Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
Uprooting soil and plumbing
Date: 2020-Feb-24 02:37:36 EST

My struggle with productivity on my personal projects has crept back into the center of my attention - my habits are not good for this, with there always being a plan "next weekend" to do things, and then when the weekend starts, I keep managing to do very little. I get a lot of reading done and play some games, maybe take a walk, but the projects sit fallow, with the ideas I keep having for them falling out of my attention (either lost entirely or in endless little notes in Google Keep). Working on changing that and arresting this flow of time with little output. It's hard. I sometimes dream of taking a week off sometime and imagine that I'd spend it well. I don't know if I would. Sometimes in the past I have, when my usual distractions get a bit old and I remember all the other things I want to do. Sometimes it's just a more bulky nonproductive weekend. I imagine many others suffer this - other creative types who are still often accidentally in orbit around passive consumption.

I am increasingly worried about politics - both the long-term unwelcome social shifts that radical progressives are pushing into society, and the populist directions of both parties. Right now it looks like Sanders is likely to be the Democratic nominee, and this strikes me as very dangerous in that:

  • If he gets it, we may find that too many Americans are either bothered by the idea of electing a socialist, or that some of this policy ideas are independently enough to sink him or the party
  • If he becomes POTUS, at best I imagine he'll be an ineffective president, and his inability to work with congress would mean nothing would get done. If that happens, he may fail the test of character and start misusing executive orders. We know very little about his ability to manage things because he has no management experience as far as I can tell
  • Orgs like the DSA will likely push him to instead go hard nutjob, resembling thuggish Latin American leaders like Morales. Or to support them. Or both.
I'll still vote for him if he doesn't cross any of my red lines, but even though I'd like to see more socialism in the country, I want it to be technocratic, with no baggage like Sanders has with having supported bad left-leaning regimes in the past, and I want it free of the DSA. Ideally from a candidate who can work with others and is qualified. Sanders is not. It's a bad outcome.

On Saturday I saw a 4-person play called The Imbible, set in a small bar. It was about the history of alcohol in human civilisation. Cool topic. It was a little too hammy for my taste in parts, but the singing was good and it was interestingly different. Maybe more like an interactive bar show than anything else - it was a little bit interactive (powerpoint with some trivia).

Recently, as having a summer intern comes into focus, I've been asking myself repeatedly about if I'm prepared enough to try to be a good mentor, because this is in my view one of the most important things to get right. Done poorly, I could waste someone's time for the summer and maybe even drive them away from topics I really care about. Done well, I could offer them a lot of enrichment, connection, habits, and skills that they could carry forward into their career, long after I am no longer working. Have been planning the hell out of all of this, knowing that plans need to be flexible, but they're substance we can draw on as needed so our wiser longer-term self can aid our more limited immediate self.

I also have been kind of sad as yet another person at work that I'm growing closer to is planning to head off to the next stage of their career. It hurts.

A few interesting things:



Demand, Duty, and Gift
Date: 2020-Feb-09 23:36:13 EST

On a longer subway ride recently, one of the rare ones where I had managed to get a seat, I was thinking about recent and past rides and times where I've given up my seat. In particular, there are times when I've decided (based on someone being old or having trouble standing) to do so, other times where I've done so due to some existing subway policy for doing so for some classes of people, and the rare circumstances where someone has demanded that of me absent such a policy (sometimes I've complied, often I have not). There have been times in that last category where a polite request or even had I noticed someone wanted the seat I may have offered, but the demand so put me off that my willingness dissolved. A lot of this comes down to attitude and the expressed reason. This got me thinking of both the appropriate direction of expressed gratitude, and about more general times in society where we may give things up for others. I don't believe in voluntarism to the extent that all such exchanges must be voluntary, and largely believe in norms/rules, but there is something lost when those dominate these topics.

Politically, these have been infuriating times; our governmental norms are probably weaker than they've ever been as the legislative and executive branches are captured and transformed into tools of advantage for our current POTUS. Recently read an article comparing this to Chavez's rise to power. And as usual, I am frustrated that some parts of the left would be happy to commit these sins themselves had they the power, even though right now this failure is because of corruption on the right. And some people call this realisation - that human political flaws are not unique to one side of the divide - to be both-sides-ism.

Hoping to volunteer with a debate organisation that's trying to raise the level of discourse in American society. Not sure they can use someone like me productively, as I'm easily socially exhausted, but perhaps. Brought it up with one of their organisers at the last debate. Will bring it up again at the next.

I've been preparing to "pass the torch" a bit more directly, by having an intern this summer. Not that I'm ready to retire or anything, but mentoring feels like a good deed that I haven't done enough of recently. I am very impressed with my top five choices and have been having the needed conversations to make it happen. Looking forward to it; I know it's a lot of work, but people invested time in me (many of whom are retired now). This is one way we build continuity with the whole of human civilisation.

A few thoughts on a lot of things:
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Morphean Contract
Date: 2020-Jan-14 02:03:26 EST

Last Friday I didn't make it to work because I had a weird gut pain when I woke up. Possible TMI ahead (Nothing sexual, just body stuff).
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The hospital was an interesting place. I think that were I not in such a bad state I would enjoy hanging out there at odd hours of the night - there's always a lot going on, there's a feeling of purpose, and there's a certain amount of drama I noticed from my fellow patients (only a few of which I saw, but some of the more colourful ones I heard). I still sometimes struggle with purpose in my life, and the "things keep going on" there felt nice.

The kidney stone? Just another thing that happens to people. All the other little things that tell me I'm not as healthy as I should be in general because of the blood tests? Those are things I should work on. I'm glad my coworkers have been okay about this. I'm not entirely sure I've passed it yet, but it at least shifted to where it hasn't been bothering me much today.

A few things:

  • Cory Booker withdrew from the presidential race. A few other people have as well that I missed hearing about. So that's good. I think only Gabbard and likely Yang are people I would not vote for if they get the nomination.
  • Happy to see the next season of IQ2US debates is starting.
  • My Buenos Aires trip is coming together. Flights and hotel are booked. Starting to plan activities.



Eusociality and Kin Selection
Date: 2019-Dec-27 05:09:12 EST

Reading about eusociality and people working out how it may have developed, I feel I finally have a solid argument for kin selection, something I've long been convinced of, where I believe the opposition to the idea is mostly people not thinking clearly enough about the dynamics of natural selection.



Ethical Splits
Date: 2019-Dec-26 22:18:13 EST

Playing along with the artifice of the boundaries of the clock, and at peace with it right now because of the idea of constraints being helpful for creativity. Physical analogy: bridges over gaps.

Yesterday, on Christmas, I decided to have Chinese food, and it led me to a very nearby restaurant (less than a block away) that had very good food. Perhaps that's another example. I liked the experience of seeing NYC with slightly fewer people - still more than a normal Pittsburgh day by a wide margin, but comparatively desolate for here. Novelty is something I worry about getting enough of, particularly as I am alone and need to take care to feed myself enough of it to avoid ossification.

Been slowly growing close to some more coworkers, although some of them look like they're preparing to lift anchor and the pain of that loss is already something I anticipate and resent.

My body has been reminding me that although I now understand my headaches and can mitigate them somewhat, they're not gone. Still helpful.

I'm starting to put together the set of ideas that will turn into my DragonCon 2020 costume idea; I am pretty sure I'll be going as Tychoides (from Mage:Ascension). The problem here may be that it's a bit underconstrained, as the character was never very well described in the official source material, and interactions and persona are entirely lacking. But that's fun too. Brainstorming into a Google Doc. I also should be starting to plan the trip to Buenos Aires next year; I had hoped to get a feel when the neuroscience conference at Janelia will be so I can steer clear of that, but I can't wait on that forever.

Having a bit of fun with the New Year in that I selected a new set of sounds for my phone. Been nostalgic for "The Critic", and its nice smooth intro seems like it would be good to wake up to. As one example.

Some inputs and thoughts:

  • Interesting musings from Salman Rushdie about how he writes, and the purpose of writing. I don't know which I prefer, but I see some nobility in his earlier "write what you will, people will show up as they will" and his latter "writing for comprehension is a craft". So long as it is a deliberate choice between.
  • Late Night with Seth Meyers and Conan are the two nightly late night shows that I regularly watch (on Youtube, having no other TV); I really love how Karen Chee and Sona Movsesian have their little moments of stardom. I don't know if they have a shot at eventually inheriting the shows, but the camera loves them
  • I comntinue to be both pleased and perturbed that the major culture-hosting companies are losing power and competitors (to either their funding model, e.g. Patreon replacing streaming returns, or to their entire platform, e.g. Youtube to Twitch to Mixer). Negative because this makes finding things harder, but positive because the family-friendly and controversy-phobic policies people are fleeing are harmful and too much centralisation is dangerous to free expression.
  • Having read over the details of Berners-Lee's Contract for the Web, I find myself opposing it. It's not that it's entirely bad, but I think we should read creeds and platforms carefully and if they significantly work against our interests in significant ways, we should reject or oppose them. In this case, I don't like that it looks to come near support for the Right to be Forgotten, that it pushes for diversity as a value in itself (rather than just limiting those who oppose diversity - the difference is subtle but crucial), and that more broadly it looks to limit free speech beyond the narrow acceptable justifications for doing so.
  • I continue to be deeply disturbed by Evo Morales' intent to remain politically active in Bolivia; for me, the twin red lines of people remaining in office past known term limits, and them modifying those limits primarily for benefit of themselves mark him (and anyone else doing the same) as beyond the pale; use of any means necessary to remove and keep someone who breaks those rules from office is justified. It is unfortunate that there are no "good guys" in Bolivia, in that the conservatives who swept into power are likewise immoderate, but the red lines come first.
  • I love that there are juicy mysteries to be solved about the (thin) atmosphere of Mars. I'm hungry for humanity to build interplanetary comms and a permanent basis for exploration of most of our solar system; I have little doubt there are many more mysteries to find and solve out there.
Starting to collect my thoughts of the last year and last decade. Not sure that'll go in a post. Maybe.



Healing among the chafing
Date: 2019-Nov-18 04:31:00 EST

Earlier today I went to see Bettlejuice - the play. I found myself initially weirded out at the large plot and characterisation differences from the film, but once it was clearly far enough from that that I had to let go, I was fine - it was as if they took the original film, put it in the blender with a sprinkle of the cartoon series and few other ingredients, and made a very new echo. And it was a lot of fun on those terms. And in some ways they had more fidelity to the original plotline than my memory did - I had forgotten that Lydia was a stepdaughter rather than daughter of Delia, for example, and the married-for-immigration-status thing was an echo of a joke in the original. There are a few topics in the play that are .. difficult for me, in that they touch on some emotional trends that I normally like to keep mostly-buried, but overall I had a great time and I loved the set design.

Was hoping to get tickets for Hadestown, which was advertised in the playbook, but it seems to be quite hard to find affordable tickets. Not that I couldn't afford it, but I have a notion of reasonability for tickets and I'm not willing to go above that or to accept less good seets to stay below.

This past week I went for tea with some coworkers. Had a good time - some of the best desserts I had ever had. We're going again at the beginning of December, at least partly to give our fourth member, who wasn't able to make it this time, a chance to see it.

Glad that the shot Tortfeasor got seemed to cure his nose-cold, for now. Hoping that the thyroid meds Beefalo is now getting as an ear cream are working well for her.



Age and qualification
Date: 2019-Oct-31 23:20:49 EST

Broadly, I am comfortable with some paternalism in our laws and institution, when it serves a valuable societal end. Recently I spotted a Twitter quiz asking people to think about age minimums for various things. And so, some thoughts.

  • Having sex - I think there's a valuable interest in preventing disparities of power from entering sex, and recognising that in many areas of life, youth are uniquely vulnerable to disparities of power (or of their rights). We may not be able to lock away all disparities, but locking them out of certain areas of life is worth trying. And so, knowing that law is a blunt tool, I advocate that the state broadly forbid consensual sexual relations between people over 21 and people under 18.
  • Getting a tattoo - This is generally reversible without too much difficulty (even though reversal can be unpleasant); with that understood, I don't think we need an age limit (although if any forms are particularly difficult to reverse, revisiting this may be desirable)
  • Produce sexual video content - I don't think we can prevent its production by individuals acting alone, but we should try to prevent any hosting for a broad audience or recompense. We are loathe to censor private collections of any kind of content, but preventing an industry from forming around this (which would incentivise commercial production) is a valuable and achievable end
  • Be able to consume porn (of any kind) - No limits. This is not harmful.
  • Voting - This is part of being a full citizen, which should coincide with an age where people have full legal rights and are believed to be financially independent. I am comfortable with this being a higher age than 18 in order to achieve these ends, although I believe "practice" voting, with results tallied but not effective, should begin much earlier to establish the habits of good citizenship.
  • Marriage - I believe the minimum age for marriage should also be tied to being a full citizen, and even more importantly should be at an age where people are already financially independent from any caretaker. I realise this contrasts with some traditional cultures, and am enthused about breaking those traits of those cultures.
  • Buy alcohol - Same as consume alcohol. No age limits. I believe waiting until 18 lessens responsibility people feel, as people are beginning to leave their family nest and are already facing too many new responsibilities. Best to get this one in earlier.
  • Join army - Again, should be contingent on being a full citizen, and dependent on the freedom from influence that comes from being financially independent.
  • Drive a car - I think this can come a bit earlier than being a full citizen, but the responsibility people take when getting behind the wheel (and potential from harm that comes from bad judgement rather than malice) means that I'd like to set the age on this one at 16 or 18.
  • Get hormonal treatment for transitioning - I don't believe the state should recognise transitioning and should define gender in terms of genetics (that said, businesses should not be able to refuse to hire people based on these claims). That said, once someone is fully financially independent, they can do what they like with their body (although I believe no healthcare plans should cover this)


The Wind-down
Date: 2019-Oct-28 17:17:59 EST

I'm doing my usual wind-down of my work mode before travel, taking some extra time off this week as I'm travelling for work to do three days of neuroscience collaboration at Janelia. Looking forward to that, but travel is exhausting and there are chores to do in prep for it. The timing for this travel means I won't be around for Halloween, and that's a bit of a bummer; some coworkers dress up (maybe I would've too had I been around) and that's fun to see. The travel also means I'm missing some IQ2US debates and some other stuff, although later tonight I'm going to a Sum 41 concert and that sounds fun. Tomorrow's a travel day.

Been feeling a little more social recently; I almost had a date sometime this week - saw someone on OkC who I was actually attracted to and started talking. We were making arrangements for the where when she shutdown her account. No messages or anything. In theory I should be annoyed, but I get that people usually do that when they've met somebody promising and want to shut out the other potentials. And I'm also just generally kinda scared of meeting someone too. I don't like being alone, but I'm very used to it and there's a lot of hassle and management of hopes and so on in trying to figure out if someone's good for me in my life. We can't skip all that with someone new, but I dread it at the same time I want its result - a stable, happy relationship with someone.

I've found a few good NYC social orgs that might have events through which I might meet somebody, or just have a good time. When I get back I'll get started with those.

Earlier this month I went to a Rights-and-Religions forum organised by groups that help people who are transitioning out of insular religious communities - in this case there were three orgs, one for ex-Muslims, one for ex-Amish, and one for ex-Haredim. I was mostly aware of this because Sarah Haider runs the ex-Muslim group and she's one of the interesting people I've followed on Twitter for a long time. The forum went well, and they're tackling some difficult social problems. This was my first time seeing some of the people there in person.

Thoughts:

  • Reading an article on tipping: While I think it makes sense to not classify tipping as income for purposes of offsetting minimum wage (and to generally treat it as a side transaction directly between a consumer and employees), I don't think it should be abolished. Author's points are interesting, but I'd focus on two counterpoints. First and tailored tightly around Uber, there are some driver characteristics like body odour that are fixable by drivers and which, while they would not usually make the transit unacceptable if done badly, merit signalling for a better experience. Second and more generally, tips are a mechanism by which wealthy people can choose to pay more for a service. Our economy does not have a lot of structuring for that; we can tell vendors to keep the change, but that's monir and on the side and anything else is awkward. I see this possibility as desirable. There are some downsides to the tipping system (is customer judgement better for the worker than employer judgement? How often are either unfair and in what ways?) but overall I think it's worth keeping.
  • On that topic, I laud airplanes booting people who stink off planes.
  • I've written about this kind of thing before - I think it's positive that we start exploring this space of genetic alteration of humans. In my view it's unlikely that we ever will if we start the discussion on conditions, and unlike in editing crops or illnesses, the scope of work on fixing a defect is narrow and the benefits large. Given how many humans we produce and neglect in various ways, the chances that this would take the problems out of one or two stddevs from our existing range seems small.
  • That said, this advance, where people are growing human neutral tissue for various purposes, is something I think *should* be regulated and if we never decide to allow it, that would be fine. Unlike fixing defects, this has the potential to introduce all new realms of suffering.
  • I thought this was a fun article about a neat idea in art - remixing classic art with the muppets.


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.