loops vs arcs

October 1, 2018
My online friend Nick B wrote about long-running shows that sort of have continuity but don't age their characters much - as he put it "If there's a flashback to 10-year-old Homer playing a Nintendo 64 what the hell am I supposed to do?"

This is what I wrote in the comments:
I think also of the "reset switch" or whatever it is, on Star Trek and other serialized shows, where they'd have a "bible" and could get many talented writers in on the fun without burdening them too much with needing a deep knowledge of what went on before.

To wax philosophical (and to quote myself, which is probably gauche): In my "So You're Going to Die" comic, I say "As creatures who live only a few levels beyond our instincts, we like things to be consistent. Stasis may be boring, but predictability is safer than chaos. And we want to extend that desire for predictability for as long as we can imagine, which is forever."

I feel like this is what's going on with these shows. It's funny, because it's such the opposite of the "character arc" that is thought to make good literature. (Though in real life, I'm a much bigger fan of "show me an interesting idea every week" than worrying about or even believing in meaningful qualitative personal growth - probably to my detriment)
Funny to see that parallel. Also makes me think of "Age of Ultron" where The Vision replies to Ultorn's "[humans] are doomed!" with "Yes... but a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts."

That's a lesson I'm not sure if I'll ever take in. It's hard to see change and growth as not being a refutation.
Corroboration and plenty of it.
Melissa and I watched Touch of Evil last night. It's sometimes a little hard to follow, and bits come across as racist, but it's also exploring the racism of the time, and a lot of the film's message about accountability and the power of white men in USA culture are especially timely.

One great exchange, emphasis mine:
Quinlan: Our friend Vargas has some very special ideas about police procedure. He seems to think it don't matter whether killers hang or not, so long as we obey the fine print.
Vargas: Captain, I don't think a policeman should work like a dog catcher in putting criminals behind bars. No! In any free country, a policeman is supposed to enforce the law, and the law protects the guilty as well as the innocent.
Quinlan: Our job is tough enough.
Vargas: It's supposed to be. It has to be tough. A policeman's job is only easy in a police state. That's the whole point, Captain - who's the boss, the cop or the law?

October 2, 2018

"A good pun is in the oy of the beholder."
--Spider Robinson
"'They need freedom, but they also need protection,' Skaife says of his ravens, as a soldier would speak of the British people."
--Helen Macdonald, in a review of The Ravenmaster: My Life With the Ravens at the Tower of London.

Interesting thought. Paternalistic as heck, obviously, and I think about what some of my more liberal friends would think of it. "Your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins" is the fundamental challenge in free societies. There's always that contradiction that for freedom to work everyone has to submit to the overarching system of rules for it to not become a seething bed of endless injustic. Either intrinsically and voluntarily, because they recognize it as the superior way for a society to be, or becaause of some measure of enforcement - and either extreme is fraught with the potential for abuse.

(Kind of like how you can't have a society that is both purely free and a meritocracy, because of the natural instinct of humans to favor their own progeny.)

Hah, I was thinking "huh, this book sounds a bit like 'H is for Hawk'" and I realized the author of that book is Helen Macdonald, the author of that review.

september 2018 new music playlist

October 3, 2018
In some ways September felt like a lost month to me and I didn't run into much music. 4 star stuff in red
In Praise of Mediocrity (like with hobbies) Two thoughts come to mind - Vonnegut's "A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but the world's champions" and an old Demotivator:

It's good advice! Reminds me of how I'm trying to grow more comfortable but videogames on easy mode.

phone case by james harvey

October 4, 2018
Apple designers get a serious case of show-offness when it comes to make their phones as thin as possible, even at the cost of battery life and durability. One of the silver linings is that phones-in-cases become much less bulky than they were in the iPhone 5 era or before - the case just brings it up to being a typical size oldschool phone, as if the case were part of it - and so now everyone gets to pick how their phone looks and we don't look quite as much like the Apple drones so many of us Boston techies are.

I like getting custom-made ones with art by Jame Harvey - the indie artist who has done work fo DC, as well as my own comic on mortality. Here they are:

And here's the latest (first one where I didn't technically commission the art, though I helped fund the Kickstarter...

Of course, lock screens can be pretty hip too... the new one on the right is a zoom in of a poster I ordered from him when he was doing freelance commissions:

I also made a wallet or two.

The cases were mostly ordered from zazzle. For what it's worth, two of those cases were wooden, which I wouldn't recommend if you need it to last more than a year.

a little bit of this, a little bit of that

October 5, 2018
Cracked.com, a daily source of interesting content, had a bit on 5 Oddities Of Everyday Language That Leave Experts Baffled - why we would say "King-Kong" or "Fiddle-Faddle" or "Flip-Flop" and not the reverse:
But then there's another theory which says that words that represent things that are spatially nearer to the speaker usually have higher vowels (me versus you, here versus there, this versus that). This sounds pretty dumb until you learn that it actually holds water across different languages. For example, in French, "me" is je, "you" is tu, "this" is ce, and "that" is ca. In German ich/du, hier/da, dies/das.
I think "how near is it?" and "what order are things happening?" are pretty central to my way of modeling the world - like I have trouble remembering what key is which on the keyring unless I map it left-to-right, entering the house order (car key, outer door, inner door).

I remember helping Ksenia build up her English, coming from Russian with fewer articles - "a spoon" (as in, any spoon) vs "the spoon" (a particular spoon) was pretty easy but "this spoon" (a particular spoon) vs "that spoon" (a particular spoon a little further away) was tougher.

And don't get me started with "adjective order", how we all somehow know it's the "giant angry red dragon" and not the "red giant angry dragon". I long to know if there's an underlying logic that established the order, or if it's just arbitrary.

Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a Wikipedia article on?
Makin' way for Justice Boof. Awesome we're going to have a known perjurer on the bench, for life.
So, Al Franken got knocked out of the senate, and this lying - perjuring, actually - shit bag is bound for the SCOTUS?

Also concerning for me is conservative women in general closing ranks and willing to take a "boys will be boys", lets all just move on stance for this shit, partially out of political expediency. Is there a gender version of the concept of "an Uncle Tom"?
And this FBI investigation was such a sham fig leaf. What a farce.

happy honk!

October 6, 2018

the virtual so what field (SWF)

October 7, 2018
One of my favorite pieces of technology in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series is the SEP. Rather than make something actually invisible ("or anything hyper-impossible like that", even in that zany high-tech universe) it just casts a kind of electric psychological field and people edit it out of their perception as Somebody Else's Problem:
The Somebody Else’s Problem field is much simpler and more effective, and what’s more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people’s natural disposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. If Effrafax had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else’s Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there
A while back I realized pretending something had an SEP field on it was a good way of coping with things as long as A. they weren't actually affecting me and B. weren't my fault - and even better if C. there wasn't much I could do about it anyway. (The B and C elements are what kept it morally on the up and up.)

But there's a lot of problems that don't meet those conditions - especially A. There's a cognitive psychology term "catastrophizing" - building an irrational series of cause and effect leading to a terrible negative conclusion. I think people do at least a watered-down variant of it subconsciously all the damn time - I know I do. Even when folks don't explicitly link up a chain of events that lead to a far-fetched negative consequence, they tend to act as if that chain was in effect, and the result is anxiety. The world is too complex to do all possible modeling of cause-and-effect, and so we use short hand of "I should be worried about this" to help us make good decisions and keep up good behaviors, but that can be very wearing.

Andy Warhol suggested one remedy:
Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, "So what." That's one of my favorite things to say. "So what." "My mother didn't love me." So what. "My husband won't ball me." So what. "I'm a success but I'm still alone." So what. I don't know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.
The trouble is, in theory you could "So What" every-damn-thing, and I don't think the results of that would be good - apathy or a general sense of pointlessness could result.

So ideally, I would make a cognitive tool like a "Virtual So What Field" I could apply and activate at will - but with the feeling I had the existential authority to apply it judiciously, as I saw fit. Some things I want to care about and get emotionally vested in, other things I could get help saying "So What", and chop down that branching tree of possible consequences near the root.

October 8, 2018

Heh. I finished off all 400 puzzles in the main level of the iOS game Picture Cross- Picross / Griddlers / Paint-By-Number / Nonograms are all names for that kind of puzzle. This version had a pretty decent UI, which is tricky for screens with small squares and fat fingers. I'd recommend paying a bit for the upgrade that gets rid of the ads, but then just rely on the bonus tokens they give you if you pop open the app every day.
"The transformers holding back tears as they load a hearse into a slightly larger hearse"

October 9, 2018

HONK portrait by Steve Jewett

PRONK portrait by Daniela G

my dad the art collector

October 10, 2018
Today is the 30th Anniversary of my dad's death.

Last year around this time I went to the Boston MFA with Melissa and Liz, and I told them the story about my dad's art collection, how even though he had no budget he knew how to juggle finances and became a small-time collector, especially lithographic prints. (I have a few vague memories of going with him to meet with dealers in upstate NY, rifling through those bins like they used to have in record stores.)

In the year of his death, well after he was incapacitated from illness, he invited representatives of the Cleveland Museum of Art to peruse his collection and see if there was anything they wanted to add to their permanent collection. They chose two pieces.

Of course as a 14 year old I didn't really get the level of honor that represented, how that kind of affirmation from such an institution meant to so much that it was worth making a gift, even a gift that was rarely going to be "on view"...

Last year was the first time I remembered that public institutions now post their collections online, so I could see what the prints in question were:

The first was "The Kerosene Lamp" by Wanda Gág (1929)

Such an intriguing kind of meltiness to it all... In 2014 The New Yorker wrote on some of the artist's children's books)

The other was Thomas Hart Benton Sorghum Mill (1969)

My dad was classic "champagne on a beer budget" where I tend to the reverse, a bit. I suppose you could speculate that the kid from small town Ohio felt he had something to prove in a way that I don't, though also he had an artistic sensitivity I lack - and a gourmet-ish attention to detail evident in, say, his baking with precise measures and his incredibly persnickety needlepoint work.

FWIW I'm kind of the polar opposite of that, preferring things that are superficially intriguing, to be generated and consumed in the most expedient method available - I've cultivated my way of skimming a book and quickly getting the jist into kind of a lifestyle. On the other hand, I suppose the programming I do has a similar need to attend to tiny details...sometimes I wish he was around so we could have done needlepoint / pixel art collaborations.
I should post this link : clevelandart.org/art/collections - Cleveland has a fine art museum (no pun intended) and the website made it trivial to find these.
I just now had a 2-and-2-together moment. I was thinking "Well, yeah, Cleveland Museum - I mean that's where we were living" - but also, that is probably the very museum in a story he'd tell of his own young boyhood - going on a school field trip, up from downstate Coshocton Ohio, and once there being kind of stunned by the art of undressed women... "teacher... teacher... you can see her, her THINGS". To go from the boy in that story to having works from his collection accepted there - that's a heckuva narrative arc.

original photo album part 1: the young years

October 11, 2018
Sometime during college or shortly thereafter I assembled my own photo album.

A long time ago I scanned it all and put it on my website, but at a relatively low resolution (see here)
so I decided to scan it all again. I reused all the old filenames I used as caption back then - sometimes carrying information I would have forgotten in the mean while.

When I scanned it, I broke it into 9 sections. Starting with "The Young Years" - including shots of my folks before I was around.

"masculinity is violence on the horizon"

original photo album part 2: the pain: middle school and freshman year

October 12, 2018
Ahh, Middle School (as Matt Groening calls it, "the deepest pit of Hell", high school being merely the second deepest.) Fun fact: for most of this time I went by my middle name "Logan". Anyway, mostly school stuff, plus the NEOSA Salvation Army Youth Band's trip to Mexico City.
Nerf Football Rah Rah Rah
The biggest and most frightening impact of the AI revolution might be on the relative efficiency of democracies and dictatorships. Historically, autocracies have faced crippling handicaps in regard to innovation and economic growth. In the late 20th century, democracies usually outperformed dictatorships, because they were far better at processing information. We tend to think about the conflict between democracy and dictatorship as a conflict between two different ethical systems, but it is actually a conflict between two different data-processing systems. Democracy distributes the power to process information and make decisions among many people and institutions, whereas dictatorship concentrates information and power in one place. Given 20th-century technology, it was inefficient to concentrate too much information and power in one place. Nobody had the ability to process all available information fast enough and make the right decisions. This is one reason the Soviet Union made far worse decisions than the United States, and why the Soviet economy lagged far behind the American economy.

However, artificial intelligence may soon swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. AI makes it possible to process enormous amounts of information centrally. In fact, it might make centralized systems far more efficient than diffuse systems, because machine learning works better when the machine has more information to analyze. If you disregard all privacy concerns and concentrate all the information relating to a billion people in one database, you’ll wind up with much better algorithms than if you respect individual privacy and have in your database only partial information on a million people. An authoritarian government that orders all its citizens to have their DNA sequenced and to share their medical data with some central authority would gain an immense advantage in genetics and medical research over societies in which medical data are strictly private. The main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century—the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place—may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century.

-- Yuval Noah Harari writing in The Atlantic

original photo album part 3: sophomore and junior years

October 13, 2018
Dances, band trips to Detroit and Boston, and ending at Veronika's prom...

original photo album part 4: high school senior year

October 14, 2018
Bookended with band trips to Atlanta and Florida, and the musical Hello Dolly in between.

original photo album part 5: prom and graduation

October 15, 2018
Ah, the midwest prom. In retrospect kind of weird "the garter dance" was a thing for high school dances...
Wins at Fenway and Foxboro - nothing to be overconfident about at either but still, it's good to win when you gotta win. Interestingly the 43-40 score was a Scorigami, a score never previously achieved at the end of an NFL game. (I guess there's more opportunities with high scores.)
On my devblog: the stupid-idea-buddies buddy.

original photo album part 6: 3 weeks in portugal

October 16, 2018
Before I started college I got to visit Marcos, our exchange student from Portugal... his friends put on a poetry and fashion show "Fractions of Seconds" and I saw a village bullfight.
Random notes on reading and vanity:
1. I recently shelled out the $20 to get my old and scratched but great touchscreen Kindle off of ads, so the lock screen is an attractive grayscale image instead. Worth it I think.
2. It's funny that besides column width, my other reason for not using my phone as a reader is so that it's more obvious to onlookers that I'm engaged in reading and not browsing or gaming. This may be one of the most shallow things about me. (On the other hand, I always think it's good when the cover matches the book. So to speak.)
3. Come to think of it, I've switched from iPad Mini to this old Kindle full time. Maybe partially in existential protest to Apple leaving the Mini behind- I'd buy a new model that supported the Pencil in a second. But also, despite the lack of backlighting and color-coded highlighting, e-ink readers are such a chill technology.
4. Since 2000 I've been recording books read, movies watched, games played through, tv-series consumed. It's nearly impossible for me not to gamify this for myself- like I know I'm driven to complete mediocre books just for the little mark. At the end of the year I post a list with comments and recommendations. I'm not really trying to impress anyone with the numbers, just compete with my past self. Maybe I should consider posting the list without counting...
Arun and his pup Bolt

original photo album part 7: 3 years in college

October 17, 2018
And then, college. Technically my home address was New York City - some of those shots with the towers are a bit poignant.
Funny how the aging milestone might shifting from transition lens / bifocals to "cranking up the font size on my phone"

original photo album part 8: senior year til new years

October 18, 2018
My family went on a 2 week, 3000-mile bus tour of the British Isles. And Veronika came to visit my in NYC for New Year's.
"If you make things long enough, you will fail. That's important enough that I'm going to say it again, with emphasis. If you make things long enough, you will fail. The same thing that put you in the elevated place of being a creative artist in the first place will curdle or invert or fall on its face or on your face and you will be a person who made something that they should not have made. [...] David Bowie said something I really liked. I don't know if he said it often, but it's the kind of thing that you should get tattooed on your leg. He said that creativity is "one of the few human endeavors where you can crash your airplane and walk away from it.""
--Questlove, "Creative Quest". I think it's a good example of being aware of catastrophizing - an individual effort fails, it's so easy to see that as an array of dominos to other creative efforts, to our self-worth, maybe even our ability to make a living and thus ensure our own physical security. But those situations, those kinds of slippery slopes, aren't that common, and usually we can find some place to get traction - that is if the initial failure is even that big to begin with. Which it usually isn't - that's where the ability to cast a "So What" field comes in handy. This effort failed. So what? So I feel like I'm less good of a creator. So what?

Another quote from the book that I liked the sound of: "There was no such thing as distraction. There was only traction."

original photo album part 9: college end

October 19, 2018
The Tufts Concert band went to Bermuda, I went to Gala, I graduated and then... I guess i switched to digital photography...
"It's special in every aspect. Not only as a manager, but as an individual. Just to manage this team. Everybody knows the history of the city, and history has positive sides and negative sides. And for me, as a minority, to be a manager in Boston hasn't been a challenge. ... And to be able to led this team, it's amazing. It's a great group, very talented, very humble, very hungry."
--Alex Cora in the Minute Maid Park interview room, after leading the Red Sox to a pennant. Also, what a fine last name he has.
seriously what is that??

October 20, 2018

"A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."
--Kurt Vonnegut

powerless beyond measure

October 21, 2018
Marianne Williamson wrote a poem that starts:
it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

(this passage is sometimes falsely attributed to Nelson Mandela)

Personally it feels more like the deepest fear - or at least the one that drives procrastination and lack of ambition of all types - is that we'll put in a really good effort and not get the results we wanted, that the world will prove as daunting as we feared. When you've failed to put in a good effort, at least there's that fig leaf of you not trying - maybe there's still that untapped potential in you, maybe you still have untapped settings up the dial.

(I have my todo list clogged with all these not particularly hard or sometimes even necessary tasks, but what if I clear all those out and life still isn't just grand?)

I guess the remedy is there is like Eric Barker said:
"Are you afraid of the task? Why? Does it have a knife pointed at you? No. You're afraid you'll do a lousy job. Well, you're gonna do an even worse job if you don't get started."

Also it reminds me of that Vonnegut quote: "Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?" (Not sure what the procrastination version of "unexamined" is - "unprocrastinated"?)

on the "squeeze", from time enough for love

October 22, 2018
[The Planet named] Blessed would not have been on my route other than for business reasons. Interstellar trade is economics stripped to basics. You can't make money by making money because money isn't money other than on its planet of issue. Most money is fiat; a ship's cargo of the stuff is wastepaper elsewhere. Bank credit is worth even less; Galactic distances are too great. Even money that jingles must be thought of as trade goods -- not money -- or you'll kid yourself into starvation.

This gives the sky merchant a grasp of economics rarely achieved by bankers or professors. He is engaged in barter and no nonsense. He pays taxes he can't evade and doesn't care whether they are called "excise" or "king's pence" or "squeeze" or straight-out bribes. It is the other kid's bat and ball and backyard, so you play by his rules -- nothing to get in a sweat about. Respect for laws is a pragmatic matter. Women know this instinctively; that's why they are all smugglers. Men often believe -- or pretend -- that the "Law" is something sacred, or at least a science -- an unfounded assumption very convenient to governments.

I've done little smuggling; it's risky, and you can wind up with money you don't dare spend where it's legal tender. I simply tried to avoid places where the squeeze was too high.

--Robert Heinlein, "Time Enough for Love". The narrator Lazarus Long is an extremely long-lived interstellar merchant, with libertarian leanings and capabilities that almost put him in an Ayn-Randian mode, but I've appreciated his resigned acceptance of the "The Squeeze" as the cost of doing business- something I read long ago that stuck with me.

so glad i saved this for two decades

October 23, 2018

...and that I added the date when I drew it (The flick in question is "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)")
Trump: "You know they have a word. It sort of became old fashioned. It's called 'a nationalist'. And I say 'really, we're not supposed to use that word? You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, OK?"

Yeah the word became "old fashioned" when we beat the "National Socialists" aka Nazis, you dog-whistling ass. If you were actually a patriot you'd be ok just calling yourself an American.
"font-family: sans-serif;" is the "house red" of web design.

union square rainbow

October 24, 2018

October 25, 2018

Red Sox' Benintendi makes another great catch...

The Dodgers would like to demonstrate that they are fans of dance as well..

October 26, 2018

I made a version of a semi-famous computer program from Scientific American's "Computer Recreations" column, WA-TOR

I write a little bit more about it and "recreational computing" on my devblog.
Goodness gracious, optical illusions have gotten out of control! -- all of those on the page are astounding.
Aesop's Fables #238 - The Fly:
A fly had fallen into an earthen pot [chytros] full of boiled meat. On the verge of drowning in the broth [zōmos], she said to herself:
'I've eaten, I've drunk, I've had a bath. Death can come. It doesn't matter to me.'
This fable shows that people easily surrender to death when it comes without any suffering.
Like Mother Goose stuff, "Real" Aesop's Fables are more grim than the versions we make for kids....

I thought this Quora answer on "what happened to Venezuela" was interesting, with take aways for all political sides...

October 27, 2018

"Since it's the Halloween season, I'll give you a treat. Put your hand to your chest. Feel your heartbeat? That's your ghost chipping away at its cell."
Attention: Fresca's Black Cherry Citrus is a lot like OK Soda was, back in the 90s. (I noticed that, and then was incredibly validated by the Google first hit preview saying "OK Soda had a more "citric" taste than traditional colas, almost like a fruit punch version of Coke's Fresca. ")

PS OK Soda was a very odd creature of marketing.

what's in a name

October 28, 2018
Recently a great episode of the Allusionist podcast talked about how people feel about their names, especially people who end up changing theirs.

On FB, I asked folks "how do you feel about your name? Do you know what your folks were thinking when they gave the first part of it to you? What about your family name?"

I enjoyed reading the stories some of my friends shared, but here's what I wrote about mine:

I dig my name, first name especially - "Kirk". My dad (James/Jim) liked the idea of a name that couldn't really be shorted, though I'm not sure how much he disliked "Jim". My name is dripping with religion, Kirk is "Church", Logan is after a theologian, Israel is like the country. Which tends to lead to erasure of my evangelical preacher's kid upbringing w/ people assuming I'm Jewish, but hey, I'm not THAT not-Jewish. (Also most Americans will spell Israel "Isreal" like they hear it pronounced.)

But I dig the strength of the K-sounds.

(Of course if I was born one day after my actual birthday of March 31 my dad assured me my name would be "Foolsbert" - Foolella if I was a gal. (Also, Iove how weird my birthday is - 31st is the least common of all month day numbers))

Once, undergoing adolescent angst, I used yet another move (Upstate NY to Cleveland) to go by "Logan" as first name for a while...odd situation when I switched back when I changed school districts but kept attending the same church. A letter was being read about my enrollment (akin to confirmation) that called me Kirk, but he knew me as Logan, and then-Captain-Schenk said "aww just call him Butch" and with a little work on my part it sort of stuck. My full church nickname was "Kirk Logan Brother Butch Israel Brother".
FUN FACT: my mom had to convince her friends I wasn't being named after the captain from her fav sci-fi tv show. She had to convince her REALLY close friends I wasn't being named after a similarly named character in some "Bonanza" fanfic she and her friends would write

I love how David Price's hat jumps as he moves his eyebrows or whatever, like when you're trying to wiggle your ears but you're not really good at it... Also his pre-pitch "take a deep breath" routine is so human and recognizable.
Mookie Betts breaks his series drought and helps the Red Sox win the World Series and gets a hat for his hat:

What an era to be a fair-weather fan in Boston :-D What's this, 11 championships (Celtics, Bruins, 5 for Pats, now 4 for Red Sox) since 2002?
Also: in Alex Cora We Trust, Huh? He has done some seemingly inexplicable moves that in hindsight are pure brilliance. Between that and hearing how, despite a top of the list payroll, so much of the Red Sox team is young and home grown - and seeing how those "supporting" players stepped up Saturday night, and in general how the team played on defense as well... it's a great team to like!
Oh and that jerk Machado getting the last strike out... ahhh


October 29, 2018

--Shot at yesterday's rally for Transgender rights - If you live in MA Vote Yes on 3, please. If you know + like or love a TG person, or you don't but you're willing to believe the world is more complex than you mighta guessed, it's the humane thing to do.
Ugh, Brazil.
on them red sox
"Being an adult means not having your bed pushed up against a corner. That is literally the only criteria"

October 30, 2018

"Do you know about the Myth of Sisyphus?"
"Yeah, that's a funny one to me because Sisyphus is cursed to roll this boulder up the hill for eternity, but really the boulder would eventually erode. I mean a hundred thousand years or so, it would be like a little pebble, like, just like stick it out, Sisyphus, you'll be done in no time, you know? "
"Eventually it's just going to be sand."
"Yeah, exactly. And in addition, the hill will also erode. And so, you know, Sisyphus after some time would have a flat plane instead of a hill and maybe like a marble instead of a boulder."
"Yeah, so, yeah, he's cursed for eternity, but really it's he just needs to get through, I dunno, 50,000 years or something."
"Yeah, he should really stick to it, and then that'll show the gods."
"It's funny to think about a man serving out his eternal curse, and what it is, is very easily pushing a marble along the ground."
"Yeah. And then maybe stop conscripting innocent boulders into your curses, HUMANS."
--from Everything is Alive's interview with Chioke, a grain of sand - it reminds me a bit of the poem Dialog of Soul and Stone - also of my paraphrase of a line from the Dilbert animated series, "Sisyphus has a sense of playfulness [...] you have to look at it from the rock's point of view." which is kind of a different assumption about what rocks might enjoy....

BASIC and the joy of little improvisational programs

October 31, 2018
Daring Fireball just posted a link to a 2014 article, TIME Magazine's Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal. As Gruber puts it
For those of us of a certain age, a BASIC prompt was what you’d expect to see when you turned any computer on.
This article is the best I've read on the subject (marred slightly by the amount of ads on the page) In particular, I hadn't realized how important it was as computers moved from the batch process punchcard era to the expectations of real-time interaction we enjoy today - and of getting students to realize that programming was something that mere mortals could do.

That was in the 60s - in the 80s, BASIC was the bedrock of home computers - and most kids were given a chisel and some other basic tools so that if they were motivated, they could get the computer to do whatever they wanted.

The article briefly touches on BASIC's detractors. But as my friend Jeremy Penner (founder of everyone-can-and-should-make-games celebration site Glorious Trainwrecks ) mentioned to me, line numbers, while limiting in many ways, are a super intuitive way to get a kid making that first step of "computer programs tend to go step by tedious step". I think Dijkstra infamous complaint "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC" is way out of line; understanding simple step by step flow does not preclude later learning of modularity and other more sophisticated topics.

As Harry McCracken writes:
BASIC was so approachable that you could toss off little improvisational programs with barely any effort at all. I probably wrote hundreds of them in my high school’s computer lab—games, utilities, practical jokes to play on my classmates. Most were meant to be disposable, and unless any of them show up on forgotten floppy disks at my parents’ house, almost all of them are long gone.
That hit home for me. In the 2000s, that's sometimes my style for stuff in Processing and P5.js (though I'm a bit of self-absorbed nerd so I archive "the good stuff" at toys.alienbill.com.) Other people I know, like Anna Anthropy write books about writing your own games in Twine, Puzzlescript, and Scratch.

But it's still a long way from the "booting into BASIC" days - Mac/Windows/Phone environments are great program launchers, but don't have that ramp into "you type things and computer stuff happens!" Also, the gap between "real" programs and what an amateur can write is MUCH bigger than it was in 1980s - especially for games. "Casual" games are a welcome exception to that, but a beginner programmer usually isn't using a toolset for 3D stuff.

(An upcoming thing I'll be keeping an eye on is Dreams for PS4 - "a space where you go to play and experience the dreams of Media Molecule and our community. It’s also a space in which to create your own dreams, whether they’re games, art, films, music or anything in-between and beyond." That's the same folks who made LittleBigPlanet which had a pretty rich online maker community too, so it'll be neat to see what comes of it.)
"A sign you're becoming an adult is when you watch a movie and you stop seeing yourself as the protagonist and start seeing yourself as one of the minor characters."
Thinking how FB offers "plausible deniability" when some issue seems too complex or fraught to provide a compassionate response. Like, maybe the algorithms didn't choose to show it to me, that's why I made no comment.
Marching with City Life / Vida Urbana to protest ghoulish landlord shenanigans--

Soldiers in reanimated skeleton armies would probably have to use sign language.

A few weeks ago at the Maker's Fair at the Boston Children's Museum: