Archives, page 5

Dreams of realdom
Date: 2018-Mar-01 14:00:46 EST

Had a strange dream, set in some variant of my grandparents (by custom in my part of the family, my mom's parents were grandma and grandpa, and my dad's parents were Mimi and Pete) house at a family gathering. I think we were arriving after some long car trip and I was tired of being cooped up; we were getting out of the car. I was apparently the only person that could fly in the dream, but that wasn't weird. Was getting out and flying around and my mom reminded me to bring my shoes into the house (grabbed a pair with my hands, but for some reason I had another pair there and had to tell her my hands were already full; wasn't wearing shoes).

The dream shifted a bit as dreams often do and it turns out I could fly because I was a ghost. And the dream wasn't sure if I could be seen by anyone who didn't know me in life. The rest of my family was not a ghost, and I felt a pang of sadness and asked my mom if this meant I wasn't real. The dream ended before I got an answer.

I think this ties into occasional thoughts about being remembered after we're gone that I've had recently. Apart from the flight thing; in most of my dreams I'm able to fly and I'm usually the only one doing so. I'm guessing that's just because I'm asleep but my body's still lying down and somehow that needs reconciliation. Mix in some old memories of swimming, and solution. Maybe.

Date: 2018-Mar-04 07:29:49 EST

This weekend I started to get serious about apartment hunting; it's something that's both a lot of fun and pretty awful at the same time. I like seeing the variety of apartments (on Streeteasy) and imagining making them a home, and the judging, and all that. I don't like the actual planning of visits and paperwork. The former reminds me a bit of one of my favourite books as a child - it was a large collection of floor plans (some with pictures), and I imagined walking through them. My parents probably thought this was weird, but there was a lot about me that they probably thought of that way.

I'm a little weirded out at this new culture that some people are trying to build; I'm someone that really doesn't like being touched, but I see this as a defect and it's something I've been improving on over the years. I don't think it's reasonable to ask for consent for casual contact, and I think the old, messy, non-explicit norms are a lot more workable and less self-alienated than this new explicit consent people some are aiming to build. The harms from miscommunication are less bad taken as a whole than the continual autistic norm this would construct. Like a number of the social changes being pushed by certain parts of the left, I hope this doesn't end up winning. I get worried when I see some universities make it an explicit/expected policy though, just like other things I see as bad ideas.

On Friday after work I went to an AMNH event about ocean ecology. It was a good end to the week; the format was more-or-less lightning talks from scientists and activists (and in this rare case, I don't use the term perjoratively). I tend to get fairly steamed hearing about people doing irreperable environmental damage for the sake of their economic interests; it's one of the times where I still, after all these years, wouldn't mind some quite harsh direct action. Because it's about the very big picture.

Following the Arrow
Date: 2018-Mar-04 19:36:48 EST

I've been thinking recently about the people I've known that became really prominent, and my general tendency to prefer to be visible-but-not-highly-prominent. I made this decision because I'm not very social and extended social interaction for me is painful, and also because I've found the tension between expression and pushback is less harsh when you're not in the spotlight. Artists, philosophers, and others for whom expression is highly important, this means I can have a kind of mental peace. But recently I've come to understand better what the choice to step fully into the spotlight means. I hope I don't have this fault, but I've seen many people with an incredibly strong fascination with stardom (even when they don't seek it), deciding it firmly implies expertise. My evaluation of expertise generally comes from believing someone is intelligent, has worked on a topic for a long time, and has done pretty well. But in a team that has collaborated evenly on great things, the person who steps up to a podium and gives talks will convince people with defective evaluative criteria of their expertise. And yes, I exaggerate a bit ; it's not entirely unreasonable to trust speakers, it's just unreasonable to weigh that too heavily, or not to realise it's a proxy for a more careful evaluation of someone's career history. Anyhow, all this sounds negative ; while I don't mind being negative, I'm actually meaning it as a a possibility for me to gently explore more in the future. Mostly because it opens doors. Maybe doors I won't end up using so long as I'm in academia, or at least not as a career focus, but I now have some time on the sides to have hobbies and do things outside of work again. I want interesting opportunities to open up, and (as someone who's taught and given talks before, albeit not very frequently) it's not like I'm disinclined to speak.

Speaking is an art though, and I've run the full span from talks that went well to those that totally bombed because I froze up mid-talk. I'd like to get better so as not to recreate the painful memories of the failed talks.

It's interesting watching Democratic politics underway; the difference between the moderate technocratic faction and various other factions is still in play. I cringe a bit when I hear less-moderate factions being labelled progressive while at the same time them being referred to as the "Bernie Wing". Partly because I don't see myself as a progessive, and I don't see Bernie as a progressive either. The way I use the term, the progressives are the enemy within the party, and Bernie is a moderate socialist, like me. He's not that interested on gun issues, he's not a social-justice sort (and neither am I; I see it as a bourgeois distraction from the issues that matter, and a confusion on how to approach areas of agreement on what matter - disparities are more about class than race). I'm happy to work with centist technocrats (I lean technocratic myself, for a socialist). Moderate old-school socialists are my people. But the people I call progressives, I see little value in cooperating with them, and mostly seek their diminishment. Common cause with them usually costs too much and is too unpleasant. For the discourse, I think we can better understand these politics by asking "how far" and "what direction" as separate questions. Just like the conservatives on the other side, there's more than one direction one can go when one steps from the centrists.

Pinball Tilts
Date: 2018-Mar-07 18:25:26 EST

After the recent spat between Amazon and Google got worse and Amazon decided to pull more Google products from their store because they want to compete, I decided to end my Amazon Prime membership. Longer-term I'll probably try to avoid buying from Amazon. This isn't because I like Google (I no longer do), but rather that I think there's a duty when a marketplace or forum or other actor becomes dominant in their field to begin to act in a neutral way. Deciding not to list products on Amazon can make or break many companies. I feel the same way about Youtube; it's very irksome that such a central video site is deviating so far from maximising expressibility and finding ways to deal with matching advertisers to videos. At sufficient scale, private censorship resembles government censorship.

I recently took some anti-harassment training at work. I don't expect to step on any of those policies (I'm shy and was raised to act a certain way), except possibly saying things that might make some people uncomfortable. But the policies are in my view bad, and apparently they're mandated by law, and they have the smell of enforced progressive behaviour in the workplace. I'm not happy about that; it's not that I want the laws removed, just restructured so there'd never be a situation where "progressive brings up a topic and talks freely on it, people who disagree are not allowed to comment on it because somebody might be offended". The way political tension works in our society means that right now that's very plausible even though it's written in a way not to mention ideology; there are countermeasures like others insisting that some topics be buried because they claim they'd be offended by their inability to participate in the discussion. But those feel like weird hacks.

On Not Going With One's Gut
Date: 2018-Mar-10 20:49:57 EST

NYC is a pretty rough place to get apartments. Earlier today I visited an apartment that I liked, but I was unhappy with the (sadly standard) high fee associated with it, so I was gonna haggle but someone else showed up and got it. There was nothing hostile about it; they wanted it more, and I stopped floating the idea of a different fee when it became clear they were gonna get it, only getting a brief confusion when they initially were not gonna grab it then and there. But when I said I'd keep negotiating they decided to. They were initially worried about blocking my effort, but I told them not to worry- that's the way these things work. They were probably nice people, but I think generally in life most people are when they don't have some reason not to be, and even often then too. So, back to StreetEasy for me.

I follow a bunch of people with politics reasonably different from mine ; freethinkers on the left, the right, centrists, libertarians. This plea for Asian-Americans to consider changing their voting habits came into my view recently, but it dodn't do much to convince me. The interesting failing in it is that it equates that negative change to the well-being of a group amounts to punishment. I think this is generally a bad argument - diminished wellness is necessary but not sufficient for something to constitute punishment; there must also be a punitive urge - the belief that whatever behaviour establishing the criterion is a negative thing; that's not the case here (despite occasional hyperbole). Beyond that argument, there's also the complexity in how people vote; are there any other parties for Asian-Americans that offer them some mix of material advantage, value-advantage, a good narrative, or other concerns? A solid argument would probably need to start from that. And as The Federalist is written for people near the edge of conservativism and right-libertarism, I think that argument would likely need to take the shape of economics. This is a bad line to take in a time when self-destructive populism is the dominant trend in the Republican Party.

This is an interesting article on hookup culture and whether/how it's hurting dating. I don't agree entirely with the author; I think what author calls "commitment culture" is generally a positive thing, and am comfortable seeing dating as "trying out" relations for the longer-term. Not just seeing; advocating. The purpose of dating, in my view, is to do that kind of experimentation. Initially just to figure out what one wants in a relationship, and later on to find the right person and dynamics for it over the long haul. I don't see it as damning that occasionally people put the ox before the cart, just an understandable error. The "just experience life and if it happens it happens" is a transparent lie, or perhaps something someone can use to remind themselves to take things at the right pace.

LINK alongside its economic aid. Not surprising that it would try; it saw the United States do exactly that for decades, the World Bank being a strong vehicle among many for this. Still, China's system is pretty shitty in most aspects; it's unfortunate that their economic muscle means this will likely see some success.

MongoDB is again slowly growing up and leaning from better databases. I always find this funny - the company has a knack for finding things other databases do to be unfortunate, until a few years later they figure out how to do it and then they announce it as if they're there first.

While we're talking about places I used to work, occasionally customers want the weirdest things. And when they come to you with cash you might build things that make no sense. Integrating Google Office with Dropbox is a weird idea because Google Office already is a cloud product, and replacing one cloud representation with another would mean ripping the product in half. The only benefit I can see frm this is that one can make all one's information policy in one place (in this case, in Dropbox) and have Google Docs policy not be a separate thing to manage. Maybe that's why this is a thing. If Dropbox were to make a spreadsheet (fair bit of effort), a presentation tool (easier), and replacements for the rest of G Suite, in compatible data formats, this would have no reason to exist.

I don't sympathise much with the reporter here; I don't think attacking people with a bat is a reasonable response, but it's very invasive to show up to someone unannounced, start filming them without consent, and try to confront them about alleged misdeeds. It's understandable (if unacceptable) that they might violently respond, and I'd at least say that this show is "playing with fire".

This weekend I'm hoping to put together a mock chaos exercise for a chaos engineering community I'm part of (found out about it because another former Dropbox engineer I worked with joined a company that does this and she was really good to work with). The idea is I'd define a mock infrastructure and ask people to design their first Chaos Day, performing this effort on Slack (maybe also GDocs or Paper) and having open participation and commentary. I find this fun; it also gives me a good excuse to daydream about ways infrastructure might be designed (I'll be using NNTP as a central protocol for one of these exercises).

Hopefully I'll find my next apartment soon, and feel confident enough to grab it if it feels right.

Clock Hands
Date: 2018-Mar-13 02:35:58 EST

Today I spotted a new apartment and applied for it; seems slightly bigger than my current place, is multi-room, and is not too far from it either. Was a little annoying that they need so much sensitive information to do all this, but that's NYC. Unfortunately, not long after, my Google account freaked out; I don't know if Google has scanners that look for sensitive info or something else, but it disabled my Google account (swiftly re-enabled) and my Youtube account, with a message that I had violated TOS. Naturally Google wouldn't tell me what particular thing violated TOS (and I kinda suspect this is just some weird glitch). It's infuriating to have "justice", even private sector justice, work this way. There are many things we'd be legit outraged if a government did them, even for petty things, which we just accept from corporations because of private property. Strange how that works. Hoping all this gets sorted out soon.

Is there any chance the timing is coincidental and there really was some old content up there that someone could find reason to go after? Maybe? While I often sympathise with people who are barred from Youtube (or demonetised), I am pretty sure I haven't advocated violence, or anything else of that sort, on Youtube. I'm not a big fan of violence; I'm not a pacifist, but interpersonal violence? At most understandable-but-unacceptable. And I don't recall talking about that ever on YT, and haven't posted anything at all (or commented) recently, to my memory. As an alternate explanation, maybe I gave some app privs to my Youtube account and it posted stuff?

Almost looking forward to moving.

As for work, it's a little weird working with Googlers; I don't understand why G is doing neuroscience, but they are, and we collaborate with them on some things. But there's still a lot of code that's Google-proprietary, or wouldn't work outside of the Borg plus GRTE plus all that workflow. Interesting to be seeing this from the other side though; occasionally when I was in industry I worked with academia and help people who didn't have the infra we had.

Centrality of Values
Date: 2018-Mar-14 01:43:03 EST

I've been thinking a bit about the role values play in engineering, in particular, how it helps and hurts some kinds of careers that best practices and common concerns dominate how some topics are approached. To wit, for a big part of my career I was designing and maintaining a lot of infrastructure, and I took for granted that certain values were "how you do that". Not just certain values, but usually as well how those values ranked or interplayed. With this belief, I thought over many, many years on how to solve these issues, and used that attention to work out eventualities, models of risk, and figured out what software solutions were best for that. The downsides being that I found it difficult to understand or accept when those needs were not ranked as I expected (e.g. "we accept more risk") and it made me inflexible to the extent that I sometimes was less good of a fit for some roles than I might have been.

I'm not alone in this.

I think having careful and thoughtful conversations on value tradeoffs in engineering is a good way to lessen this inflexibility.

Summoned Pain
Date: 2018-Mar-17 00:57:17 EST

I'm finding myself moody and hurting. I think it's for this upcoming move - a low grade anxiety. Maybe because I've signed up for another big life change, and I'm still alone, and I am terrified of being alone. With each move, each recognisable step or place I've set camp, another bit of fear that I've stepped off of some path where had I had more daringness or bravado or something I don't have, I could've been happy. Or just not alone. And I am alone.

I get the keys to that next camp tomorrow at 9AM. There was a social after work today, and as people slowly stepped away and returned to their lives, I felt the spectre of the weekend creep up. It hurt too. I hear an echo - someone once told me that "man was not meant to dwell alone". I don't remember whom, or if it was perhaps a book, but it resonates with this emptiness.

I hope the anxiety fades a bit after I tell my current landlord I'm moving, and then actually get the business of moving underway.

Parting with National Review
Date: 2018-Mar-18 02:29:11 EST

As an effort to try to not live in a news/perspective bubble, for awhile I had subscribed to National Review. Eventually, unfortunately, it just got too irritating to read the publication though. Part of it was the adverts - all this "buy gold" and commemorative coin offers just was embarassing. But part of it was also the bile - the same bile that I often also see on the left against the right. It bugs me when it's thick, and this was pretty damned thick.

It's a pity that this is the case, given how central and historical National Review is; I don't know of many other periodicals that will give me a window into that part of society, but I still would like to imagine a better version of NatRev - one that's smart, classy, and comfortable in its own skin. Maybe someday I'll spot something that suits the bill.

Company and Creed
Date: 2018-Mar-18 19:16:17 EST

Went to RHPS again last night. Same mix of things I like and things that make me a bit grumbly. Weird to think how long a history I have with that subculture, and how it has evolved. Probably 25 years. I think it was in High School that ... Jen? Maybe that was here name? Brought me to a showing. I barely have any memories left of her except that she had a very liberal mum and a very conservative dad, she was very liberal herself, she was the only out lesbian I knew of in the school system, and I remember an argument we had about the draft; I felt (being a proto-libertarian at the time) that the draft was an injustice and that expanding that injustice to women was a wrong. I think she listened only to my conclusion rather than my line of reasoning, or perhaps didn't trust that line of reasning, and she decided not to talk to me for a week or two. That hurt. We hung out a lot though; I didn't really care about her sexual preferences and maybe she found that refreshing, plus I think we made good sounding boards for each other as we figured out what we thought on some issues.

I have the keys to the new apartment now, and have carried a few loads over - it's hard for the place to feel settled without any furniture (likely will use movers for that), but I'm trying. Irritated to have measured and found that the new place isn't actually much bigger, and with the largely useless loft space in my current place figured in, it might be smaller. Still, I think there's more usable space. I want to leave enough room to have a guest bed. I'm not sure I'll succeed. I doubt I'll try to sleep there or move the cats until the new place has internet. Hopefully soon.

Tortfeasor has taken to hiding upstairs. I hope he's not dying. I keep moving him back downstairs so I can keep an eye on him, but he keeps heading back up.

Tonight I'm going to a showing of Hitchcock's Vertigo, making this a film-heavy weekend. Also did most of my taxes; will be good to finish getting that out of the way.