Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
Edge of understanding
Date: 2018-Apr-20 17:31:41 EST

I've been helping with a paper at work, and one of the things it talks about is use of a machine learning technique, applied framewise over time, that will threshold (kinda) if/when data becomes significant enough to become an ROI. I feel I'm on the very edge of an insight that the algorithms in play (a CNN), when viewed stepwise (more or less a 90 degree rotation) might take a very different form and be much more efficiently calculated were they revised towards thresholding rather than independent (but stateful - based on data available so far) invocations. It's a strong instinct, but it's just at the edge of my slippery grasp; if I understood a bit more I feel I could figure out a general transformation of algorithms, or at least develop a means to do so, to realign it along these lines.

A lazy version of this would just be to memoise a lot of the intermediate state.

Denying the Power of Words
Date: 2018-Apr-20 02:07:25 EST

There's a beautiful paradox in modern (and perhaps historical) American society, and certain philosophical trends in European society that influenced us. Words have a lot of ability to affect things; en masse they decide if a leader is effective or weak (particularly in monarchies), they can push on our emotions both directly and in how we define things, en masse they help establish or destroy notions of legitimacy (gaslighting is direct manipulation of this facility to destabilise somebody's worldview), and they help shape our well-being, our feelings of safety and its lack, and all sorts of other things.

A direct, full-throated recognition of this is a powerful reason to drop a lot of constraints on speech, whether done as laws, as expectations of violent or career-altering responses, or as social norms. We can prevent all kinds of harms this way. It also, depending on how we recognise it, leads to ideas of crimes of honour (insult somebody in some ways and they might, in order to preserve their status which is essential to their mental well-being which you probably unjustly decided to step on, need to make things right).

So, in contrast to a lot of other societies still extant in the world, we have decided to go for free speech as a legal and social norm, and when it comes up against all these harms, we decide that the harm done by restricting speech, on whole, is worse than any of the harms that speech can do. We get a lot out of this bargain. Some of us consider free speech a direct good (I do); a good independent of its effects. Some consider this a good bargain even if they see free speech as a means to an end, perhaps noting that while it offers potential for a lot of potential harm, it also lets the targeted person blow off steam, laugh at the person who went after them, and lets them go after them right back (as speech, at least).

The way we resolve that tension then, is to dismiss the harms that can come from speech, and teach our children to try to ignore them (sticks and stones, etc). It's not always simple.

Justice as contingent results
Date: 2018-Apr-18 22:49:43 EST

This demonstrates the failing of some ideas that both liberals and conservatives occasionally flirt with - that it's valid to aim for equality of outcomes from our legal system, rather than equal treatment under neutral laws. Locally this often comes in the form of attacks on Broken Windows policies, on the theory that such laws have a disproportionate impact on lower-income neighbourhoods. The thought being that we should empathise with criminals on these topics, from turnstile jumpers to breaking of windows not because it's enforced unevenly (or that the laws have too harsh a penalty), but merely because of the impact.

I can have some sympathy for the other arguments, but bundling an impact argument in sours me on any further discussion. And likewise with the linked article above with people upset that Trump's people are being prosecuted and there are not many people on the other side being prosecuted. If there were legitimate concerns about selective enforcement narrowly tailored around Trump, sure, that would be unacceptable, but the mere fact that Trump's people get more focus plausibly can (and likely does) come from the fact that they're breaking various laws a lot more. And if that produces varying outcomes, it should. Attempting to rebalance based on that is inappropriate.

Date: 2018-Apr-14 19:08:48 EST

During the years I blogged little and G-plussed much, I kept a journal. I find myself using it a lot less as this comes to take on some of its function. Much of what I write is organising my thoughts and imposing meaning on my existence. If that's useful or interesting to others in some fashion, great. If not, oh well.

I'm pretty much entirely moved now; my old apartment just has dust and a vacuum cleaner that are eager to meet. I might swing by there later today to do that and then take the vacuum cleaner over to the new place. The old landlord is being uncommunicative; I may have invited mild drama in giving them phone rather than paper notice, albeit early. And then late paper notice, wherein I refused to get my intent to move out notarised. The new place is still slowly being unpacked, and I have an excess of boxes, but this is a big part of how I've chosen to live my life; given an annoying task I add a habit to my life to chip away at it, rather than sprinting.

I feel bad for the people trying to land bpfilter modules into the Linux kernel, significantly because they wanted to introduce a very specific capability, and people realised that it might be better to grow the idea into a general facility, and work out what that facility looks like. It's probably the right engineering decision, because it avoids a kernel full of small similar things, but to be in the shoes of that would-be author is not a happy thing. But so it is in engineering.

I'm amused at this idea and identity of digisexuality. There's an automatic inclination I think for people, single among billions, to attempt to find new ways to distinguish themselves, and craft terms and identities to do so. Maybe part of a storyteller instinct. Even when the results are ridiculous. Not that the need is, but the crafting of thick identities out of narrow specifics, and then having done that the need to backfill a lot of content into something that barely needed a term to begin with. We can and probably should just ignore those efforts, denying them the attention needed to catch on.

I'm weirded out to see that some tech companies say blatantly false things in their SEC filings. In the above link, the claim that "A Database is at the Heart of every Application" is nonsense. Tempting to start a project digging up more nonsense that makes its way into Edgar.

I've written elsewhere recently on forms of Feminism and where I see myself; about to wrap up the topic for which this has been a good map. As noted before, I consider myself a Classical-liberal feminist (and gender-role abolitionist) with some liberal reservations. I think the majority of concerns of gender come down to public or private coercion, I don't care to adjust any biological differences that might exist, but I have a small value for groundbreaking levels of representation, in order to help pave the path for people outside whatever statistical distribution they belong to's norm. And in education I accept more invasive rebalancing because of how necessary it is for everything else.

I think there's been a lot of bad commentary on Charles Murray, but this, which claims that his works suggest bad policy, is on. The bad commentary remains my primary concern, as it's drawn a lot of attacks from anti-free-speech progressives, and I think we need to be able to talk about anything, even bad ideas. Plus I remain generally neutral on the scientific content on Murray. When Murray starts talking about libertarian politics (And he does), I think that's where we should point it out and push back hard (although, again, in appropriate ways that don't stop him from talking or block him from having a willing audience). On the article's discussion of substantitve versus opportunity equality, if we talk about an absolutist version of the former, then I advocate a mix. But if common notion of the former is already mixed, then I might fit into that camp.

This makes some interesting statements linking role-playing to AI training. Resampling in statistics has already done this in a sense, and a lot of CNN-training already involves things like this as well. I think this is good advice people are already doing, and they're already looking to do the obvious extensions of it into broader realms of application. Still, for people less-familiar with the field, it's an interesting read.

It's best not to take hard stances on what happened from a single account, but this story about the early days at Tinder and Bumble sounds like some seriously unpleasant mess. And a reminder that just because a relationship is consensual, that's just a first bar on whether it's appropriate. The sharpest argument here is that even a consensual relationship can make both people incapable of being fair to each other in other contexts, in ways where their mutual fair treatment is obligatory. Like at work.

Date: 2018-Apr-09 05:48:03 EST

Finally got the moving pretty much done. Had a really long migraine of varying length during it, from Friday (which I took off to pack, but was unable to do so because of the pain) to Saturday (where movers came by and packed everything) to Sunday (when they moved stuff). I was really worried that not everything would fit. Fortunately, things did fit in the physical sense, it's now up to me to make them work spacewise when unpacked. And in the process I'm reminded that I have way, way too much stuff. A lot of it is kitchen stuff; over the years somehow I've ended up with far more plates and cups than I need, and all sorts of other things I never use. In reality, I could probably make do with 5 plates, 5 cups, and maybe 3 each of standard cutlery. I should get rid of a lot of this. It makes no sense to keep carrying it around. There's just the question of how - throwing it away would feel wrong.

I wasn't able to finish setting up my desktops. The VESA mount screws are either packed away somewhere or got lost in the shuffle. I ordered more. I'm also not sure where my Cintiq got to. Hopefully that will turn up; I'm hoping to start using it again. I've done some more sketches for Oyschlisn (my super depressing webcomic) and am thinking of bringing that back. Maybe the other things too.

I'm enjoying how much more "NYC" the new apartment feels. No longer a sleepy place on the edge of Manhattan. Just a few blocks makes a big difference.

I still need to swing by the old place to sweep, maybe mop, and otherwise get it ready for handover. And to throw out the old, super disgusting rugs.

I've been rereading Neil Gaiman's "Lucifer" series. It's really good.

Restraining Air
Date: 2018-Apr-06 23:24:56 EST

I'm reasonably moved to my next apartment; not done yet (very little furniture is moved; this weekend will see it through) , but much of everything else is moved. Slept there last night for the first time. I'm glad I don't need much in the way of creature comforts. I meant to spend most of today doing more moving, but I woke up with a migraine that's not quite done even now. I'm used to it, but it still is the most dissatisfactory bit of my life, spending 8-14 hours a week on average in varying levels of agony. Right now it's at least a high-functioning pain, but I cancenlled my attendance at a bad movie night event tonight because I can't commit to feeling well and don't want it to be awkward if I need to go lie down somewhere.

I'm intrigued by this ; a plan by DHS to monitor media on topics relevant to them. We could easily decide this is innocuous; many big companies do the same thing, guarding their brand zealously. We could easily imagine this misused; if you don't give us good coverage you won't get interviews. Or worse. As is often the case, it depends on how it's used. I can't say I'm in a trusting mood given our current leadership and how we seem to be backsliding so far.

I've been disappointed but not surprised to see people reviewing the Roseanne reboot and finding it awful or incomprehensible that she'd support Trump. I wish my side were better at looking at the other side of the aisle. It's not that I think Trump is even remotely a good president, but rather that people use such disparate means to evaluate him (or anybody else) that we should not be surprised that in some perspectives anybody shines. Given how many Italians voted for Berlusconi, and how throughout history so many terrible leaders have arguments that grab people, I'd hope we'd be better at understanding. I guess not.

I'm bothered by this - Jerry Brown using pardons as a way to protect illegal immigrants. I suppose, despite it now being marked by Trump's side, I still have very dim views of illegal immigration, and efforts to ease their stay, except as part of very deliberate amnesty - an exemption against rules that still generally hold, don't sit well with me.

This is inspiring. Good data visualisation is part of outreach, and while outreach can't be the primary point of science, it makes everything else possible in the long run, from funding to the next generation of scientists to instilling the (educated parts of the) general public with wonder far from our easy perspectives.

I haven't taken Uber very often, and as I've written before, I'm only really comfortable doing so either in dire need or if Uber represents a better or at least roughly-even status quo for workers than the taxicab system. In NYC, I loathe our medallion system even though it's well-intentioned. I would be comfortable taking it here, but I rarely do in practice because the subway system, despite its strain, is good enough. Still, I am well-aware of its rating system and think that aspect of Uber sucks. In largely the same way that I think Gamestop's pressures on its stores and employees are awful. I wish we could get them to do better on this front.

A limit on justice
Date: 2018-Apr-04 03:00:16 EST

As a correlary to the idea that intersectionality reduces the number of people that can/should be comfortable with a bundle of perspectives (because the more specific views that are glommed together into a perspective, the more likely it is that someone will disagree with one of them and not accept being pushed out on that view), the more comprehensive a vision of justice (assuming it is fully believed in and pushed and perhaps enforced through soft-or-hard-means, e.g. community rules), the more it damages society.

I believe the effect of this is limited if it does not push hard against neighbouring worldviews and is comfortable living in a cluster with them, spending its efforts primarily against distant views. But this is sadly rare for the same reason that sacrelige is often considered more serious a harm than apostasy (these terms and this observation is in fact general enough to apply to religious and non-religious worldviews).

The ends of appearance
Date: 2018-Apr-01 00:46:15 EST

The sharpest argument I can make against Trump, for people who are steadfastly pro-America (I am not), and outside concerns about basic competence, the people he surrounds himself with, and his pettiness and ego, is the following:

It is nearly impossible to have both extreme power and showings of extreme power at the same time. The latter wounds the dignity of the less powerful and leans them against cooperation. America, for most of its existence, has consistently leaned towards the former. It has not usually demanded other nations acknowledge its greatness, and instead has been content to get them to buy into a political-social order that it originated and has some steering over. They get a better outcome between its carrot and its stick, and even often a better status quo because these economic and political rules often (but not always) created better prosperity than alternate systems, even though their alignment is squarely with American particulars.

What I see in Trump, with a desire to smash the dignity of other nations and force them to kneel, is a pissing away of a lot of actual power for the sake of its trappings. A public greatness almost necessarily looks like this; it's showy and self-destructive, and weakens us. Those that believe in American greatness should reject populism and the short-term, in favour of expertise and the long, quiet path that has led America to power.

N Rights
Date: 2018-Mar-31 22:22:55 EST

On the topic of Women's Rights and Men's Rights and other examples of that general phrasing, I see two ways to parse that phrasing:

  • What are the rights that people in that category-or-identity have?
  • What are the rights that generally people have that are often most relevant to that category-or-identity?
In the first parsing, with rare exception, I think we should essentially redirect to general rights of people, or "what do we owe each other in society?". General notions of justice are what we should concern ourselves with, not the interests of particular groups (or people within the group who claim to speak for the group - the two are not quite the same). There are a few exceptions - statuses that we might reasonably decide change the social contract around some categories. I believe in the following exceptions:
  • Children - They have very broad and deep differences in rights from adults, most but not all relating to custody (exceptions being possibly degree of culpability and recognition that they are very easily coerced into labour or sex or similar by adults and we should stop that)
  • People who have chosen fame - They give up considerable expectations and protections, partly scalar by degree of fame and degree of choice
  • People with hereditary power - In societies that have this, we should consider them similarly to those who have chosen fame, but much moreso. It may be acceptable to violently remove them from power if they do not give up voluntarily, and that can extend to killing an entire royal family including those we would otherwise consider innocent.
  • News organisations - We may choose to protect their ability to conduct news in ways we would not protect private citizens, including not compelling them to testify about conversations. We do this because they are supposed to act as a check on government
  • Legal representation - Similar to news, because they have a structural role to play in our adversarial legal system that they could not play were they similarly vulnerable
  • Confessors - We may choose to protect the privacy of some other relations (spouses, doctors, philosophical guides) depending on specifics
On the second, one reason we insist on pulling the context of "welfare of a group" outside of the sphere of "group's rights" and into "general rights" is to ensure we don't confuse persecution of a group with deciding not to give it everything it may ask for. A group may earnestly believe they are due something particular, and we may recognise that the group has often been injured by violence or being locked out of jobs or similar. Yet we should remain comfortable telling that group "no" at any demand that we don't think is part of "what we owe each other", and comfortable not considering it part of whatever word for "bigotry against this particular group" exists.

On Exes
Date: 2018-Mar-24 18:18:59 EST

Been thinking a bit about former ties; what bits of my past would I revisit (from a perspective where I'm not working where I am, and also single - the latter is easy since I *am* single and have been for a long time).

Could I imagine working again at MacLeod? No. I liked the variety in what I did, but the work environment was not for me. That company is totally different now though, and I think it's much larger. It's still in Columbus though.

Could I imagine working again at GoAntiques? Probably not as I remember it; I've grown too much to be satisfied with what I did there. I think the company is probably pretty different by now, maybe acquired a few times over.

Could I imagine working again at Carnegie Mellon University? Absolutely. It was a great place to work. I love universities, and I loved Pittsburgh. But I wouldn't move back there unless I were settling down long-term.

Could I imagine working again at Spotflux? Probably not. I messed things up there and burned bridges, and have some regrets. The work was nice, but it was also too small and there wasn't room for me to have as much influence as I wanted. I think the company is no longer around.

Could I imagine working again at MongoDB? Unlikely unless both the CTO left and a certain prominent toxic employee were to leave (or learn to stop being a dick). I don't really believe in the product, but that's not actually a blocker. They have neat technical challenges in infra, and actually working on their storage layer would be nice.

Could I imagine working again at Dropbox? Sure, if I got to work on things that interested me and were I not to need to work with my former manager. It was a solidly good place to work and I met a lot of great people. I really didn't like how politically progressive the company environment was, but I could deal with it and push against it. I probably wouldn't've left had it not been for that manager and for ending up owning some important-and-neglected-things that I didn't want to own but wanted to see done right.

I think I'll spare the internet individual evaluation of my past romances; that's not really a cool thing to do in public. There's one I'd definitely be happy to date again, and another that'd be a maybe. Would be happy to have any of them as friends even when things didn't end well.

As for cities...

  • Could I ever return to Dallas? Doubtful, and I was very young when I was there. It's just not my kind of town
  • Or Darien? I don't know, I've never been back, but it's probably too quiet for me
  • Or Brecksville? No. Far too slow-moving. Also no interesting jobs and I wouldn't want to need to drive to Cleveland or Akron to work every day.
  • Or Columbus? No. There's at least some appeal here, but it's still too slow-moving.
  • Or Pittsburgh? I might retire there or do a late-life move there for a final job. I love the city. It's pretty, has good food, has a lot of nature, and has enough of an academic feel.
  • Philadelphia? Maybe, if there were a good job drawing me there. I didn't give it a fair shake last time.
  • Otherwise I could see myself living in Cambridge (USA) or possibly Austin. I've always enjoyed my visits there.
  • And definitely not California (although Santa Barbara was kinda tempting and I almost moved there once)
Kinda fun to do mindless Question-Answer posts. Probably less interesting to read.