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.