Blog: Demand, Duty, and Gift

Demand, Duty, and Gift
Demand, Duty, and Gift
Date: 2020-Feb-09 23:36:13 EST

On a longer subway ride recently, one of the rare ones where I had managed to get a seat, I was thinking about recent and past rides and times where I've given up my seat. In particular, there are times when I've decided (based on someone being old or having trouble standing) to do so, other times where I've done so due to some existing subway policy for doing so for some classes of people, and the rare circumstances where someone has demanded that of me absent such a policy (sometimes I've complied, often I have not). There have been times in that last category where a polite request or even had I noticed someone wanted the seat I may have offered, but the demand so put me off that my willingness dissolved. A lot of this comes down to attitude and the expressed reason. This got me thinking of both the appropriate direction of expressed gratitude, and about more general times in society where we may give things up for others. I don't believe in voluntarism to the extent that all such exchanges must be voluntary, and largely believe in norms/rules, but there is something lost when those dominate these topics.

Politically, these have been infuriating times; our governmental norms are probably weaker than they've ever been as the legislative and executive branches are captured and transformed into tools of advantage for our current POTUS. Recently read an article comparing this to Chavez's rise to power. And as usual, I am frustrated that some parts of the left would be happy to commit these sins themselves had they the power, even though right now this failure is because of corruption on the right. And some people call this realisation - that human political flaws are not unique to one side of the divide - to be both-sides-ism.

Hoping to volunteer with a debate organisation that's trying to raise the level of discourse in American society. Not sure they can use someone like me productively, as I'm easily socially exhausted, but perhaps. Brought it up with one of their organisers at the last debate. Will bring it up again at the next.

I've been preparing to "pass the torch" a bit more directly, by having an intern this summer. Not that I'm ready to retire or anything, but mentoring feels like a good deed that I haven't done enough of recently. I am very impressed with my top five choices and have been having the needed conversations to make it happen. Looking forward to it; I know it's a lot of work, but people invested time in me (many of whom are retired now). This is one way we build continuity with the whole of human civilisation.

A few thoughts on a lot of things:

  • I'm bothered to see Luddite laws restricting business efforts to avoid trafficking in cash in The City. I can empathise with the intent, but (just like with voter ID laws) surely there's another way to do this that involves solving the underlying problem (such as making cash-backed cards easy to get) rather than banning modernisation.
  • I never thought about the electronic waste angle to device chargers before, but it's a solid one. I am cautiously optimistic about EU regulations pushing electronic device manufacturers to use USB-C as a charging standard. In my view, the main hazard to this is that ten years down the line the power standard will be seen as antiquated. The best way to deal with that probably would be to have this bill structured to be replaced on a periodic basis with updated (still physically compatible for at least a long window) specs, to avoid cementing this longer-term, and also somehow to leave enough of a window open for new innovation that new standards can come about.
  • I've long found the term Queer to be confusing, largely because no two people I've met seem to have compatible definitions. Jamil's usage here has started many more internet conversations to this effect, and in one of them I saw the usual thing of someone "teaching" others their definition as if it were objectively true. Except they actually seemed to have two distinct definitions without realising it, that came out in a longer conversational thread with someone else. Always strange. I'm glad that I can explain my bisexuality much more simply - potential attraction to both genders.
  • It's interesting to see meat lobbyists going after the fake meat industry. I find it more amusing than anything else, as those lobbyists already have negligible credibility. I broadly support the mission of Impossible Foods, and in the long run I think they'll do the environment a lot of good.
  • Among all the nutty stuff done to address shortcomings in our immigration system, I think restricting citizenship tourism is a sensible one. In the end I don't support birthright citizenship in its current form (I think permanent residency of one parent should be a requirement), but this seems like a sensible way to achieve some of the desired ends.
  • I think Seattle's recent revamp of its educational system that will (at least as a side effect) dismantle its gifted programme is a terrible mistake. As a past member of one of those programmes who also had a few classes with people outside of it, I found the latter to be terribly distracting. Beyond that, I think such a removal would lessen our ability to move ahead at a much faster pace on topics where we could, which in the end harms society.
  • Recently I heard of Guerino Mazzola, who does computational analysis of music, in a way where I've been wondering if it exists for atime. Looking forward to reading some of his works in the next few months.