2018 December❮❮prevnext❯❯

my fall, one second everyday


RIP George H.W. Bush. Two thoughts on him:
1. He was wise enough not to decimate and overthrow Iraq - maybe even recognizing that a counterweight to Iran was useful in that region. Similarly, he seems to be the last actual fiscally conservative Republican president we've had.
2. I suspect Bill Clinton benefited from Perot running in 1992 more than Bush did. Without Perot's run, Clinton's win, it's a different landscape - Gingrich's "Contract with America" was a brilliant piece of political blah blah blah that resulted from that, and maybe in this alternate scenario the drive behind stuff like The Tea Party movement never has the focus, and maybe things aren't as stupidly polarized as they are now.
jendziura twitter thread making the rounds, thoughtful stuff on the "first principles" thinking of conservatives and libertarians vs "what are the outcomes" thinking of liberals. It's still pretty compatible with the "moral foundations" theory of Jonathan Haidt - liberals are very concerned about harm and unfairness, conservatives mix those concerns with other concepts of proper authority and what not. And also with the idea that authoritarian-leanig folks are more concerned about not letting "cheaters" and outsiders benefit unfairly without pulling their weight.
"That was my shot. It's a funny language, German. For one thing, everybody shouts it. All those very long words: the literalism, the tinkertoy accumulation. It sounds pushy, beginning every sentence with a verb like that. And take the first person singular: ich. "Ich." Not a masterpiece of reassurance, is it? I sounds nobly erect. Je has a certain strength and intimacy. Eo's okay. Yo I can really relate to. Yo! But ich? It's like the sound a child makes when it confronts its own ... Perhaps that's part of the point. No doubt all will come clear as soon as my German gets better."
Martin Amis, "Time's Arrow".
(And with possible apologies to my German friends!) Fascinating book, thanks for the recommendation Dave Adams. The concept (and this is only a spoiler for the first few pages) is of a homunculus riding along in a doctor's head, except the homunculus experiences everything in reverse - so starting with death and moving onto being merely infirm, gradually regaining mobility then vitality, and so on. Much of the book is reframing the ordinary and seeing what still kind of works in reverse (much small talk, for instance) and what become an abomination (to quote Wikipedia, "Blows heal injuries, doctors cause them. Theft becomes donation, and vice versa. In a passage about prostitutes, doctors harm them while pimps give them money and heal them. ") Besides the pleasure of that, it's intriguing to compare the narrator (feeling the doctor's feelings but not privy to his thoughts, or able to exert any control) to our own subconscious minds.

november 2018 new music playlist

A lot of catchy songs in November, including a (relatively rare) 5 star.

5 Star: 4 Star: 3 Star:

let it be

Advice from the Beatles, assembled by Michelle Rial - I think I need to buy a print of this

I remember once having emotional catharsis with "Let It Be" in college, on hearing of the death of Baptista, a guy I shared an unusually mild august night in portugal with.

December 4, 2018

Really bummed about Tumblr. I was always a little surprised when encountering people who mostly thought it was for porn, since it was pretty easy to avoid. For me tumblr is more of a gathering place with a pro-Social Justice vibe. I guess some of its sub-communities are based on shared horniness, but it was easy for me to curate a collection of folks posting stuff I found interesting on the regular. More visual than twitter, more dialog based (and less self-absorbed) than Instagram, less special-topic than Reddit, and not "folks I already know" than Facebook.

Jerks at 4chan can continue to be as alt-right and pornish as they want, I assume. From a culture war standpoint this stinks.
On my devblog- Shape detection is on the iPad! As seen on the Newton circa '95 or a '63 Lincoln TX-2... (and I suppose CAD programs have been doing it all along, but still.)

December 5, 2018

Meanwhile, in Italy, anti-Vaxxer government sacks all 30 members of the health expert board. Oh btw here's a the CDC advisory about a measles outbreak there.

I remember when I was a teen reading about Jim Hightower - "America's #1 Populist" - and thinking that conceptually populism sounded pretty cool. I have no idea if Hightower is "that" kind of populist, but my positive feelings about that are swamped by concerns about the anti-expert sense of "truthiness" that can run things.
Anytime Chris Hill or some other apologist for Trump reminds me "elections have consequences" I'm going to remember this period of Republican lame-duck state legislators furiously working to limit the powers of the incoming leaders.
We were like two ships passing in the night, yelling obscenities and setting fires in a desperate attempt to sink each other.

December 6, 2018

A great fallacy of the world is this:
that every opinion must move to purpose.
I think it's akin to the perpetual dissatisfaction Buddhists warn us against; we ask why merely think and categorize when we can feel and judge? How else would we be brought to right action? Why strain our selves looking for all the pluses and minuses, the reasons and results, when we can just collapse into a single thumbs up thumbs down?
I was delighted by this mural inside the Rosebud near Davis Square-

"Al Cass FAST" was my favorite valve oil even back in Cleveland - the rocketship and the way it proudly displayed its hometown really appealed to me, along with the"ODORLESS / WEATHER CONSCIOUS / DOES NOT SEPARATE" copy on the bottle, from an era when products sold themselves as much as facts as feelings. According to Wikipedia
[Al Cass] was the manufacturer and creator of the "FAST" valve/slide/key oil combination for brass instruments, which has been considered the industry standard since inception. It was developed after 18 months of R&D at the request and final approval of Dizzy Gillespie.
which is super hip.
If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.
David Foster Wallace

There is no art without resistance in the material.
William Morris

I've been digging using old school (but touchscreen) e-ink Kindle - but they still have the disadvantage of not letting me use the color coding for highlights I did when the app on iPad mini was my main reader. Also it's less easy to copy and paste quotes onto my website and Facebook. Both of these problems are somewhat mitigated now with what might be a new feature (or not?) where the device can email you a nice PDF and CSV with your notes.



BABAM Takes Music To The Streets from Julia Maruca on Vimeo.

December 8, 2018

I "won" my group's "Ugly Sweater Contest", but mostly because I sang the Imperial March as I took the runway. #cargurus

December 9, 2018

My recent devblog post on repeatable random colors in javascript is slightly more clever than sometimes plus I get to quite John von Neumann: "Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin." (At my first programming job Paul Morville made a small sign of that, since he thought my protests along the lines of "this code can't POSSIBLY be doing that" had a whiff of that "from structure, chaos"...)

December 10, 2018


December 11, 2018

One of the best Vine compilations ever. Man what a brilliant medium that was.


Lately I've been working on a personal timelines project, experimenting with visualizing the course of my life so far: where I've lived, jobs I've had, people I've been with romantically, etc.

Time for humans is such an odd beast - it marches inexorably forward, yet loops back on itself in the form of days of weeks and seasons in years. In experimenting with visual representations of it, I thought back to my old hooptime illustration, showing the idiosyncratic way I place a week in physical space (like when making simple day-of-week calculations)

Back then I mentioned and illustrated my even stronger sense of the course of a year - again counter-clockwise, with January at the top, and looping back:

Of course a simple loop doesn't display a forward progression of time, so for grins today I stretched out the loop into something that also expresses the movement into the future:

(It's not entirely dissimilar from repeat until death, my attempt to animate Christa Terry's ingrained visualization of an upward spiral of years.)

You can see the full p5 version here.

I'm still very interested in the topic of how different people visualize time, and speculation on what influenced that (clockfaces, calendar pages, whatever) If anyone has an idiosyncratic time-space mapping I'd be delighted to try and make an illustration of it.

It's judgement that defeats us.
Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now.
I have been thinking a lot on judgement lately; wondering if it's just a form of unnecessary attachment, this incredibly goofy need to develop a gut feel "am I for this or against this" on every topic that crosses our path.

December 13, 2018

Today's Nancy is on point.

Man. I feel bad for not being a better hermit crab parent over the years. They are so orderly!
With the rise of phrases like "horny on main", I feel like the word has recovered something it lost in, like, the 80s with 2 Live Crew's song - like it's kind of useful to playfully talk about expressed sexual desire without being too gross or too judgemental.

sounds to me like someone's got a case of the s'pose'das!

sounds to me like someone's got a case of the s'pose'das!

Been thinking about this famous Simpsons line in the context of how I'm noticing everyone is very quick to use emotional judging to get to a stance of "this is good and I'm for it" "this is bad and I'm against it" rather than more finessed categorization; for understanding that everything exists because of some kind of set of cause and effect, and usually meeting some kind of purpose, but maybe a purpose that doesn't align with our own. (I think this "emotional judging" goes against Buddhism's suggestion that we not attach so freely, lest it lead to suffering.)

I mean, that's what a "s'pose'da" is, right? "This should not be!" and yet - there it is. From whence "should"? Going to "how it should be" can be used to deny personal responsibility for preference... I mean you can often trace it back to a lot of "well, we should make choices now to make outcomes like this less likely in the future, preferring rather a common-sense-derived set of preferred outcomes", but most people just go with their gut and-or defer to authority of one kind or another.

Anyway, is the line this teacher is using one (or similar to one) teachers actually used, or was it kind of made up for the show?
Sigh, in the interest of fairness- damn it to hell, NJ Dems, don't gerrymander too, you jerks.
Cracked has some thought experiments, mostly old stuff but some kind of new. I think how some of them - especially "which has more value, water or a diamond, when only the former is essential for life" and "would you ruin a $50 pair of shoes to plunge and save a drowning kid, but not send $50 to a foreign kid-saving charity?" only make any kind of sense if you throw away context. In most contexts, a diamond will gets you lots of water. In context, a drowning child is a problem at hand with a finite and bounded and satisfying solution, while sending a check involves chipping on a corner at a huge problem without resolution.

Noticing that brings me to this idea of how I'm a "cruxian", that I care about things in broad strokes and am relatively insensitive to nuance - basically, my brain is much more attentive to how things interact with their context. I'm blind to things like the mostly-internal excellence of a well-constructed symphony, say... not to mention a bit faceblind, maybe since the specific contours of any given face don't change how it interacts with the world (unless the personal is at the far ends of the beautiful/ugly spectrums)

on i'm ping pong king and just cause 4

I did a bit of devblogging about a mobile game I liked a lot lately, "I'm Ping Pong King". The other game I recently finished is at the other end of the complexity spectrum - "Just Cause 4" definitely feels rushed, has very repetitive missions, super-fiddly systems of territory take over and weapon configuration, and is mostly inferior to 3, but I had a good time with it. No other series I know equals the beautiful sense of motion granted by the protagonists combination of grappling hook, parachute, and "Squirrel Suit" gliding (skimming near the ground, shooting the grapple forward and then yanking back to get a bit more speed is straight out of a flying dream - assuming you don't comically misjudge and pull yourself headfirst into the ground or a tree or something.) Combine that with a ton of fun to steer and shoot vehicles, lots of props that explode in absurdly gratifying ways, and a new mechanic letting you strap a lifting balloon and/or a rocket booster to ANYTHING (or anybody) with often hilarious results, and it's a solid holiday game. (It also has one of the greatest easter eggs ever for any a-ha fan) It was interesting comparing Just Cause 4's Rico's abilities with the web-slinging in Spider-Man. The latter is set in a much more realized urban world, but you don't really control where you're firing your webs, just kind of steering around it. Plus I never used enough to get really comfortable with the combat...
Another random rant nobody cares about: I've never been a huge fan of the Playstation controllers, while I admire the symmetry the thumbsticks never seemed super-comfortably placed and triangle/square/X/circle never stuck in my mind. In particular, I heard that in Japan, "O" means (roughly) "OK" and "X" means wrong, but when they regionalized it for the USA they made "X" be the default OK. For me, that will always feel badly placed, since X is on the bottom of the cross the buttons make, and I think "yes, approve, go" should be on the right side, indicating "forward" progress (in cultures that read left to right)

Also, it feels wrong to me that the L1/R1 are the smaller shoulder buttons, while L2/R2 are the bigger buttons - the bigger buttons are much more primary, I think, so the numbering will always feel backwards to me (in the same way I function better when my car and house keys are placed to make a kind of semantic sense with the layout of the doors.)
@ademklevy :

This page offers some variants of that last diagram...

December 16, 2018

doctor: treatment is simple. go see orville, very funny clown
pagliacci: what about pagliacci?
doctor: pagliacci? man i could not name a more suckass clown
doctor: just downright dogshit of a clown

This twitter joke has been stuck with my head for months. If you don't quite get it, see this page (starting with the 3rd panel) about the Watchmen comic most geeks would know it from

Someone tweeted the follow up "doctor: pagliacci not even one of the better-known clowns"
A few months back, my fiancé decided to unearth his first ever email account. He was surprised and crushed to learn that Hotmail had deleted it over a decade ago. It got me thinking about my physical relics, which live in a plastic bin that he and I have hauled through half a dozen moves: a CD bearing saved photos, though neither of our computers contains a disc drive; a beloved mug that now leaks through a crack; a champagne cork from the day we got engaged. Pack rat though I am, I've been appraising my life all along. When we left Washington, D.C., for Boston a year ago, I threw out a decade's worth of birthday cards and the notes from a recent writing workshop I remember as useless--but kept the fervent birthday letters my mother always writes, and the college syllabi of philosophy books that I keep telling myself I'll revisit someday. I've been wondering which of my digital records are worth carrying like that overfull box--not as heavy, but no less consciously accounted for. I'll never reassemble every scrap of myself I've scattered across Facebook, but I've started downloading my favorite photos and saving them to the cloud. I don't expect to make the historical record, but if the archivists ever came knocking, I'd want to have saved my own annals, and decided for myself what to throw away.
LOL, I know that "but if the archivists ever came knocking" hope. (What's life without just a touch of delusional grandiosity?)

So some of the trick is to curate - I mean keep that overfull box on some drive, but at some point make a better online or better yet physical scrapbook of just the best stuff. That's what I did with my years bestof photos series, for instance, and some of the ideas I want to bake into this timelines display I've been messing with.

cora bird


December 18, 2018

These are simple, no-frills strategies, like being present and showing up for what you can, like your work and your friends and your trivia night and your cat. Limit your phone time and consumption of Internet content, whether that's social media, the 24-hour news cycle, or both. Our smartphones now feel like baby monitors that we should constantly be checking, but they can quickly turn into triggers for feelings of fear, isolation, sadness, despair, helplessness, anger, and frustration.
I liked the "baby monitor" metaphor.
Whereas Lauren Bacall was shocked to hear of his antics, John Wayne didn't bat an eye when Hudson "took a member of the Los Angeles Rams to bed with him" at the end of a day's shooting: "I think Rock's a hell of a guy," he said. "Who the hell cares if he's queer? The man plays great chess."

December 19, 2018

It would take 11,407 years to spend 1 minute with 6 billion different people. No one will ever meet everyone. Enjoy every moment with the people that are in your life, because you are sharing your life with them and they are sharing their life with you.

December 20, 2018

Professor X: So what's your power?

Me: I can heal immediately-

X: Oh, we already have someone that can do that.

Me: -from any emotional wounds.

X: That's dumb. You can't join the team.

Me: I'm completely ok with that.

Other People: do u let ur pets on the furniture?

1st Prize Catt. Count Fair, 1982

I have this jewelry (I think) piece that was framed by my dad over 35 years ago: I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't think it's a particularly lovely piece, but any charms it does have are likely being lost on me. $135 is about $400 in today's money - and for all I know he was thinking investment as much as the beauty of it (or the contest winning.) I don't have much sentimental attachment to it - heaven knows I have my fair share of artifacts that connect me with him.

Of course, that was in a pre-Etsy/Ebay day. (I suspect his visions of carefully hoarded 1980s-era Happy Meal toys being worth something came to naught, since the web turned that into a buyers market.)

Wish I had access to something Antique Roadshow-y!

UPDATE: my mom says
If memory serves, I think he liked it because it was [a broach] designed by Georg Jensen [...] I believe original. It intrigued your dad because it was a jewelry piece, rather than Jensen’s usual tableware."
Very much a WIP, my timelines project might be of interest to people who dig information display problems (and want to provide feedback and/or see how the sausage is made)

December 22, 2018

A history of Star Control 2 and some games by the same folks, like Archon... very rich about the feel of the folks who made it. (I like the reference to the game review calling the mechanic "Rock, Scissors, Vapor")

Sometimes it strikes me as weird when I'm communicating with folks doing cool stuff in the games field (blogs/podcasts or new creative work - see Chogue, a combination of Chess and Rogue that got me thinking about Archon) and I realize I know a lot of game lore that they don't - and usually stuff like "I thought EVERYONE knew that". Guess it's a combination of being old, and the general community of video games folks being much much larger. (And conversely, when I realize how pretty much every game I can think of has some kind of video showing gameplay on Youtube, I realize there's this large group who know much more about these games, and have put in the work to get them playable and recordable. They are doing important cultural history work.)

What do LEGO astronauts have on their backs?
A. Jet Pack for smooth travel
B. Oxygen for survival
C. Something else

December 23, 2018


--Grinchy, wealthy universities have a change of heart and start making PILOT payments in City Hall Christmas fable

December 24, 2018

You know, if I ever have the need or the chutzpah to really go full on "I'm Creative!!!!" like at a job. I could do worse than the "band half jacket over a graphic T" look I had for a JP Honk gig the other night....

The brain is just 8 lbs of meat that sits in complete darkness and plays a video game of what it thinks is the most realistic thing ever.
(but it should probably be 3 lbs)
An apparition appears in your room, alongside a more successful looking doppelganger of yourself.

Apparition: " - and THIS is what you would be!"

Doppelganger: "Oh my god! Spare me these twisted visions, specter! I've learned my lesson!"

(both vanish)

You: Hey what the fuck

December 25, 2018


Sigh. I used to make javascript-y Advent Calendars! ( https://advent2012.alienbill.com/ is still pretty charming)
Or virtual holiday cards...

This year I just noodled around to see if I could fake wrapping a bitmap around a sphere
(spoiler...only kind of). More info.

December 26, 2018

We are AS gods, and may as well get good at it.
This might include losing the pride that went before the fall we are now in the process of taking.
Rolling with such a fall is our present lesson-- learning whatever resilience, ingenuity, basic skills, and enthused detachment that survival requires.
And learning perhaps to reverence some Gods who are not AS us.
Whole Earth Epilog

As more and more people get a voice, a voice needs a special stridency to be heard above the din. On the street, people tolerate diversity because they have to -- you'll get from here to there if you don't get in anybody's face. But the new media environment is always urging you to mock up an instant opinion about The Other ... You can be part of the biggest mob in history. Atavistic fun, guys. Pile on!
R.U. Sirius, in Wired February 1994

The Net is opening up new terrain in our collective consciousness, between old-fashioned 'news' and what used to be called the grapevine--rumor, gossip, word of mouth. Call it paranews--information that looks and sounds like news, that might even be news. Or a carelessly crafted half-truth.
Tom Dowe, in Wired January 1997

December 27, 2018

Hah! When I was briefly hanging out w/ UU on Sundays I was always surprised at how flat a reading people gave to these - I usually felt compelled to try and make it sound more like regular speech than monotone reading...

Was hanging out with Leonard "Robot Finds Kitten" Richardson, he's decluttering and I grabbed his series of "Gamespite Quarterly" Reminded me "New Games Journalism" and specifically "The Gamers Quarter" and how some of the more interesting and creative people I know are from there, namely Anna Anthropy, Jeremy Penner, James Harvey. I'm not saying it was Paris in the 20s but I can't think of many vibrantly creative online communities I've been heavily involved with since.
Got my mom a new laptop for Christmas - the 4 year old HP Stream it's replacing had a pretty good run, but 20Gb (for storage, not just memory) meant she was having a bad time with it. But she's letting me grab that old machine, which for a four year old thing ain't so bad - I figure it might help me get out of the Apple bubble and start testing with IE a bit anyway.

It's funny, just a bit of using it and already long-buried habits of reaching for the ctrl key instead of cmd while back on my Mac are rearing their ugly head.

I honestly haven't used Windows much since 2013. Do geeks looking to ssh still just fire up PuTTY or what?

to live life, you need problems?

For a while I've been living in mild, uncertain disagreement with this quote:
To live life, you need problems. If you get everything you want the minute you want it, then what’s the point of livin’?
Jake the Dog in Adventure Time.
My counterpoint to that has been: I don't think the point of life is solely in the struggle of it- maybe not even mostly. Existentially we are enabled and required to define the greater purpose of it all for ourselves. Problems may be merely obstacles to said greater purpose, unless we've decided that the struggle with those problems is the point, as maybe Jake has done.

A possible counterpoint to my counterpoint is that learning to deal with problems is an important part of learning to deal with life, no matter what we take the point of life to be. If we don't get practice facing the small problems, we are more at risk for being swamped by larger ones. (On the other hand a densely packed series of problems may just wear us down and leave us more vulnerable to collapse. What doesn't kill us doesn't always make us stronger.) So in this model, problems we get through are critical to showing us the way to future problem solving.

So the countercountercounterpoint is - man, what the hell kind of silver lining is that? The silver lining to this gray cloud of a problem is just the promise of more damn gray clouds? Yeesh.

To unravel this gordian knot I've made of "are problems necessary?" I will slice with "problems are". They are likely there whether we accept them placidly and in good humor or rail against the unjustness of the universe or split the difference and learn from things to try and have fewer problems in the future. Amor Fati, love this fate, because there is no other.
On FB, Matt McIrvin said
I think of Mark Twain's vision of heaven: there are problems and there's work to do, but it's somehow arranged so you get to do the kind you find interesting.
In followup conversation, he clarified that as Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven - a great piece that tries to get some sense of the incredibly vast scale a universe-encompassing Heavenly afterlife would entail.

Part of my response was:
So up there I make reference to everyone's existential right and duty to figure out what it's all about for themselves; for me (personally) it's to aid and abet the creation of categorical novelty in the universe; that in this quarter of the universe humans seem uniquely able to create new categories of things that wouldn't exist otherwise, and so I try to aim my life to supporting that, and so support both humanity's stability and freedom.

And I try to create some of that novelty myself; both for the pleasure of making things towards my existential goal, and for the ego-gratification (or perhaps, reassurance) of being a person who can make such things. So of course to maximize the latter, challenges should be something that needs to be difficult for people in general but easy for me, I guess.

Of course that's me soaking in a bath of Dweck-ian "Fixed Mindset"; since I don't have an intuition that groks personal growth, I prefer to be seen as someone with innate abilities for whom things are easy, rather than as a person made of more ordinary potentials who overcomes great personal challenges.

TIL: Meghan Markle is a different person than Angela Merkel
I thought this was a pretty good macro summary of the USA economy from post-WW2 to now. Interesting to think about what started after WW2 in part to avoid another depression..

m.leach at the beach


December 30, 2018

There was no message,
just a photo of his face in the mailbox.
It was delivered in a plain envelope, so
I guessed he had brought it himself.
Stuck to the fridge with a bumblebee magnet,
I lived with it, dry eyed,
for several weeks before
I thought to check the back and saw:
"$25,000 in unmarked bills. Tomorrow. Corner of
Sunset and Hope."
And I thought to myself:
"this must be that time in my life when everything
goes wrong. For instance, I don't even know
what unmarked bills are."
Pippin Barr, "Unmarked Bills", 28 May 2010

December 31, 2018

As 2018 draws to a close I'd like to say that I feel like the idea of the 10,000 Year Clock is underappreciated.
Shout out to Bright Brass instrument repair in Waltham- John took great care of my tuba over my holiday travels and frankly did more than he charged me for. (He's also run some instrument care lessons at School of Honk)
nbd just jamming out the new year with Keytar Bear

Just realized that besides "kirkjerk" "kirkamundo" and "the great kirkini" I could have been using "kirkus maximus" this entire time.

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