to the new apartment now, and have carried a few loads over - it's hard for the place to feel settled without any furniture (likely will use movers for that), but I'm trying. Irritated to have measured and found that the new place isn't actually much bigger, and with the largely useless loft space in my current place figured in, it might be smaller. Still, I think there's more usable space. I want to leave enough room to have a guest bed. I'm not sure I'll succeed. I doubt I'll try to sleep there or move the cats until the new place has internet. Hopefully soon.

Tortfeasor has taken to hiding upstairs. I hope he's not dying. I keep moving him back downstairs so I can keep an eye on him, but he keeps heading back up.

Tonight I'm going to a showing of Hitchcock's Vertigo, making this a film-heavy weekend. Also did most of my taxes; will be good to finish getting that out of the way.

Parting with National Review
Date: 2018-Mar-18 02:29:11 EST

As an effort to try to not live in a news/perspective bubble, for awhile I had subscribed to National Review. Eventually, unfortunately, it just got too irritating to read the publication though. Part of it was the adverts - all this "buy gold" and commemorative coin offers just was embarassing. But part of it was also the bile - the same bile that I often also see on the left against the right. It bugs me when it's thick, and this was pretty damned thick.

It's a pity that this is the case, given how central and historical National Review is; I don't know of many other periodicals that will give me a window into that part of society, but I still would like to imagine a better version of NatRev - one that's smart, classy, and comfortable in its own skin. Maybe someday I'll spot something that suits the bill.

Summoned Pain
Date: 2018-Mar-17 00:57:17 EST

I'm finding myself moody and hurting. I think it's for this upcoming move - a low grade anxiety. Maybe because I've signed up for another big life change, and I'm still alone, and I am terrified of being alone. With each move, each recognisable step or place I've set camp, another bit of fear that I've stepped off of some path where had I had more daringness or bravado or something I don't have, I could've been happy. Or just not alone. And I am alone.

I get the keys to that next camp tomorrow at 9AM. There was a social after work today, and as people slowly stepped away and returned to their lives, I felt the spectre of the weekend creep up. It hurt too. I hear an echo - someone once told me that "man was not meant to dwell alone". I don't remember whom, or if it was perhaps a book, but it resonates with this emptiness.

I hope the anxiety fades a bit after I tell my current landlord I'm moving, and then actually get the business of moving underway.

Centrality of Values
Date: 2018-Mar-14 01:43:03 EST

I've been thinking a bit about the role values play in engineering, in particular, how it helps and hurts some kinds of careers that best practices and common concerns dominate how some topics are approached. To wit, for a big part of my career I was designing and maintaining a lot of infrastructure, and I took for granted that certain values were "how you do that". Not just certain values, but usually as well how those values ranked or interplayed. With this belief, I thought over many, many years on how to solve these issues, and used that attention to work out eventualities, models of risk, and figured out what software solutions were best for that. The downsides being that I found it difficult to understand or accept when those needs were not ranked as I expected (e.g. "we accept more risk") and it made me inflexible to the extent that I sometimes was less good of a fit for some roles than I might have been.

I'm not alone in this.

I think having careful and thoughtful conversations on value tradeoffs in engineering is a good way to lessen this inflexibility.

Clock Hands
Date: 2018-Mar-13 02:35:58 EST

Today I spotted a new apartment and applied for it; seems slightly bigger than my current place, is multi-room, and is not too far from it either. Was a little annoying that they need so much sensitive information to do all this, but that's NYC. Unfortunately, not long after, my Google account freaked out; I don't know if Google has scanners that look for sensitive info or something else, but it disabled my Google account (swiftly re-enabled) and my Youtube account, with a message that I had violated TOS. Naturally Google wouldn't tell me what particular thing violated TOS (and I kinda suspect this is just some weird glitch). It's infuriating to have "justice", even private sector justice, work this way. There are many things we'd be legit outraged if a government did them, even for petty things, which we just accept from corporations because of private property. Strange how that works. Hoping all this gets sorted out soon.

Is there any chance the timing is coincidental and there really was some old content up there that someone could find reason to go after? Maybe? While I often sympathise with people who are barred from Youtube (or demonetised), I am pretty sure I haven't advocated violence, or anything else of that sort, on Youtube. I'm not a big fan of violence; I'm not a pacifist, but interpersonal violence? At most understandable-but-unacceptable. And I don't recall talking about that ever on YT, and haven't posted anything at all (or commented) recently, to my memory. As an alternate explanation, maybe I gave some app privs to my Youtube account and it posted stuff?

Almost looking forward to moving.

As for work, it's a little weird working with Googlers; I don't understand why G is doing neuroscience, but they are, and we collaborate with them on some things. But there's still a lot of code that's Google-proprietary, or wouldn't work outside of the Borg plus GRTE plus all that workflow. Interesting to be seeing this from the other side though; occasionally when I was in industry I worked with academia and help people who didn't have the infra we had.

On Not Going With One's Gut
Date: 2018-Mar-10 20:49:57 EST

NYC is a pretty rough place to get apartments. Earlier today I visited an apartment that I liked, but I was unhappy with the (sadly standard) high fee associated with it, so I was gonna haggle but someone else showed up and got it. There was nothing hostile about it; they wanted it more, and I stopped floating the idea of a different fee when it became clear they were gonna get it, only getting a brief confusion when they initially were not gonna grab it then and there. But when I said I'd keep negotiating they decided to. They were initially worried about blocking my effort, but I told them not to worry- that's the way these things work. They were probably nice people, but I think generally in life most people are when they don't have some reason not to be, and even often then too. So, back to StreetEasy for me.

I follow a bunch of people with politics reasonably different from mine ; freethinkers on the left, the right, centrists, libertarians. This plea for Asian-Americans to consider changing their voting habits came into my view recently, but it dodn't do much to convince me. The interesting failing in it is that it equates that negative change to the well-being of a group amounts to punishment. I think this is generally a bad argument - diminished wellness is necessary but not sufficient for something to constitute punishment; there must also be a punitive urge - the belief that whatever behaviour establishing the criterion is a negative thing; that's not the case here (despite occasional hyperbole). Beyond that argument, there's also the complexity in how people vote; are there any other parties for Asian-Americans that offer them some mix of material advantage, value-advantage, a good narrative, or other concerns? A solid argument would probably need to start from that. And as The Federalist is written for people near the edge of conservativism and right-libertarism, I think that argument would likely need to take the shape of economics. This is a bad line to take in a time when self-destructive populism is the dominant trend in the Republican Party.

This is an interesting article on hookup culture and whether/how it's hurting dating. I don't agree entirely with the author; I think what author calls "commitment culture" is generally a positive thing, and am comfortable seeing dating as "trying out" relations for the longer-term. Not just seeing; advocating. The purpose of dating, in my view, is to do that kind of experimentation. Initially just to figure out what one wants in a relationship, and later on to find the right person and dynamics for it over the long haul. I don't see it as damning that occasionally people put the ox before the cart, just an understandable error. The "just experience life and if it happens it happens" is a transparent lie, or perhaps something someone can use to remind themselves to take things at the right pace.

LINK alongside its economic aid. Not surprising that it would try; it saw the United States do exactly that for decades, the World Bank being a strong vehicle among many for this. Still, China's system is pretty shitty in most aspects; it's unfortunate that their economic muscle means this will likely see some success.

MongoDB is again slowly growing up and leaning from better databases. I always find this funny - the company has a knack for finding things other databases do to be unfortunate, until a few years later they figure out how to do it and then they announce it as if they're there first.

While we're talking about places I used to work, occasionally customers want the weirdest things. And when they come to you with cash you might build things that make no sense. Integrating Google Office with Dropbox is a weird idea because Google Office already is a cloud product, and replacing one cloud representation with another would mean ripping the product in half. The only benefit I can see frm this is that one can make all one's information policy in one place (in this case, in Dropbox) and have Google Docs policy not be a separate thing to manage. Maybe that's why this is a thing. If Dropbox were to make a spreadsheet (fair bit of effort), a presentation tool (easier), and replacements for the rest of G Suite, in compatible data formats, this would have no reason to exist.

I don't sympathise much with the reporter here; I don't think attacking people with a bat is a reasonable response, but it's very invasive to show up to someone unannounced, start filming them without consent, and try to confront them about alleged misdeeds. It's understandable (if unacceptable) that they might violently respond, and I'd at least say that this show is "playing with fire".

This weekend I'm hoping to put together a mock chaos exercise for a chaos engineering community I'm part of (found out about it because another former Dropbox engineer I worked with joined a company that does this and she was really good to work with). The idea is I'd define a mock infrastructure and ask people to design their first Chaos Day, performing this effort on Slack (maybe also GDocs or Paper) and having open participation and commentary. I find this fun; it also gives me a good excuse to daydream about ways infrastructure might be designed (I'll be using NNTP as a central protocol for one of these exercises).

Hopefully I'll find my next apartment soon, and feel confident enough to grab it if it feels right.

Pinball Tilts
Date: 2018-Mar-07 18:25:26 EST

After the recent spat between Amazon and Google got worse and Amazon decided to pull more Google products from their store because they want to compete, I decided to end my Amazon Prime membership. Longer-term I'll probably try to avoid buying from Amazon. This isn't because I like Google (I no longer do), but rather that I think there's a duty when a marketplace or forum or other actor becomes dominant in their field to begin to act in a neutral way. Deciding not to list products on Amazon can make or break many companies. I feel the same way about Youtube; it's very irksome that such a central video site is deviating so far from maximising expressibility and finding ways to deal with matching advertisers to videos. At sufficient scale, private censorship resembles government censorship.

I recently took some anti-harassment training at work. I don't expect to step on any of those policies (I'm shy and was raised to act a certain way), except possibly saying things that might make some people uncomfortable. But the policies are in my view bad, and apparently they're mandated by law, and they have the smell of enforced progressive behaviour in the workplace. I'm not happy about that; it's not that I want the laws removed, just restructured so there'd never be a situation where "progressive brings up a topic and talks freely on it, people who disagree are not allowed to comment on it because somebody might be offended". The way political tension works in our society means that right now that's very plausible even though it's written in a way not to mention ideology; there are countermeasures like others insisting that some topics be buried because they claim they'd be offended by their inability to participate in the discussion. But those feel like weird hacks.