October 23, 2017

My eyes still seem to be in pretty good shape, without much of a change of prescription for decades. But sometimes it still feels relaxing to use cmd-+ to bump up web zoom. Tough not to have a weird vanity about that. Wonder what year I'll tell my iphone to make everything big as well...
Tark carefully pounded the counter. "There used to be a time," he said, "when gun dealers would actually sell people guns! A time . . . called America. I miss that time."
--Tark the Dinosaur, in Leonard Richardson's Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs. About humanoid dinosaurs who have been hiding out on Mars and are now back to race motorbikes professionally. (The other great exchange: INTERVIEWER: How intelligent are dinosaurs? DINOSAUR RACER: We're probably not going to win any prizes, but if you think about it, neither are you.) Tark is the one character I've ever cos-played as.

October 22, 2017tuba

JP Honk played the wedding of Lilia + Jason yesterday at the arboretum...

never let the sousaphone player alone with his horn and the rest of the champagne, tho (photo by Candace)
let the girls be funny
Justin Timberlake is going to do the superbowl halftime. Haven't been paying too much attention to the interview coverage they had, but I didn't notice them mentioning "nipplegate" so much. The nipple shield in the room, so to speak.
Because of fog they're broadcasting the Pats game with a lot of low, behind the QB angles rather than the usual high up views from the sideline... it's pretty awesome! Not only is it more visceral but you can see where the receivers are running. I wonder why NFL broadcasters don't use it more often.

October 21, 2017ramble

Thoughts from the Therapist... lately I haven't been going often, but one incidental impression I got from Irvin Yalom's "Staring at the Sun" is that there isn't one correct schedule for therapy. A year or two ago when I realized my once-a-week course was more than I needed, I leaned more towards dropping the whole thing - since then I've been doing the very occasional check-in session but with a sense of "I'm not doing this right". The session I had this past Monday was helpful, both because of the dialog with my therapist Terry Hunt and then how further reflections helped me get my own thoughts and feelings in more order.

For one thing, I can admit to myself that I look to my therapist for a kind of paternalistic approval - given that my dad died when I was 14, I guess I can be gentle with myself for desiring that, even if I guess therapy means it's a rent-a-dad kind of situation. Terry expresses a lot of enthusiasm for my way of looking at the world and my projects, and that means a lot to me. (Sometimes he lets me talk, almost too much - I was rambling on, and then he made a good point, and I had to stop him from encouraging me to continue the rambling because I wanted to absorb and sit with the point he had just made.) (Also, after seeing those old home videos I think they have similar voices, but that might just be coincidence.)

At the session, and after reading "The Righteous Mind", I realize that my "elephant" (i.e. what really drives and motivates me, vs the usual inner-voice conscious self as the elephant's rider) is the need to be a certain kind of Righteous - the righteousness of being 100% reliable and in accord with Objective, Unassailable Truth. Or at least 100% reliable in notating how unreliable I am... someone (including myself) being wrong about facts but still speaking with absolute authority is my vision of original sin. And parlaying judgements and interpretations into "facts" is similarly terrible. (Getting back to the elephant-rider metaphor, this puts me in the oddly circular position of my emotional motivation being making sure my intellectual self can fully justify the emotional motivation.)

What that tells me is I need to get away from a sense of absolutes. Intellectually I believe that if you really seek a true absolute, all you can find is the objective goalessness of the physical universe. To quote Peter Gay: "Since God is silent, man is his own master; he must live in a disenchanted world, submit everything to criticism, and make his own way." Existential philosophies point a way of living with this, and it's a fraught path.

But the way I've lived is assuming other absolutes. Every control dial setting I have "has to" make sense if you turn it up to 11. When I was religious, I had to be totally reliably religious. My attempt to live that sunday school way, while seeing religious peers drinking (besides the underage factor, my church is tee-totaling) and partying and fooling around in high school kind of busted my sense of lived faith. (I mean, I was fooling around a little myself, but at least I was feeling guilty about it.) Combined with how the world was full of so many other religions, it made the Absolute Objective Truthness of what I had been believing untenable.

Besides being a product of my own neuroses, I think this reflects my upbringing in Western culture. Some Eastern outlooks I admire embrace moderation as a virtue in and of itself, but it's not a point of emphasis for the Evangelical Christian culture I was swimming. (My upbringing wasn't fundamentalist, but I see how a need for being Objectively Unassailably True is why we have young earth Creationists etc... in the West, God is often all about being The Ultimate, the complete, the total, all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, all-turned-up-to-11. We forget that there are other ways to interpret Him - how if you go back to the Old Testament you see a God who is sometimes all too human, almost petulant. The author Karen Armstrong does a good job of explaining how the Trinity covers a lot of old bases, from the unknowable, ineffable "Sky God" to the much more human types we see walking around Mount Olympus etc.)


So now I'm thinking of this in terms of pleasure, my own enjoyment. Now I've hardly been an ascetic monk, but I rarely have a sense of permission to say "I'm not going to do this because I don't WANT to do this." - that I'm refraining because there's no pleasure in it for me. I mean, if you had the "pleasure justification dial" set at 2 or 3, what Objectively True rationalization was there for not cranking it up 11? But what the existential stance tells me is: I don't have to dial it up because I choose not to. But I can also choose not to keep at its lowest settings without having to assume I'll become a pure hedonist or junkie or whatever. It can live at a healthy medium-high setting in balance with the other dials of responsibility and life in general.

Realizing that has led me live more pleasurably, and more appreciate the loveliness and ease of my privileged life, and better apply philosophies to better cope with the unpleasant parts.

My erstwhile arguing companion EB pointed accusingly to my roots as the child of Salvation Army ministers (an organization that tells its clergy where to live and what to do, and for them goes well beyond a normal 9-5 job)- he was convinced I imbibed the early lesson that I wasn't as worthy of attention as the charity cases they were helping, and that's where my sense of self-sacrifice came from. He was rather off base - he thought that my scene was a lot closer to communal living than it actually was. (Salvation Army Officer Kid family life is reasonably firewalled from the running of the church, despite the "having to change towns every couple of years" aspect). Still there might be something in seeing my current self rooted in my early family situation- Especially combined with a mom with an in-family reputation of a kind of stalwart "martyrdom" that I may have internalized as well. (Her younger sister nicknamed her "Betty the Good")

"Martyrdom" is an overly jocular and loose way of putting it, but I absolutely live with a sense of judging the cost/benefit of everything in a group, communal way - if I can make a small sacrifice that makes a larger difference to someone else, I feel morally obliged to make that sacrifice, regardless of the fact that I am me, and they are them. It's not absolute, and I'm hardly wearing scraps and bankrupting myself to give give give to charity, but it does drive me in a lot of ways.

So seeking to balance my maternally-derived "martyrdom" - a close friend of my dad's once told me (meeting with him years after my dad's death) that my dad had an especially well-developed sense of pleasure and delight. The short of this all is, I want to cultivate more of that in me.

(Some of my closest friends wrestle with depression, and my sense is some of the issue is that their knack of simple enjoyment and pleasure is tamped down, so sometimes I worry I can't give them good sympathy or empathy. I don't know how much the kind of mindfulness I'm suggesting here can help them, but I guess it's better than nothing.)
"I think I expected more babies, from the title"
--Liz after watching Baby Driver... great flick! Like a less gross and violent Tarantino at his most stylized but with much better music.
"I do not produce thoughts, thoughts produce me."
--Julian Barnes, "Nothing to be Frightened Of". Listened to it on audiobook, after reading it and finding some great quotes by the author and from others in 2009

October 20, 2017

Huh - Google's Pixel 2 does Shazam/Soundhound style audio fingerprinting locally? And that db for that is only half a GB? I never would have suspected the numbers were like that (even knowing factoids how like a simple formula "does the subsequent note in series go up or down, note by note makes a unique key for melodies in a surprisingly small number of notes")

October 19, 2017

Make the rounds is how MA (and about 20 other states) aren't in compliance with the "REAL ID" act

3 thoughts:

1. That state compliance map looks a lot like the red/blue split

2. I wonder what MA IDs are lacking feature wise

3. In trying to find out "2" I ran into
New applicants for identification would also have to obtain a "Real ID" compliant card, which would be marked with a yellow star and require applicants to prove their full legal name, date of birth, residence in Massachusetts and provide a verifiable birth certificate, Social Security number or other proof of lawful residence.
marked with a yellow star, huh? Superb optics there.
In the back room Melissa and I use as an office and my dressing room, I replaced a boring (and too small) IKEA chest-of-drawers with big ol' IKEA KALLAX (formerly "EXPEDIT", more or less) blocks.

It's funny how IKEA, clean Scandinavian design seem timeless to me. I remember looking at IKEA catalogs in the 80s and to the best of my recollection that stuff was pretty much like the stuff we have today. And even though interior design has never really been my jam, I remember being fascinated with those IKEA catalogs, along with "The New House Book". Or maybe it's just a matter of timing? Like, just how the Gap sort of permaset middlebrow clothing into a semi-aspirational, khakis look, maybe after the 70s things have just been largely settled.

Or maybe it's demographic? As officers in The Salvation Army, my parents were generally assigned pre-furnished houses or apartments ("Quarters")... at one time when they had a rare opportunity to buy all new furnishings, they went the "clean Scandanavian look". Reports were that the Officers who lived there after HATED that, and generally let everything go to crap so they could replace it with classic Colonial...

I suppose to people who like that Colonial look, IKEA stuff just looks cheap (and it can be... I mean there's no way it was meant to be moved around from apartment to apartment in the way Americans use it) and dorm-ish, while the Colonial stuff is true class... not stodgy and boring as it seems to me. As usual, I suspect a red/blue split on that, and correlations with politics etc.
The 7 Deadly sins of AI prediction, or why the robots ain't coming. As impressed as I am by Watson's success in Jeopardy, say, it's not clear that at any electronic mind is really doing a great job of modeling the relationship between things.

October 18, 2017ramble

I just listened to "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt. (audiobook- I still so miss having time to sit and read.) His project is to try and help liberals and conservatives understand each other a bit better.

The author starts with the elephant/rider metaphor he presented in "The Happiness Hypothesis" - the elephant is our big emotional/intuitive self, the rider is our conscious, our narrator self that can kind of guide the elephant, a bit, but isn't providing the motive force and in fact is mostly just making up post facto rationalizations for decisions that the elephant has already made.

I mentioned this to my therapist who I saw for the first time in a while last night, and tried to make the elephant metaphor jive with my self-image of a guy who has an above-average seeking of objective truth, even at the cost of having to withhold value judgement - sometimes, even without being able to state a simple fact ("your keys are on the counter") without disclaimer framing ("I think your keys are on the counter").

At first I thought that meant my elephant was better cajoled by my rider, cowed into submission, but another way of thinking about it is that my elephant is driven by the need for being unfaultable and therefore righteous. Being that kind of correct is somehow one of the most critical things of my sense of self. (This need is what caused me to lose my religious faith - the preponderance of other religions being a sign that my faith system didn't have the quality of uniqueness that was necessary for being True, and that my being in the church I grew up in, while other people were in the religion they grew up in, was also "suspicious") My elephant - or I guess it's the rider talking -
doesn't quite get that other people's elephants don't feel the same, and how value judgement flow so freely all over the discursive landscape.

So, back to the book. The book lays out Moral Foundations Theory - first the 5 the author originally indentified (Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity) and then a 6th to explain Libertarianism, and how it is distinct both from Liberalism (as the term is used in US) and Conservatism. Haidt argues Liberals put most of the weight in Care and Fairness, while Conservatives have a more even spread over the 5. This gives conservatives politicians some advantages, as they have more "hooks" for their audience. I guess some of that rings true to me, as a guy who leans liberal - Authority and Sanctity for their own sake alone, elevated to a moral good, seems foreign to me. (Huh - though I guess I might have a big emphasis to "Loyalty", at least on the local level, since being reliable and dependable is critical to my self-image.)

The author used a lot of thought experiment questionnaires to get at what people's elephants were really thinking, and to artificially provoke people's riders to scramble to explain why the elephant finds something repulsive even when no one is coming to harm. One example was about sibling incest; it squicks most people and they will call it wrong, even if the story deals with all of the surface objections (the brother and sister described love each other, it will deepen their relationship, they keep it a secret, and they are perfectly careful with birth control.) But a series of this and similar taboo-probing questions made me realize how phoney and artificial the stories are. They presume an isolation that doesn't exist in the real world - the siblings in the story might be found out, and they will have to live in a world that judges them harshly, and so keep their feelings hidden forever - a psychological burden for anyone! So you can't even say there's no pragmatic harm that's done. Similarly, many psychology lab experiments along the lines of "do you want $20 now or $30 in a month" presume perfect trustworthiness and stability of the system the test itself is in, which is just nonsense. We have brains designed to deal with a messy uncertain world, and just because it's easier for the experiment to claim total reliability so the test can be run free of noise, that doesn't mean people are irrational when they don't fully believe the experimenter.

Also the book was needlessly harsh on meme theory. The author gets kind of loose with his arguments - he points to the (widely accepted) similarity between memes and viruses, but then states meme-proponents would say that viruses (including "mind viruses" like religion) should be flushed out and removed like any flu or cold virus. I think most sophisticated meme-proponents would say, look, we're walking biospheres with countless "other" critters making the flora of our gut and elsewhere - religion might (or might not) be one of those helpful ones, and the presumption that all memes are bad for us is preposterous, whether or not you think it's useful to see memes as pursuing their own reproductive agenda.

In the end I appreciate Haidt's attempt to reconcile and appreciate what both Conservative and Liberals bring to the culture, but I think he's a little too kind to Conservatives. There are tough-to-reconcile contradictions with the Conservative "foundations" of sanctity and authority with diverse cultures (again the same contradiction that drove me from evangelical Christianity). I would say that he shows why Liberals need to wave the flag more and emphasize the E Pluribus Unum, and how being a real American is accepting the diversity. But all those diverse groups also need to signal their affection for that greater group project.

At the risk of digging myself into a bigger hole - there was a politician or public figure (wish I could remember who) who got ripped a while back for some naive statement saying (roughly) how all the different groups had different strengths, how like the Chinese or Japanese can put a television set in a watch, how the Puerto Ricans have strong family structure and can put a whole family in an apartment, etc - and I mostly understand why he was so ripped into, that those "strengths" aren't equally appreciated, in fact having to put a family in an apartment is not really good thing on different levels, and how its harshly and idiotically reductionist to put wide groups in stereotype boxes. I guess the thing is humans rate and judge everything. We seem to have a need not just that things be different, but rated as better or worse. (Smart people do this with smarts. It's all too easy to start to conflate smarts with human worth! While it's important to foster smarts in a community to make certain types of progress, that needs to be put in balance with many other concerns for the human project.) I think it's a reflexive defense against the implied "hierarchy of worthiness" that causes us liberals to rise so strongly against that kind of stereotypes, rather than the point that when you paint with a broad brush you're going to get many individuals labeled incorrectly (and also that many brushes are suspect because they DO come labeled with value judgements)
Another example of thought experiments I find false in the presumption of perfect, trustworthy knowledge: the trolley problem.
A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?
At its heart the question is meant to point out how passiveness is different than proactive responses, how somehow we feel more responsibility for deciding to "kill" one person than "letting" 5 people die, but - c'mon. That's not how trolleys work, even in thought experiments. You're probably a lot more assured that that fat man will die than the other 5 will be saved! Or if the problem is setup so you have to throw a switch on the tracks, 1 vs 5, what kind of melodrama cliffhanger crap is that? The dilemma would more be "do you set up a posse to hunt down the evil mastermind psychology researcher who contrived to make such a weird example real and do vigilante justice or just leave it to the relevant police authorities..."
This kind of thought experiment seems parallel to the tricks Casino's bank on - artificial environments where are instinctive understanding of things are shown to work only in relative and not absolute terms.
A post on recent findings in dyslexia got me thinking about my own typos, which I sometimes think of as "pseudo-dyslexia". I put this comment on this blog article, one of the highest ranked results for "phonetic typos"...
Sorry to be commenting on such an old post, but this article has high Google juice for "phonetic typos".

My main mix up has weird phonetic swaps between existing words – especially ones that start with "m" with "b", in particular "by" for "my" and "me" for "be" (it seems an oddly bidirectional switch, either) I heard somewhere that "m" and "b" has similar "mouth feel", so I probably have some neurons wired together from way back, along with evidence my typing systems piggybacks on my speaking system.

Other ones are "numbers and the sounds they have", so I read a poster for "5th Element" that said "IT MU5T BE FOUND" as "muft" – ignoring the visual pun for the acoustic part. And my first name is Kirk, and I have something I wrote as a toddler: KI4K"

So it's infrequent enough to be a mild annoyance, though I'm trying to figure out if it's getting worse with age.
These seem distinct to me from mere homophone swaps, their vs there vs they're and its vs it's...
"Friends say President Donald Trump has grown frustrated that his greatness is not widely understood"
--Josh Dawsey in Trump gives his own performance a Trump-sized endorsement
"[Trump] weaponized [the power of positive thinking]"
--Trump Biographer Gwenda Blair, via this article

October 17, 2017

88 lines about 99 luftballoons