Archives, page 15

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Time Again
Date: 2019-Aug-22 04:45:03 EST

Been getting ready for DragonCon next week - the app is out, and I've already starred all the things I'm interested in attending - haven't yet narrowed it down to a primary and secondary choice, but that's next. Trying to keep the apartment clean so my catsitter will be okay with catsitting. I might grab a meal with Tammy (former Dropbox coworker) while there. I sometimes feel strange that this personal tradition of going there for me started so weirdly. A lot of good things start oddly though. Maybe most of life - I think we like to pretend that the edifice under our daily existence has solidity and inevitability.

I keep finding myself angry about this kind of thing every time it comes up, and the anger lasts for at least a day. I don't think I'll ever be okay with how defining gender changed from the "nobody cares, figure out your own definition" that I grew up with into the new "you are a bad person if you don't see gender as identity and promise to recognise anything somebody claims about themself". And I really dislike how this new world these activists are trying to build has wound up being something that will get you booted from a fair set of social groups if you don't go along with it. I want society to undo these activist norms and get back to "define things as you will". I've never liked taboos, even for things where I am entirely committed to a position. I think we need to be willing to discuss everything, ideally calmly. And accept when people are not convinced. Most recently this came up because there's a lot of activism tied to Borderlands 3 that really wasn't there in earlier games in the series, and which shouldn't be there. Humour doesn't work by committee.

Today I had what was likely my last PT for my neck - there was some element of choice involved, but I think I've learned what I need to learn and provided I keep up the exercises, I should be able to take things from here. I think. Feels strange to have had another pattern enter and leave my life so quickly. I guess that was 6 sessions. The exercise is pretty boring, but maybe being forced into an environment I wouldn't choose for myself was a good thing. And a reminder that I need to do more of that. The most important thing I got was that I need to pay attention to the angle between my neck and my head and make sure not to remain still in some positions long enough for it to get stiff. I was doing that a lot, and I didn't understand that it would be a problem.

Trump's Greenland thing is enduringly funny. I think it's the one thing that got my sense of humour stuck on, in that I'm just not getting tired of laughing at how nutty he is on this. It's all the bizarreness and pettiness of his presidency distilled into one thing.

I think the Democratic candidates are starting to narrow down.
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Likely will post my DragonCon list of things I'd like to see if they didn't conflict as a Google Doc.

Beth Din
Date: 2019-Aug-22 19:56:20 EST

A bit of philosophy of jurisprudence and morality that I believe in that I don't recall if I've blogged about (here or elsewhere). This came up in a conversation recently.

When people ask, should I match the moral standards of those around me, or be deeply idealistic, the person living philosophically will compromise between the two (and in practice try to have a somewhat higher moral standard than society at large), but strive to raise the level of their civilisation so that they (and others) can be more just w/o suffering too much for it.

Looking Backwards and Sideways
Date: 2019-Aug-25 15:11:48 EST

One of the interesting things about having gone from SRE to SWE in the transition to my current job is still being on a team that has a side that manages infrastructure - for major ops I still see all the chatter that goes on in doing infrastructure (even at this relatively small scale), knowing that I'm not taking part. It's liberating, but also makes me a little itchy. The liberatingness is more important - by being largely uninvolved in that I don't need to engage much in conflicts of vision with anyone else, nor does my tendency to sacrifice my entire personal life to the job come out. I do have my own small infrastructure in AWS for the coding projects I'm working on, but they're few enough in number that they're trivial to keep going.

For DragonCon travel, I've made the PaperDoc checklist of things I need to do today/tomorrow, and I'm pretty sure I haven't missed anything big, so there's just a little bit of execution and I'll be off. To go through some avocados I have that won't last the absence, I've been making avocado rolls. I'm not in the salt-craving stage that makes that amazing, but it's still pretty good. I think a lot of my dietary swings have to do with managing different kinds of food cravings, and over the years a certain expertise in using those rather than struggling with them takes shape. It's probably more challenging when doing this with a life partner unless both bodies tend to move through the same swings (or can be managed to do the same - the meals not eaten together could be seen either as a challenge or a tool to attain this).

Tonight I'm going to a Flogging Molly concert. I haven't been to live music for a good while; maybe almost a year. I don't think I've ever seen FM live before. Hoping I enjoy it. They have a fair set of good songs, but for me their "likable rate" is about 40 percent.

A few thoughts:
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Date: 2019-Aug-30 04:39:30 EST

I had a lot of media lined up for the train trip, and as expected, didn't get through all of it. I got through a lot of it though - downloaded youtube videos, some reading, so on. I've felt pretty inspired by reading Mage:Ascension to write up the tweaks I'd make to the setting, and I started (and made public, via Twitter) a doc giving at least the broad strokes. May work on it some more - right now it feels a little too close to being a bad fanfic, but a little work should cure that. I know there's little chance I'll ever put this stuff to use, but I should at least put it out there. More accessible than my philosophy, I think, which is almost entirely unpublished (I should fix that too).

Anyhow, while I generally slept well on the train, and was again playing with the idea that maybe I could live comfortably, long-term, on a sleeper car on a train (no access to desktop computers may be hard, combined with poor internet), it turns out that I wasn't able to find a way to sleep where my neck was happy, and I woke up with a mild cervicogenic headache. After breakfast, got off the train, took an Uber to the conference area, and by then the pain was getting pretty bad. It took them awhile to get my room ready (arrived around 9, room was ready sometime around 13:10), and by then the pain was pretty bad, but still within the realm where, with the long practice I have with this kind of thing, I could look mostly normal (if a little dazed). Made it up to my room and pretty much collapsed. Migraine passed into the pretty bad level by 3pm, and hung around until about 2am as I drifted in and out of consciousness until about 2am when it finally lifted. Got up, did a few errands (emails, figured out my schedule), and then had some nice true sleep. Woohoo. Glad I got this craptastic thing out of the way without losing out on any sessions. These episodes rarely cluster that closely together, so with any luck I'll be painfree at least until I make it back home. I hope.

Today (really Thursday), I had a nice (but too large) breakfast of pancakes and something kinda-sorta like hash browns. Did a mix of people watching and reading for much of the day, and then things started.

  • Session One - The Void, by Tracy Hickman. This is the Tracy Hickman that's the fantasy author (I kinda liked the Dragonlance things he wrote, but really liked the Darksword series). And he's now one of the people involved in a room-style VR experience run by this Void company. Looks pretty neat - while they're still setting up the Atlanta location, apparently they already have one in NYC, so when I get back I'll have to check it out. In the QA session I asked if they plan to release authoring tools and if he might ever produce scenes from Darksword in the system. He was generally pretty cagey on answering questions for someone offering a QA session.
  • Session Two - An overview of EMP weapons, by a formal Navy captain McDonagh. He reviewed natural EMP events as well as some incidents, and it was worrying to see that kind of accessment as to their feasability (apparently, pretty feasible). Unfortunately, he then went kind of off-topic to talk about second-order effects and onward; I would have preferred he went into the physics of EMP and tried hard to quantify the damage instead. Oh well. WAs still worth it.
  • Eternals Party - Private party each year for the eternals. Got into a long political discussion with a Canadian about Brexit. It was nice to have the conversation, but it was a little tense because we don't see the world the same way (he's much more pro-EU and seems to think the international order is more fragile than I think it is in terms of diplomacy, plus in my view he seemed to get bizarrely excited about expressing how much the Irish hate the English. Perhaps this was a way of letting off steam from being frustrated with the conversation? Hard to say. Wandered off after a bit.
  • Good Omens (Movie Room) - The movie room has been in a few different places at DragonCon over the years. Eventually found in the app where it is this year and what's playing, and saw that the Good Omens miniseries is playing. I liked the book, and was curious about the miniseries but not enough so that I'd consider subscribing to whatever Amazon would require me. So I want. And it was .. actually pretty awful. The actors tried very hard to carry it with over-the-top quirkiness and sentimentality, but the writing was bad. Really bad. I stuck around until the end just to see how it would land, but I don't ever want to see it again, and I would never recommend it to anyone else

Back in my room now, wrapping this up and trying to turn the mess of possibilities tomorrow into a plan. And .. missing my cats.

Date: 2019-Aug-31 03:06:52 EST

My health has apparently not been something I can take for granted - somehow today has been a perpetual-mild-migraine day. I powered through it though.

  • My First session in the morning was on what indie videogames can offer that AAA games struggle with. It was a pretty long and interesting discussion. I disagreed slightly with one of the themes - that focus is a good thing for games in general, as the metrics proposed would have discouraged the settlement system from having been a part of Fallout 4, and for me that added a lot of longevity, but generally her points were solid. I wonder a bit about the economics of AAA versus indie games in that it's not clear to me that it's easy to predict relative economic pressures. The most reliable difference would, I imagine, be the degree of interference with vision of the creators.
  • Next I tried to go to the market area but was put off by the long line so I had a nice lunch instead and people-watched
  • After that, I want to the Space Track's presentation on ocean moons in our solar system. This was pretty interesting, if rushed. Partway through, somebody who participated in the blood drive got up and tried to walk towards the door but passed out partway there. Huh.
  • Next was a panel with Robert England (Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street series) and two other actors from that series. This was great - I've enjoyed the set of interviews I've seen him do on various sites, and it's clear that he loves cinema and knows a lot about it and its role in society. I unfortunately was sitting next to one of those dipshits who is uncomfortable being an audience member and who does their best to .. express themselves .. during any talk (extra loud clapping and woots and so on). He was also sprawled out over two seats, and there with his mum. It was a delicious little pleasure when he got up to ask a question and there wasn't time to get to him. For much of the talk I had to hold one of my hands over my right ear because his general loudness was making my headache worse (and he was irritating enough to diminish my enjoyment). Still, I'm really glad I got to go to this.
  • Next I returned to the mall, and actually made it through the line. There's always a lot of kind-of-interesting stuff in the mall at DragonCon, but as of yet nothing that's quite inspired me to get anything over the years. RPG books are always tempting, but I'd rather have them in digital form. A good set of dice would be more tempting if I were close to home. I could imagine some posters (maybe some good Spider-Gwen stuff) could pull my interest but I mostly see doujinshi rather than official stuff, and I like the official style for that series. This year I saw a few comics from a style I haven't seen for years that I was tempted to get, but not quite tempted enough. I think I could see myself buying some artbooks from video games and other things, as that's the one print media I don't want digital copies of. I'm also open to being inspired, learning new things I'm keen on that I don't know yet. Maybe next year.
  • Went back to the hotel to lie down for a bit. Also to drop off my bag, as I think even that mild weight is pressing on the nerve in my neck that's doing all this.
  • Next session was on the science of video games. This was great - I think I liked it last year too. Even though I haven't played any of the games they covered, I like the general content of taking that kind of content and applying scientific analysis to it. Makes for good entertainment. I also met the director of the science track, and go contact information in case my workplace wants to explore sending some people next year.
  • Then there was a Space track session on why Antarctica is a useful place for science. Good photos, stories, and explanations. I'm a sucker for this kind of content, although I wanted to ask some kind-of-uncomfortable questions about why civilian tourism isn't banned, given the fragile ecosystems there. Decided not to given that two speakers (who are scientists) went there on non-scientific tourism. Meh.
  • After this I had a nice dinner - the Meriott has a restaurant I really appreciate, and I felt a weird connection to my waiter this time (odd given that he was a fairly severe african-american man)
  • Finally I stopped for a bit at a talk that didn't really work for me - kind of a "Twitch plays Hatoiful Boyfriend" thing, with local people voicing it. I just didn't find it that amusing. A fair number of others were heading out too - late-night talks are a bit like this, with some people staying because they're drunk or don't have a lot of other options.
  • Was and still am a little tempted to go see an Anime made of Dante's Inferno in the Anime room, but I'm a little bit tired and am reluctant to stay up much later unless I'm cool with missing the morning content tomorrow. Plus I have some mild neck/head pain. So I'll probably wrap up figuring out my schedule for tomorrow and then catch some sleep (maybe a bit of Youtube before)

I stopped in one of the party areas for a little bit near the end of the evening and felt pretty disconnected from everything. Realising again that that kind of thing would be a lot more fun if I were here with some friends, as most people use that party time to catch up with people. So much of my life has been structured around thinking about things mostly alone though - company has been pretty rare. Some pleasures are not available to people on my path.