Blog: Flying Water and Falling Air

Flying Water and Falling Air
Flying Water and Falling Air
Date: 2018-Aug-05 22:12:50 EST

Perpetually finding it weird how scarce a thing attention is, within myself. I keep training myself to be more conscious - to do something I think humans rarely are meant to do - to stay in "figure it out" mode for longer periods of time. And I can manage that, with some difficulty. I think it has and will continue to change me, and it imposes some kinds of hardship, but to me this is what life is about - those moments when our mind is open. In doing so, I feel another constraint ; not having a lot of energy with which to make change. I'm often okay with this; not all thought need produce results, but on occasion I wish to it's still hard.

Work? Going well, I think. As always I end up using some of my skills more, and some barely at all, but I've found a happiness in that the things that bug me - mostly relating to how we do infrastructure, which feels really creaky - don't bug me all that much. And I find myself continually carried by a sense of wonder at the natural universe. That's pretty amazing, enough so that I don't mind putting the part of me that likes making arrangements out of order and chaos to bed. At least for the foreseeable future. I'm still going to selectively reach out to past coworkers who seem suitable to see if they might want to join us. I have a fondness for a lot of them, even though I usually kept it a distant fondness. Being close to people is still very wearing for me.

Spending part of today at a local place called ArtCafe; I keep forgetting this place exists, but it's very pleasant. The owner and his family that run it are from Spain, I think. Reminds me how I noticed yesterday that Citizens of Chelsea is run by an Australian family; I'm not used to seeing those nationalities heading abroad for entrepreneurial adventures.

A few thoughts:

  • Worrisome to see accomodation taken way too far. I've known a few people who went through Yeshiva who really regretted it; they ended up with poor social skills and knowing nearly nothing about broader society, giving them a really tough time holding down jobs. I'd probably ban them if I could.
  • Facebook's agreement not to discriminate in ads seems pretty nutty to me; worries about discrimination only make sense in a few realms of life, and what adverts one sees are not one of them. Beyond that, I think this would make adverts far less effective, perhaps on the level of television or less. I don't understand the motivation, unless I'm reading this all wrong and this isn't social-justice handwringing so much as privacy. But I don't think I am. And apparently they were pushed by Washington state.
  • Not sure why, but apparently Osacio-Cortez and Sanders are spending political capital on trying to elect a Muslim to governor of Michigan. I don't really support this, not because I see Muslims as particularly unfit to rule compared to Christians or Hindus, but because I don't want religious people, particularly people who openly talk about their religion, to have political office. It should be legal for them to run, but I see religion as a defect rather than a positive trait. Not that any single trait should damn people, and I have had good friendships with religious people. But to me it was always a minus on the ledger.
  • San Francisco is trying to get tech workers in the city to not use in-company cafeterias. I can understand why, not really sure what I think about it. I enjoyed the in-company cafeteria when I worked at Dropbox, and have enjoyed it at other places; it helps with social cohesion within a company. At the cost of reducing it with the rest of society. And sometimes, particularly in SF, that mingling is awful because San Francisco is an utter shithole. As NPR recently did a good article on. Social Justice advocates have done their best to make it hard to talk about this problem; with any luck this will backfire against them and reduce their ability to close dialogue on other specifics.
  • It's good that people have examples to help them be less sensitive, in this case a ridiculous concern over offending people who still define Pluto as a planet. As is generally the case, I'm fine with people having divergent definitions; the problem comes when they try to force others to use their definitions. Most people are really bad at handling this kind of thing.
  • I'm not sure what to think about this payment mechanism for coding schools; in terns of aligning incentives correctly (for a trade-specific school), it's great, but it bothers me in that it brings non-transactional payment into education, and those feel more invasive. Almost as if someone is selling part of themselves. I know these are not entirely without precedent though. Maybe part of it is also that I think treating education as either a gift or a simple transaction feels more compatible with the nobility of the trait, and gratitude for the recipient. Plus it gives more control to the taught immediately after all the lessons are done.
  • This report is deeply worrying - that traditional Republicans are as a pattern losing primaries to Trump-style nationalists. It's worrying both in that we can expect shit policies from them, and because it's doubtful that our democracy will survive the new dichotomy. Either they won't win any elections, in which case single-party Democratic rule will be disasterous, or they'll win some and our politics will be brutal and uncooperative.
  • I had to read over this very carefully, but I think the NRA is probably in the right here, in that having elected officials using agencies of the state to pressure private businesses against ties to an advocacy org based on its stances is a terrible precedent and damages ideas of free speech. It may already be happening to some extent, but it's easy to understand it by flipping around the particular groups invokved to ones we're comfortable with.
  • Let's wrap it up with one of the more interesting concerns in the sciences - machine learning can (with lots of ground truth data and tons of expensive training) produce networks that produce human-like levels of performance. I've seen this up close in my current job at work. The concern of "science without understanding" is better understood as engineering without the preceding science. And, just like finding a tribal remedy that we don't understand medically, we could theoretically poke at our own products to understand them better, with the odd conclusion that we are adding new targets for something like biomimicry. We'd be adding to something like the natural world without immediately understanding it. It's bizarre to be in that position.