Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
Response to malfeasance
Date: 2019-Oct-05 22:46:41 EST

Sitting in a coffeeshop near Union Square, and was thinking about having just kept an eye on my laptop while in line to get the drink. Was realising that I would, with no hesitation, go after anyone trying to take it even if there were a good risk of damaging the laptop, but also was thinking about some people I once knew who, things having been stolen from them, they were angry at the event but hoped the resources would see a new good use. By contrast, I would rather property be destroyed than taken, and would prefer to do significant damange to the person as well. The underlying metric for proportion being that the value of the item and the likelihood of getting away from it should be balanced by a proportionally stronger response to the threat if I manage to get them, in order to make it not just not worth it, but *really* not worth it to try to take things that way. An eye for an eye is not quite good enough if a person has a good chance to get away, having taken the eye and suffered no loss of their own. This would not justify unlimited retribution though. Just exaggerated.

The endless summer suddenly ended last week; thoughts still consumed with thoughts of octobers past.

A few thoughts on things:

  • Recently there was a news story where a passanger threw a fit on an airline because there was a long line to use the restrooms and the first-class restrooms were empty. Thinking through it, while my initial inclination is that people should never make a fuss in an airport or on an airline, when people need to use the restroom there's a biological need that I don't expect them to squelch. And the airlines should bend in that case. THat said, he apparently went way overboard once he started to raise a fuss, threatening violence against people. Still, airlines should fix this with a policy change.
  • Here's an interesting article on how secularism started to make major inroads in American society.
  • There is enormous incentive for active funds to find ways to push people away from index funds. This is another such argument. Although if they think existing indices are immoral, it would not be hard to make an index fund that simply filters out the companies that they deem immoral. There are a few things they'd miss out in doing that - shareholder activism (which takes a lot more effort and hence salaries than an index fund), but it'd accomplish most of the desired effect and still offer the appealingly low expense ratio.
  • This is a fairly comprehensive article on how California made homelessness so bad through activism.



Issues in Giving
Date: 2019-Sep-27 04:48:53 EST

This Thursday was an interesting day.

  • I woke up oddly early, and decided to go into work much earlier than I normally do. Worked out well, because I left work early too
  • I joined the NIH AllOfUs programme sometime back, and had an appointment at 16:00 to have some measurements taken. This was mostly fine, but they had trouble getting blood from me, and after a first attempt failed, my tendency to faint with needles was starting to activate so they didn't try again. I'm disappointed in myself for not having managed. But they still got some good measurements out of me, including a urine and spit/DNA sample. So that's good. And now that those measurements are on the site for me to see, I'm reminded that I really need to work on my health. Fortunately, I am. This week I've started running in the evenings. Still figuring out pacing (in terms of how many times a week), but it's going okay.
  • My boots came back after warranty service yesterday, and I immediately took them to a cobbler to have sole savers put on (at the advice of Allens Boots, who managed the warranty service). After all that I picked them up. I might wear them to work tomorrow; they've been gone awhile so it'll be good to wear them out again
It's delightful that by taking more care of my neck, I've dramatically reduced my migraine frequency. Hoping I can keep that up; I've suffered so much from those headaches for the last two decades. I don't expect the issues to entirely go away - neck strain is a posture issue and something that happens to everyone, and I may be more sensitive to it because of the osteocytes, but it'll trouble me far less. I hope.

Looking forward to the upcoming trip to Janelia.

There are some big ideas I've been playing with, including things I'd love to someday take some time off and write a book about. One thing is to talk about living philosophy and the practice of diluting pure ideas, as well as what it means to accept a philosophical idea.



Integrated Handcuffs
Date: 2019-Sep-08 02:50:52 EST

Thought of a better way to explain the issues I see with when people design software for only the most common use-cases, leaving out APIs, preferences, and all the rest - I dislike such things because they put people in the habit of reduced intent. When I use software I want the ability to write policy for whatever the software does - to write rules that are automatically applied. The one-size-fits-all software gets me out of that mode of thinking and pushes me to only have the simplest kinds of intent towards my data. In doing so it simplifies me, reducing me as a thinkier. Consider a music app that lets me rate my music. I should be able to tell it when I'm in the mood to just enjoy music I already like, and when instead I'm in the mood to listen to new stuff that's not classified yet so I can decide what to keep and what to discard. I can easily do this if I write my own software (and in fact did, with my pre-Google-Play music setup. Unfortunately, Google Play Music is awful at managing music it doesn't provide, periodically deciding something you gave it is corrupt and refusing to ever play it again. So I stopped using it, but the app is designed for that kind of "only want simple things" person. We should want more from our software.

Been thinking about how music in films can act as a substitite narrator comment that you might see in a book that's been adapted to film - for some reason we've become disused to narrators, and we can at least get a bit of what they did back. Although perhaps we should get used to them again, and films should see their return.

Been wondering, for long term life partners, whether it makes sense to commit to sharing the same world-of-terms as well as judgements on matters where only one person sees the relevant info. I've been thinking about fairness that transcends family again, namely the idea that our commitment to be fair and our commitment to justice should take precedence over relationships in our life. And I still believe it should - if I knew that someone close to me had committed a serious crime, I would not pretend it had not happened, and I likely would turn them in. But what if I did not know that and they claimed it did not happen. Would I remain neutral? Previously I think I would need to. Now I'm realising that where there is uncertainty, it may be acceptable to commit to, when lacking information, always accepting the claims of a life partner. I would want it clear to the world beforehand that I have made this commitment (as a matter of integrity), and be sure that it's limited to when I lack information and when the claims are at least plausible. And that it really should just be limited to a life partner (readers will remember that I assume monogamy and don't think we should treat polygamous relationships as life partnerships or marriage for any of the people involved in them), because if we extend this to family, solidarity turns us into some Confucian monstrosity rather than a potentially just society.



DragonCon2019-Wrapup
Date: 2019-Sep-04 23:38:08 EST

I'm back from DragonCon now, and did a normal workday, but let's wrap up coverage.
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It's always sad when these things are over, but people are also pretty tired near the end. It was good to get on the train and start the trip back, and great to see my cats again when I got home. A few more general thoughts:

  • It was good to briefly hang out with a former coworker. I wish we had had more time to actually catch up, but she was there with boyfriend and other friends.
  • I need to get better at getting/keeping people in my life. It was pretty lonely at times
  • Packing granola bars for snacks would've been smart. I should also try to keep a stock of these in my apartment in general
  • It was a little weird to hear about the tragedy in the Bahamas while all this was going on.
  • Also was weird that so many more people are terribly fat there. I think this is a leaving NYC thing
Anyhow, good to be back. I have a few action items for the near future. Also, I realise that the "Expand post" text I implemented in my blog software probably should be clicky, because right now it's not super intuitive that the LINK text in the lower left is how people expand text. It's been awhile since I've changed that code. Probably time I refamiliarise myself with it (and maybe flesh out the review part of the code that I never really made into something I'd actually like to use). So many projects, so little attention to spend on individual ones.



DragonCon2019-Part4
Date: 2019-Sep-02 04:19:22 EST

Things are coming near the end here. This is probably a good thing, as I'm getting pretty tired and a bit socially exhausted and I really miss my cats. Looking forward to heading back home (and getting back to work). I think next year I'm going to need to do better with snacks, bringing granola bars on the trip down and back. I don't have a lot of access to food at odd hours here, and that's a little uncomfortable (and occasionally expensive).

Events:
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Anyhow, before I left on this trip I was down to having about 30 tabs open on my phone. I'm back up to 80-ish, with things to read about, media to check out, and things I might write about. Unsure if that's good or bad, but it's a lot of stuff. Probably good to have that prepared for the trip home. My phone has not been amazing on battery for this trip; I should have brought a battery.

Tomorrow's sessions wrap up around 17:00. That leaves plenty of time for me to make it to the train station by 20:00.



DragonCon2019-Part3
Date: 2019-Sep-01 05:34:12 EST

The marathon continues. Today was, despite neck problems continuing a bit, a fairly good day.

  • I started the day with a Naval War College presentation on Russia on the world stage. Kind of interesting assessment, but nothing particularly new to me
  • Popped back into the mall to have a cheap-ish indian street-food meal. It's not particularly good, but at least it's cheap
  • Next was "Bill Corbett's Funhouse", a live podcast thing where they talked about the phrase "Unpopular Opinion". This got a bit political, and one of the people who came up was also a religious person tired of people looking down on them for that. My guess is that people often use the phrase because they know they'll get some people pushing back against them if they're pushing against some existing taboo or societal consensus and to let those people know ahead of time that they don't much care. Gave Molly a lanyard from one of the neuroscience conferences I've been to (she put out a call on Twitter) and briefly chatted and .. elbow-high-fived with her. Was pretty rad
  • Then, a science of food panel which talked about a lot of things but mostly about recent advances in fake meat. Interesting stuff.
  • I had a break and chatted with some fellow con-goers, and then a former coworker (another ex Dropbox SRE). Didn't really have the time to catch up as she was there with friends, but I chatted with those friends a bit too
  • Then, a really great talk by a collector of antique instruments, where I saw a viol (da gamba family) and also a Strad. Heard him play some Afghan music, which was really magical. I regretted needing to slip out early to make it to the next event on time.
  • I attended the first half of a marathon of comedy and music, with more Bill Corbett and Molly Lewis (and some others before and after). Some of the people before were pretty meh. I liked their bits though, and slipped out when they were done.
  • Dinner at Mariott's nice restaurant. Same as yesterday. Same waiter. Same meal (almost - they were out of mashed potatoes so they gave me another kind instead). Not surprising given how narrow their veg options are.
  • Finally, went to a talk about the M87 black hole. This reminded me of an internal talk at work on the same topic, but they stressed somewhat different things. I asked how well we've characterised the stars orbiting M87 as I've had a tough time finding information on them (e.g. are they main sequence?). They said people are working on it.

So yes, generally a good day. I'm also pretty tired.



DragonCon2019-Part2
Date: 2019-Aug-31 03:06:52 EST

My health has apparently not been something I can take for granted - somehow today has been a perpetual-mild-migraine day. I powered through it though.

  • My First session in the morning was on what indie videogames can offer that AAA games struggle with. It was a pretty long and interesting discussion. I disagreed slightly with one of the themes - that focus is a good thing for games in general, as the metrics proposed would have discouraged the settlement system from having been a part of Fallout 4, and for me that added a lot of longevity, but generally her points were solid. I wonder a bit about the economics of AAA versus indie games in that it's not clear to me that it's easy to predict relative economic pressures. The most reliable difference would, I imagine, be the degree of interference with vision of the creators.
  • Next I tried to go to the market area but was put off by the long line so I had a nice lunch instead and people-watched
  • After that, I want to the Space Track's presentation on ocean moons in our solar system. This was pretty interesting, if rushed. Partway through, somebody who participated in the blood drive got up and tried to walk towards the door but passed out partway there. Huh.
  • Next was a panel with Robert England (Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street series) and two other actors from that series. This was great - I've enjoyed the set of interviews I've seen him do on various sites, and it's clear that he loves cinema and knows a lot about it and its role in society. I unfortunately was sitting next to one of those dipshits who is uncomfortable being an audience member and who does their best to .. express themselves .. during any talk (extra loud clapping and woots and so on). He was also sprawled out over two seats, and there with his mum. It was a delicious little pleasure when he got up to ask a question and there wasn't time to get to him. For much of the talk I had to hold one of my hands over my right ear because his general loudness was making my headache worse (and he was irritating enough to diminish my enjoyment). Still, I'm really glad I got to go to this.
  • Next I returned to the mall, and actually made it through the line. There's always a lot of kind-of-interesting stuff in the mall at DragonCon, but as of yet nothing that's quite inspired me to get anything over the years. RPG books are always tempting, but I'd rather have them in digital form. A good set of dice would be more tempting if I were close to home. I could imagine some posters (maybe some good Spider-Gwen stuff) could pull my interest but I mostly see doujinshi rather than official stuff, and I like the official style for that series. This year I saw a few comics from a style I haven't seen for years that I was tempted to get, but not quite tempted enough. I think I could see myself buying some artbooks from video games and other things, as that's the one print media I don't want digital copies of. I'm also open to being inspired, learning new things I'm keen on that I don't know yet. Maybe next year.
  • Went back to the hotel to lie down for a bit. Also to drop off my bag, as I think even that mild weight is pressing on the nerve in my neck that's doing all this.
  • Next session was on the science of video games. This was great - I think I liked it last year too. Even though I haven't played any of the games they covered, I like the general content of taking that kind of content and applying scientific analysis to it. Makes for good entertainment. I also met the director of the science track, and go contact information in case my workplace wants to explore sending some people next year.
  • Then there was a Space track session on why Antarctica is a useful place for science. Good photos, stories, and explanations. I'm a sucker for this kind of content, although I wanted to ask some kind-of-uncomfortable questions about why civilian tourism isn't banned, given the fragile ecosystems there. Decided not to given that two speakers (who are scientists) went there on non-scientific tourism. Meh.
  • After this I had a nice dinner - the Meriott has a restaurant I really appreciate, and I felt a weird connection to my waiter this time (odd given that he was a fairly severe african-american man)
  • Finally I stopped for a bit at a talk that didn't really work for me - kind of a "Twitch plays Hatoiful Boyfriend" thing, with local people voicing it. I just didn't find it that amusing. A fair number of others were heading out too - late-night talks are a bit like this, with some people staying because they're drunk or don't have a lot of other options.
  • Was and still am a little tempted to go see an Anime made of Dante's Inferno in the Anime room, but I'm a little bit tired and am reluctant to stay up much later unless I'm cool with missing the morning content tomorrow. Plus I have some mild neck/head pain. So I'll probably wrap up figuring out my schedule for tomorrow and then catch some sleep (maybe a bit of Youtube before)

I stopped in one of the party areas for a little bit near the end of the evening and felt pretty disconnected from everything. Realising again that that kind of thing would be a lot more fun if I were here with some friends, as most people use that party time to catch up with people. So much of my life has been structured around thinking about things mostly alone though - company has been pretty rare. Some pleasures are not available to people on my path.



DragonCon2019-Starters
Date: 2019-Aug-30 04:39:30 EST

I had a lot of media lined up for the train trip, and as expected, didn't get through all of it. I got through a lot of it though - downloaded youtube videos, some reading, so on. I've felt pretty inspired by reading Mage:Ascension to write up the tweaks I'd make to the setting, and I started (and made public, via Twitter) a doc giving at least the broad strokes. May work on it some more - right now it feels a little too close to being a bad fanfic, but a little work should cure that. I know there's little chance I'll ever put this stuff to use, but I should at least put it out there. More accessible than my philosophy, I think, which is almost entirely unpublished (I should fix that too).

Anyhow, while I generally slept well on the train, and was again playing with the idea that maybe I could live comfortably, long-term, on a sleeper car on a train (no access to desktop computers may be hard, combined with poor internet), it turns out that I wasn't able to find a way to sleep where my neck was happy, and I woke up with a mild cervicogenic headache. After breakfast, got off the train, took an Uber to the conference area, and by then the pain was getting pretty bad. It took them awhile to get my room ready (arrived around 9, room was ready sometime around 13:10), and by then the pain was pretty bad, but still within the realm where, with the long practice I have with this kind of thing, I could look mostly normal (if a little dazed). Made it up to my room and pretty much collapsed. Migraine passed into the pretty bad level by 3pm, and hung around until about 2am as I drifted in and out of consciousness until about 2am when it finally lifted. Got up, did a few errands (emails, figured out my schedule), and then had some nice true sleep. Woohoo. Glad I got this craptastic thing out of the way without losing out on any sessions. These episodes rarely cluster that closely together, so with any luck I'll be painfree at least until I make it back home. I hope.

Today (really Thursday), I had a nice (but too large) breakfast of pancakes and something kinda-sorta like hash browns. Did a mix of people watching and reading for much of the day, and then things started.

  • Session One - The Void, by Tracy Hickman. This is the Tracy Hickman that's the fantasy author (I kinda liked the Dragonlance things he wrote, but really liked the Darksword series). And he's now one of the people involved in a room-style VR experience run by this Void company. Looks pretty neat - while they're still setting up the Atlanta location, apparently they already have one in NYC, so when I get back I'll have to check it out. In the QA session I asked if they plan to release authoring tools and if he might ever produce scenes from Darksword in the system. He was generally pretty cagey on answering questions for someone offering a QA session.
  • Session Two - An overview of EMP weapons, by a formal Navy captain McDonagh. He reviewed natural EMP events as well as some incidents, and it was worrying to see that kind of accessment as to their feasability (apparently, pretty feasible). Unfortunately, he then went kind of off-topic to talk about second-order effects and onward; I would have preferred he went into the physics of EMP and tried hard to quantify the damage instead. Oh well. WAs still worth it.
  • Eternals Party - Private party each year for the eternals. Got into a long political discussion with a Canadian about Brexit. It was nice to have the conversation, but it was a little tense because we don't see the world the same way (he's much more pro-EU and seems to think the international order is more fragile than I think it is in terms of diplomacy, plus in my view he seemed to get bizarrely excited about expressing how much the Irish hate the English. Perhaps this was a way of letting off steam from being frustrated with the conversation? Hard to say. Wandered off after a bit.
  • Good Omens (Movie Room) - The movie room has been in a few different places at DragonCon over the years. Eventually found in the app where it is this year and what's playing, and saw that the Good Omens miniseries is playing. I liked the book, and was curious about the miniseries but not enough so that I'd consider subscribing to whatever Amazon would require me. So I want. And it was .. actually pretty awful. The actors tried very hard to carry it with over-the-top quirkiness and sentimentality, but the writing was bad. Really bad. I stuck around until the end just to see how it would land, but I don't ever want to see it again, and I would never recommend it to anyone else

Back in my room now, wrapping this up and trying to turn the mess of possibilities tomorrow into a plan. And .. missing my cats.



Looking Backwards and Sideways
Date: 2019-Aug-25 15:11:48 EST

One of the interesting things about having gone from SRE to SWE in the transition to my current job is still being on a team that has a side that manages infrastructure - for major ops I still see all the chatter that goes on in doing infrastructure (even at this relatively small scale), knowing that I'm not taking part. It's liberating, but also makes me a little itchy. The liberatingness is more important - by being largely uninvolved in that I don't need to engage much in conflicts of vision with anyone else, nor does my tendency to sacrifice my entire personal life to the job come out. I do have my own small infrastructure in AWS for the coding projects I'm working on, but they're few enough in number that they're trivial to keep going.

For DragonCon travel, I've made the PaperDoc checklist of things I need to do today/tomorrow, and I'm pretty sure I haven't missed anything big, so there's just a little bit of execution and I'll be off. To go through some avocados I have that won't last the absence, I've been making avocado rolls. I'm not in the salt-craving stage that makes that amazing, but it's still pretty good. I think a lot of my dietary swings have to do with managing different kinds of food cravings, and over the years a certain expertise in using those rather than struggling with them takes shape. It's probably more challenging when doing this with a life partner unless both bodies tend to move through the same swings (or can be managed to do the same - the meals not eaten together could be seen either as a challenge or a tool to attain this).

Tonight I'm going to a Flogging Molly concert. I haven't been to live music for a good while; maybe almost a year. I don't think I've ever seen FM live before. Hoping I enjoy it. They have a fair set of good songs, but for me their "likable rate" is about 40 percent.

A few thoughts:
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Beth Din
Date: 2019-Aug-22 19:56:20 EST

A bit of philosophy of jurisprudence and morality that I believe in that I don't recall if I've blogged about (here or elsewhere). This came up in a conversation recently.

When people ask, should I match the moral standards of those around me, or be deeply idealistic, the person living philosophically will compromise between the two (and in practice try to have a somewhat higher moral standard than society at large), but strive to raise the level of their civilisation so that they (and others) can be more just w/o suffering too much for it.