Blog: Strapping on the old arms

Strapping on the old arms
Strapping on the old arms
Date: 2019-Jan-24 03:57:20 EST

While I still am not good at maintaining nonprofessional social ties, I've recently been plumbing some dormant past professional ties to get a bit more motion in my life. And it's working out pretty well. Recently I had dinner with Prof Chandra from my undergrad (one of the people in the AI lab I worked in, with whom I always had great conversations) and it was fantastic. Trying to set up a meal with someone I knew at Dropbox, and at work I'm going to a games night tomorrow that I'm looking forward to. With one of my sisters coming down to NYC this weekend it's feeling a little busy and I need to make sure I'm not overwhelmed by not enough quiet, but I'm at least getting my social needs throughly met. I wish managing this were not so hard; if I didn't need people at all, my introversion would feel more a neutral trait and less something to manage. But alas, we can't control our circumstances.

I usually try not to go too deep into political discussions at work, but today I had a rare open discussion on activism and politics; one person I work closely with is pretty heavy into critical-theory-flavoured activism and we had some back-and-forth on that. Largely, I'm bothered at the self-satisfied way that flavour of liberalism tends to embrace, and don't want to see that thought-pattern grow in the world. Although, to put it in context, I feel that way about a *lot* of perspectives, and I don't want to let it get in the way of good workplace relations (and generally am ok with it in friends although I'd probably prod at it if they tried to control our discourse; at work I won't but in other areas I lay all my views right out there).

Onboarding someone new this week at work. I love it. His role isn't meant to parallel mine, but at least in a lot of areas I expect him to pick up some of the things I know exclusively, and add some of the things he has that nobody else on the project has. Plus I love teaching, even very informally. Maybe better to say that I love conveying information. When I was younger I used to be a lot more proprietary on information, but I'm well over that now, to the point that my former view on the topic is now one I despise. Helps to have seen the end result of that in another pretty terrible coworker.

Some takes:

  • Seeing advertisers come to face the idea that nobody likes seeing ads is strange - they never seem to fully accept it (maybe for personal-perspective-on-their-lives reasons). It seems obvious to me - if content is actually decent, whether TV or a website, nobody wants to get distractions from it to see someone peddling something instead. There's no getting around that.
  • A nice obituary for LiveJournal
  • I disagree with Leslie Jones's take on the next Ghostbusters sequel. The one she was involved with was not well-received, it reportedly smelled like activism, and it was a reboot. All that is not that important though - I feel people should reach peace with the nature of stories and series - a given story doesn't have a true form, and different authors will construct their own canons and include or exclude various media in that, whether in official media or not. No individual work or story element is guaranteed a spot across everybody's version of a story. I know that I've talked about how in my view, Doctor Who ended with the 7th Doctor, at the end of the "Survival" episode. I felt the movie some years after that broke with continuity too hard and the remake series felt different, so I never accepted them. That's fine, but I don't demand others follow me on that, and I feel they'd be wrong to demand I do - would amount to thoughtcrime. I'm not suggesting these things be exempt from criticism (we should be comfortable criticising what we like), but rather that such criticism should not generally be taken seriously.
  • On a similar note, this criticism may be entirely accurate but it doesn't matter in that there is not a duty in creation of games and books to cover history accurately if they're not trying or claiming to do history. This is as true for things set in worlds close to the real world as for things quite different.
  • Recently got the chance on twitter to talk about how moral elevation cannot be an entirely individual pursuit - being dramatically more principled than everyone else around is a recipe to lose big. To advance against selfishness/paranoia, society must slowly advance and build trust in its members in the new rules. And any serious regression that's left unpunished can undo decades of this advance. I don't mean in this to reduce moral change to a single dimension, and it is not always the case that this kind of advance is positive, but I believe that on a very rough scale, and in the long view it often is
  • I saw this post on the use of tar in filesystem images and significantly disagree with it on subjective matters and feel it's history is somewhat lacking. A few quick points (was thinking of doing a long-form rebuttal, but I won't have time to do that for awhile) - first, let's just talk about gnu tar and not worry about the other variants. Second, the lack of deduping in it helps keep archive size more consistent and avoids COW expansions. Third, bit-for-bit reproducibility is actually a bad idea and file ordering should not be forced towards that unhealthy metric. Fourth, representing deleted files is a failure of the layering technology, not of tar. It should be handled in metadata for each archive (make a json file that never lands in the unpack target, problem solved). And finally, tar is a nice format that's not specific to the end, so it's easier to build tooling around it and a good blocker from excessively specific solutions. It should be kept.
  • A past conversation on doubting maths, from probably about 12 years ago - person I was speaking with was a platonist (I don't think he knew the terms, but believed maths are transcendant truths). I expressed my view that maths are an invention that came about through practical needs and that we should doubt them. He made the argument at the time that if I look at any single step in maths and apply doubt to it, only being 99 percent certain of the results, the doubts should multiply and eventually accumulate to complete disbelief. My argument of now against that is to suggest that applying even small amounts of doubt to maths acts more like a multiplier over the entire enterprise, like a factored-out coefficient. Or alternatively to just think of that doubt not itself acting mathematical at all (he probably would reject that as an idea given what I recall of his views). I didn't make the argument at the time though, and regret it.
  • I am less comfortable with the ACLU these days as its become far more partisian, but it's not entirely changed so much as infected. I'm happy to see articles like this as well as what they're reporting on. It's surprising and unfortunate to me that the response to undercover reporting leading to food recalls was to ban the investigative journalism that led to the public discovery to begin with. I wish more fuss had been made over that law and its sponsors, rather than us relying on courts to fix it.
  • I like this take on free speech in Jacobin
  • I think it's unacceptable for our civil oversight to demand that essential workers continue their jobs while they're not being paid. We're seeing government at its worst because of the President, but these defects were there all along, unexercised. I hope we fix them.
  • There's a lot of good in this criticism of the Drake equation, but I think it goes too far; efforts to quantify the unknown this way are flawed but they're better than nothing, and some of their faults can be mitigated by discussing particular points that are raised and suggesting alternatives. I wouldn't defend the Drake Equation exactly as stated, but rather that style of reasoning. Author doesn't actually offer an alternative, which wouldn't be a problem if these ways of thinking were useless, but they're not. If we apply them to our daily lives, we can begin to map things we don't know for sure in the same way.