Time Heals All Wounds, Then Kills the Patient

A blog by Pat Gunn
Thin Line to Advance
Date: 2019-Aug-17 13:23:42 EST

I've been thinking further about Shahid Buttar, a challenger to Pelosi, and my extreme distaste for him. The interesting thing about it (to me) is that his concrete policy stances (based on his platform, published on his website) are actually closer to mine than Pelosi's, but there are two aspects of how I judge candidates that cause me to dislike him a lot more:

  • Firstly, I make inferences about how a pol thinks about issues based on their positions and how they speak. Although many of my most important positions (importance is as I see it; largely the positions that I think define whether someone is left-leaning or right-leaning in American contexts, like how large should the social betterment programmes be and what overall form should the economy take) are further left than the Democratic Party, my style of reasoning is, I think, fairly technocratic and centrist. I care a lot about how candidates reason because that suggests how well they react to facts and perhaps what choices they'll make in situations that won't make their way into platforms (either the boring stuff or the exceptional stuff).
  • Secondly, and likely related to that "technocratic-centrist reasoning style", while I usually judge centrist views without much fuss, and judge liberal views that align with my own with pleasure, liberal views that don't align with mine I judge about as harshly as terrible conservative views. There's a reason for this, which I'll discuss as a third point
  • I care a lot about making sure the right kind of liberalism wins, seeing the wrong kind as being as problematic as the worst of conservative views. The wrong kind of liberals are trying to build a society that I don't want to live in, and are often resistant to compromise or even discussion. Any activism that gives the impression it's coming from them is therefore something that I think I need to find a way to diminish or counter.

In practice, this makes me a kind of liberal that, despite not being centrist, often guards the value of the center. And I'm okay with that. Were Shahid to actually want my support, there are specific things in his platform he could change, along with some changes in how he speaks:

  • Moving to 100 percent clean and renewable energy within the next ten years is not an achievable goal and would lead to ruin. It's also unclear what changes to military policy he's talking about and that makes me nervous. Promising to give the environment much more weight in terms of regulation, and having good longer-term goals to get us on a better path? I could support that.
  • Association with the Green New Deal is association with those four idiots. They're toxic. Avoid them, even if you agree with many of their proposal. The GND also has (or had) some nutty stuff in it.
  • Participation in direct action might not be a great brand for a politician. I've done direct action, but I would not put that in my policy platform were I running for office.
  • I mostly like his healthcare ideas, but reducing military spending is a really, really bad idea given Russian and Chinese activism. Let's not depend on that.
  • His views on privacy (specifically around warrants) are overbroad if you read carefully and would hamstring the FBI. There are ways to limit warrantless search that don't go so far.
  • Liberty section: Libertarian leanings are a big no.
  • Intersectional feminism is not something that makes me want to vote for anyone
  • Closing military bases in willing foreign countries risks enabling Russia and China to do more land grabs - it's a terrible idea.
  • His intent to oppose any US military intervention abroad is absolutely unacceptable.
  • Expensive high-tech weapons platforms may still be a deal for the US military if they replace the need for more people
  • I worry that his immigration policies are effectively close to an open border
  • Antitrust law is a strange mechanism to solve an electoral problem he frames oddly. Needs more thought
  • De-miltarising our borders is forgetting that protecting borders is one of the natural roles of a military and defining aspects of a country.

Protesting and Transit
Date: 2019-Aug-15 01:51:32 EST

Today after work I went to a protest at a local activist's house, who filed a lawsuit to stop the 14th Street bus plan. Transalt called the protest, and the activist was actually decent enough to be there and explain his perspectives. I'm not the sort to chant or shout, so I mostly hung around listening to people talk to news media and argue with the small set of neighbours he had that agreed with him. He brought some food for everyone, and that naturally threw the protestors a bit (the organiser told people not to take any food). Did he convince me? I think I'm convinced that he doesn't have much ill will, although I still see his perspective as leading to bad policy and I see self-interest in it. Still, people who show up to protests against them and talk earn some respect from me.

When Society Breaks
Date: 2019-Aug-13 22:44:16 EST

A few thoughts on the reply.

It would be a great disaster if society were to fall. One notion of falling is when most reasonable people lose the vestedness and trust in their society, sufficient to withdraw from its institutions and use broadly use violence to protect their individual norms and interest. There are times this may happen, and if it does, we would be compelled to drop our civilised ways to do so, but the longer that state persist, the longer we lose the habits and self-restraint compatible with civilised lands.

If we ever find ourselves in that situation, I hold that it is obligatory to use a minimum of uncivilised action needed to survive, and to strive towards quickly reconstructing the norms and institutions of society. It should not be a time for revenge.

In the meantime, we should strive not to disrupt that trust, even given possibly-reasonable worries that we're moving in that direction. And even given that any society, including ours, will have serious flaws amounting to deep injustice. The injustices of society falling apart are far greater. We should commit to using those institutions (police, laws) when we can against threats to civilisation, above all but the most dire of injustices our civilisation might commit; there may be red lines (internal litaral genocide, revisionism, damage to free speech) but they should be few in number and their converse should be offered full-throated support rather than be surprises.

The problem with condoning Antifa's violence is that it damages this trust with deeply insufficient motivation, and its fantasies of fighting fascism are deluded. It breaks trust, induces legitimate fear and response from its opponents, and does far to little to distance itself from thuggery on its side (e.g. somehow endorsing the Chavez-Maduro side in Venezuela's current misery). Antifa also stands against a cornerstone of our society - free speech, out of fears that some speech either is or leads to violence. Regardless of these fears, free speech is a cornerstone, and is actually one of the few things that should legitimately be a red line - something we'd rip our society down to restore if it were damaged enough.

For these reasons, we should reject antifa as strongly as the violent movements it opposes, for most of the same reasons.

Mental Radio
Date: 2019-Aug-13 02:43:58 EST

I sometimes wonder why it is, given that for many songs I've heard before, I can remember them in my head and step through them sequentially as if I were listening to them, I find it so much more pleasurable to play them. So far the answer I've come up with is that remembering them that way takes a fair bit of effort and I may be missing some of the more subtle voices that add things to the song. With the first probably(?) being more important. Although there are songs that I feel are improved with some small tweaks, and it's not hard to make that when remembering them this way.

On request of my petsitter (whom I've made arrangements for WRT the coming DragonCon), I've also arranged for my apartment to get cleaners again. And this feels pretty good to have that in the works (this coming saturday). Partly because it's mostly been not getting around to it and the small size of my place leading me not to get it done despite my perpetual mild annoyance. Also partly because in prep for the cleaning I'm forcing myself to throw out things that I've been meaning to throw out that I haven't gotten around to yet.

Got started with Kafka today at work. I'm a little weirded out that it's written in Java - often I'm weirded out when performance-sensitive software is given JVM overhead. Although maybe I'm being old-fashioned in that perhaps JIT improvements have largely eliminated the concerns that lead me to these worries. I'm hoping I won't need to do JVM tuning like I did some jobs back.

A few thoughts on things:

  • This is a great article on the issue with creativity in gaming and the economics around it. I suspect eventually game engines and assets will fade into the background with easy licensing of almost everything on that front and storytellers and people who produce what little custom content will still be needed will take center stage. Maybe 20 years from now we'll get there. And I think we'll be a lot better off - there will still be a few companies that focus on engines, but I think that's all they'll need to focus on and after a good showcase game they produce everyone will license from them. Maybe we're already mostly there.
  • I love articles about the origins of our cellular machinery
  • It's also good to see Saudi Arabia improve gender-equality - they have a long way to go, but it looks like they're at least moving at a reasonable clip.
  • The Yiddish edition of Fiddler on the Roof finally has its soundtrack out. I wasn't expecting to like it more than the Williams/Stern English edition, but the whole play, including the songs, sound much better in Yiddish.
  • Yet another promising exoplanet
  • I'm not generally a fan of Chomsky, but I'm glad we're on the same page that the violence we see from Antifa groups is counterproductive. I felt that way when I was occasionally at social events with one of their predecessors - anarchosocialist groups back in Pittsburgh.
  • Recently have also had Bowie's "Man who Sold the World" stuck in my head

Information Squirrels
Date: 2019-Aug-11 19:37:10 EST

I've been starting to get in the mindset of DragonCon for the year, and starting to prep for the trip. This means I'm figuring out what reading materials to save for the Amtrak trip. I didn't think of a good costume to wear for this year - there's still time if I come up with something but it's getting a bit short. That's okay - a costume would be a plus, but only if it's comfortable. My catsitter asked that I get the apartment cleaned before she starts, and that's actually pretty reasonable - I've been lax about this recently and I should get back on the horse WRT getting a semi-regular cleaner. I've been slow to do this because the place is so damned small, but that's a shoddy excuse.

This weekend a former coworker was in town with wife and kids. And it was nice hanging out with them, and being "Uncle Pat" again. We've done this a few times before. I like seeing their daughter have more personality each time (I think she's 4 now), and while we were wandering around inside the container store I took the shopping cart and "drove" her around the store letting her pick where to turn and where to go straight, which she really enjoyed. I imagine one of the challenging things for being a kid is that they often lack agency, and giving them a little bit is a sure hit. In the longer run this can develop into resentment against the parents and "the system" that explains a lot of young-person politics, but that's a very old cycle. We grabbed dinner at a different middle eastern place than last time - a place called Kubeh (Israeli-Iranian!). The food was good.

At work I've been spending time building the software environment around NeuTu, a volumetric proofreading tool. Building a tool to parse the HTTP logs representing its talk to the backend was interesting, and next week I'll start experimenting with Kafka (finally a good reason to do so) as the backend is willing to dump more semantically complete logs there. I like that work is still interesting and fun; while I don't quite "have it all" at work, I have something that's pretty close. Self-direction. Lots to learn. Purpose drives me. And I have systems to garden and some variety coming in from outside my two main projects. What am I missing? Maybe a certain sense of adventure, and any opportunity to get more "aboutness". But that's okay, at least for the foresseable future.

More to write later, if I get around to it.

Evenings of Calor
Date: 2019-Aug-05 01:40:09 EST

It's been a hot few weeks. And intellectually messy. This last week a former coworker whom I miss came back for a week. It was good to catch up, but it also reminds me how rarely I click with people, and how I often don't take as much advantage of that as I should. Largely because I'm afraid of loss when they wander back out of my life, and I'm also afraid of getting close to them because it means a kind of vulnerability. If I got too close, and then it turns out we see the world too differently, that'd hurt worse than not getting that close. It still is something that leaves me alone though, and that's not good for me.

At work, I found myself in the odd position of needing to write a code of conduct to help a project apply for a grant (they have odd requirements). I did my best to have it do what a CoC needs to do without doing what I see as typical overreach. This is good for me, I think, in that there are some practices that are important to do the right thing on these topics, and while I find it odd that these practices need to be written down, the harms from being unwilling to act are bad, as are the harms from being overwilling to act. And I don't want to be the critic who never needs to exercise some level of good governance. It's important not to be that punk.

My neck is getting better from this PT, but going is slow. It helps to know that I must care for it.

NDT tweeted about the recent shootings, putting them in the perspective of all the other way people die. A number of anger-prizing people are unfollowing him because of that and making a show of it. And I am irritated at those people. It is a better trait to be able to discuss charged topics, handling differences on them (and fact-checking, and other framings) well rather than stomping off. I know why people (including myself) see these things as being more significant than car crashes and other random deaths despite the numbers not lining up - we view acts with intentionality more severely because they push on norms and expectations and ideals in ways that random shit doesn't. An act with intent behind it breaks trust in our norms and makes us mistrust each other in a way that negligent homicide never could. And I could discuss this calmly over tea with anyone who's likewise capable.

Recently been playing MGSV through again. It's a good game. And I'm still weirded out by the depiction of the character of Quiet (I don't need to see the camera rotating around her that much), although as a kind of messed-up love story it makes sense (and, just as I've read Ayn Rand, I'm generally not someone to shy away from works I find coming from a perspective I'm not so comfortable with). I'm picking up more of the meaning behind the work (constructing an understanding of some of the struggles with power that soldiers have, and otherwise examining that life and ideals around it). The "married to the job" aspect that comes from the story element of the parasite antidote making soldiers sterile? Powerful (if weird). The unintentional coverage of voyeurism in seeing depictions of others is also interesting.

I sometimes think about hooking my blog up to one of the commenting sidecars (like Disqus), or possibly writing my own again. Do I still know enough people that I might get some good conversation out of that? Or would it just be 2-3 people at most? Would I change what I write? I think if I knew that I would get a lot of conversation, I'd write more about philosophy and current events and write a lot more generally. But it's hard to get an audience if your site is standing alone - that's one of the things LiveJournal and GooglePlus were good for. And the internet we know today is much more centralised than it was in the old days. Even though that lives largely in the habits of people. I wonder if that can be reversed. I think it would be good if it could be.

Date: 2019-Jul-18 03:47:30 EST

Being back under PT has been a little odd. I don't know how to judge the profession - how much learning is there behind it? Some fields, like therapy, are I suspect more about doing the obvious, but with enough attention and devotion. Maybe PT is like that. It's still useful though, and my ankle recently having been troubling me a lot, it was nice to just ask about that, have someone take a look at it, and have some more exercises to try to strengthen the necessary muscles. It's also nice that my neck is getting better mobility pretty quickly, and hopefully in general I'm paying more attention to my posture.

The recent political stuff between that one idiot who's our POTUS and those four idiots who are giving Pelosi some pain has taken a disturbing turn. I don't know how to judge if "why don't you go back" is racist, but it's a stupid thing to say to 3 people who were born in the US, and weird to say to a naturalised citizen. It's more disturbing yet that it's apparently becoming a phrase Trump's supporters are using at rallies. There've been a number of dark moments for the US recently. Not all from the POTUS, but quite a lot.

Journeys of a Grain of Sand
Date: 2019-Jul-12 02:57:06 EST

About to head back to the Cleveland area to visit family. It's been awhile. Been feeling a need to reconnect, at least a bit, back to my roots. I sometimes think about my grandparents, none of which are still around but some of which were a big part of my mental life. Some part of me wants to give my grandma on my mom's side a call. Bothers me that that's not possible anymore - the last conversations I had with her were over the phone, talking about what NYC is like and her impressions that all of this sounds like a lively adventure. I think perhaps she spent time in NYC at some point in the past. And all that was some years back. The passage of the years continues to astound. And that my sisters all have a kid apiece. I still really want not to be alone and to start a family, but I've also grown comfortable with my loneliness and find it hard to change. I still want my life to somehow not feel like a tragedy though. Last weekend's visit of one of my sisters was another reminder of what I don't have.

Ross Perot died recently. I think his candidacy was one of the first few that evoked wonder for me - I thought a lot about the two-party system starting then and learned about its history and what it takes to upset the paradigm. Some of the people I pay attention to blame his candidacy for a lot of the Tea Party nonsense, but I don't see the tie. What I remember of his campaign is that he tried to bring numbers and technocracy to his run, not something populist. I don't know if he would've been a good president.

There's a coworker at work, Cara, who (with her husband) has inspired me to put together a Commander magic deck. We're hopefully set to play a game or two in the coming weeks, although they also recently decided to move to Switzerland. This is natural for academia, but it still sucks as it really takes me some time to warm up to people and I am bothered that it by the time it happens often they're heading off to the next stage of their life. Feels like a tragic pattern of loss.

Been studying Warren's positions as I may wish to offer some financial support. Looking at her website now there are still some annoying policy ideas that I don't support, but that'd be true for anyone.

  • I don't at this time support ending the Electoral College (and I'd be surprised if the needed votes are there to abolish it)
  • I wish she had a more substantial foreign policy, and I'm wary of the "bring our troops home" mentality at this time given Russia's actions.
  • I strongly oppose decriminalising illegal immigration, and worry that her immigration policies amount to an open border. I still see some common ground (streamlining what processes we have for application, and addressing forces displacing immigrants), but this is generally an area I don't like her politics.

Date: 2019-Jun-29 20:38:28 EST

Two days ago I went to a Yiddish production of Fiddler on the Roof. It had two flaws that bugged me (the character of the Fiddler was cast as someone best described as a reject from "Cats", and they alternated between "Rich Man" and "Rothschild" in the relevant song), but overall was excellent, and as has occasionally happened before I've felt my heart strings being tugged a bit towards a Jewish life - for various reasons this is not for me (being Atheist, not being Jewish by chalakah, and a rejection of past cultures for the sake of building better future ones not based on blood), but heartstrings are not known to always resonate with decisions the rest of us makes. It speaks well of the production that it evoked this feeling in me - it's been awhile since I felt it. Yiddish was not a challenge for me - my German is decent, I've spoken in Yiddish dialects before, and I know the play very well. I'm likely to try to see more Yiddish theatre in the future - will be avoiding anything about Shoah, but otherwise open.

Also recently I caught up with a former coworker (which was nice - someone I've always respected) and we did it at a Malay restaurant (my first time). I was surprised to find that the Malay rendition of curry that I had there was sour and spicy - it was excellent and immediately one of my new favourite foods.

Very keen to visit the mission control room used for most Apollo missions.

I'm kinda dreading watching the second night of the debates, even this far out. I really don't like the format, and dislike what the moderators let them get away with. I also worry about the number of stupid things candidates might get peer-pressured into, like open border pledges.

Also, while I'll likely never get even the least bit preachy about it, it's neat to see that I'm not weird for generally turning subtitles on in games, and that hopefully game companies will keep putting in the effort to support subtitles.

Democratic Debates 26June2019
Date: 2019-Jun-27 05:38:11 EST

Doing my (sigh) civic duty and watching the Democratic debates. Taking notes here.

Good challenge to Warren on economy opens the debate. She fields it well. Followup to Klobuchar on her competitors economic plans. She isn't good at speaking on her feet. Beto .. is asked about financial policy. He offers vacuous answer and then annoyingly mixes Spanish and English sentences. This debate isn't in Spanish. Rambles about other things, ignores question. Refuses to give straight answer when directly asked again.Beto .. is asked about financial policy. He offers vacuous answer and then annoyingly mixes Spanish and English sentences. This debate isn't in Spanish. Rambles about other things, ignores question. Refuses to give straight answer when directly asked again. Booker asked about policy towards business breakups and consolidation. Wanders around question for a bit, seems to ignore quoted position. Warrren given a followup, asked if she's picking winners and losers. Refers to existing laws, says they're fine but we're not using them b/c of lack of courage. Castro asked about pay gap, talks about his experience with these issues. Suggests passing Equal Rights Amendment (which is probably a good idea, but isn't something Presidents can do. It was held up because of not enough States signing on. Also talks about passing legislation, which again is not something Presidents do. Wrong governmental branch. Gabbard given same question. Talks about fighting for people in government, brags a bit about military service, and ... meanders further from the question. BdB asked about gap between wealthy and poor, asked about income inequality. Talks about minimum wage and other local policy things. Makes case for a general boldness. Delaney asked about BdBs statements. Talks about a variety of things he's pushed for. Probably was a bad question because he's going all over the place. Islee asked about income inequality, talks about unions and his support for them. Talks more about goals than means. Ryan is asked about Trump's claim that jobs are coming back en masse and if he can promise the same. He thinks so. Long on problems to point at, short on actual solutions.

I likely will just run with the per-candidate impressions going forward.

As we've seen everyone talk by now, quick shallow impression (biased possibly by my prior impressions):

  • Warren - doing well, starts a little overeager. Has a lot of ideas and facts at hand. Debaters know she's a frontrunner - they give her prominence.
  • Klobuchar - pretty weird facial expressions, not a good speaker, didn't leave a good impression. Tried to be fact-driven but she can't manage it.
  • Beto - Annoying multilingualism as a show. Ignores questions even when asked directly. He can fuck right off.
  • Booker - Often ignores structure of debate. Decent speaker. Full of stories, but does he have any solutions? Actually speaks Spanish well, but again, this debate is in English so cut that shut out.
  • Castro - Dude's really ugly, and seems confused about what Presidents do.
  • Gabbard - Polished and a good speaker, but often ignores structure of debate
  • BdB - Started out well, later offered rebuttals that were word games. Excessive tribalism.
  • Delaney - Hard to judge because moderator didn't ask him a well-defined question so he wandered all over the place.
  • Islee - Likes talking about Unions. Generally talks about things he wants more than how he can get there.
  • Ryan - Looks weird, talks weird.
FFS. Now the moderators are breaking into Spanish, and letting people talk over each other. Sigh.If you want to do debates all in Spanish, do it. As-is, mixing languages doesn't make the debate better.