Archives, page 13

[Past][Future]
Lectures we Learn From
Date: 2019-Mar-28 03:45:49 EST

Today I:

  • Finally got around to playing a bit of the Telltale games Batman series. It's good. Pity Telltale is kaput.
  • Had a Twitter argument about the Trump Tower meeting and how calling Trump campaign collaboration a witchhunt is not accurate. Person I was arguing with eventually went into conspiracy theories, but also got distracted on motivations of the Russian lawyer they met with
  • Had another argument on Twitter on the role of expertise in economics. I'm guessing this was a vaguely liberal populist I was arguing with, but it was hard to be sure
  • Went to a great lecture at my workplace (invited a former mentor of mine, as it was a public lecture) on ties between computational compression, patterns in data, and various areas of physics. Was interesting to see these topics convincingly tied together. It mostly stayed within range of things I could understand.
  • Had a very productive videoconference early in the morning with our scientific collaborators in Russia
Been feeling sad recently. Loneliness again. I still sometimes wonder about people where I wish they had wanted to be part of my life, and separately about the people where I was either scared to let them in, or not in any state to let them in at the time. Also have been thinking a bit about differences in ethics between a coworker and I; I think there are areas where we both see each other as at least a bit unethical. Or at least in my case, areas where I expect if he knew my perspectives he'd find them unethical but I haven't brought any of those topics up. And this gets me thinking again about the way values change in society, and how mainstreams and movements change. I think I didn't really notice these things until my late 20s, when a number of new "shoulds" rolled up and I said no to most of them and remained both unconvinced and hostile when people tried to push them. Maybe I wasn't old enough or lacked the perspective to spot these things in my 20s. Or perhaps this kind of angst is what inspires reflection about one's position in society. I've long suspected that pain creates depth in us, and perhaps a version of me that acquired and kept happiness at a younger age would not have had reason to think these thoughts.

There are times when I wonder whether the difference between preventing consensus from closing around ideas that I think are harmful is really that large from trolling. I hope I'm doing these things for the right reasons. I believe that I actually am standing up for free speech, and comfortable diversity of views, and that a lot of current activism is harmful. What I'm not always sure about is whether I chase these things for the right reasons, or if I'm chasing them the right distance. And there are some things that I do where I know that at least some of the reasons are veiled - long term strategic thought to aid my values that I still wouldn't want the sun to shine on right now. And that bothers me. I don't think I'd deny these things if someone guessed. Although I think nobody actually cares enough to guess at my motives for anything because I've kept people at such a distance.

Been thinking a bit more about having left SRE. In particular, the feeling that I had learned most of what there is to learn about those practices. I'm coming to feel as well that a lot of the talks I'm seeing about particular practices in SRE are fairly predictable too. I think any sufficiently intelligent person entering the field will eventually come out on the other side, knowing everything important there is to know, having the technical judgement and skills needed to do everything, and capable of presenting on it. I've been to a lot of meetups where I felt that if I had sat down for a day I could reconstruct almost their entire talk (with slightly different specifics and points). And that a lot of the time, many people there gather around and applaud these things without really learning anything new. The young'uns get things out of it, but that's all. When that's done, it's harder to find meaning in work. I'm happy to be in academia again because nature provides endless mysteries. Industry? Not so much.

I wish it were easier to find meaning in life. My habits and what I need to respect myself are the biggest barriers I face now.



Doing the Necessary
Date: 2019-Mar-30 19:14:57 EST

My weekly todo lists have evolved into a weekly analysis on key metrics of my life - a todo, a review of past events, reflections on health, weather. I like it, and while I'm not amazingly more productive, there is still noticable improvement.

I've had doing my taxes for this year on the todo list for awhile and while I'm cutting it closer this year, today I finally got the most obvious docs together, and likely today I'll scan them and think harder about if I have everything I need. Good progress.

Last night I went to bad movie night - enjoyed myself, left when I wanted, but on the way back I took the same train car for part of the way as fellow attendees. Most of them were clustered around the more popular people there (two women); I didn't actually end up chatting with any of them for the whole trip, and after I sat down everyone was either with their back to me or blocked by others. Wasn't sure how much of it was intentional. Felt very high-school in some ways (although the use of that term strikes me as potentially worth thinking about). One of the people who left the train last nodded at me as she left, but it all still left me with more pain than if I had just gone straight home after work, I think. Three possibilities still floated through my mind - that it was intentional, that it was accidental because I was being quiet, and that perhaps I was somehow acting in a way indicating it was what I desired.

Listening to a great podcast conversation between Arthur Brooks and John Donvan on contempt in politics and social division. This, I think, is probably one of the more important topics in our society right now. Interesting to see the discussion of anonymity, which I also see as a large problem.



Sleeping in the Truck tonight
Date: 2019-Mar-31 19:00:45 EST

Pigged out on a videogame for most of Saturday - a satisfying game of Endless Space 2. Today I'm hoping to be a bit more productive - at Art Lovers Cafe right now, eating a cookie that seems bo somehow be both stale and burned. On the way here, I passed by a large group of women, one of them telling a story to the rest. The only bit I caught (didn't stop) was: "Chaim whispered to me: I'm sleeping in the truck tonight", at which they all laughed. Not sure about the name (not implausible in NYC). I spent part of the rest of the walk wondering what the rest of the story was (may have been a scary or fake-scary story based on her intonation).

Earlier this week I went to an IQ2US debate between 2 never-trumpers (one of them Jeff Flake) and two FoxNewsers on whether Trump should be nominated again for President. It was a surprisingly lively debate (wasn't sure what to expect). Covered:

  • Pragmatism versus long-term for the party
  • Some discussion of concrete policy shifts that have long been conservative wants
  • The fragility of policies over the years
  • Concerns about radicalism frm the Democratic party and a need to keep them down in particular for the next election
  • The importance of having a president that is personally decent and has their government act as an example for the world
I felt a lot of sympathy for the never-trump side, in that those ideals are (at least outside of economic topics) often things I also want. I felt a little weird with some of the specific policy gains, in that at least two of them (lowering the corporate tax rate, and a return to due process in allegations of sexual assault in colleges) are things I also believe in. Not that I have some common groumnd with them, but that they held these as examples of particularly conservative thought. It's not actually that surprising in an era where populism is suddenly making big inroads in both parties that I find I have a lot in common with technocrats on the other side. My identity as a liberal is solid in my mind, based on gradualist socialism, a belief in cradle-to-grave programmes to support people's (economic/material) needs, and a belief in structuring society to limit the power that comes from wealth and ownership. That doesn't bar common ground with other political philosophies. One question I wanted to ask in the debate but I wasn't called on was whether between the Trump and previous administrations, they see a systemic difference between the use of hard power and soft power, and if so whether any shift was warranted. I was having trouble getting the phrasing together so maybe it's better that I didn't get to ask it.

I've been thinking further about soft and hard power since the meetup; it's obviously a spectrum, the chief differences coming from at one level actual force, another ruinous shifts in economics or other necessities, leaning towards the soft a concrete opportunity, and then at softest promises of consideration, goodwill, and things shaped like that. In an ideal world, hard power would be a rarely used thing, merely understood as an ultimate tool to safeguard the most vital interests of people or as a response to egregious violations of strong in-consensus norms. It's difficult to talk about these nuances in the abstract (at least, comparatively, where someone would criticise someone else with nearby-but-not-identical views on soft-vs-hard power in the abstract; the mapping is difficult. I wonder if it has to be, or if there are frameworks we might find to clarify the grounds.

Also been thinking - if someone had the ability to savescum IRL, is there a way we could detect it? First - savescumming is a term for player behaviour in some kinds of games that allow easy load/save, where they'd save the game, try something, and if it didn't go the way they want, they load and try again (often many times, usually in games where people are expected to start a new game when they lose something, and especially if they're running the game in a weird environment (e.g. an emulator) that lets them save far more freely than they usually would. So, if we imagine either a general trying to win a war, or someone playing chess, or even someone trying to navigate through the significantly-random early bits of a relationship, where at the end of every day they have the ability to rewind and try it again, could we somehow detect that? The challege being, I think, that it's hard to know someone's mental state and analytical abilities and information sources to reliably tell in the general case if they're breaking reality, or just very intuitive, good at parsing information, and lucky. So in the general case I think it'd be hard, but perhaps there are tricks and traps someone could use catch it (countering it may be impossible unless the rewind is limited). Figuring out tricks and traps like that is an interesting intellectual exercise.

Been thinking further about my earlier idea of how IQ2US relates to argument maps or other ways of approaching disputes that are resistant to misrepresentation of facts (primarily hoping to deal with this by stretching the discussion out so people can go back and factcheck, or for independent factcheckers to get involved). Many of these ideas would also allow for a more methodical exploration of possible arguments to make and respond with. I was initially pretty sure this would be better, but I brought a line of thought in on how I think about democracy - one of the ways I reject the "we'd be better off if dumb people do not vote" argument I've heard from some people is that voting makes people vested in the decisions made and partly illegitimises violence against the system - with in this context it taking the form that these debates are important as debates at least partly because they're social events, and so they help reconstruct civic life here.



Mid-Soreness
Date: 2019-Apr-03 01:52:06 EST

Today's been less than smooth; the loss of G+ is annoying, but the loss of Inbox (so far only on my phone) is disabling. I spent a bit of time starting to make sense of the new world, and it still feels like traveling back in time. And ... my vet called to ask about an appointment for Torts and I had to tell them that I wouldn't be coming back because of their offering homeopathic "treatments" (I consider them malpractice). I am not a fan of confrontation, and really only doing it with an activist, or otherwise feeling that it's necessary in some way makes it easier to bear. In cases like this it's just exhausting. And ... my neck is being bad to me again. Realising that it's leading to a lot of tension in my back too.

I have a perspective about a lot of software I use - to me they're often tools I work with to set policy for my data - I don't always care if I'm using them the way the authors meant so long as I can achieve what I want with them. During the year or so that Google Music let me rank songs from 1 to 5, I decided that 1 meant the song was on a list where I'd eventually go through and remove them from my library, 2 meant I would keep it but mostly for either the sake of completeness (album), or for other rare occasions, but I'd prefer it never come up randomly, 3 meant that I had heard it and didn't decide to give it some other ranking, 4 meant that I liked it and wished it would come up more often, and 5 meant that I loved it. Nobody gave me those meanings, but they gave me the means to assign them. And .. then Google took it away and decided that a thumbs up or down was enough for everyone. Sigh. My email box is home to a lot more thought like that, and I used Inbox's tools to build my own habits, and Google's going to take that away too.

Some years back I was in the state where a good subset of the software I used for everyday things was stuff I wrote. I gave that up for two reasons. Firstly, I didn't know how to solve the problem of spam (Google's been pretty great on that front), and secondly I wanted a good mobile client. I got a lot out of that choice, but I lost so much control and Google keeps providing a shitty experience by either taking away things I like (such as Inbox or Reader) or letting their UI people screw them up (such as Google News). It keeps making me wonder how hard it would be to go back.

Anyhow, feeling grumpy and my neck hurts a lot.



The Good Kind of Confusion
Date: 2019-Apr-06 18:49:55 EST

Just wrapped up my taxes (selling most of my MongoDB stock meant I paid NYS and the IRS a lot of money this year, ick). Feels good to have it out of the way, and to have made all the transfers needed to pay for it.

Preparing for my trip to Berlin next week. Brought my work laptop home so I can use it for the poster session (if needed), otherwise trying to flesh out a list of things I can do if I feel like it while there. Right now learning about options for fondue. One of the places I'm considering, Schwarze Heidi, weirded me out because, as I read some reviews on Yelp and visited Google Maps to see how close it is to where I'm staying, I mentally transposed it to "Black Heidi" (english translation). I've often had this kind of confusion before - I don't think it's exactly that I translate it to English as I read it so much as my inner representation for the languages is not particularly distinct-for-each. The effect is more pronounced when I have the translation absolutely solid in my head - the subset of German words that I'm almost certain not to forget. Interesting to think about how all this works.

Perhaps there are parallels - the list I'm building is like translating lives - I want to have as many readymade evaluations of places I might go to as if I were to be a resident. I'm not making a plan, I'm simulating a glimse into another life.



Erster Besuch
Date: 2019-Apr-12 01:15:40 EST

In Berlin a few days early for a neuroscience conference. This is my first visit to Germany - been enjoying walking around the city and learning its sense of normal. My level of German is turning out to be useful but limited - I can reasonably easily make myself understood, but people often ask me questions involving words I don't know. So for me it's like a write-only language. Kinda. Simple exchanges work well, particularly if I talk first. English is fine as a fallback, and there's a surprising amount of (slightly off) English around. If I lived here I'd be tempted to drop off sheets of corrections to storefronts that have English below their German. Still, I'm trying to speak as much German as possible while here, and I'm getting used to the tonal patterns in nearby conversations I don't quite hear. The city Berlin reminds me the most of so far is Philadelphia, with some street design from San Francisco, and much cleaner than either. One of the things I was curious about was whether the former boundary would mark a dramatic difference in architectural style or general feel, and while I can still trace that boundary by many streets changing their name over certain lines, most of the differences are subtle if still present at all. It's been too long - I regret not getting to visit closer to reunification. Berlin in general seems to take culture pretty seriously - like Boston I see a lot of mention of famous musicians and philosophers of the past, and one nearby store offers a curious service - a personal cello concert (the cellist was playing alone in a storefront as I walked by). I think it's also election season - there are endless adverts for various political parties on the streets, talking about healthcare, attitudes towards the EU, and so on. People? Nobody here would be out of place in New York (even speaking German there). The one surprise that I've seen so far is the canals, which are quite prominent. Foodwise I'm doing okay - not great (travel is always hard on that front, but just like my visits to San Francisco, people here seem to have a different food aesthetic than I'm used to, and the attitudes towards water in restaurants or availability of other drinks are frustrating). I slept poorly on the plane last night so I was tired today, but I expect to have more energy tomorrow to see museums and other things. There's a lot to do.

I'm more lonely than normal - I don't have many people in my life at home either, but the familiar habits help there. As I write this I'm telling myself that I should try harder to build connections because work will only last so long and I don't want that to be all there is for me. But I know promising myself things is cheap and I've done it countless times over the past years. Anything real must come from more than a realisation that things *should* change. On some level I'm impressed that I can function without a social life because at times it really rips at me emotionally, but on another it's deeply miserable and not even something I feel I should do out of some ethics or choice.

About the Never Trumpers - I've followed several on social media as Trump's presidency continues. I don't think they're pulling me towards their view, but it pleases me to see one bright spot in Trump's disasterous presidency - that principled people on the other side stand out. And that in this era they're probably becoming more principled and that helps me see principles I have in common with them. They still occasionally remind me of our political differences - Tom Nichols, for example, recently rattled off a list of major government agencies he'd like to remove, sometimes with very flimsy reasons (e.g. the Ed, with a justification that most people don't understand what it does). Still, a belief in princple and long-term thinking is refreshing. Particularly given that it's about as rare on the left, and presidential hopefuls are eagerly exploring ideas that either strike me as a bad idea (Sanders looking to use precedent-breaking ways of trying to pass a universal Medicare plan, or Warren looking to end the filibuster in the Senate) or as crossing a red line (Cory Booker pushing a reparations commission bill, which is to me an absolute disqualifier for my vote).

On that last point, I feel I should explain - progress in fixing divides in society is primarily about moving people's behaviour to the level where in the important domains of life (employment, finance, daily necessities) they ignore the distinctions at hand, generally treating both genders and all races the same. That's the primary driver of dealing with these issues - there are some rare, time-limited circumstances where we might accept other methods that are in fact incompatible with that primary driver, but they run the risk of damaging it or just not achieving much good. I believe that reparations are a logistical nightmare which are unlikely to accomplish much good and which significantly damage that primary driver (I support affirmative action in education precisely because supporting it for a limited duration limits damage to the primary driver).

Anyhow, I should probably be asleep right now to make sure I'm up at the right time tomorrow - time zones are tricky.



Listening to Echoes
Date: 2019-Apr-12 21:40:33 EST

Another day's adventures in Berlin. I slept in until noon today, and then set out for the local museum of Technology, stopping at a greek restaurant along the way for something like a large spanikopita (wasn't so much a conscious pick as being hungry and stopping at the first place that looked okay). Leaving there, I passed by Checkpoint Charlie that felt like a tourist trap (it was nice to see some stern words to Russia on a flag outside about their occupation of Crimea). Further on the walk I saw a fascinating building structure - two concentric rings surrounding a park, with one ring being small stores and the other being residential dwellings. The homes were not large, but the design felt very social and I imagine it would be nice to live in a community like that. Wikipedia now tells me it's called Mehringplatz. Walking west on the south side of the river, I ran into two Irish gentlemen and had a very pleasant conversation in English - my first real conversation outside of work for quite some time. I liked them - I think they were hoping to ask me for directions but after it was clear I knew little more than they did but I was from the States, there was some instant camraderie. I have a certain positive prejudice towards people from Ireland that this fed into. We walked the same way for a bit until they reached their hostel, at which point we parted ways and I continued to the MoT. It was pretty great. I stayed for a few hours (was clear this was the kind of museum you can't reasonably get all of in one visit), seeing exhibitions on:

  • Computers
  • Communications technologies
  • Fabric
  • Boats
  • Airplanes
  • Production of Sugar
On my way out, I initially was unsure where I wanted to go next, so I sat for a bit - realised I'd be hungry in a bit so I decided to head over to a Fondue place that caught my eye during my gmaps-scout of the area - this was fairly far east of the city and would also get me entirely out of the tourist area. And so I started an hour-long walk to the east. The buildings started to feel artsy-funky as I reached and passed Prinzenstrasse, and I saw building and street layouts I've never seen before. I was happy that the timing seemed to be working out well as I was set to arrive at the restaurant not long after it opened. Saw some political demos, lots of graffitti and store signage that seemed to be about radical-left politics, and signs that this was a working-class neighbourhood with a fair amount of immigration. I don't think I mentioned that the weather was cold - it was. This whole trip has been more chilly than I thought it would be, and the jacket I brought has been not quite adequate. When I reached the restaurant, I saw that it was actually to open an hour later than I thought, so I had an hour to burn (without getting too cold). So I first got a Fanta from a nearby convenience store (at which I realised I probably was being a bit rude to everyone around me by local standards in that people expect hellos and goodbyes before other interactions here) and sat at a bench near a fountain for most of the remaining time to let my feet rest. It was good to rest, but this left me even colder, so with about 20m left to burn I walked around the neighbourhood some more, taking a few more photos and seeing a lot more interesting architecture. Finally I returned to the store slightly after it opened, and made an unfortunate discovery - that they only serve Fondue to two or more people. So I left and started to walk back to my hotel, stopping at a pizza place along the way for some pizza and a coffee. The Pizza was decent - somewhat higher-notch than NYC dollar pizza. The people were friendly, although I think some fellow customers may have been surprised I ate the pizza with my hands rather than silverware. I had forgotten that detail. Although I suppose in general on this trip I haven't been high on remembering local social graces. Not sure how different I'd be if I had remembered - I have a lot of thoughts along the lines of "It's okay to be from somewhere", although I think saying hello and goodbye to people before chatting is something I'd change if I remembered (and as the trip still has another free day tied to it I will try to do better tomorrow). Rest of the walk was uneventful.

A few more impressions - lots of people ride bikes here and the city is well organised for it. Seems that almost everybody smokes. I wonder if part of it is the cold. It's unsurprising that I only felt I was seeing the real city once I ventured far enough east - comparing the highly-public areas was still interesting but less so than the places people actually live. And I'm also glad I visited during the political campaigning - I can understand most of the campaign posters at least reasonably well. One of them talked about someone having worked a very long career and how that earns respect, another about how Europe was the best idea Europe ever had.

All this walking has given me some pretty bad blisters. Good to have my feet up. Have had plenty of time to think about plenty of things - thoguht a bit about the cslounge events and am still deeply angry and hurt over that. But also about work, and shape-of-life kinds of things. And language - the more I relax the more that German words are coming back to me. I'm using translation apps to make sure they're coming back correctly, but they often are. I'm not sure this is a place I could live long-term, but if for some reason it came up, perhaps it could be. Had some fanciful daydreams of needing to flee the United States for some reason and just endlessly walk around Berlin in exile, somehow given funds for food and nightly shelter and nothing else, as part of a larger community of people doing so, each mostly keeping to themselves. Lots of other daydreams too.

Tomorrow's the last day that I have entirely to myself - on Sunday I check out, travel down to the conference centre, check in, and the conference starts. I haven't yet figured out what's on the agenda for tomorrow - may go to the park or another museum. Will likely rule out the day-trip to the south because I'm not warmly enough dressed and don't want to stray too far from stores. Today was colder than I'd like and that trip sounds like it'd be another cold day.



Shedding the Conceits
Date: 2019-Apr-19 21:33:50 EST

Got back from Berlin late Thursday. Gave me a lot to think about - the two sides (vacation first, then conference) were pretty different, but they had some common themes. With both, the role of other languages was brought into focus - for a very long time I've lived with a number of languages I kinda know as extra parts of my mental world - they didn't play the role that human languages do so much as a private code, part of my personal myths. And my cosmopolitanism was turned at an angle because I've become reclusive; I've hoarded these things for primarily myself, and rarely tested them against other people or reality. In that sense, the trip to Germany dragged a lot that was private for me out into the light, letting me see them from other angles. This is hard to express correctly, but I think the above does at least a reasonable job.

The trip was, the above complexity aside, a good practice of my German language skills, and I learned that apparently my pronunciation is not bad once I'm immersed, and I usually can make myself understood with little effort, although any followup questions easily go outside my vocabulary. I think it wouldn't be a lot of effort to hit fluency if I were to have more frequent exposure. More difficult was navigating a foreign city - not knowing how to navigate the transit system, cultural norms (e.g. not eating pizza with hands, and tap water being largely unavailable), things like that. Broadly, I found it easier to interact with people there in some ways - my concerns and interests are less alien and the cosmopolitanism that I believe in is also fairly common. I was able to get answers to some questions on the meaning of some lyrics in German bands I like, talk about things that felt consequential, and I felt far less lonely than I normally do. There are still some things that I regret, as usual - a need for connection often means I open up more than I wish I had, and when I revisit the conversations in my head I wish I had kept back more.

Things to see:

  • Checkpoint Charlie - Terrible tourist trap, like Times Square
  • Museum of Technology - Very nicely done
  • Tempelhof Former Airport - Conceptually interesting, beautiful building. I wish I had been more warmly dressed, but I'm very glad I went
The flight back (which had a connection in London) was also nice - chatted with some Brits in Tegel while waiting for the flight. One of whom was pretty friendly - we talked politics a bit. He voted leave (for largely the same reasons I likely would - that the EU is not bad as an idea but as currently implemented it's not representative and a huge mess) but felt that the government had entirely failed to manage the leave successfully - if there were another vote he wasn't sure which way he'd go. Heathrow Airport, meanwhile, is the worst airport I've ever been in. The terminals have very poor mutual accessibility, and there were parts where the only way to get to your gate were to go through a designed-to-be-long winding path through a gift shop.

The day after I got back I went to an IQ2 debate on whether solar engineering to assist in lessening climate change is a crazy idea. I brought a coworker whose company I enjoy and his wife. It was a good, educational, debate, but also strange in that it was won (for the nay side) by a very wide margin based on their successfully framing the debate a certain way - that more research is warranted, and that the proposal of the debate (interpretation of crazy) was that it was so clearly a bad idea that no further research is warranted. Having successfully done that, their victory was sealed. I wasn't caught by that framing, but I think most of the audience was and so they won by one of the biggest swings I've ever seen. A strange win.

It's good to be back home with my cats, in a city which I entirely know how to navigate, and whose norms and how I fit into them I understand fairly well.



Thirst of Pen Caps
Date: 2019-May-03 04:39:02 EST

Today at work, at one of the regular lecture-meetings, the speaker (a relatively young post-doc) provided a really nice framework for understanding machine learning without a set number of layers, with all the right incentives, to go after some aspects of cross-domain learning. I loved it - some years back when I was considering getting a degree in neuroscience at CMU, I thought that cross-domain learning, if I were to enter neuroscience, would be a problem I might devote the rest of my life to. At it turned out I didn't do that, but I always wondered what would've happened if I had (another possible scientific question that's interesting enough for me to have considered this would be to study mechanisms of cell specialisation. It's strange at this later date to have met people who did the specialisation and have insights to share. And sometimes a little sad. I like the path I've taken in my career for the variety, but the path not taken often invokes curiosity.

The other day there was a public lecture I attended - the speaker tried to address the question on whether theories can get at topics that are not directly empirical, the example being whether other universes exist in a multiverse structure (the talk was on physics in counterfactual universes). It was a good talk, but on this question I think he reached the wrong conclusion - he argued that if an existing theory that is itself strongly empirically supported on empirical topics also implies conclusions on these less-empirical topics, it can give us strong reason to reach conclusions on these topics. I believe this is only true if we have good reason to think that the link between those empirical topics and the less-empirical ones is present in all theories that can fit the facts, and consider the space of all possible theories that do so. Without at least a good reason to justify the presence of side-commentary and soft dependencies on those other topics, a successful theory risks capturing more conceptual space than is warranted.

Recently I've been learning that for my own sanity I shouldn't read anything written about MongoDB by people who are still employees there. There's so much misunderstanding of industry and the product by executives of the company (who still like talking about it), while people with more of an engineering bent don't understand industry at all and seem to be really into .. motivated reasoning .. which usually manifests as desperate somewhat-troll-y logic. It can be fun watching someone chew through bad posts, but it's probably best not to read the crud to begin with - there's no value-risk in doing so as I can already make the case for only using Mongo in cases where it's strongly justified, and using Postgres in most other cases.

I think we need to develop a societal consensus (and laws protecting) against the views in this article - while the opening example he raises are fine (work uniform being a voluntary matter), in the general case workers should be able to live their non-work hours as they see fit with no interference (or threat of being fired) from their employer, with only a few obvious restrictions that are avoidable. And if that personal life leads people to pressure the employer, the employer should ignore that pressure (and should in fact be legally required to do so). I would accept a few reasonable limits:

  • Wearing work-provided clothes lessens this independence - employees should wear their own clothes to fully enjoy this independence
  • Attending a conference on the employer's dime deeply lessens this independence
  • Speaking about the employer or other employees largely eliminates this independence, even if it's clear one is not offering official views
  • Speaking about work-relevant notions of fairness or behaviour, particularly when it would imply behaviour relevant to the current workplace, deeply lessens this independence and may require clarification at work (e.g. "I do not trust people of a particular race" suggests issues for interactions with coworkers of that race)
Still, outside limits of these kinds, this is a worker's rights issue and protecting personal lives, even for views that may be reprehensible, is the right thing to do.

I find scorecards to be interesting vehicles of values propogation - Foreign Policy For America is a liberal-leaning org that recently entered the game. Looking over that, I find that I largely (but not entirely) agree with their values. Disagreements and things I'm not sure about:

  • (House) While I support the (past) Iran Deal, I would not think less of people who disagreed with my stances on it
  • (House) I don't think the Hartzler Amendment 183 is a foreign policy matter and I question its inclusion in this metric. I would be mildly supportive of such a measure, as I don't think surgery to help people manage their identity is a good use of military funds.
  • (Senate) I am neutral on what they call the AUMF.
  • (Senate) On Cuba .. they have half a sentence missing in the version of the scorecard that's up as I read this. On this topic, while I support cautious opening of travel ties to Cuba, I think protections and planning should be in place to permit rapid closure of such ties should there be incidents of detention, and a recognition that Cuba's government is despotic leading it to be a dangerous place for American citizens (particularly given our free speech traditions) to travel means we should strucure this opening in ways providing executive flexibility
  • (Senate) On Military Service and the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, I am neutral - I did not like the old policy, but people discharged under it were largely doing so knowingly - I don't see adjusting the outcome to be particularly important. Particularly given that the policy has since been fixed. I'd probably leave it be (open to hear other arguments though)
  • (Senate) On S.1979 which they call the Muslim Ban, at least on its face the actual ban was limited to a few particularly iffy countries, with the only argument as to its unjustifiability being the President's talk on the ban rather than its content. I am wary of taking strong stances on such a legally complex matter (although I condemn the President's talk on that matter)



The Other Side of a Body
Date: 2019-May-05 19:05:43 EST

Been thinking a bit about placid and turbulent notes in lake weather, and human bodies that are easily ill and easily treatable versus those that are locked to a course and slow to change. And whether my life has enough noise in it. I often think not, despite the benefits. Although the idea of changing these things makes those benefits seem like a lot to give up, and I balk.

This past week I had a checkup w/ my Doctor. I had left this undone for too long, but I still always enjoy it when I have the right rapport with my Doctor. Maybe it's one of the few remaining "check in with a parent" type thing I have in my life - at this point I interact with my parents like generic family rather than the specific "check in with the authority" type relationship I had earlier - it's not that I think they still don't have things I might learn from them, but rather that that trait has come to resemble that of other family, just leaving the "we have a bond" thing that family have. With a doctor, there's expertise in what's otherwise a generic realm of life, and a certain (admittedly paid-for) feeling of care, just slightly abstracted into being one-directional (would we weird to ask my Doctor about their health). Still, these ties are true even if the economics arranges them. In the same way that older co-workers still feel like elders to me sometimes. The roles just fade a bit as I age and the differences-of-percent fade. I sometimes wonder with much younger coworkers if the opposite should build... but that would make me even more lonely.

Life has given me a lot of painful memories. Recently been trobuled by my one marriage proposal and getting a no. I realise it may not have seemed as much to the other person, but it actually meant a lot to me. I still wonder what life had been like had she been at a point in hers where she felt like taking that leap. Although perhaps it would have failed for different reasons. I am amused at recalling the "let's work this out" I did in calling my parents and telling them. Guessing they would've thought it was me being daring for one of the few times in my life. Perhaps reckless. Although I think they met her once? My memories have grown a bit fuzzy. I guess that was 8 or 9 years ago now.

On another note, I wish I were better at emotionally handling confrontations, even when necessary. Recently I asked someone to shut off their car radio when they parked on my street and were sharing their reggae-and-blues music with the neighbourhood. And I was polite and careful not to insult their musical tastes. And they did. So it worked, but I really didn't like doing it. It's really only on some issues that I can do that without any of this emotional stuff, and even then only sometimes. I try to act tougher than I actually am. I think it's harder when I need to start the conversation - if someone comes to me, and I can categorise the way they do it as rude, it's easier for me to be rude - someone threatens me with a car (knowingly or no) and I can wave my middle finger at them. Soneone comes up to beg money off of me? I can swear at them with little guilt. It's more the "hey, do you mind cutting this off" that I need to do that I don't like doing. Not sure that can change easily. Last weekend at Union Square, on the edge of preachers doing their thing, there was a guy going nuts because some interpersonal tie he had to another heckler had really broken down. The whole time he was talking about how much he emotionally gave with the other person having betrayed him, I was just thinking "when I get angry enough with someone in my life, I just cut them out of my life, often without even expressing my anger". I was wondering why he didn't just do that, because I wasn't sure how things could've resolved okay (the other guy didn't think he had done anything wrong). I was a little weirded out at the end that after the angry guy vented enough, the other guy expressed that he probably wasn't being thoughtful, and they reconciled, and seemed to be friendly again at the end. It was strange because for a time it looked like police were going to be needed to resolve things .. and now as I write this it makes me wonder about my "cut people out of your life when things don't seem to be working" thing. In that case, I would've just cut the ties and walked away and never seen the other person again, and I would've missed out on the reconciliation that I saw (which I really did not expect). I guess I also missed out on the people stepping between me and someone I was angry at multiple times, and on all the versions of that scenario that ended badly, but how many times did I step away from personal ties that would've remained turbulent but possibly worthwhile? And are there other times in life, like jobs and other things, where having a bit of a tussle or some noise could've saved things worth saving? These questions don't easily get answered - they'd need to boil down to specifics and specific analyses, and a conclusion could only come from careful cross-event analysis (which I have not done). I hate this impression of loss and of having missed out on so much in life though. I strongly suspect I've missed out on a lot because of a low tolerance for drama.