Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
In a Slack community I frequent someone posted a link on Exponential growth is messing with our minds - Kevin Drum, including an example of filling Lake Michigan with double the number of drops every day.
There's this chestnut:
In a pond, there is a growth of algae. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 23 days for the growth to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the algae to cover half of the lake?and the surprising answer is "22 days" (the riddle phrasing does a good job of redirection)
But I think things like that are artificial thought experiments. Sort of like how square- and cube-laws means all creatures can't readily grown into much larger (and often seemingly evolutionary advantageous) sizes. I am not a biologist but I suspect algae patch growth is constrained by the linear 'surface area' of where the edge of the patch has non-covered water to grow into (In the Lake Michigan example, a 70 year lake filling project is actually half done on Tuesday and then done on Wednesday and that is clearly not a plausible volume of water to move in in a day)
We don't know what the constraints on tech growth are. I do know my phone in 2023 is much less different than my phone in 2013 then my 2013 was to 2003. Ditto my laptop and gaming system- but then again I remember frustrating years in the 90s where my PC would absolutely need a refresh every year or two in order to play recent games. And we might be well closer to that "90s PC" part of the curve for some of our AI techniques, and disruption will result.
Lately I've been thinking there's roughly similar shenanigans with a lot of thought experiments, specifically the trolley problem (and then that one where saying of course you'd jump into a pond to save a kid even if it ruined your nice shoes, but since we all haven't turned our personal finances into charity foundations we're hypocrites.) Like, the trolley problem says "if you take action, these people will die, if you don't take action this greater number of people will die" but I think it blows through one of the defining aspects of the real world - the certain uncertainty we face all the time. You so rarely face examples so crisply defined "1 person will die, 5 people will die". Instead it's like "if I wear a mask, I'm a certain amount less likely to catch COVID, and if enough people don't, this many hundred thousands of seniors will die, but some of them would have died anyway" etc etc etc
So many aspects of cultural norms that seem bizarre when you think about them too much (like human's intense tribalism) make sense when you realize they are examples of iterated behavior over time in a world that always carries a lot of unknowns.
an ok joke but what a picture!
Do ladies love stupid men or do they just love men who don't exhaust every opportunity to feel smart [...] "I used to think that melancholy was a vegetable" that's incredible, let's hang out more
I hope seeing Trump naked was not for nothing.
March 21, 2023
"I always feel like I was lucky. I got to a point where all my answers--rock and roll answers--were running out. All the old things stopped working--as they should've and as they have to, and as time and the worlds and the way it is demands and dictates, in order for you to go on. They run dry, not as a joyous thing in and of itself, but as some sort of shelter for your inability to take your place in the world, whatever that may be. That's when either you recognize that that's happening or you don't and you continue with your trappings and your ceremony, whatever that may be, and slowly you just get strangled to death and you die. You just die."
"I remember, growing up, at night, and my dad would sit in the kitchen with all the lights out and he waited for me to come in, and he'd sit there and drink, and I'd stand in the driveway and I'd look into his screen door, and I could see the light of a cigarette, and then I'd rush up on the porch and try to get by him but he'd always call me back. And it was like he was always... always angry. Always mad. He'd be sitting there thinking about everything that he was never gonna have, until... until he'd get me thinking like that too. And I'd lay up in my bed, at night, and be staring at the ceiling, and I'd feel like if something didn't happen, if something didn't happen soon, it felt like I was just gonna... like some day, like I was just gonna..."
"And at certain moments time is obliterated in the presence of somebody you love; there seems to be a transcendence of time in love. Or I believe that there is. I carry a lot of people with me that aren't here anymore. And so love transcends time. The normal markers of the day, the month, the year, as you get older those very fearsome markers... in the presence of love - they lose some of their power. But it also deals with the deterioration of your physical body. It drifts away, it's just a part of your life. But beauty remains. It's about two people and you visit that place in each other's face. Not just the past and today, but you visit the tomorrows in that person's face now. And everybody knows what that holds."
"There is nothing like the sea at night when the water is slightly warmer than the air, even though the air is humid after a 95 degree day... God, I love swimming at night. It is all darkness and mystery. It is the void and it must be done naked. Clothes at the waterline, please. Do this, and my pilgrim, you will become cleansed. Never will the evening air, or a kiss on the beach, or a dry towel, ever feel so good again. The walk to the car will be filled with starlit grace and you will never forget it. Once you hit the water, you will be covered in the blossoming beauty of your youth no matter how old you are and whoever you're with, you will always remember them."
"Now those whose love we wanted but didn't get, we emulate them. That's the only way we have, in our power, to get the closeness and love that we needed and desired. So when I was a young man looking for a voice to meld with mine, to sing my songs and to tell my stories, well I chose my father's voice. Because there was something sacred in it to me. And when I went looking for something to wear, I put on a factory's worker's clothes, because they were my dad's clothes. And all we know about manhood is what we have seen and what we have learned from our fathers, and my father was my hero. And my greatest foe. Not long after he died, I had this dream, I'm on stage, I'm in front of thousands of people, and my dad's back from the dead and he's sitting in the audience and suddenly I'm kneeling next to him in the aisle, and for a moment we both watched the man on fire on stage. And then my dad who for years, he sat at the kitchen table, unreachable, but I was too young, I was too stupid to understand was his depression. Well I kneel next to him in the aisle, and I brush his forearm, and I say, "Look dad. That guy on stage – that's how I see you."
"I used to, uh, I had this habit for a long time. I would get in my car and I would drive back through my old neighborhood, back to the town that I grew up in. And I'd always drive past the old houses that I used to live in. Sometimes late at night ... when I used to be up at night. And I got so I would do it really regularly ... two, three, four times a week, for years. And I eventually got to wonderin', What the hell am I doin'? And so, I went to see this psychiatrist, and, uh – this is true – and I sat down and I said, 'Doc, for years I've been getting in my car and I drive back to my town and I pass my houses late at night and, y'know, what am I doing?' And he said, 'I want you to tell me what you think that you're doing.' So I go, 'That's what I'm paying you for.' So he says, 'Well, what you're doing is that something bad happened, and you're goin' back there, thinkin' you can make it right again. Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it, or somehow make it right.' And I sat there and I said, 'That is what I'm doing.' And he said, 'Well, you can't."
This weekend Cora came up and we hung out with Melissa's nieces, did a climbing gym, played some Lego, then today we went to the Stone Zoo.
Open Photo Gallery
Once again I've been thinking a little bit about how in a lot of places "vulnerability" and "openness" are conflated, while for me they're on a see-saw...
I.e. (for me) I don't feel very "vulnerable", I am confident in my ability to muddle through nearly anything, and so I'm willing to be "open" and talk about nearly everything, and be frank about how I feel about things. So the more vulnerable, the less open, and vice versa.
Hm. I guess it's because... well, maybe I feel things less, then? Or rather I'm less driven by my instinctual preferences than a lot of people. I know "I feel things less" sounds awful and robotic, but being able to have some say in what instinctive emotions seem likely to serve me -- which emotional interpretations are well-aligned with SHARED reality and so can be given room to grow from seedling to strong plant, vs what instinctive emotions don't seem in my best interest and should be broken up as a seed -- is good for me.
So I could imagine if I was less adept at curating emotions early, if my only option was to build a macho firewall facade around a raging flame of sadness or anger or whatever, then I would see how vulnerability and openness were more related. But I don't rage like that! (At least not often) And so I'm willing to talk about anything with great candor. (Though I think Joel's damning line to Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - "Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.")
(I was thinking too about once place I might be very vulnerable - I'm compulsive about Not Being Wrong. I don't have to be Right, for sure, but I have to express my uncertainty in no uncertain terms. This can lead to me being less clear and hard to follow, like when I start off with the disclaimer: "i know their might be competing views of this, and here's what they are, but I think the correct view is _____". All the disclaimers are absolutely a defense mechanism for this core vulnerability - so maybe I'm less "open" in that way.)
"I'll do it perfectly or I don't do it."
"Mike are you familiar with the saying 'perfect is the enemy of good'?"
"'Not good enough' is the enemy of humanity"
You either come to realise what an idiot you used to be, or you remain as that idiot
Everything you see, is a solution to a problem. Once you learn what the problem was, you will gain wisdom.
The last 50 years of GOP misconduct:
* Plotting to extend Iran hostage crisis
* Secret arms deal w Iran
* Illegal funding of Nicaragua rebels
* Brooks Brothers Riot to sabotage 2000 FL recount
* Lying about Iraq WMD to start war
* Attempted coup after 2020 election
Brutalism is when there's concrete. The more conk they crete, the more brutalismer it is.
March 17, 2023
Here's to God Almighty, the laziest man in town.
I am now moved to suppose, with my primitive understanding of economics, that every successful government is of necessity a Ponzi scheme.
"Money is so strange," she said.
"Does it make any sense to you?"
"No," I said. "The people who've got it, and the people who don't--" she mused. "I don't think anybody understands what's really going on."
"Some people must," I said.
I no longer believe that. I will say further, as an officer of an enormous international conglomerate, that nobody who is doing well in this economy ever even wonders what is really going on.
"You inconceivable twerp," she said. Most of the speeches in this book are necessarily fuzzy reconstructions--but when I assert that Sarah Wyatt called me an "inconceivable twerp," that is exactly what she said.
To give an extra dimension to the scolding she gave me: The word "twerp" was freshly coined in those days, and had a specific definition--it was a person, if I may be forgiven, who bit the bubbles of his own farts in a bathtub.
"You unbelievable jerk," she said. A "jerk" was a person who masturbated too much. She knew that. She knew all those things.
Two top drawers in the dresser easily accepted all I owned, but I looked into all the other drawers anyway. Thus I discovered that the bottom drawer contained seven incomplete clarinets--without cases, mouthpieces, or bells.
Life is like that sometimes.
"What is the difference between an enzyme and a hormone? [...] You can't hear an enzyme"Jokes play an important role in the main character's relationship with Sarah, a tall college girlfriend. One minor theme is how their relationships was based on jokes and it replaced regular intimacy, maybe because physical intimacy seemed so ridiculous. Somehow that struck home for me.
SHE: How dare you kiss me like that?
HE: I was just trying to find out who ate all the macaroons.
He actually said one time, "Working for Mrs. Graham has been a religious experience for me. I was adrift, no matter how much money I was making. My life had no purpose until I became president of RAMJAC and placed myself at her beck and call."
All happiness is religious, I have to think sometimes.
We are here for no purpose, unless we can invent one. Of that I am sure.
"I want to thank you for hugging me," she said.Oof. With that last one... Hume wrote "Reason Is and Ought Only to Be the Slave of the Passions" and for a lot of people that's more or less how it works; the subjective emotional experience leads, and reason comes up with ideas to help those desires and justifies our impulsive actions after the fact. But for people like me... like, our feelings are grown in a controlled greenhouse, not a natural garden, and we are gardeners compelled to nurture some feelings and leave others to wither on the vine, all based on what seems to be the greater good, rather than springing from the mysterious soil of personal preference.
"Any time," I said.
"Once a day is enough," she said. "I've had my hug today."
"You were the first woman I ever really made love to," I said. "Do you remember that?"
"I remember the hugs," she said. "I remember you said you loved me. No man had ever said that to me before. My mother used to say it to me a lot--before she died."
I was starting to cry again.
"I know you never meant it," she said.
"I did, I did," I protested. "Oh, my God--I did."
"It's all right," she said. "You couldn't help it that you were born without a heart. At least you tried to believe what the people with hearts believed--so you were a good man just the same."
Sometimes when people say "woke" they mean "liberals being self-righteous and vicious about trivial things" and sometimes they mean "integration," or "civil rights laws" or "black people on television" and it's convenient not to have to explain what you actually mean.