Blog: Anxious Fall

Anxious Fall
Anxious Fall
Date: 2018-Oct-09 19:36:43 EST

My two youngest sisters visited part of last week and this. Was great to hang out with them and reminisce. Feeling some generalised anxiety now, which might or might not be related - I keep worrying that I missed the boat in terms of having kids and a family, and it doesn't help that I'm still not outgoing enough to meet people and start relationships. At least I think the worry is tied to the generalised anxiety, although I really don't know - the feeling doesn't surge when I think about the topic. Maybe it really is just chemical with no topical sensitivity. Not a good thing.

Google's yearly product release was earlier today - new phone (ordered, with accessories), new product that wasn't quite what I expected - Google Home Hub which inexplicably doesn't have a camera (which damns it enough that I don't see myself ordering one - if I were to get it it'd go in my bedroom and I'd want to use it to VC with my sisters and their families), and no new high-end chromebook laptop (which I was kinda hoping for because I made a barely visible crack in my Pixelbook's screen, only visible from some angles but the imperfection bugs me and makes using the stylus a little bothersome). On the toy front I have new Google-Assistant-enabled smart plugs, which will be kinda useful in letting me command more things with my voice at home. Not deeply amusing, but it's something. I keep feeling bothered that nearly all the deeper meaning in my life is tied to work, not people. Philosophy is great but I need more.

Represented connectomics at a recent openhouse at the foundation - it went rather well. Was able to talk about our work to the general public, which is a treat. And by all accounts it went well. Was one of the better attended booth. Glad I had a naturally appealing topic.

Games I've been enjoying recently (which I should write reviews for):

  • CrossCode - very cute JRPG, sorta. Tricky puzzles, lovable characters
  • Hat in Time DLC - great to see more content, but the new content is super difficult
  • We Happy Few - Loved it, but it felt too short. I wanted to linger longer, and the second half of the game (itself divided into two parts) were designed to rush you through. Looking forward to more DLC. Catchy music.
  • Moonlighter - Good short-term adventures that contribute to a greater purpose. Got to the last boss, found it way too hard.
I've been waning a bit in terms of my interest in Kingdom of Loathing. I think I've exhausted the novelty added before this current bout of playing and that means the daily commitment to play a certain amount doesn't work that well for me for now. May get back into it when there's more new stuff (holiday content is always good)

Politics? And other things?

  • The Kavanaugh hearing is something I didn't get enough into to follow as much as a lot of other people. Had the Dems been able to get away with it I would've (as I've said before) had them refuse to allow anything to get up to a vote on Supreme Court nominees until the Repubs nominate and approve of Merrick, as a way to restore the damaged norms from the end of Obama's presidency. On Kavanaugh himself, as usual there's the difficult problem with sexual assault allegations that they're very difficult to prove because the difference between consensual and nonconsensual activities can leave no external markers. All this is made more difficult by the alleged acts having happened a long time ago. As I have always done, sometimes at cost of loss of friendship, for most allegations of criminal activities I don't judge if it happened until and unless the courts have spoken. I get the feeling that some of the anti-Kavanaugh activism is not restorative-of-norms but just empty rage - I don't thnk that's compatible with political pluralism; given the status quo as it was, Trump was going to nominate a judge, almost certainly a conservative-nationalist one, and people needed to accept that. That said, if the claims could somehow be proven, Kavanaugh would not be suitable to be a judge (Trump hasn't shown much skill at vetting people, or really any of the other things required of him, so it's not surprising that this nonsense keeps coming up), and I understand (but cannot agree with) people who decide not to take my principled neutrality on allegations of crimes pending court investigation. Did the behaviour of Kavanaugh in his defense disqualify him to be a SC judge? I don't know, I didn't watch. If we imagine an innocent person accused (or a person who believes themselves innocent - there is a distinction), would outrage at the accusations be justified? Perhaps. I am wary of having trials that would disqualify reasonable people reacting reasonably, but I haven't watched the congressional hearing so I just know what I'd look for had I paid attention. I'm just rather tired at the moment and didn't have the intellectual energy to look into this. Feeling pretty exhausted watching populism damage a lot of norms I care about - I understand, accept, and even advocate regular transfer of power between conservatives and liberals, to check crazy ideas of each and hopefully preserve some longer-term values. Berlusconi-style populism is a departure from that though. And I'm not the sort who dreams of leaving the US when things get hard, because I'm a hardliner on free speech and no other country I know of takes it as far as we do here. People file police reports for racist speech in Canada and the UK, for example. If our ship is sinking I'll be going down with it. But I'd rather us not sink, and this is all quite tragic, particularly as I see my side follow its opposition into the gutter. I can respect what Collins said on the topic - seemed measured and reasonable and surprisingly interesting.
  • Bummed about G+ shutting down, but not surprised. The smell of neglect was creeping in in a very internet way - pornspam comments. And I was already starting to check out, mentally. But any loss of human ties hits me hard, particularly because I have so few IRL and I liked a lot of the people there. Even though they were starting to check out too. Was a good way to have my ideas challenged and to challenge those of others, in a longer form than Twitter makes easy. I feel a little weird that they're sunsetting consumer G+ but keeping the corporate version - I think what few corporate users they have probably significantly come from people being able to play around with the open version, so it would've made sense to keep it even as a loss leader. Oh well.
  • Also unhappy about Google Inbox shutting down. Very unhappy. GMail's normal interface feels so backwards to me now.
  • An interesting fact-check by Politifact about Beto's claim that one can be too gay to adopt a child. This fits a general pattern where the law does not explicitly prohibit something, but it permits private actors to act in ways to make something very difficult. These situations are often very hard to work through (in the cake case, for example, I feel it amounts to compelled speech, but in the adoption case, I don't think there's a free speech issue at stake, particularly when they're acting as a state-paid proxy for a state function - facilitating adoption, although there may not be a super thick line there)
  • Amusing example of a shortsighted decision by a special interest group - Shetland lobbied for a ban in Scotland on showing their land in a small box. This means that maps of Scotland will look ridiculously empty. There's a lot of other weird stuff in the act that amounts to favouritism - it's not particularly decent on the other points either. Fortunately the map duty only applies to official maps, although I find this requirement obnoxious enough that I'd probably scrub Shetland from most maps were I to be making maps of Scotland for some reason, until this requirement is lifted. ... Although all this talk of Shetland reminds me that it's a place that I'd rather like to visit someday.
  • I'm not fond of the new Code of Conduct for the Linux kernel. It was put in by a pretty nutty activist - anyone who brags about how angry they are or uses words like "cishet" isn't somebody I'd want to tell the time of day to. There's a lot of this going on in various technical projects, unfortunately. And it's not really doable to just suggest we don't need any code, as a number of stories I've heard from female developers has made clear. I want such codes to cut minimally though, ideally using fairly narrow and understandable notions of harassment and aiming more to prevent unwanted contact without worrying so much about offense. If two people can't exist at the same conference who could work productively together but one person honestly believes the other is sinning or hellbound (but can explain why in a calm way and also otherwise treat them the same), then the code of conduct is overreaching. Better to either accept clashes and insist they not disrupt, or put certain topics entirely out of bounds for work (regardless of the angle someone has on the topic).
  • There was another Sokal Hoax, although I think everybody's too exhausted by national politics to pay it much mind. Or perhaps people already know/feel (YMMV) that those fields are already not credible.
  • The source code to MS-DOS (1.x and 2.x) was recently released on Github, and Apple LOGO as well. Lots of memories involved in both for me.
  • This is a great and creepy science story about a monster black hole. Sometimes I like to read about gigantic stars and other weird stellar objects. Despite some gut fear.
  • On Strumia's talk on Physics and women: In this case while I don't feel I have enough information to judge the case entirely, I am leaning against seeing Alessandro Strumia's talk as acceptable, primarily because it raises doubts in terms of whether he would treat both genders the same in the workplace in terms of career advancement. I don't mind offense, but damaging reasonable belief that the dry mechanics of the workplace will focus on individual merit rather than extraneous factors (even if there is a difference in the means of populations of scientists, which is itself a scientific question that I don't know the answer to but also don't much care about) is not acceptable. I would need to see the slides to know for sure if that's the case though.
  • When I first read this I was deeply surprised, although then I read they were talking about client code rather than the internal rSERVER monorepo for server-side code. Still an impressive feat.
The Deep Space Nine retrospective movie (which I kickstarter'd at a fairly high funding level) is seeing its funder's release this Sunday. Super looking forward to that. I've been having a lot of bad migraines recently on the weekend recently - worse than normal. Hoping that doesn't interfere.