Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
Recapture and Refailure
Date: 2018-Nov-17 22:35:30 EST

I had a conversation with my officemate about playing music recently - he's slightly older than I am, and has a background in databases and data visualisation. During it I remembered all the times I saw my dad playing piano when I was growing up - learning to do some jazz pieces and to play some Ragtime tunes. He went off in some different directions than I did - learned trombone and other "band" instruments and played in some Yugoslavian bnad (we have no such roots but he liked the company) in town, while I focused much more on orchestra, although the piano is a strong overlap, as well as an interest in more theoretical (or at least more generic, like beat and tone) aspects of music. Over much of my adult life, access to a piano has been fairly rare, but on occasion I had prolonged access, I've really enjoyed it, and often have eventually meandered into improvising new rag tunes. The conversation made me realise how much I missed it, and how frustrating it is not to be able to fit a piano into a NYC apartment. My officemoate noted that a lot of keyboards nowadays are very different than decades past and actually feel like real pianos. He suggested a place to check out. And on my way there I called my dad, who was also thinking about buying a nice keyboard (I've ceased to be surprised at odd similarities between my patterns of thought and my father's; when we share so much genetically and he provided at least a slice of my upbringing, despite not having been around that much and also being a bit on the reclusive side, examples abound. My father recommended a brand and a style, I went there, and after trying them out (yes, the key response is nearly perfect on these), I picked one. Great success.

Except. I then got a reminder that I'm not in my 20s anymore (or my 30s), in that lugging it home was very difficult, involving lots of breaks. After making it most of the way there, I found the weight on the box (in kilos), translated it to pounds, and .. yeah. about 90 pounds. I at least felt less bad about having a tough time. Age may not always be kind to me (although my gym time is helping), but this is heavier than most things I've struggled with, and the handles (made of tape and plastic bags, that a store employee built for me) were very point rather than distributed, and the whole thing interfered enough with normal walking that I tired more quickly. Getting it up to the 5th floor was also rough. Still, looking forward to when I have the energy to take it into the den, find a place for it, and get started. Yeah! Might even fit into some of my plans for Arietta, which now that I have the domain, I've been working out the website content. But really I mostly just want to play some rag.

I've also been reading up on things like functional and nonfunctional harmony, and checking out some musicians like Merle Travis and Bill Evans that've done some neat things with harmony and rhythm.

In art, I've recently become fascinated with the works of George Ault.

A few takes:

  • Amazon's "second HQ" is to be split, half of it going to Long Island City. My thoughts on this are complex. I don't really like Amazon as a company anymore (they ruined Whole Foods, they treat a lot of their low-end workers badly, and they engage in anticompetitive behaviour on their main store - not selling google products that compete with their digital platforms), despite them making some products I like (parts of AWS). I'm happy to see more tech growing outside of silicon valley, in particular in NYC, and I think it's wise they're ignoring people complaining that the city is full or somesuch rubbish - making a HQ where nobody wants to live (or does live) is stupid. Opening up shop in Pittsburgh makes sense, but Trenton would not. All that said, I really dislike that Amazon got some tax exemptions and other goodies from both cities that got half of its HQ2, and I think that should actually be banned (drafting the right laws to do that is hard but worthwhile, I think).
  • I haven't been impressed with what little I've seen of Cortez in her new office. At least on first glance she's much more populist than I'd like, an example being on how to arrange the committtes to deal with climate change where she's pushed for a structure mostly on the basis of the specifics having been in her platform, despite it having been made clear that the existing committee structure would likely do a better job. If she disagreed with that assessment that'd be one thing, but it's not acceptable that she's sticking to it just because she ran on it.



Slow sapping
Date: 2018-Nov-16 04:09:34 EST

It feels like today we suddenly entered winter; the walk to work was chilly, and partway through the day, during a talk on efficiency in olfactory encoding, I spotted the first snow of the year in NYC out the window. I held the third NYCCHAOS meeting after work, and then afterwards went out to a world of slush and light snow; was cold enough by the time I made it home that stepping inside felt like a huge win. Right now there's intense wind outside the window and I feel the building is not quite managing to stay warm enough; I will need to remove the AC unit from the window soon to get a better seal.

I'm still disappointed in my inability to get more turnout for my meetup. This time there was bad weather, but even had there not been I still imagine I would not have gotten too many.

I feel strange about the passage of the seasons - how strongly I forget during the middle seasons how hot summer is and how cold winter. There's enough time, but I still feel that the cycles over the years would end this visceral shift through the fog of memory and leave a lasting emotional impression of the seasons. Maybe that only seems to make sense and I'm seduced by my own poetry into hand-waved imagined meaning.

I have so much to do. Need to actually spend time doing the things I tell myself are important.

Some takes:

  • As always, I am appalled at how incompetent our current president is. Failing to get used to it.
  • Not sure why it's on the BBC, but this is a nice set of thoughts on the Peanuts comic strip
  • I'm intrigued by this read of the anti-pornography movement, and hope it's actually an obituary for activism on this front. As I think porn is free expression and healthy, even though most forms of its production have some very serious issues.
  • I'm glad to see at least one European nation taking violence and persecution against gays as a blocker for foreign aid.
  • I'm not sure what to think about redoing HTTP to work over a different protocol than TCP. Is that fundamental kind of network replumbing worth it given the enormous installed base and body of software designed to work with it? Maybe we're better off sticking with HTTP 1.1 forever. Although the new technology does seem well-thought-out.
  • Recently one of the other meetups I sometimes goes to mentioned hiddentribes, a website that tries to estimate which tribe we're in as individuals. I was measured by its questionaire as a Traditional Liberal, which maybe I have the most similarity to culturally, but in a lot of specifics I don't think I actually fit (being socialist, for example). Still, it's fairly rough-grained.
  • I feel weird about this message from Lessig on Beto, primarily because I think it's trying to draw really big conclusions from a fairly tight race. I think any time someone's doing that, they're usually making a mistake; if a race is close, then most points one can make about feasability are naturally weak because either result was feasable.
  • This kind of thing is tragic - I refuse to blame the technology; I think the culture must change, and for it to do so there must be a public education campaign combined with very strict, very visible consequences for people inciting as well as following that incitement.



Post election
Date: 2018-Nov-07 06:51:55 EST

Yesterday I got notice that one of my two VPCs was sending out email spam. Highly embarrassing, but I think it was likely due to some somewhat lax configuration I did on the older host allowing SMTP relaying from anywhere provided the from address was mine. And so, horrifyingly, people were sending spam with my old from address, including some extortion attempts that were naturally demanding payment to bitcoin. Ick. I suppose the only bright point is that when I was pointing out that this *would* happen many years ago, some of the people I was arguing with demanded concrete data. And so years later, I could provide it if I could remember who they were and if I were still in touch with them (I probably am not). Yeah, this happens a lot, and I'm left with a lot more "I told you sos" without memory of whom to give them to.

We have preliminary election results; looks like Repubs won a few senate seats, Dems won enough house seats to take it back. Beto didn't quite beat Cruz. Unsurprisingly, Cortez got her House seat and I'm wondering whether she'll turn out to be radical or reasonable.

Other takes:

  • I'm intrigued at the renaming scuffle around Boy Scouts of America. Will be interesting to see, now that the two orgs are losing the key dividers that meant they were never competing for the same members, how things work out going forward
  • This first answer to "Why won't slack let me disable at-channel, on Stack Overflow, is some of the most amazing nonsense I've ever seen. Somehow the answerer looked over a description of how things work with Slack and decided that it is some contract, and that allowing it to be disabled would break the contract. Yikes. I've sometimes come across people who make this particular kind of logical leap before. Seems to be a tendency in how some small portion of the population thinks.
  • Some neat discussion on mapping technologies between Google Maps and Apple Maps. From a cartography blogger, which is one of the more awesome things I can think of
  • I support Hungary's ban on sleeping outdoors in cities. I think it's generally good policy, provided that cities provide shelters with sufficient capacity to house everyone. I think it works out better both for society at large and for the homeless that they're not just wandering the streets or sleeping wherever they can.
  • While I became disenchanted with TED some years back, I appreciate the tack TED takes here relating to mockery of their mission - they've selected their favourite parodies and talked about why they actually would not make good TED talks; it's amusing to read, makes good points, and talks about the quality bar they're aiming for. Which is pretty perfect for responding to criticism. Largely because the actual solid critique of TED, as far as I'm concerned, is really hard to make funny. The problem being that ideas, or their brief takeaways, are not nearly as important as TED portrays them as, and while they may make a certain kind of go-getter feel good, they're actually wasting people's time by drawing attention away from the boring things that actually lead to good results - a steady hand, sober analysis, the right backdrop, and a lot of work.



How I voted 2018
Date: 2018-Nov-06 23:22:10 EST

Ballot Measures

  • Yes to Ballot Measure 1, to reduce contribution maxes to campaigns for city offices. I did this because I think funding is an unfortunate side of our politics and I believe this ballot measure would help fight that
  • No to Ballot Measure 2, which creates a new institution for civic engagement. I don't trust how this institution would be formed, and feel that like community boards, it would be another fake representation.
  • Reluctant yes on Ballot Measure 3, which limits tenure on community boards. I want to abolish CBs or make them elected. This is a second best.
US Senate
  • Yes to Gillibrand. I find her views broadly acceptable and believe her to be competent
  • No to Farley. She's a Trump supporter, and is also heavy on the pro-Israel stuff. Both are in my view really bad.
US House District 12 (no vote)
  • Maloney - Bad on foreign policy, iffy on domestic
  • Rabin - Is a fucking clown
  • Hutchins - Is clueless
Governor - Miner
  • Cuomo - Absolutely not for many reasons
  • Molinaro - He's undereducated. No.
  • Hawkins - Lots not to lick but not terrible
  • Miner - Looks actually pretty good
Atty General - Sussman
  • James - I am very wary of her stances on illegal immigration, I like her salary history ask ban, she's generally a mixed bag
  • Wofford - Doesn't seem to have many public positions
  • Sliwa - Excessive focus on animal rights. Regardless of how I feel about that stance, the job is far bigger than that
  • Sussman - Looks to be a moderate Dem running on a Green platform. I can support him with no regrets
Comptroller - Trichter
  • I have no strong opinions on either of them after having done some research, and when that's the case my belief that offices should regularly transition between parties decides it
My selection criteria are, for future reference (no provided examples are exhaustive):
  • Has the campaign or individual had major ethical breaches as part of this campaign or earlier-if-unrepentant-or-unpunished? If so, I cannot vote for them
  • If the candidate is unqualified for their role and their opponent is not, I cannot vote for them (this includes no particular expertise or not having a respectable education)
  • If the candidate has a poor grasp on reality (conspiracy theories, is antivax or christian scientist, disbelieves global warming, believes in astrology, is a young-earth creationist), I cannot vote for them
  • If the candidate regularly insults people they disagree with, uses schoolyard insults, frequently threatens lawsuits, is generally petty, or can't accept criticism (think Trump, Elon Musk, and others like this), I cannot vote for them
  • If the candidate has a particularly disorganised demeanor, has a history of breaking the law, not paying bills, or otherwise is not particularly responsible, I cannot vote for them
  • If the candidate has a strong obsession with certain topics (you never hear them talk about anything else), I cannot vote for them
  • If the candidate's ability to delegate and give credit to underlings is poor, or they look like they'd be a bad or abusive boss, I cannot vote for them. This includes public statements that make it hard to believe they'd treat both genders the same in the workplace, as well as a tendency or history of romantic involvement with people beneath them in the org chart
  • If the candidate does not take a fairly hardline perspective in favour of free speech (even for views very different than theirs), I cannot vote for them.
  • If the candidate is heavy into identity politics, wants reparations, calls people racist without really strong evidence, persecutes other definitions of gender, or on the other hand is in favour of violence or prison for non-straight people and actions, or is into persecuting people over religious matters, I cannot vote for them.
Once all those filters are done, I look for competence, relevant skill, and finally broader ideological compatibility. I can't guarantee the list above includes all my red lines, but it includes most of them.



Serving the Community
Date: 2018-Nov-06 05:18:00 EST

On the way to the gym yesterday I saw someone driving badly. I filed a complaint with the NYC311 mobile app, which is great except now I might need to show up to traffic court. That could be really annoying.

Voting is tomorrow. Well, after this sleep cycle. I've been thinking a lot about one of the voter initiatives on the ballot, which aims to reform how long people can remain on community boards. It's not thrilling, in that I'd really like to either abolish community boards or make them elected. As-is they're some weird appointed thing, and I don't think they actually represent anything. In theory it should be possible to appoint people to represent various groups, but in practice I think that amplifies even further the voices of the strident. I strongly suspect, for example, that most non-straight people are not actually even remotely radical, but the most vocal ones are and that leads to a misunderstanding of the category. I don't want that perpetuated, but the current system of appointing people probably does that. At least sometimes. Anyhow, I need to figure out when to head to the polls - probably after work rather than before.

Scheduling my next ChaosEng meetup. Next week. Really hoping it's not another ghost town. If it is it'll be hard for me to believe continuing it is a good idea. On that note I need to followup and get my classes started at Biotech Without Borders. It's a fair bit of work but it should be fulfilling.

It's late, and the days are short these day, but some takes to start going after the huge pile of them:

  • Jin Yong died. I have some of his books on my to-read pile. These things happen, but I really appreciate storytellers.
  • I've been thinking a lot about the performance of Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit recently. I think Chris Lloyd must have had a great time doing it
  • MEI had a solid analysis, not a particularly rare one (I was thinking the same thing), on why Erdogan is criticising Saudi Arabia for killing critics given that his regime has been thin-skinned and terrible on those same topics.
  • Bolton's support for Bolsonaro is not principled so much as tribal, but it's not surprising to see him doing it given that he's always been pretty nutty and his eagerness to work with Trump means he has failed a lithmus test of ethics. Still, it's disappointing to see loud praise for a leader who lauded a nasty dictatorship and wished more people had died under it, just beucase it's a right-wing dictatorship.
  • Tanzania is a shithole. Any place that actively hunts down and arrests people for being gay is.
  • I find myself on the side of Michael O'Reilly in this complaint against government-run ISPs, sort of. It comes down to some codes of conduct for posted content, and whether the state can do that. I say no in the general sense, but there's an interesting counter - if private entities routinely have the exact same codes, what do we gain by not letting the state (even in the form of a community-run ISP) do the same? Does it absolve the state from something it permits if it steps back and has someone else do it? Particularly if it doesn't ensure there's competition? These are difficult questions, ones that will likely be big topics of discussion moving forward. I'd love to inject that free speech is important as a principle for private actors too, but that doesn't solve the problem entirely.
  • There are a lot of interesting arguments in here pointing all sorts of directions, on the relationship between heritage, identity, and genetics. Although I think we should solidly reject the singular definition offered by amerindian leaders, or at least consider it one perspective among many. And to some extent it's simply true that genes are a big part of who people and groups are.
  • I think the ECHR is solidly wrong in not protecting free speech rights in Austria, in a case where someone insulted Mohammad and was fined.



Career in Review
Date: 2018-Nov-03 07:55:26 EST

At the age of fourty, I've had a fairly long career, dating back in some sense to the age of 15, where I assisted the technology manager in my school system as well as having some summer jobs, one at a risk management company called American Risk, another at a small telephone company called Independence Telephone Company. It's been a fairly random mix of systems administration, systems-oriented programming, scientific programming, and teaching/mentoring/light management. I've worked significantly in both the tech industry and academia, and have not yet ever worked in government sector or healthcare. I think I've come to have views on what good and bad management looks like at low and high levels, although I tend to be happiest in roles where I'm highly independent and can choose/manage my own tasks without needing to negotiate with others. Earlier in my career I had some problematic ideas about job security (where I actually sought a low bus factor); I've shed those views both because I think they're bad practice for my industry and because I've learned they limit my career mobility within a company and that can mean being trapped in a role when I want a change. I've learned a few things about my other flaws - if I start to feel that I'm being ignored on topics important to me, I can become very bitter fairly quickly, and when I'm frustrated I tend to be very open about it and not let it go. I also tend not to accept management decisions that go sufficiently against what I want to do. I also bring a lot of complications from my broader personality into my work self, at least in part.

There are things I'm pretty happy about with my career - I think I've learned a lot and I've been able to do a large variety of things. While the diversity in activites has meant some places I've interviewed at were not willing to let me into roles very different than the one immediately prior, with some patience and frustration, things generally worked out okay in the end. I have over the last several years been worried about politicisation of workplaces, in particular of diversity-and-inclusion efforts, in that even though in theory I could benefit materially from those things (in that I'm not straight), I'm philosophically opposed to a lot of the practices, I'm not often willing to keep my mouth shut, and I have a few red lines that mean I am incompatible with some workplaces (for example, I will never take a implicit bias test for the same reason I will not take a drug test). Still, so far things seem navigable, and with any luck I can steer through the rest of my career until retirement without hitting the shore.

There have been a few points in my career where I burned out. Part of defining my career goals, manager be damned, has always meant doing a lot of work beyond (and partly despite) what my manager asked of me, and dealing with tension and underappreciation that came from that. This "do the right thing" approach is something I can't imagine easily changing about myself, and when I felt there was something important that was neglected by the management structure, I've sometimes poured a ridiculous amount of hours beyond the usual 40 into it. On occasion I've had company of other engineers doing the same (at Dropbox and MongoDB in particular) who were also holding down the fort despite their managers. I'm hoping to avoid that ; it's easier for me to avoid these tendencies if I avoid SRE-type duties.

With every job I wonder if my current role is something I might keep for a long time. At least so far, in my current employment I have no significant dissatisfaction as it's academic in nature, has a traditional no-official-political-views stance like the rest of academia, I have a very loose leash and a variety of things I can spend time on, my primary foci are things I'm very interested in, and I'm surrounded by a lot of people who might be smarter than I am and who definitely have a lot of expertise I partly or entirely lack, while I also have my own corners of expertise. That's great for personal growth. I also have a 10 minute walk to work, and my hours are quite flexible. I think the only things that might get me to leave would be either a desire to leave NYC (sometimes I think it'd be nice to buy a house somewhere), a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (e.g. some company needs a CTO and I think what they're doing is awesome), or a personal relationship that otherwise pulls me out of the city.

Teaching has been a great sidecar to the bulk of my career; I enjoy helping people learn, whether it be informal stuff at work or actual classes (either at work or outside). I've always regretted not putting more time into it - doing classes more often. But arranging space and getting students and dealing with the other hassles has always been a burden. I still treasure the thank-yous I've gotten, several of which I've saved.

Are these the only things I could have done? Probably not. I sometimes wonder what it would've been like to go after one of my other passions. I still feel the draw of studying human domain learning, or studying cell specialisation. Either of those could have led me into a very different career.



Preparing Words
Date: 2018-Oct-24 15:05:42 EST

Tomorrow I'm giving an internal talk on code quality at work - I'm coming to enjoy regularly doing talks again. Feels like a variant of doing normal teaching - targeting is harder and time is scarcer, and the need to be punchy and entertaining is higher since listener commitment (and expectations of mental state) is lower. Fun. I rarely get nervous unless I'm both ill-prepared and underknowledgable on the topic.

Yesterday was abnormally crowded at the gym - the sole remaining rowing machine was free, but no treadmills so I tried one of the stair-climbing things for the first time in my life - was surprisingly tough. I think it used muscles I don't normally use much. I enjoyed the novelty even though it was mostly a mix of feeling intimidated and "well I want to do *something*" at the time. I hope I can push myself over that hurdle more often in life - this is a workable route to novelty but not one that I often follow.

Had one of those kinda conflict-y conversations at work with a coworker a few minutes ago - Linux CoC came up, and I lightly mentioned the monastic CoC which I think is delightful because I think most CoCs overreach. Person I was speaking with strongly disagreed - mentioned that too often it's very damaged people who brag about how angry they are who make the CoCs; he felt that was a good thing, I think it's a very bad thing and leads to terrible overreach and that any community rules should be done as minimally and slowly as possible. He fled the conversation. Do I feel bad about it? No; not fun to have conversations where people flee, but I mean what I say (based on long experience with activists), I said it in a civil way, and it's just one of those genuine disagreements out there. I wish I had had the best lines of reasoning I have ready in my head to more strongly explain my why, but just as there are a few topics where I'll flee (in the past, discussions of the Hiroshima bombing have been a topic where I don't handle disagreement well, for example), I think this is a currently hot topic in society leading to people who can't continue the conversation. And while I don't like confrontation, I've learned that if I don't try to take the field eventually activists of positions I dislike will win the field and I'll be booted; I don't want to let that happen.

At least I think that's true - conflict wears me, but I seem to get into a lot of arguments, with people all over the political spectrum, on the internet. Maybe that's loneliness.

Still struggling with meaning in life and if there's time to meet someone and start a family. It's a constant topic for me. Kinda like the migraines; this weekend was terrible with them.

Was really bummed that NYCCHAOS didn't get many people show up to the last meeting. I need to get back on the horse and schedule a third meeting, but I have not been feeling very motivated after that let-down. Also need to write the material, as external speakers haven't shown up. I wonder if I'm just not suited for running meetups. On the upside, I think we're about to start teaching Python at BiotechWithoutBorders.

Got a new phone - Pixel 3XL. Probably was a mistake ; not particularly different from the 2XL, especially after I tell it to hide the notch. Little value-add at reasonably high cost. There is the charger stand compatibility which is kinda nice, but not enough to cost-justify.



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.