Archives, page 7

Date: 2018-Apr-14 19:08:48 EST

During the years I blogged little and G-plussed much, I kept a journal. I find myself using it a lot less as this comes to take on some of its function. Much of what I write is organising my thoughts and imposing meaning on my existence. If that's useful or interesting to others in some fashion, great. If not, oh well.

I'm pretty much entirely moved now; my old apartment just has dust and a vacuum cleaner that are eager to meet. I might swing by there later today to do that and then take the vacuum cleaner over to the new place. The old landlord is being uncommunicative; I may have invited mild drama in giving them phone rather than paper notice, albeit early. And then late paper notice, wherein I refused to get my intent to move out notarised. The new place is still slowly being unpacked, and I have an excess of boxes, but this is a big part of how I've chosen to live my life; given an annoying task I add a habit to my life to chip away at it, rather than sprinting.

I feel bad for the people trying to land bpfilter modules into the Linux kernel, significantly because they wanted to introduce a very specific capability, and people realised that it might be better to grow the idea into a general facility, and work out what that facility looks like. It's probably the right engineering decision, because it avoids a kernel full of small similar things, but to be in the shoes of that would-be author is not a happy thing. But so it is in engineering.

I'm amused at this idea and identity of digisexuality. There's an automatic inclination I think for people, single among billions, to attempt to find new ways to distinguish themselves, and craft terms and identities to do so. Maybe part of a storyteller instinct. Even when the results are ridiculous. Not that the need is, but the crafting of thick identities out of narrow specifics, and then having done that the need to backfill a lot of content into something that barely needed a term to begin with. We can and probably should just ignore those efforts, denying them the attention needed to catch on.

I'm weirded out to see that some tech companies say blatantly false things in their SEC filings. In the above link, the claim that "A Database is at the Heart of every Application" is nonsense. Tempting to start a project digging up more nonsense that makes its way into Edgar.

I've written elsewhere recently on forms of Feminism and where I see myself; about to wrap up the topic for which this has been a good map. As noted before, I consider myself a Classical-liberal feminist (and gender-role abolitionist) with some liberal reservations. I think the majority of concerns of gender come down to public or private coercion, I don't care to adjust any biological differences that might exist, but I have a small value for groundbreaking levels of representation, in order to help pave the path for people outside whatever statistical distribution they belong to's norm. And in education I accept more invasive rebalancing because of how necessary it is for everything else.

I think there's been a lot of bad commentary on Charles Murray, but this, which claims that his works suggest bad policy, is on. The bad commentary remains my primary concern, as it's drawn a lot of attacks from anti-free-speech progressives, and I think we need to be able to talk about anything, even bad ideas. Plus I remain generally neutral on the scientific content on Murray. When Murray starts talking about libertarian politics (And he does), I think that's where we should point it out and push back hard (although, again, in appropriate ways that don't stop him from talking or block him from having a willing audience). On the article's discussion of substantitve versus opportunity equality, if we talk about an absolutist version of the former, then I advocate a mix. But if common notion of the former is already mixed, then I might fit into that camp.

This makes some interesting statements linking role-playing to AI training. Resampling in statistics has already done this in a sense, and a lot of CNN-training already involves things like this as well. I think this is good advice people are already doing, and they're already looking to do the obvious extensions of it into broader realms of application. Still, for people less-familiar with the field, it's an interesting read.

It's best not to take hard stances on what happened from a single account, but this story about the early days at Tinder and Bumble sounds like some seriously unpleasant mess. And a reminder that just because a relationship is consensual, that's just a first bar on whether it's appropriate. The sharpest argument here is that even a consensual relationship can make both people incapable of being fair to each other in other contexts, in ways where their mutual fair treatment is obligatory. Like at work.

Justice as contingent results
Date: 2018-Apr-18 22:49:43 EST

This demonstrates the failing of some ideas that both liberals and conservatives occasionally flirt with - that it's valid to aim for equality of outcomes from our legal system, rather than equal treatment under neutral laws. Locally this often comes in the form of attacks on Broken Windows policies, on the theory that such laws have a disproportionate impact on lower-income neighbourhoods. The thought being that we should empathise with criminals on these topics, from turnstile jumpers to breaking of windows not because it's enforced unevenly (or that the laws have too harsh a penalty), but merely because of the impact.

I can have some sympathy for the other arguments, but bundling an impact argument in sours me on any further discussion. And likewise with the linked article above with people upset that Trump's people are being prosecuted and there are not many people on the other side being prosecuted. If there were legitimate concerns about selective enforcement narrowly tailored around Trump, sure, that would be unacceptable, but the mere fact that Trump's people get more focus plausibly can (and likely does) come from the fact that they're breaking various laws a lot more. And if that produces varying outcomes, it should. Attempting to rebalance based on that is inappropriate.

Denying the Power of Words
Date: 2018-Apr-20 02:07:25 EST

There's a beautiful paradox in modern (and perhaps historical) American society, and certain philosophical trends in European society that influenced us. Words have a lot of ability to affect things; en masse they decide if a leader is effective or weak (particularly in monarchies), they can push on our emotions both directly and in how we define things, en masse they help establish or destroy notions of legitimacy (gaslighting is direct manipulation of this facility to destabilise somebody's worldview), and they help shape our well-being, our feelings of safety and its lack, and all sorts of other things.

A direct, full-throated recognition of this is a powerful reason to drop a lot of constraints on speech, whether done as laws, as expectations of violent or career-altering responses, or as social norms. We can prevent all kinds of harms this way. It also, depending on how we recognise it, leads to ideas of crimes of honour (insult somebody in some ways and they might, in order to preserve their status which is essential to their mental well-being which you probably unjustly decided to step on, need to make things right).

So, in contrast to a lot of other societies still extant in the world, we have decided to go for free speech as a legal and social norm, and when it comes up against all these harms, we decide that the harm done by restricting speech, on whole, is worse than any of the harms that speech can do. We get a lot out of this bargain. Some of us consider free speech a direct good (I do); a good independent of its effects. Some consider this a good bargain even if they see free speech as a means to an end, perhaps noting that while it offers potential for a lot of potential harm, it also lets the targeted person blow off steam, laugh at the person who went after them, and lets them go after them right back (as speech, at least).

The way we resolve that tension then, is to dismiss the harms that can come from speech, and teach our children to try to ignore them (sticks and stones, etc). It's not always simple.

Edge of understanding
Date: 2018-Apr-20 17:31:41 EST

I've been helping with a paper at work, and one of the things it talks about is use of a machine learning technique, applied framewise over time, that will threshold (kinda) if/when data becomes significant enough to become an ROI. I feel I'm on the very edge of an insight that the algorithms in play (a CNN), when viewed stepwise (more or less a 90 degree rotation) might take a very different form and be much more efficiently calculated were they revised towards thresholding rather than independent (but stateful - based on data available so far) invocations. It's a strong instinct, but it's just at the edge of my slippery grasp; if I understood a bit more I feel I could figure out a general transformation of algorithms, or at least develop a means to do so, to realign it along these lines.

A lazy version of this would just be to memoise a lot of the intermediate state.

Rebuking one's Past Self
Date: 2018-Apr-22 19:23:17 EST

This last Friday I mentioned to Aaron, the person with whom I share my office at work (another SCC member), that I sometimes make trips to Philadelphia and was thinking of going this weekend (usual coffeeshop and walking and Wawa reasons), and he suggested I check out the Barnes Foundation Museum. I missed going on Saturday (have been feeling physically exhausted a lot recently, spent almost the entire day in bed), but today on Sunday I felt fine - reinvigorated even, and I woke up at 8AM and was out the door around 9 to make it here (by noon, roughly). I walked to Wawa, and then to Barnes; it turns out I had passed this museum many times in past visits and when I lived in the greater PHL area; going in, I was struck by countless details of the (super interesting) architecture, from wall panels that were woven from sheep, to an underground garden area, to really interesting ideas of space, stairs, and open air. The roof had a reflected light theme (was impossible to see the top window but there must've been one, supplemented by a little bit of artificial light like make-up done well.

Artwise, two artists lept out at me in particular (but there were great works by others):

  • Jean Hugo - His works felt like places I could walk into, and my brain kinda ran away from my body seeing them as captured slices of reality, perhaps an eternal afterlife in such a place. First maybe like What Dreams May Come (film), and then like an episode of Randall and Hopkirk where an older detective agency had its better member happy but placid in a peaceful and very personal existence. What would it be to be in such a world, at that resolution, with those boundaries being the boundaries?
  • Giorgio de Chirico - Who had a fascinatingly different way to parse reality. "The Mysterious Swan" in particular amused me. The paintings keep hinting at other ways reality could be organised, sticking in my head suggesting things to learn that are interesting but not real. Captivating.
  • Maybe Jules Pascin too.
It was a really nice way to spend a few hours. I was underdressed, having just dressed for maximal comfort for the train.

After that, I took a nice very long walk to Chapterhouse Coffee to sit for a few hours; feels good to sit after that hike, and I needed to look up Chirico's name (it escaped me during the walk). Spotted someone who reminds me of a former coworker at Dropbox that I had a bit of a crush on, and amused that the internet here is as bad as it ever was, and a bit surprised that the walk was considerably longer than I remembered. Not looking forward to the hike back to 30th Street Station, whenever I decide to go.

Conversations among the grasses
Date: 2018-Apr-27 23:06:28 EST

Had a thought - possibility of ideas happening in parts of our brain disconnected from potential body-output, or at least not recorded into memory and with relatively limited influence. Could we know? What would it be to be one of those if they were a thing. But if they have limited potential influence, I think they miss out on at least some of the features, developmentally, we attribute to most forms of intelligence; little experience with causality, and that experience being necessary to train a mind. Unless there were a transfer of trainedness from our main personality. Fascinating idea. But then, if intelligence is just a pattern on states, as I've spoken of before in other writings, perhaps this is not that odd an idea.

Went to a infra-software conference this week. Hung out a bit with a former coworker from DBX. Was nice.

A little more prudence in Jurisprudence
Date: 2018-Apr-30 00:49:14 EST

As much as I'm sometimes frustrated when my intuitions on how the city should be run, on some topics I care a lot about, have little weight (particularly WRT the homelessness situation), at least on some topics I have hope. One of the things about the Subway system is if we actually want people to use it and use cars less, it needs to be a reasonable way to get around the city, and that means that we don't shut it down without a really good reason, and even when we have such a reason we do it for as little time as possible. I'd like to see this taken a lot further - we get notices sometimes that a sick person on a train is delaying an entire line and I think the priorities involved justify *always* moving them promptly off the train. 30 seconds. Even at cost to their health. Because civilisation can't stop for one person. But at least there's this push not to let a police investigation of a fight delay things, and maybe we can apply this intuition more broadly in the future.

I can see both sides on this commentary on Chick-fil-A in NYC. There are some orgs, like Salvation Army, where I won't interact with them because of how they treat homosexuality. There may be some tribalism in that, in that I'm not straight and haven't pretended otherwise for quite some time. It's limited in scope and based on what I see as an injury; I would not give more of my business to gay-owned (or even explicitly gay-friendly) orgs/companies; I don't seek some kind of dominance for such group, nor do I seek kinship, but I seek to end something I regard as an injustice. So it's a little more limited. This article makes a few good points though - at least what it's criticising is focused on a dislike of Christianity, and that's more complex to interact with. I find it broadly acceptable that different groups in society dislike each other and want each other to, in some sense, lose out. This happens all the time in politics; I don't want libertarian ideas to win and would be happy were people to be convinced away from those ideas. I expect the same in faiths, and on various topics. That understood, these disagreements should not be brought to a boil; ideally they should amount to individual dislikes, or "we tolerate people when they believe this but would prefer they not believe it and would like to persuade them away from it". There's another way to read this - that liberalism as a tactical matter should be wary of taking on as a defining characteristic a dislike for religious folk. I'm less sure about that angle, although I don't want to let this concern stop individuals who are liberal and secular from advocating secularism.

This is an interesting concern for seeing life elsewhere in the universe that I had not considered before - that larger planets may have an easier time hosting life but may have sufficient gravity to make launches difficult. I wonder if high-gravity-evolved entities would have more of a structural dependency on gravity than we do ; we already have issues with deformation of some organs under prolonged-zero-G, but maybe this is the easy end of the scale.

This is an interesting, if disquieting look at dating site impersonators. It got me thinking a bit about the role of tricks-of-discourse in flirting, and how personal those things are; most of the chat-up lines quoted in the article would actually infuriate rather than intrigue me ; if I ever heard "answer this question once and for all" in any context from someone, I'd be disinclined to speak with them again because that manner of speech is awful.

It's interesting when a politifact debunking ends up still being worrying; I support a ban on gay conversion therapy (and probably a number of other invasive change-who-you-are therapy), at least until people are adult and financially independent, but efforts to cleanly ban that without introducing problems with laws are quite tricky.

Bravo to Larry Moneta (of Duke) for standing up for free expression. I don't think campus speech codes are acceptable, no matter the form of University.

In the past I've expressed support for leaving up past memorials to things we find immoral now, because we don't believe in iconoclasm and revising past meaning is much uglier than creating new meaning in new spaces. Likewise, I support creating new meaning in new spaces, and this story about a memorial to lynching victims in Alabama is a good way to tackle unfortunate bits of our history. At least these ones. There's a lot more to cover.

I played Far Cry 5, and although the plot of the game was rubbish, the gameplay was fun and the area was beautiful. The idea of visiting Montana actually has some merit, and it's pretty neat that Montana's tourism board recognises that. I can see myself visiting someday. Probably mostly for hiking.

I'm in the middle of trying to write an open letter to Quillette to suggest they make some small course corrections to do better. It's turning out to be more work than I thought it'd be. This is true for a lot of things in life; it's so easy to have ideas, and sometimes a bit exhausting to chase them. I hope I haven't become lazy. I think I'd like to try to pull together some more readers for my stuff, not as fans, but to generate some useful back-and-forth for intellectual growth. Companions. Fellow thinkers. Not that I'd object to readers, but that's not really the point. I rather admire what Jason Steele (of Filmcow) has done. Although he has the advantage on this front of having a bunch of great voices and being super active in this space.

Rounding our Logs
Date: 2018-May-03 02:56:44 EST

I sometimes daydream of being in a world where people spend a lot more time thinking about what valid arguments look like ; not the kind where pedants codify rules and insist others ahere to them, but rather the kind where people use those rules as signposts in adolescence, continually hold debates in their heads, and by adulthood develop a deep awareness of rhetoric, persuasion, and how we may think. In a mix between a daydream and an inner debate (on the walk to work, where I get a bit of thinking done most days), the phrase "We have no obligation to round all our logs" popped into my head as a way to refer to an intuition - given that any maxim will lead to actions that will be seen in many evaluative contexts, we should not feel obliged to defend that maxim as if it were designed for the particular context we're debating; some amount of mis-fit is to be expected for any rule that applies to a broad set of situations, and we should accept at least a reasonable amount of this. To do otherwise is to either stay forever in a learning mode (never settling down on views because any log will have some rough edges), to discard important axes of analysis to avoid that, or at least to be easily manipulated.

Another inner debate - an argument about the level of brandedness of certain strata of society, with one side seeing it as a terrible defect, and another seeing the style of higher strata as being little different in substance because the style of that strata amounts to the same thing; is the brandedness itself the shame, or the obedience? To muddy the waters interestingly - if only a few companies, or even just one, were to make the stylish clothes and just market them under different names, is that not as tight a leash? Or is the fixation on the brand transformative? I don't have an answer to this.

At a recent software event at DigitalOcean there was a talk by someone I once interviewed with there. She looked to be a pretty good manager, and her talk made it clear that she really thought about things and put in the effort to communicate well. There was still part of her talk that bothered me ; it sounded like she wanted her people to bring their personal lives a bit into work as a bonding thing, and I've come to feel that that's likely actually a bad thing because it introduces areas of conflict that would not be visible if we just interact with each other at work on a fairly surface level, or at least don't have the expectation to bring our whole selves in. Most of the people I've worked with, for example, I've had no idea if they were religious, and in some jobs I never talked about being non-straight, or having been single for a long time, or having been depressed for a long time. Even having everyone else sharing creates an unwelcome pressure to do the same. During the interview process I came to feel there was a cultural incompatibility between her and I; maybe it's for the best that we didn't end up working together, although I still believe that she's probably generally a good boss (despite the disagreement on how much of oneself to bring to work).

I sometimes wonder how much our evaluative contexts might be embedded into our neuroscience/genetics ; it seems plausible to me that there are shared parts of being human in games of "king of the hill" - maybe even brain regions that are always contributing to our motives based on power, advantage, affirmation of a community, and a number of other distinct ends that provide security to humans in the EEA. If this is so, I wonder if we might be able to extract their content, or if like in a Hopfield network, we can only weakly infer from the effects.

On Wanting America to Win
Date: 2018-May-13 20:25:00 EST

Dissecting a bit of discourse here, I think the argument of "don't you want America to win" deserves some analysis, particularly when used under Trump. There must be room to believe that first, we might not be all that attached to any particular nation so much as notions of the way things should be, and second, a mixed form of this where we believe that in the long run, America (and western civilization) is best off with good institutional forms and norms, and that it's not worth going for short-term advantage (one particularly bad leader with autocratic leanings and his ideas) if it means giving up on the things that make our nation work well (lack of centralisation of power, non-pettiness, being expertise-driven). The public interest is not a ring through our nose that we'll walk towards with shortsighted eyes; it is a long and slow path with room for long-term thinking.

What your fading feels like
Date: 2018-May-21 19:43:23 EST

Occasionally I get a very particular impression ; if reality is normally a 3d grid oriented the way I normally see things, this is all those lines that have fallen a bit further than 45 degrees, with a definite impression of movement. It's not a good feeling; leads to some strong vertigo and a feeling that standing up is nearly impossible even in theory. Some parts of me whisper that this is what dying would feel like for me in particular, and that everyone probably has their own broken states of mind on the way down. Feels plausible. I sometimes wonder about the states of experience between awareness and the rest; I feel I can almost catch the transition between paying attention and letting time pass without. Like catching the back of my own head. And in the occasional meeting where I'm underslept and have trouble following the topic, I still make memories of the disjointed thoughts, and notice they're disjointed at times, and sometimes manage to pull myself together at annoyance at the nonsense. Maybe death would be like one of these transitions. Assuming a natural death, of course. Anything that'd physically obliterate my brain, or other non-natural ways to go would probably not produce any transition whatsoever, just an end.

Today I had occasion to use Amazon Workspaces to test some code at work that external users are having issues with. When it works, it's quite nice (and it usually works). Some operations you might want to do (e.g. enlarge an instance you already made) fail with a super-unhelpful error message and a pointer to a FAQ that has no help for you, and it's unclear why you can't make more than one of these workspace instances per user. But then, all of this is un-ideal, in that it should all just be instances on EC2. Oh well. Works well enough.

I'm intrigued by this call to break up Facebook. I understand why people might want to break up FB to reduce the concentration of power, but this particular plan would probably lead to the immediate demise of Messenger at least, and possibly the rest if they could not be profitable. I don't really know what a general plan to do breakups would look like, but they probably should not result in one viable central old company locked into a narrow market, and then corpses all around it. I suspect somehow splittimng up the core company in ways that leave viable narrower companies is what would have to happen. And if we're doing this often, we should adjust the factors that make large gloms of power so likely.

Preparing for the work trip this coming weekend. There's not a ton to arrange, but it's enough outside my comfort zone to be annoying. Plus I'd like to see Deadpool 2 sometime this week before I go. Maybe tonight.

Weirded out a bit that the idea of "having a pool body" or not is bothersome to some political/social-values persuasions. Although I really should've expected it; body-positivity is a movement I never believed in (despite not having a particularly amazing body), and for those that believe in it, they presumably have removed from themselves (or at least have gone into denial over) a lot of conceptions of presentability and beauty and so on that others believe in. And on that note, I should get to work on losing weight.

Made mujadara this last weekend. Predictably, my body feels like it's pushing out a bit of onion through my skin, and my eyes are tearing up a bit continually. Not fun. Wondering if it's coming out, or if it just got stuck in from external exposure. Next time maybe I'll do gloves and goggles and find out.