Archives, page 14

Repairing Mental Bridges
Date: 2019-May-11 14:51:21 EST

Earlier this week I had a morning where I woke up and some of the details of PCA that had become fuzzy to me (where I had meant to spend some time to clear it up) became entirely clear again. It felt like I hadn't spent much time on it, it just was suddenly clear, and it's remained clear since. The accessibility of intuitions are like that - it reminds me of past (tough) interviews at big tech companies where there are brute force solutions, and then a series of insights that offer headway on the problem and increase the efficiency. PCA is more pass-fail (although approximate PCA is another matter).

Over the last few weeks my sinuses have been really bothering me - this happens twice a year, but it finally seems to be on a downslope today - slept a lot last night and a lot of the discomfort was gone when I woke today. Optimistic that it's gone for good. The yearly company trip is coming up, and I'm glad it probably will be entirely good by the time I'm out there.

Been feeling a little less politically threatened recently because two radical groups finally have a counterweight - I'm coming to learn that I mostly care that no energised group feels that it's winning, rather than who is making headway. Just as it took society some time to learn to argue against Libertarians in the 90s but now people are used to it, there needs to be time for people to learn to argue against other kinds of activism, and having more than one side show up at the various debates helps make nobody show up with feelings of triumph that lead to terrible outcomes for those that disagree. These two examples are a group called "Code Pink" that's spent a lot of credibility supporting Maduro (surprisingly), and another where NYU's sociology department has been trying to cut off the israeli branches of the same university - they're getting strong pushback and that's great. Although I think they're also not entirely wrong (I generally loathe sociology departments for being radical activists demeaning academia by pretending to be scholars, but it's also important to push back against Israel's being allowed to be the one terribly regressive place that gets a free categorisation of being highly civilised despite these failings). I hope this tension never ends because it's productive.

A few takes:

  • I've been thinking about this politico essay for awhile - It strikes me as being both potentially historically ill-founded (most founders were quite wealthy and involved in industry of some kind) and possibly ill-founded in the present day as well (physical proximity is not that important - companies hire lobbyists or fly someone in to meet with a politician if there's benefit). The most that physical proximity would provide is a local worker base that depends on that industry, and it's unclear whether that would be dangerous. More broadly this is an example of an essay that sounds convincing to intelligent people if they're not in the habit of asking "yes, but really?" to a lot of its claims.
  • It's fascinating that some groups of Catholics can consider accusing the current Pope of heresy - liberation theology as a movement sits among many others with varying intuitions on handling some topics, and Bergoglio came from that movement and has naturally pushed its conclusions. The thing that strikes me as strange is that in theory a pope can speak ex cathedra and define doctrine for the church moving forward - from a power perspective that means doctrinal conflict is risky (and risks the accuser either needing to back down or becoming literally heretical). Although there's a lot more to disputes like this than power politics.
  • Recently I went to an event at AMNH where I saw some data visualisation props - inexpensive cubes with markings on them sufficient to let a tablet or phone immediately notice the orientation and rotation of devices (people would hold the cubes and rotate them with their hands), responding by putting a 3d overlay of something over that part of the image. The result was someone was rotating a cube with their hands (or moving it closer/furher from the camera) and what they'd see through the "photo preview" would be, say, the head of a lizard (or bones) rotate and zoom exactly in time with their hand manipulation. It was pretty great - very immersive. I ordered a few of the cubes (from a company called MergeVR) and will spend some time with coworkers (this is a great way to toy with new technologies) to see if we can get our wasp dataset visualised this way
  • Very cool that the recent boom in exoplanet surveys has led to more mature theories on planet formation. Still curious about observability bias in planet type distribution - I'm guessing our planet would be hard to spot with current methods from any distance away
  • I think I can support the "remain in mexico" policy, and add a few other policy preferences - that residency in the US should be denied to people who were not travelling from a place of conflict to the nearest place without conflict, that would help eliminate migration that is actually economic in nature rather than refugee in nature. I'm still surprised that "open migration, no real borders" has become a popular liberal policy position, as it strikes me as more libertarian than anything else. I'd rather us be more like Switzerland - selective and restrictive in migration with almost no refugees, definitely no lotteries, and entry based on education and perceived benefit to the US
  • There are various things the current POTUS is doing where I wouldn't mind them as much if I felt they were part of a careful and intelligent plan, but given who's running the show they're likely devoid of any plannning or thought and could get us into a lot of trouble. Foreign policy is going to be a huge mess for the next sensible president we have
  • I can entirely empathise with the theatre for removing someone with a mental illness that would lead them to be disruptive in a film - I've been in situations at least a few times in life where a mentally ill person was making a scene and nobody would remove them because they were mentally ill. Accommodation should only go so far - if someone can't be somewhere without being disruptive, they shouldn't be there (same goes with people bringing small children that can't keep quiet into performances)
  • It's good to see that parents that restrict medical procedures for their children out of boneheaded beliefs (whethe religious or new-age) can lose custody. This should be the norm.

The Boiler
Date: 2019-May-20 05:36:15 EST

I'm a little frustrated that wildcard DNS certs are fairly expensive with the registrars I want to use. I'm not a fan of LetsEncrypt, but this reminds me of one reason why people like it. Anyhow, it's finally become solidly Summer-weather, and NYC is muggy as it always is this time of year. I've been catching up on a number of health-maintenance-y things recently - regular checkup (with bloodwork), cat checkups (also with bloodwork), and have been reminded by the latter how much subsidies count for keeping costs down for human healthcare. I'm glad I finally have a vet that doesn't do alternative medicine though.

The yearly trip for work is coming up. I still feel I'm not good at vacations - I don't really know how to relax and I don't get a lot out of luxury. Maybe I'm learning though - the opportunity to get out into open water and swim is something I dig. Probably the best part of the trip. Recently I've had the oddest sensation of finding it the best thing in the world to just hold my hands underneath water for a prolonged period of time. Feels weird that it's so good.

I've been poking fun at a British coworker for liking PG Tips (as it's made by the Lipton company under another name), but she finally nagged me into trying it again, so I bought a box for my apartment. Having tried it a bit, I still don't think it's great tea - it's a blend that has a very particular unusual taste profile, a little like Earl Grey (which is kinda bleh compared to proper teas - the Bergemot masks the taste of the tea too much). I guess I can understand why people like it though - it's okay in a sense mostly distinct from what tea snobs actually look for in a tea. Still, I'd be unhappy if I had to drink only this tea for the rest of my life (or in fact if I had to drink it very often).

A few takes:

  • I've been thinking about the recently-introduced effort by the SAT Board to introduce a metric for adversity. I think I understand why they're doing it, although I'm not sure I like the goal, and it's easy to miss dimensions of hardship that some people face if one is to actually try to use the measure for what it's intended for. In its current implementation, it looks like the score is gathered by zipcode and high school. That said, my feelings on all of this are not strong - I believe that affirmative action in the schooling system is probably the sole area where I think it's still acceptable to consider the history of race in qualification (I reject all this recent "make sure panels in tech conferences are racially or gender diverse" stuff), although in another decade or two it'll probably be time to start winding down affirmative action too and insist on race-blind admission like in other areas of life.
  • This is an interesting article on dating for bisexual men, and it lines up with my experiences. I wasn't expecting so many women to be put off by my not being straight (and while I haven't dated many guys, I also saw some of the described behaviour from them as well). I'm not willing to grumble about this though - I don't think there are any justice concerns with what individuals or groups want in their partner in almost any regard, and if people either want reliable masculinity (whatever that means to them), or otherwise have concerns about our capacity for monogamy, or whatever else they might worry about, that's their business. I think people who somehow see a value-add for their partner not exclusively going after their gender are going to be pretty rare.
  • I've been disappointed that all this Green New Deal stuff seems to often be paired with anti-Nuclear-Power activism. Seems damned stupid to me, to the level that it makes the whole effort infeasible. I wonder if it's an aesthetic thing - that somehow they want to paint environmentalism as an escape from industry and factories and things like that, replacing it with outdoors and solar panels and windmills and other pretty things.
  • For an org that I often support, the ACLU continues to frustrate with what look to me to be bullshit argument that banning RVs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. That's not what that legal standard means.

Relations between public and private power
Date: 2019-Jun-02 22:27:13 EST

Been recently thinking about the different emphasis different political philosophies put on public versus private power - I eventually came around to be concerned about both, and to see both as potentially decent tools to check the other. I think good societies keep an eye on challenges coming from both camps. A good example is when a company - typical holder of the most potent private power - has control over a public forum of some kind, and decides on acceptable expressions of views there. I am not a fan of anything but the most minimal rules for any broad forum (Twitter, Youtube, so on), even when there's substantial other public goods to chase with these efforts. And so I would be happy to see government attempt to ban such private censorship, or at least see if the lines culd be drawn. But likewise, even though I believe the state is generally more accountable to the public interest than corporations, the public interest is sometimes fragmented, with voting being just one measure of it. Efforts to clamp down on dissent, whether supported through elected representatives or not, are often circumvented through privately written tools, and this too is to be lauded. I don't feel this is a conflict so much as a productive tension - there are some cases where we must put all our trust in one entity (or class of entities), but such tensions are generally healthier long-term than a single guardian of society's interests. In this, the entities ideally become resigned enough to potentially dominate the common cases without being able to provide a complete lock on a topic - in frustrating the purists society wins.

This weekend I finally, having found the missing set of screws and other components a few weeks ago, put together my keyboard stand. Feeling very good about it - it's now actually convenient to play keyboard (don't need to pull it from leaning against a wall to weighing down on my lap - the thing is ridiculously heavy). Been working mostly on the Spinach Rag, but also a few other songs. It's a joy to play so conveniently. And this in turn has me thinking back on being a memoriser rather than a sheet-music reader. Most other people in the orchestra used sheet music to play, to the level where they had a tough time playing without it, while for me reading music was a burden and while I could usually manage to read along as I played, I got little from it. I think I've been leaning towards the understanding that most people actually rely much more strongly on memorisation than they think, so the difference probably is actually is that I'm a little more honest plus I'm just missing a capability. My reasoning is that if most musicians were as sheet-music centric as they think, they wouldn't need to practice specific songs, just reading music itself plus musical proficiency - the need to practice specific songs tells me that they internalise the music as I do, just maybe not as strongly.

In April there was a Quillette post on divorce that I was vaguely aware of - while at present I financially support Quillette at some low level, it's mostly that I want them to exist to counterbalance the wrong kind of liberals - I'm frequently frustrated with them too. Some of the chatter in their community runs much more conservative than they do, and some of their articles are more for that part of the community - I got the impression from some of this, before reading the article, that this was one of those weirdly-far-right articles rather than their standard faire, thinking this was people railing against divorce in general rather than the much more narrow point that lying in the courts to get divorce on suitable terms is a terrible thing. I was thinking of railing harder against this article (I'm contrarian there too), but was relieved to see the narrow point is solid. Still, I started to gather my thoughts on divorce (as my parents divorced near the end of my undergrad in a far less civil way than would have been ideal, most of the blame for that presumably sitting on my father's head, although we're again on speaking terms years later), bringing in some context from my life (to be clear, I have never been married). I don't think divorce per se is a bad thing, and I don't want people to be reluctant to do it if they think it's probably the right thing to do. I believe it should be doable by either party, and I don't think having kids actually makes it worse compared to the alternative - a nonfunctional marriage is in my view a worse environment in which to raise kids than a divorce-properly-done. One fairly healthy model I'd have would be that there's something that starts to feel missing in the marriage, both sides talk about it, they try to fix it, but after a month or more, one side becomes convinced that the marriage cannot be repaired and decides it should end. After more conversing, it's clear to both sides that things are busted, even if one side would like to keep trying. And so they file for divorce and start the messy business of disentangling their life. If they have kids, then provided it's practical (nobody's heading off to another country), they don't disentangle entirely, but enough to back down to civility that might rebuild into a strange kind of friendship or sibling-like tie sufficient for them to remain good parents. That's the ideal. It's not what happened with my family, but had it played out that way I would have been largely emotionally unaffected by the divorce and would see it as not that differently desirable an outcome than had things remained solid all the way through. Why little different? Part of it is that I don't see marriage as being about trying fairly hard to make a shared life, rather than a promise to make it work or pretend it's working regardless of facts. And I think the consequences of pretending it's working (or trying to force it) as usually worse than ending it. I don't disgregard the possibility of rough spots in a relationship and the value of trying to work through them, but I trust people will use their judgement on their specifics, and even if they sometimes give up too early, they might likewise stay too long in something that can't work (or even can't work for the now - occasionally people remarry people they divorced, later in life after having figured some things out). Returning briefly to Quillette, there are a few things in their portrayal of divorce that I see as wrong and unhealthy - one example being "Lies are at the messy heart of divorce" - this may be true for a certain set of circumstances around divorce, but they're not a necessary trait (hoping I'm not misunderstanding the context).

Finally feeling mostly recovered from last weekend's trip. Still pretty sunburned.

Cursive on the Page
Date: 2019-Jun-10 06:17:37 EST

Been reading a lot recently, but I'm not making good progress on reducing the massive backlog of things to read because I'm getting more books at the same time. It's a bit frustrating, even though maybe a backlog should not bother me so much. There's just a simplicity in my life that I'd like to have in an area where I clearly don't. And those simplicities (or their lack) contribute to how much peace of mind I have. I want to spend my attention on the right things, and I typically tune everything else to a low-but-acceptable payment. Even if it means I'm not dressed particularly well, or don't enjoy life all that much, and so on. I don't think this is that weird though. Most people just don't realise they're doing it, and a few oddballs really try to split their attention so they can get solidly good results from the basics before going after the hard stuff. I think that likely gets them worse results for the hard stuff (like having the most interesting ideas), although maybe I'm wrong on this and effort is upwards-trainable.

This weekend I had some very odd sleeping habits that led the weekend to feel like it had an extra day. It worked out pretty well overall, although I doubt it's repeatable. Was great for feeling like I got a good use of the weekend. Apart from some good walks and some reading, I also enjoyed playing through a new DLC for Borderlands 2. The plot wasn't particularly good, but that's been true of that series for awhile now - the environments and the gameplay are the real draw.

Recently been weirded out to see some political bother over rainbow flags for pride month. I think were I a national leader I'd prefer not to have flags of social movements be part of a state that's trying to represent everyone, for the same reason I wouldn't want the flag of my political party (let's assume I actually belonged to a party, and that parties have flags) be flown as part of national imagery. I'm not suggesting that nations shouldn't actually have leaders that try to enact policies that reflect their values, but flags-for-causes are actually a value-loss because without themselves actually advancing anything worth advancing, they lessen the vestedness of other people towards their nation. In the long rum, that's dangerous. So I think it's actually appropriate to curb that, and would respect politicians more for declaring that their administration will disentangle the state from such things.

A few other thoughts:

  • I would respect the ACLU more if it either did not celebrate this, or did it slightly differently - I don't feel specific accomodation for religions is a good thing if it amounts to giving people of those faiths permission to do something that others cannot, and although it's a lesser harm, I also don't think "we want to be compatible with faith X" is a good reason to reshape law even if it's done in a way that's completely general. Good law comes from considering the general good absent particular cultural movements/identities. So perhaps in the general case if clothing restructions are not necessary for military function, they should be loosened or lifted, but that's the why and they should be lifted for everyone.
  • I found the story behind How to Draw a Horse to be charming. Maybe lightly weird how far people might be willing to go to win the attention of another person, but many good things in life come from strange starts.
  • If people thought more clearly about names and the role they play in language, they would not get excited about the ability to name exoplanets or stars, because everyone in the world has the ability to name anything they like. Same with every nation. Names are not enscribed on the universe, they're things we make up, and everyone gets to do it.
  • A despotic move from Trudeau - trying to embed in Canadian government practice an unnecessary requirement that participating orgs have certain perspectives on social issues.
  • I was disturbed to hear about an Alabama mayor fantasising about killing a number of his opponents on social and political issues. I understand the fear of losing on issues that are important to us and the nation coming to feel alien to our mental lives and concerns - liberals and conservatives here both have to deal with that, and we all lose sometimes. It's easy to get scared and lose that feeling of vestedness. And unfortunately, when people feel those fears it leads them to irresponsible willingness to act - they call for unsustainable or destructive policies, or consider vigilantism, and these things harm our social fabric even more (to some degree even if suggested, although acting it out is usually far worse).
  • I'm wary of accepting this finding on quantum leaps as true without more evidence, but I am intrigued by the idea of the jumps being gradual and possibly controllable.
  • And on the other side, I'm a little disappointed that the galaxy seemingly sans dark matter probably actually has it and we just got the distance wrong. The sad thing about this is we lost what seemed to be both a fun little mystery and a bit of extra confirmation that dark matter fits certain gross models by its ability to be absent somewhere.
  • It's unclear to me why the FDA would approve a medication that costs two million dollars, or why insurance would ever cover that. At some point the costs of meds are more expensive than average (or even well-off) people could produce for society, and in my view a hard ban on medicines above that range makes sense. It's not a good use of societal resources, and those same resources spent elsewhere would produce far more benefit.
  • There's a fascinating little nugget embedded in the memory-alpha entry for Measure of a Man, where Roddenberry and the director of the episode disagreed on whether lawyers would exist in the future. I side firmly with Snodgrass that lawyers bring value, that an adversarial legal system has a lot of merit, and that Roddenberry's idea that criminality is simple and his preferred solution to it is creepy. I also enjoyed LegalEagle coverage of that episode.
  • Recently-ish discovered another great science/philosophy channel by the name of UpAndAtom. Great stuff.

Consistency Versus Elegance
Date: 2019-Jun-24 01:26:10 EST

While I doubt this blog has many, or even any regular readers, I still like putting time into it because it's a way of writing onto the world - a way that someone might hear my thoughts on things. And so I care about it. I'm still regretting that the URL-pattern for it means I'm hosting it on, and there's an extra "blog" in the path part of the URL. Why did I do it that way? Because I want to be able to host reviews on it too, and it feels weird to have reviews live "under" blog in the path. And I had to bind the software somewhere to the path in the webserver-app glue. I don't think the other choice - binding it right to the root, would've sat any better with me. I guess I could've given it two domains. That's maybe what I should've done, but anything administrative about the software would then need to pick one of two kinda-inappropriate places. Or I could've had a third domain, but then anyone who might want to use it would need three domains. Or I could make it flexible, but that gets messy.

All that said, things are pretty okay right now. Recently I've been enjoying reading through sourcebooks for "Old World of Darkness", having become interested through an upcoming game about the vampire-focused variant of the game. Instead, I've been interested in the Mage-centred bits, and in particular liked the sourcebook for Void Engineers. I doubt I'll ever do real RPGing in the system - the mechanics of play seem clunky, but I love the worldbuilding, and I've long enjoyed buying sourcebooks just to see the worlds people build in them. Interesting that this stuff is so scarce in writing videogames, although there's a difference between doing the broad strokes of a world and doing the fine details. I suspect different kinds of storytelling itches are involved - I've usually found the broad strokes easier.

Last weekend I went to ReasonableNewYork's Solstice in the Park thing. I haven't been to any of the secular community's events for a good while, not because I'm any less atheist, but for a variety of other reasons - one of them is that I just don't see that as a basis for whom I want to socialise with. In the same way that I've been uninvolved in BIGALA things for a long time because I don't see being bi as a basis of socialisation. Massimo was there, and I became frustrated again with him philosophically. In ways not unlike other academic philosophers, and fitting into why I think academic philosophers generally are worse off for it. I was chatting about neuroscience with some other people there, and one person asked about consciousness. I said that I didn't find it a particularly worthwhile term to define, and so I don't bother. Massimo found this incomprehensible (apparently), spouted off his definition as the right one, and said that he can't understand why someone wouldn't define it. I wish he had just asked so we could have the conversation. Lack of curiosity isn't a good look for someone calling themself a philosopher.

Recently I saw Sanders talk about his ideas of Democratic Socialism in a speech. It seemed a fairly tame definition - what I got out of it was that he believes in a number of economic rights, mostly those laid out by FDR as part of his (never implemented) second half of the New Deal. If that's all he believes in, I go further than he does into socialist waters, but it is a pretty defensible place to plant a flag, as FDR is well-regarded here and having a good place to stand to undo a lot of McCarthyist indoctrination is pretty important.

Also recently had a stupid argument with someone on Twitter who made the (in my view unsubstantiated and a bit unlikely) claim that Trump is in Moscow's employ. I expressed skepticism, they somehow lept to the conclusion that I was likely a rabid Trump supporter. I wish people were more careful with their stances. As always.

This past Friday I went to a bad movie event, and saw a film that wasn't bad at all - it's a Tamil superhero film called 2.0. It wasn't exactly a good film by traditional standards, but it was really awesome.

Really disappointed to see another instance of politics as policy grabbing a community.

Smaller thoughts:

  • Disasterous domestic policy is matched by disasterous foreign policy by the current POTUS. Terrifying. I wonder if Bolton's pushing hard for war.
  • Really disturbed to see Roy Moore won't leave the spotlight and is running for office again.
  • On one hand, I think this ruling, that a WW1 cross can remain on state land, is probably the wrong decision, but on the other, I don't feel very strongly about it so long as it's treated as grandfathered rather than precedent-setting for future acts. I suspect our current understanding of secularism and the government is a bit more strict than things were in the past, and while I like that understanding, I don't feel a great need to apply it retroactively, plus in general I'm not fond of removing symbols that have fallen out of vogue.
  • Fascinated at this idea, that our central black hole may be being magnetically contained].
  • I think this concern about the NYT deciding not to publish political cartoons again is sensible - I neither regret that particular cartoon nor cartoons in general, and hate that media are so nervous about offense.
  • Weirded out that so many MongoDB new features amount to patches for people who didn't model their data correctly before they started.

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.

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.

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-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.

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.