2018 April❮❮prevnext❯❯

four in the morning now that i'm forty four

TIL: Wislawa Szymborska, the author of of one my favorite poems Four in the Morning, is a woman. I think I had heard it read by a gruff man's voice once and assumed it was the author, and knew Eastern Europe is sometimes more free with its vowels... funny how it somewhat changes the texture of the work for me.

Anyway, this TED Talk by Rives sets up the Museum of 4 In the Morning:

I've noticed you can divide a year into 4 parts, with varying degrees and types of utility:

Similarly you can have multiple options to think of where one day starts and the next begins: I've always been for more human forms of keep timing, in the umpty-umpth age of clockwork, and well into the era of digital readout. Numbers helped the trains line up their schedules and people to arrange meetings, but besides that they're not really how humans should do time.

Some day I'll make Timish, my digital clockface that uses approximate words, a physical item and not just a javascript mockup.)

Comedy Catch Phrases that Caught.
Two things that [American Nazis] love: silence and violence.
When we're silent, sweep it under the rug, they grow.
When we're violent, they use that as a narrative.

march 2018 new music playlist

8 of the 16 songs this month were 4-star (marked in red) and then "'Til It's Over" was 5, so pretty good month! Listed in a rough descending "you gotta hear this!" order.
Man. It is really impressive that such a precise looking behavior like this could evolve. (Not as impressive/unlikely as it being designed from scratch or taught to a little spider brain tho) I wonder to what level the spider brain is modeling what it's doing - I mean it must be at least a small feedback loop, since webs have to fit various-shaped places, and so it can't be just a tape-recorder like playback of movements...

Jon Batiste's "Battle Hymn of the Republic" features in my "music I added last month" playlist, a cover recommended to me after we flashmobbed with him.

The song is such a terrific earwig, yet terribly bellicose and apocalyptic. End-times Religiosity is such a damaging outlook, I'm kind of bummed in features so prominently in this song and the staple "Saints Go Marching In"

Mark Twain wrote some parody lyrics based on American Imperialism in the Phillipines:
"Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on."

Credit Cars finally giving up the security theater of signatures. Reminds me of the (defunct) ZUG site's Credit Card Prank and Credit Card Prank II where they went to see just what stupid stuff they could pass off as a signature without a problem (SPOILER: very stupid)
I wish there was an equivalent to the "bitch you live like this?" image for boring minimalist spaces:

Interesting point. Not sure I 100% agree (in theory if you do a really good job decluttering, over time the out of sight out of mind rule might kick in once and finally you can reclaim that focus but still...)

April 3, 2018

Dreams are fascinating, and I wish I knew reliable techniques of recalling them more often. While sometimes seemingly mere flights of fancy, they can be a way for the wordless emotional brain to collaborate with the narrative self to reveal truths that would otherwise lie dormant. For instance, last night, the truth that, barring traumatic injury, you generally can't stick your toe in your own butthole.

Thank, conscious and subconscious minds! Great teamwork.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor's
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it's the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world's baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I'll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I'll take it all.
Ada Limón, Instructions on Not Giving Up, 1976

the algorithm from the inside

Our daughter's choices--like everything else--had been written in stone at the birth of the universe, but that information could only be decoded by becoming her along the way.
Greg Egan, "Singleton"
Consciousness is what running the algorithm feels like from the inside.
Scott Albertine

Scott is a former coworker - the quote is a paraphrase, and I may be drawing something slightly different than he was thinking of, but still, something like that phrasing has stuck with me all this time... we have what seems to be subjective experience and make meaningful choices, and yet are apparently marionettes in a universe governed by clockwork (if quantum-ly unpredictable) particles and energies that pull every string we possibly could have...

Of course, when we do talk about "free will", there are very different feeling levels of predeterminism - on one hand, physics-y stuff where it feels we assume that in principle a particle-level simulation of us and our local environments could recreate us and our actions entirely, and on the other hand, stuff at social and psychological levels, where we look at people's childhoods and experiences and what not, and try to pin down "could it have been otherwise?" - especially when stuff is going wrong.

April 5, 2018

Happy to see Namedecoders are still around... so clever

parade by patrick johnson

Amazing assemblage of School of Honk footage:

Parade from Patrick Johnson on Vimeo.

I think that's me doing a tuba solo at 2:35-2:50, in the footage second row left...

April 7, 2018

Hey I brought my famous one layer dip, it's mostly salsa.

On my devblog: good ux for print maps for porchfests and other many-performances events
I'm slowly getting better at acting on knowing that "it's ok to leave some bits and disclaimers and 'why I think I know this' out in order to have clearer and easier to follow conversations and email." If a topic is worth pursuing in more depth, there will be time for that after! But man, living this takes a lot of concentration and deliberate empathy.

The urge to either show off how well I know the situation, or acknowledge the validity of other view points, or just cram in every nuance on the off chance it will be useful - so forceful.
she ate the ears!!!

April 8, 2018

Was trying to think of my view that "Ok, there is Objective Truth, but it gets into Gödel Theorem territory (that in any usefully complex truth system, there will be true statements you can't actually PROVE in that system) and so you can never KNOW if you KNOW what that Truth is, and it is desperately important that you fight anyone who claims they CAN be certain about the perfectness and universality of their connection to the truth" in terms of certain pop-culture statements. In this case, it's ... antifaith. (And it has a very troubled relation with the idea of "well so we make our own Truth", because if you stray too far from that guessable Objective Truth, that's clearly bad.)

Long story short (or at least medium-length), this tattoo idea: "ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE MY POOR LIFE DECISIONS".

benj edwards knocking it out of the park

Computer Historian Benj Edwards has started a podcast The Culture of Tech. He has some amazing people on it, starting with Steve Wozniak. Only 4 episodes in, but all have been great.

I think technology without ethics is pointless. It's like creating a self-driving chainsaw that just sort of cuts down whatever it wants.
Benj Edwards interview Richard "Lord British" Garriot.
They talk a lot about Ultima IV's Virtues system, a very thoughtful philosophical system of morality that I think stands up well to most other belief systems. (Also check out the Principles and Virtues of Mandrake the Bard parody of it.)
"I read an article recently about Joyce Weisbecker who was probably the first female video game developer, and her dad was a pioneering computer scientist at RCA, and he had this interesting way of thinking about software: he compared it to a magic trick. And I kept thinking: why is it a magic trick? Why that metaphor? And I finally realized that it's because everything a computer does is an illusion, it's all just a bunch of ones and zeroes and switches, and layers and layers and layers of illusion on top of illusion. "
They're talking about upcoming technology that will make it trivial to make convincing video footage of literally any person saying literally any thing. I think Weisbecker's father made a great point - it's so easy to think of objects on screen as real. (But of course, you could sort of say the same thing about mundane matter... This isn't a pencil on my desk, it's just a bunch of atoms!) Cue Plato's world of forms etc.
"I had a 'recruiter' email me the other day, saying they really liked what they saw in one of my public github repos -- that I made one half-ass commit to like two years ago"
"man, I bet that does work fairly well if they happen to hit an actual relevant thing"
"Maybe the company he's working with is looking for someone who can churn out one half-ass commit every two years"
Robert, Me, and Jess on company Slack.
I snickered out loud.

April 10, 2018

Quick take: In my experience there's a disconnect between the tech story reporters spend the most time covering (privacy invasion) and the related tech story people are really worried about (social media and video game addiction). They're both important stories. I just never hear anyone talking about the former in real life, whereas I constantly hear people worrying about the latter.
(One of the best email newsletters out there.) I agree with his sentiment - I know I'm less sensitive to privacy than many (advertisers just wanna group you into categories! It's not like they care about you as a person, get over yourself) but it's addiction, and I'd say also the constant hammering of "if it bleeds it leads"-style propagation of the most lurid bullshit that's actually the disruption.
Cleaned out my inbox, mostly 2K+ message gmail didn't think were "Important". I'm gonna renew my effort to hit Unsubscribe... in the meanwhile pretty greatful for gmail's discernment, which is pretty darn accurate. Not sure how much privacy I gave up for that but it feels like it was worth it... (not to mention the 4K of messages representing 30 days worth of spam...)

zelda is life. maybe.

Been grinding through the new Zelda (sometimes 'til like 3AM, which isn't all that wise.)

I gave the game a shot last summer on Wii U, but it didn't stick; I got anxious and irritated with the way all weapons wear down and break, with the seemingly fiddly cooking system, with the difficulty of some of the "Test of Strength" battle shrines.

Listening to the Watch Out For Fireballs! podcast on it helped my second try on Switch go better - especially one of the casters joking how sometimes when he got to a "test of strength" he'd be like Grandpa Simpson walking into the 'burlesque house': take off his hat, see Bart at the desk, U-turn, put on his hat, exit, whistling all the while.

Historically Zelda and Metroid, with their "from chump to champ" arcs, have never resonated for me the way Mario and GTA have - the protaganist of the latter two games is, from a play-control perspective, about the same dude at the end as the beginning, and that's always felt more true to my Fixed-Mindset intuitions - new skills might be practiced but the intrinsic core is unchanging.

So right now I'm trying to parlay my enjoyment of Zelda -- the satisfaction of growing a character, returning to an area where a terrible frustrating enemy is now a cakewalk, the ok-ness of leaving a challenge alone for a long while and (maybe) coming back to it later, the games lovely sense of how there's often more than one way to do it -- into a life lesson.

For instance: Right now I'm frustrated as hell at how hard it is to apply my html-ish mojo into writing standalone apps for iphones and android devices. There's "PhoneGap" that seemed the most promising but not only has the iPhone-part of their "hello world" entry been removed from the app store, the version for Android doesn't seem to work on modern device. So it seems like probably a different approach is required, and I should come back to this later, or enlist a cheat sheet (like I do with the game), or I should try a different approach.

Of course, the Zelda-to-real-life mapping is terribly imperfect. In video games progress is quantified, consistently immediately rewarded, and back-sliding doesn't really exist... all factors missing from actual learning in life.

Anyway, fun game. Actually, startlingly gorgeous in parts, and with a does of bittersweet melancholy.

April 12, 2018

Kurt Vonnegut to his Ex-wife:
October 19, 1972
New York City

Dear Jane--

I wish you a happy birthday in confidence that, America politics aside, it really will be a happy birthday for you. At the cost of unbelievable amounts of pain, you have bought a new life and a new Jane for yourself. You have always paid your dues, and you have paid them again. We've both always paid our dues. That's honorable. I still believe in honor, although I would play hell defining it.

Now that we are through the worst of our present adventure in a world we never made, in bodies we never asked for, with heads we only dimly understand, it seems safe to say we hung on to more than most broken couples do. In a crazy way, it seems to me that we hung onto practically everything. We are not diminished.

I look forward to seeing you in November.
Much love--

April 13, 2018

Had an intense dream about getting eye-replacement surgery-- was crying with gratitude. In the dream it was practically outpatient surgery. Not sure if I should blame having to wear my backup eyeglasses yesterday or this Zuckerberg-themed tweet that has been making the rounds...

adore my incredible dad who loves his family so much that he got eye enlargement surgery so he can look at us more
Patricia Lockwood (@TriciaLockwood)

"What's the best piece of advice someone's ever given you?"

"After you've written something, rewrite it. And then after you've rewritten it, read it again, and then rewrite it again. There isn't anything you've written that's worthwhile and important that can't be improved."

April 14, 2018

My hunt for the ideal sketch program for iPad continues with "Linea", which is pretty cool in a minimalistic way. Of course, the joy of these programs is always the samples they come with. "See? If you had actual skill you could make THIS!"

Blender of Love

April 15, 2018

Cutting corners just makes more corners.

a means with no end

Arun and Melissa have been indulging me with letting me sound off about some my philosophical ramblings, and comparing and contrasting to their views.

In general I haven't yet figured out how to succinctly and clearly describe my current view that Universal Truth exists (not just an objective description of the facts of the universe, but a model of what "should" be) and is somewhat knowable - or at least guessable, but - and this is the critical bit- you can NEVER be certain that you know it. Never ever. (And claiming that you have full and complete knowledge is as definitely close to "original sin" as this system gets.)

My faith is: faith is broken. At best it's a means to an end. I share Vonnegut's view "Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile."

This is different, in ways subtle and coarse, from views that say "well, since Truth is unknowable, everyone has to make up their own, and also be sympathetic to other views you disagree with." In practice my view is similar: both reject brash self-assuredness, but for very different reasons- in my view, observing other people's is just a means to end. Or rather, a means with no end- because you will never know if you get there.

There's something taoist in this, which I dig, but also Plato's formsish, which is troubling me.
TIL: 'The term "wedding soup" comes from the Italian language phrase "minestra maritata" ("married soup"), which is a reference to the flavor produced by the combination/"marriage" of greens and the meat'

And here I had been thinking it was, like, originally for weddings. Sort of like having birthday cake any time of year.
One of the adventures of making websites for porchfests is dealing with quirky tech things generated by non- and semi-technical musicians.

It's easy to come up with little petty gripes like "c'mon, people, it's a BAND DESCRIPTION not your frickin' album press release blurb"!

But here: some folks uploaded 2 versions of the same image (a simple "two headshots pasted side by side into a new image" with no attempt at photoshopping, just two non-matching-background squares) One file in TIFF and then a JPG version of the same thing. And resizing it with ImageMagick for some reason converts the JPG to a photonegative.

It raises interesting questions!
1. Who uses tiff? I feel like it used to be more popular in the 90s or something? Is it probably just some old tech being used, or does it have some niche use I'm unaware of?
2. What on earth would cause a simple ImageMagick "convert {} -resize 240x240" to flip it to a freaky photo negative?

This isn't meant to be snarky - I think every band that comes together for a Porchfest is awesome, and there's no "you must be this technical to ride this ride", but I really am curious as to the background story.

April 17, 2018


--via Cracked.com The Best, Most Underrated Lines From Shows And Movies ("Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch tv." The "on purpose" part I especially dig.)

school of honkin'


--An old shot, but not sure it ever got on the site. A relatively rare tuba shot from the last few years in that I'm not playing Scheiny - trying out one of the School of Honk's polka dot horns.
The Calmness of Airline Pilots and, most recently, Tammi Jo Shultz, one of the first female Navy pilots. And also the demeanor of the flight controllers - makes me wanna watch "Pushing Tin" again.

just have fewer opinions on things

Tonight I'll be leading a discussion at my UU reading group based on Sam Harris' Waking Up Podcast #119: Hidden Motives, a conversation with Robin Hanson.

One quote I remember liking was this:
Try to live your lives so that you don't have to rely TOO much on things that might not be true. One way, is honestly, just have fewer opinions on things. We're in a society where there's this norm that you're supposed to have an opinion on half of everything you hear. And just don't do that. Just be agnostic about things you haven't looked into, pick your specialty, learn about a few things and know that well, and then tell other people what you know and find somebody you can roughly trust on the other things, but stop having so many opinions.
(around 1:14:30)

That appeals to my desire for equanimity- living a life of constant helpless outrage is rough on a system, and I'm sad at seeing so much of that among my friends. On the other hand I contrast this stance with the adage "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

NY Times on the Restaurant Expediter as a criticial role - I've never worked in a restaurant, and sometimes I get reminded it must be so much more complex than I realize. I've never really cooked, but I've seen people try to time out multiple dishes for a Thanksgiving meal, say - this must be that times a dozen. Plus, the need to keep calm and collected during times if crazy stress reminds me of the airline pilot / flight controller thing I posted the other day...
I love the graphic design of the names on this...

kirk is his own engima

As far as I can tell from my old quotes log, it was almost exactly 20 years ago when I recorded:
"Kirk is his own Enigma- 'I just don't understand myself'"
Paul Morville
Paul was a work colleague who helped recruit me from Tufts where we both attended. He was teasing me about the navel gazing I was doing then. So two decades later, I finally do feel I have a pretty decent self-model, and it's interesting to have the evidence that I was once aware that I didn't have the whole picture of what my subconsciousness might be up to, at how incomplete my self-understanding was.
I've been trying to be mindful about throwing in fewer disclaimers and parenthetical remarks when I write or speak. I think of this scene from the film adaption "A River Runs Through It"

...So it was with my formal education as well. Each weekday, while my father worked on his Sunday sermon I attended the school of the Reverend Maclean. He taught nothing but reading and writing. And being a Scot-- believed that the art of writing lay in thrift.
"Half as long."
So while my friends spent their days at Missoula Elementary I stayed home and learned to write the American language.
"Again- Half as long."
"...Good. Now throw it away."

"epistemology and morality is a game you play for unimaginably perilous, eternal stakes"

Was fear of burning in hell forever a big part of your childhood? My church wasn't particularly fire-and-brimstone but I remember being scared witless at some point as a 10- or 11-year-old. It really set me to be uptight in certain ways - even after I gave up the supernatural belief, I think subconsciously the "do right or face the most dire imaginable (actually, literally unimaginably awful) consequences." sunk in deep. And in some ways its kept my behaviour on some good straight and narrow paths but, man, what a cost!

Anyway. I had a dialog tonight that reminded me "fear of eternal hellfire" isn't a universal feature of childhood / tween years, so now I'm wondering how many of my online buds had it?

I want to reiterate that my church didn't hammer hell home, or at least not frequently, and I'm very sure I didn't get it from my folks. (Though on a visit to DC I had a Sunday School class taught by my Aunt that emphasized the Tribulation, complete with a Christian in front of a firing squad, that seized my imagination. A terrifying pile of bullshit for a child. Not sure if that kind of scare is morally better or worse than "pre-tribulation" thinking (that uses a dubious reading of scriptures and a more optimistic and selfish view of God's protection for his flock to presume good Christians have a "Get Out of Jail" free card and will be whisked off before the excrement hits the ventilation system.))

One of my frustrations with my conversation last night was my discussion partner, who was blessed with a more wholesome set of one on one religious instructions as a child, kind of flaunted that wholesomeness over what I had picked up then, but as if my view then was what I overtly believed now, and as if I hadn't matured my own view. I have, but am aware that there's a subconscious underpinning - or even undermining - and that "epistemology and morality is a game you play for unimaginably perilous, eternal stakes" drives even my secular view (where the preponderance of SO MANY DIFFERENT faiths and corresponding supernatural explanations leads me to believe that none of them are as true as they claim, unless they go down a non-exclusive "many paths to the same destination" approach.)

It's funny how many years I ran from having a conversation about this with my Preacher Lady Mom. I mean, I still do. I see now that given my views about "Objective Truth that you can know but never be certain of your knowledge of, but other people's beliefs are important signposts as to the most likely Truth" I had a lot of anxiety about us not being able to pay attention to each other's signposts.

At one point maybe ten years ago when we had part of that conversation, she came back to a "and when I have doubts, I just realize that it's not such a bad way to live anyway." At the time I thought it was just a recapitulation of Pascal's Wager, but I realize now she might have been referring in an understated way to a lot of richness the Christian Preacher life has provided for her, really given her purpose and community and with all The Salvation Army's charity, many tangible and real-world proofs of the good she has done.

I shared my religious skepticism with Mr. Johnson (the man, a pharmacist and my part-time employer, who came closest to stepping as the father figure after my dad died during the beginning of my time in high school, and had many great man-to-boy talks over dinner - now he's up in Heaven too, to quote Vonnegut) and he said he was pretty assured I'd come back to religion/church some day. And now I wonder if the community and richness I find in activist bands counts - the parallels with my church upbringing (in particular with School of Honk - marching outside Sunday afternoons and constantly inviting people to join in) are tremendous, and I'm thinking I get many of the church-y benefits sociologists talk about through my 4 or 5 bands...

April 22, 2018

So some jeans have label that could let the belt pass underneath, and so could act like a wide belt loop- SURVEY: should they? A. Of course! Support the belt and let the label be read B. Don't be ridiculous! Belts go over labels and only under actual loops.

April 23, 2018

There is no moral to my life - I have none - except: 'Stand up and take it'. The rest is sentiment.
Patricia Highsmith

April 24, 2018

WTH is this "PragerU" right wing horseshit youtube preroll?
Been dabbling with podcasts, including some from outside my echo chamber. Joe Rogan had some NRA youtuber dude Colion Noir, a bit more interesting than some demographically, since he's African American. Didn't listen to all of it (I think I prefer retrogaming podcasts' backlog, tbh) but I guess their take on the old "guns don't kill people" trope is the "there's all this fuss about INANIMATE OBJECTS".

The counter is obvious; like Ani Difranco says "every tool is a weapon if you hold it right", and while, say, my tuba case is a chair if I sit on it, it's not a very good chair! The intention of a designed object is built into it and has enormous ramifications in its final capabilities.

Yes, a slew of pedestrians got killed by a rental van in Toronto, but the other purposes for a van justify their continued presence in society. The intent of a gun is to intimidate or put metal into people or things, and any rational conversation about its regulation and the rights to own one (the NRA's startling successful long burn campaign to put aside the 2nd Amendment's previous interpretation as a collective right notwithstanding) has to take that into account.

April 25, 2018

In React Training. Biggest take away: "Burrito: it's kind of the same as a taco, but it's bigger, and a cylinder"

April 26, 2018

Once again I'm daydreaming about how the perfect Todo program, even if I have to make it myself, would turn my life into a joyous whirlwind of productivity....
Our intellectual powers are rather geared to master static relations and that our powers to visualize processes evolving in time are relatively poorly developed. For that reason we should do (as wise programmers aware of our limitations) our utmost to shorten the conceptual gap between the static program and the dynamic process, to make the correspondence between the program (spread out in text space) and the process (spread out in time) as trivial as possible.
Edsger Dijkstra

When you're a kid and your parent(s) decide to move to another town you have no idea that it will be way harder for them to make new friends than it will for you

April 27, 2018

I have decided on a new constellation. I call it The Bees. If you look up at the night sky and see all those sparkly dots, congratulations. You see The Bees. I have just made astrology 10000x easier, you're welcome.
those born under the sign of the bees:
-have emotions
-think thoughts
-is likely introverted or extroverted
-has at least a few friends
-was born at some point
leopharry and quiescens

April 28, 2018

On my devblog: ECMAScript as the new Perl Golf

April 29, 2018

the idea that the 'ideal beach body' just means being thin or buff is so unimaginative, surely the ideal beach body would have a powerful lobster claw, arm flaps to act as a windbreak and a sand repellent anus

We are the first generation to see the clouds from both sides. What a privilege! First people dreamed upward. Now they dream both upward and downward. This is bound to change something.
Saul Bellow, from "Henderson the Rain King"

April 30, 2018

A few folks' entries in Cracked's 15 Ways To Instantly Spot (And Skip) Horrible YouTube Videos cover something that has been bugging me for a while - #15, #10 ("TOTALLY AUTHENTIC" shocked faces), #7, and #5 (The "I-badly-need-your-views" face). I wonder if there's a "generating clicks in Youtube 101" video that has explained why "put a big face or figure prominent in your thumbnail" explicitly, if people are just copying others, or if the effect so obviously improves the stats that it's just obvious.
Been thinking about how leggings (generally for women, maybe sweats for guys?) are taking over from jeans - It can be a nice look, but the way I don't get it makes me feel old :-D (Also I wonder if the future everyone looking like Shakespearean reenactors...)

A student learns of metaphors and similes

2018 April❮❮prevnext❯❯