2019 March❮❮prevnext❯❯

winter one second everyday

So like clockwork here is my One Second Everyday for the winter-- Christmas in NJ including the pinball museum, lots of bands (with me as player and me as audience), hanging out with kids, lots of office shots, some snow shoveling, a bit of football game and video game footage....

Oh wait, that's 2013-2014, not not 2018-2019! Here's the current one:

So, little joke there. It is a little jarring to me how similar my current life looks.
I'm pedantically anti-pedantic. I HATE when people correct someone calling a sousaphone "a tuba" - the term "tuba" isn't as specific as it could be, but it's not wrong! And flaunting your "superior", yet incomplete, musical knowledge over someone is just rude.

Anyway, that whole "look how smart I am, I know tomatoes are FRUITS" crowd has some splainin' to do, because the definition of "vegetable" is a hot mess. (And to my surprise reflects the old Anglo-Saxon/Norman elitist crap of centuries ago, and today...)

I guess I always fall on the side of being descriptivist, because I think prescriptivism is forcing people to bow to a quite possibly false god - l feel there IS an optimal, "correct" answer to things, and you should look to the usage by real people as the most accurate signposts - maybe even the definition of what is correct - to that unknowable truth (or rather, the truth you can know, but you can never be CERTAIN you know) rather than strutting with the arrogant hubris of self-certainty, like just because you know the etymological roots of something, you are blessed with perfected knowledge.

february 2019 new music playlist

Somewhat anemic February, music-wise, though I was glad to figure out how to tape songs off of youtube in a reasonable way... (chronological order, 4-star songs in red)
It seems odd that two tropes for the clearness of the eyes - "gimlet-eyed" and "limpid pools"- both sound a bit like the opposite of what they mean.
A cucumber - like, either end of an english cucumber - wrapped in a tortilla, and with some jalapeno mustard, has a remarkable tastiness and texture and nutrition (well, at least lack of un-nutrition) to fuss ratio, seriously off the charts.

limerent lament

I just finished Dorothy Tennov's Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love...

Limerence is a term the author invented for overwhelming romantic feeling that many people seem prone to - but many aren't. The nearest synonym might be "infatuation", but Tennov is trying to describe something less adolescent and more beautiful than that - the lovely neologism "limerence" certainly has echoes of "luminous" or "liminal".

Trying to think of cultural referents for "limerence", I recalled this quote from the ending of the movie "True Romance":
Amid the chaos of that day, when all I could hear was the thunder of gunshots, and all I could smell was the violence in the air, I look back and am amazed that my thoughts were so clear and true, that three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record: you’re so cool, you’re so cool, you’re so cool
That gets to the spirit of it about as well as anything in Hollywood. (Though when I think about "A Fish Called Wanda" - the way John Cleese's character and his wife undress for the night in a companionish way before heading to their separate single beds, vs how he lights up for Jamie Lee Curtis' Wanda - that's a great case study as well.)

I have a theory that sometimes "limerence" is idolized in our society because people want the relationships they deeply invest in to be beyond the reach of market forces. To quote the grand balladeer Weird Al:
You're sort of everything I've ever wanted
You're not perfect, but I love you anyhow
You're the woman that I've always dreamed off
Well, not really, but you're good enough for now
No one wants to be subjected to that! Even if the state of limerence is famously fickle, people look for that beautiful madness as inexplicable, nostalgic bedrock to set their relationship on - maybe even for a future family - even if they are aware that the initial rush may die down.

As some who generally is, as the book puts it, "nonlimerent" (or at least since college) I got to wondering about the neurochemistry of it all - the descriptions of the state reminded me of the euphoria of certain drugs... I wonder if people inclined to that kind of feeling more prone to drug or alcohol abuse, or are they especially susceptible to hypnosis - i.e. are they vulnerable to go other places where conventional rationality (and rational convention) is put aide?

But those questions may be self-serving FOMO sour grapes from a nonlimerent! (I sometimes feel stunted as an emotional person that I have an internal gardener that will examine seedlings of emotion that spring up and quick weed out ones that don't make sense...) Especially when the book builds on Stendhal's metaphor of "Crystalization":
In the salt mines, nearing the end of the winter season, the miners will throw a leafless wintry bough into one of the abandoned workings. Two or three months later, through the effects of the waters saturated with salt which soak the bough and then let it dry as they recede, the miners find it covered with a shining deposit of crystals. The tiniest twigs no bigger than a tom-tit’s claw are encrusted with an infinity of little crystals scintillating and dazzling. The original little bough is no longer recognizable; it has become a child’s plaything very pretty to see. When the sun is shining and the air is perfectly dry the miners of Hallein seize the opportunity of offering these diamond-studded boughs to travellers preparing to go down to the mine.
Who wouldn't want to be connected to that kind of beauty, even if it's all in the eye of the beholder? Or short-lived? As Joe Haldeman put it in "The Forever War":
But love, he said, love was a fragile blossom; love was a delicate crystal; love was an unstable reaction with a half-life of about eight months.
And so I think back to relationships where I've been a bit more limerent - the foreign exchange student in high school, where it feels like a kind of limerence was mutual, to the on-again/off-again in college that was much more one-sided. I don't get sparks like that too often. Mortifyingly, sometimes the strongest echo of those times comes with a little frisson of excitement I get with certain technological devices - to cite an old Dilbert:

Clearly, unless one has embraced a Shinto / animistic outlook (or accepted Tom Robbins' "Still Life with Woodpecker"s view of our bias against inanimate objects as being a bit uncalled for) this delight in mere "things" is a bit untoward - but what can I say? Some gadgets embody supreme elegance! - and they empower me without making demands on me, and without me having to risk rejection...

Heh, in a too-long ramble already brimming over with quotes, what's one more? Here's Carrie Fisher journaling while mooning over Harrison Ford:
I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.
An affection for gadgets and furnishings aside, what are the implications for romance among the nonlimerent? Again, I turn to the movies, specifically "Birdman":
"You know, just because I didn't like that ridiculous comedy you did with Goldie Hawn did not mean I did not love you. That's what you always do. You confuse love for admiration."
Oh, man. THAT is just what I do, in spades. In every significant romance with which my past and present has been graced, I can dig and find that admirable quality: "the most" - she was the most beautiful, this one the most exotic, that one the most academically accomplished, or the cutest, or the smartest, or the funniest, or the kindest or... certainly not "the most _____" in the whole world, but in MY world.

And with some of those categories... if I'm forthright (and I strive to be nothing if not unflinching and truthful about myself) there's an ego aspect with it, or at least a need for validation. Sometimes I don't want to be around that admirable quality merely for its own sake, or as an inspiration for my self-improvement, but so that the world can see me near it - and for my own insecurity - I am affirmed that I'm worthy of wooing the bearer of a quality so fine, in the eyes of the world, and of myself.

So, back to the book. It definitely has the 60s/70s feel of its era - kind of like the book "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex" - people being frank and reflective about their experiences during an era of transition, where men and women were reconsidering their relationship with the world and with each other. And I guess in the end, its conclusion is... you're either limerent or you're not, or at least, mostly not. And there's not a lot you can do it about it, but it's important to be sympathetic to the people that are.

I'm grateful to this book for letting me come to terms with the fool I was when I was limerent and the more sedate guy I am now.

quotes via "love and limerence"

Musical tempo varies, but it does so roughly within the range of the human heartbeat.
Dorothy Tennov, "Love and Limerence"
Love is a human religion in which another person is believed in.
Robert Seidenberg
Now by these presents let me assure you that you are not only in my heart, but my veins, this morning. I turn from you half abashed--yet you haunt me, and some look, word or touch thrills through my whole frame--yes, at the very moment when I am labouring to think of something, if not somebody, else. Get ye gone Intruder! though I am forced to add dear--which is a call back--
Mary Wollstonecraft to William Godwin
The pleasures of love are always in proportion to the fear.
Stendhal, "On Love"
Oh Love! Thou bane of the most generous souls! Thou doubtful pleasure, and thou certain pain.
George Granville, Baron Lansdowne

Harvard has a giant tuba
Man, how long-running was the Opportunity Mars Mission? Old enough to have its own Livejournal!
Nothing is just one thing.
Carrie Fisher.
I just remembered Esquire has this What I've Learned series that's quite brilliant and generous.
Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.
Adam McKay (cited as "Overheard at a Washington, D.C. bar") in "The Big Short"

I remember reading about how humans are uniquely well adapted for throwing things but reading NFL draft defensive backs talk about what animals would be hardest to cover... I can't think of many animals that would be great at catching a football. Somehow it seems like a different problem than catching flies or mice or other prey, you know?

drum up the dawn

Remember some very fine verses by Rudyard Kipling, the famous "Ballad of East and West." There you have a British officer who is pursuing an Afghan horse thief. They're riding. Then Kipling writes, "They have ridden the low moon out of the sky, their hoofs drum up the dawn." Now, you can't ride the moon out of the sky and you can't drum up the dawn in Spanish, because the language doesn't allow it. It can't be done. For example, you can say in English you are dreaming away your life. Well, that can't be said in Spanish or any romance language, as far as I know. It might be said perhaps in German or one of the Scandinavian tongues, but not in a romance language. A Spaniard can dream his life away, but he can't say so. Just as we can die even if we don't think of death.

And English has another virtue. The virtue of Anglo-Saxon words: they're short. If you say selini in Greek, that's far too long--three syllables. In Spanish, luna, two syllables. In French, just one syllable, really, lune. But in English that beautiful, lingering word "moon." It's the right word, no? Moon and sun, those two were the right words.

From a conversation with Jorge Luis Borges on the translations of his books and poetry, via Harper's
I think English is sometimes unfairly maligned in a self-deprecating way by cosmopolitan speakers of it, anxious to avoid linguistic chauvinism. And it's true - the languages wide-ranging roots mean it's not the best for rhyming poetry, and those same roots lead to one of the biggest wordsets with lots of exceptions and inconsistent spelling rules - making full mastery as a second language (or even a first) difficult.

But I've been told is that, at least when coming from certain other first languages, it's pretty easy to pick up the basics, to understand and make yourself understood. And that big vocabulary means words can carry a lot of economical nuance, so that more experienced speakers can express themselves with great fidelity.

I was reading this piece on why ji32k7au4a83 is a popular password - SPOILER: it's a transliteration of "My Password" via a Taiwanese system for phonetically typing Mandarin. (Previously I've been interested in the "Russian via English phonemes" system used by Russians in the USA who often didn't have access to proper cyrillic keyboards). So I don't know if it's coincidence (or possibly post-facto "Just So" stories) but Latin- and Cyrillic-character alphabets seem especially fortuitous in the early days of computing - I mean later coders had to pay the price to move beyond the basics of 256 characters of ASCII, but you could be very expressive on very low-resolution screens, and less than half of that 256 will let you say pretty much anything you can say in English, if you aren't too fussy about accent marks or nuanced punctuation.
Some public radio program just had Sam Donaldson talking about how he thought that cameras in the Presidential Press Briefing room were a bit of a mistake because you see the contention between the Presidential Press Secretary trying to deliver the "official story" and the reporters trying to pry and get more information, and that for many people their sympathies will be for the Secretary, that they'll see the reporters (who might have their own agendas) as hounding the poor guy who already delivered the message. That's kind of odd; my sympathies were immediately for the reporters, figuring the secretary to be a bit of a weasel who ultimately is an obstruction to an objective view of the situation.

Is it the way I politically bend, which I guess would reflect the alleged "leftward bias" of the media, that makes me take the side I do? I think I'd feel the same way even during a Democratic administration. Do people in general trust political figures more than they do the media? That's kind of sad.

Something I wrote in 2006.
For Trump fans, my ending question is clearly answered.

soda is a gas

I'm sometimes alarmed at my lack of recognition of bodily cause and effect. Sure, little in life is a variable-controlled scientific experiment, and often the feedback loops are long enough that seeing the cause and effect is tough -between "eating a lot" and "showing weight gain", for example - or even better, "exercising" and "seeing positive results". (Of course, the "panting and wheezing" feedback loop is much more immediate.)

Years ago, for example, I was surprised to realize that I got significantly better at a head-to-head block video game (Tetris Attack, I think, at my Aunt's) when the massage chair I was in finished its round of lumbar region magic. I'm sort of in denial about being at the mercy of the physical world I think - it's as if I think sheer willpower, or its lack, fully determines my skill in that kind of game, and in a bunch of other aspects of life. (Does my back ache? Should I maybe skip playing tuba for a bit? Nah, just muscle through! That's the Kirk-y way. My own discomfort can ONLY be considered if it outweighs a greater, possibly group, benefit to be had.)

[CW ahead:farts]

Anyway, the most recent example of the scales dropped from my eyes: perhaps the vast quantities of diet soda I enjoy on the regular is causing the gassiness that has been adding such comic delight to the soundscape at home for me and Melissa. (Luckily carbonation is relatively innocuous, so the smellscape is...well, not as bad as you might fear, at least.) So I'll be trying to cut back in general, stick with water and iced coffee and iced tea.

ballad of the second guesser

My best attempt to explain something that's been on my mind a lot lately:
click for draft 1 - draft 2 - draft 3 - draft 4

Lately my work went over the DiSC personality assessment. At one point we got to discussing the "Conscientiousness" type. Our session leader's assumption that I, as someone who desperately tries to see things from all angles, would be a "C"-type, since they are so urgent that things are correct, and therefore would have done their due-diligence. I disagreed that I was that type - I think what is critical is that the "C"-type folk have FOUND what they believe to be the best answer, and are then content to enforce that as best practice, while I tend to think there IS a best practice but we can never be certain we are aligned with it- but it's important that we give people the freedom to figure out their best guess as well.

So the critical factors seem to be - is there a singular best truth, and how certain can we be that we've gotten there? I think that makes a 4-quadrant spectrum, as shown here.

I know I am deeply in "Second Guesser" territory. I have this near unshakable suspicion that a transcendent truth exists - and while it's not "unknowable", we can never be certain that we've arrived at knowledge and so need to be interested in all viewpoints - all viewpoints from people of good intentions are valid signposts to what is "really" true.

The opposite view I'm calling "Self-Authoritative" until I think of a better name. There is no out-of-system truth in this view - but there are some patterns that are "clearly" better than others, and we can be confident in the superior qualities of our own subjective viewpoint.

"Believer" is my name for the top-right -- there is truth, and (possibly through special revelation) we can have faith in the accuracy of our beliefs.

Probably my most liberty-taking name is "Existentialist" -- all truth is subjective, and we'll never be positive about what's best, so every person is free to work things out for themself, and you don't have to be too anxious that other people aren't believing the "right" thing.

So does this ring true for anyone else? (asks the second guesser) Any improvements for quadrant names, or other axes that might be more useful in an epistemological kind of way?

Followup: it bums me out that Facebook is my best avenue for dialog these days (I crosspost nearly everything here and on that site) but the convo on this diagram with threads with Wendi and David was pretty good.

Followup 2: Similar to the DiSC assessment, but more resonant to me, Grentchen's Rubin's Four Tendencies model seems true to me. That link is the quiz, but the summary you get at the end goes:

I'm a questioner - though again, this taxonomy misses the epistemology of it. A questioner who is certain of themselves because of their own authority is different than one who is certain of themselves because of their image of an external objective standard. And I probably am closer to upholder because I respect the potential of other people's views of that objective truth.
Sigh. Getting to Inbox Zero / Todo Zero, or failing to (even when the "zero" just applies to the categories marked as relevant") is feeling like such a daily grind.
Franklin Lloyd Wright liked the term "Usonia" for the United States (of North America). I wish it had caught on (even with the gratuitous "i" to make it more euphonious) - it answers two problems: "United States" or "USA" is more of a description than a name, and it stops us from grabbing the name of two continents ("America!") to make up for the first problem.

(That said, I don't think "America" is THAT oppressive, since a person actually referring to the continents would says "Americas" or specify "North America"... mostly I prefer Usonia as a pleasant sounding name, vs a technical description.)

best photos of the month - february 2019


Open Photo Gallery

Oh, Epic Rap Battles of History, it has been a while!

Star Wars is almost totally black-and-white with its moral compass. [We excuse Luke Skywalker for the mass murder of everyone who lives on the Death Star, for example.]
Ryan Britt

March 9, 2019

If I learned one less from my time with the CIA, it is this:

Everybody believes they're the good guy.

I was an officer with the CIA Clandestine Service and worked undercover on counterterrorism and intelligence all around the world for almost 10 years. The conversation that's going on in the United States right now about ISIS and about the United States overseas is more oversimplified than ever. Ask most Americans whether ISIS poses an existential threat to this country and they'll say yes. That's where the conversation stops. If you're walking down the street in Iraq or Syria and asked anybody why America dropped bombs, you get: "They were waging war on Islam." And you walk in America and you ask why were we attacked on 9/11, and you get: "They hate us because we're free." Those are stories, manufactured by a really small number of people on both sides who amass a great deal of power and wealth by convincing the rest of us to keep killing each other. I think the question we need to be asking, as Americans examining our foreign policy, is whether or not we're pouring kerosene on a candle. The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them. If you hear them out, if you're brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not, you might have made some of the same choices, if you'd lived their life instead of yours.

An Al Qaeda fighter made a point once during a debriefing. He said all these movies that America makes, like Independence Day and Hunger Games and Star Wars, they're all about a small, scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel an outside, technologically advanced invader. And what you don't realize, he said, is that to us, to the rest of the world, you are the empire, and we are Luke and Han. You are the aliens and we are Will Smith.

But the truth is when you talk to the people who are really fighting on the ground, on both sides, and ask them why they're there, they answer with hopes for their children, specific policies that they think are cruel or unfair. And while it may be easier to dismiss your enemy as evil, hearing them out on policy concerns is actually an amazing thing. Because as long as your enemy is a subhuman psychopath that's going to attack you no matter what you do, this never ends. But if your enemy is a policy, however complicated, that we can work with.

Boy if there's one thing I learned from this morning's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" it is that I know far more things about Garfield than I probably should.
Why I Hope to Die at 75. Thought provoking piece to say the least! The author lays out a very solid argument for his personal choice of a kind of gentle euthanasia - or rather, the softest form of non-interventionist "DNR" order - once he has reached a specific age.
Is there anything you are goofily vain about? For me one thing (among many I'm sure) is my 617-area-code cell number. Old-school Boston Strong baby! I feel like only 212 could possibly have more cachet, and I know with which city my allegiance rests...
You know, sometimes life isn't fair [...] and that's frustrating.

I think things are more interesting like that, with the blue shells of life.

March 10, 2019

"A song we played today... and also a food...."
School of Honk Password-like game called "Salad Bowl". (Probably the correct answer was "Green Onions".) I laughed a bit too long.
This "spring the clocks forward one hour" thing would be so much more popular if it was done at 4 p.m. on a Friday.

Here are 3 from a series of Bauhaus-based logo redesigns:

(via lost in mobile)

via "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind"

Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behaviour, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition. No culture has ever bothered to forbid men to photosynthesise, women to run faster than the speed of light, or negatively charged electrons to be attracted to each other.
Yuval Noah Harari, "Sapiens".
This also reminds me of Star Treks "Kiri-kin-tha's First Law of Metaphysics": "Nothing Unreal Exists".
Christians and Muslims who could not agree on religious beliefs could nevertheless agree on a monetary belief, because whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.
Harari, "Sapiens"
I guess we can call this "moneytheism"
There was an image in "Sapiens" that rather exaggerated the difference between Chinese Explorer Zheng He's flagship and what Columbus was sailing, but the difference was still impressive:

Harari uses this difference to argue that China not setting out an making a worldwide empire (unlike the European powers) is an issue of cultural temperament and not technological disadvantage.
During World War Two, BBC News was broadcast to Nazi occupied Europe. Each news programme opened with a live broadcast of Big Ben tolling the hour – the magical sound of freedom. Ingenious German physicists found a way to determine the weather conditions in London based on tiny differences in the tone of the broadcast ding-dongs. This information offered invaluable help to the Luftwaffe. When the British Secret Service discovered this, they replaced the live broadcast with a set recording of the famous clock.
Harari, "Sapiens"

March 12, 2019

why we type in lowercase. the other really effective bit is asking a question but leaving out the question mark.

playful vr

This is a note I wrote to the group Boston Tech Poetics (formerly Boston Creative Coders)

Thanks to Adam and everyone who helped set up some great talks the other week!

I was so glad I shook off an urge to lose myself in my kindle until the "real" talks began - we have a nugget of this great little community doing really cool work here, and I'd love to see more - both what people are doing (like in the other thread) and also stuff, obscure or well-known, old or recent, that they think other Tech Poets should be aware of.

Zach Lieberman's work reminded me of two other artists I wish more people knew of: Some of his overhead projector / shadow stuff reminded me of Myron Krueger - he was working on amazing interactive stuff, most often w/ realtime silhouette / shadow data, and he started doing that when, like, "Pong" was the new hotness - but with a fervent dedication to keeping things real time. You can see a decent overview of some of his stuff here:

(Zach showing us Chris Sugrue's "Delicate Boundaries" was such a lovely extension of some of those ideas)

I like to see where ideas like these, either descendents or parallel thoughts, get commercialized. Way back in the PS2 era, "EyeToy" had some elements of that, of using simple webcam data to let you, say, fight off a big group of tiny ninjas leaping on you Maybe too this is all on my mind because I just got one of those PS4 VR setups, and some of the mini worlds play with some similar ideas...

At some point Zach was showing clips from software where people would draw something in a space, and that drawing would take on some kind of life - this reminded me of Takeo Igarashi's work.
He came up with this concept he called T.E.D.D.Y for making 2D sculptures by extrapolating from simple 2D doodles -

This got put into AMAZING commercial life with a game called "Magic Pengel". This was a PS2 joint project with Studio Ghibli (!!) and you didn't just draw static things, but fighting critters - as you drew, you indicated if this was a leg, or a wing, or a tail, or what, and then some super clever code animated what you drew and put it dancing and weaving in 3D space. Quite amazing! Unfortunately, the combat was just Pokemon-like Rock/Scissors/Papers turn-based battles. (A sequel, "Graffiti Kingdom", tried to make the creation system less loose and more engineer-y, I don't think it was an improvement.) Here is a Lets Play:

And while that video has loose, clay-lump drawings, apparently the sky was the limit in the hands of a skillful, determined artist:

I'm just blown away by this stuff. Going back to 2D, there was that "Crayon Physics" type games, and I see some more recent "2D physics from doodles" - but this 3D stuff was totally next level, and I'd love to see it in more applications - T.E.D.D.Y really bridged a gap from 2D inputs to 3D sculpture, and I don't even know what kind of black magic and animation genius about joints and physics Magic Pengel employed - I'd love to see a "Smash Bros" type physical combat with this idea (but I'm nowhere near smart enough to make it)

So what have you seen, either in the artists studio or gallery or on the store shelf (virtual or otherwise) that inspires you? What stuff based on Ollllld technology still inspires that "damn, how'd they do THAT?" And where would you like to try and put it in your own work?

and so on

I myself once learned 380 digits of π, when I was a crazy high-school kid. My never-attained ambition was to reach the spot, 762 digits out in the decimal expansion, where it goes "999999", so that I could recite it out loud, come to those six 9's, and then impishly say, "and so on!"
Douglas Hofstadter

A quantum experiment suggests there's no such thing as objective reality Hooboy.
Takin' my todo list and inbox tasks head on like

Developer proposes turning 3rd floor of Cambridgeside Galleria into office space
I've heard the Galleria is doing ok. Having seen the malls of my teenage years all turn into wreck and ruin, I'm kind of uptight about these things...malls are fun and it's a bummer when they can't survive.

japan photos, march 2008

In 2008 I got to visit Japan and I made a photolog of the 2 weeks I was there. At the end I put a baker's dozen of the best photos in a single gallery on flickr, but I no longer trust third party sites, so I'm mirroring them here, today.
Sweet, real time snuff films by alt-righters on murderous rampages. Yay, technology.
Watching "Catastrophe" on Amazon Prime - glad Melissa found it, and concerned I almost missed it! - I've recommended the Sharon Horgan's "Pulling" (which she also co-wrote and starred in) to a lot of folks, a BBC Comedy that deserves more attention (love how it has a bit of the sex in the city vibe, and the main characters aren't just kind of horrible people but also bad at their careers, which is sort of rarity in tv land)

March 16, 2019

To attract the moths, [the Bolas Spider] Nancy emits a chemical cocktail that resembles the pheromones that female moths gives off when they are ready to mate. Chemical mimicry and common sense: If you want to catch a chicken, smell like a horny chicken. If you want to catch me, smell like doritos and a nap.

Omg I just realized how cute it is that pirates call their friends their hearties 😍

Sometimes I think how the universe was pulled into existence through the smallest hole in nothingness, and other times I think how cool it is that sticks look like swords.

March 17, 2019

"you cannot kill me in a way that matters" is so raw and powerful but it comes from an incomprehensible shitpost about mushrooms

March 18, 2019

It's cool that there's no confirmed head of the FAA because Trump wanted to give the job to his personal pilot and senators told him no so then he just lost interest in the subject.
I guess that's a side effect of rule based on personal loyalty rather than experience, professionalism, and loyalty to the office and to the country...
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Numbers 23:22
(King James Version - other versions give it as "ox" or possibly "rhinoceros")

March 19, 2019


Hmm, I was wondering about those Shen Yun billboards and the show they advertise - like, was it just like the Nutcracker? But the billboards made it seem a little deeper than that-- This article showed up, and that whole "Falun Gong" vs Chinese Communist Government angle is so odd...
ME: But Lord, what about the times I saw only one set of footprints in the sand?

JESUS: You know what, stop trying to be some kind of beach detective

March 20, 2019

When you're a kid, you don't realize you're also watching your mom and dad grow up.


March 21, 2019

Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras - to quote Internet of Shit: "....are you saying that a plane crashed because Boeing made them pay for downloadable content? ...it sounds like you're saying airline safety systems have DLC."

March 22, 2019

To quote kottke:
it was really illuminating to speak all of the different sounds while paying close attention to where in my mouth they were happening. Try it!
More importantly kottke provided a link to pink trombone - a software version of a very manual speech synthesizer. (A software version of this absolutely haunting hardware...

March 23, 2019

click to play
14 years ago I linked to zombie3, an extension of an original game/simulation by Kevan Davies. I retrieved and patched it so that it works in modern browsers.
Does anyone else get endless FB ads for "Hero Wars"? It's weird - the animations all strongly imply it's a puzzle solving game (with rescue the princes in bondage themes) but it looks like the game itself is just a RPG-ish turn based combat thing. So odd.
Watched the movie "Drive" (one of the ones on the 100-movies-you-must-see scratch off poster I got). I like this bit of trivia from it:
The Driver and Irene actually say very little to each other, primarily because Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan felt that their scenes should be more focused on the mood and refused to say many of the scripted lines. Mulligan summarized making the film as "staring longingly at Ryan Gosling for hours each day."

March 24, 2019

Here's an ugly truth: some of the country doesn't believe that America belongs to people who aren't in their tribe. That tribe is white, straight (at least openly), and Christian. It's gotten bigger over the years -- it didn't used to include the Irish, or Italians, or Catholics, or women -- but every inch of expansion has been fought, bitterly and grudgingly. Other tribes can live in America, maybe, but theirs comes first, and everyone else is here at their forbearance.

March 25, 2019

Hello my name is Ryan, I am a professional writer who in school once completely forgot the word "mood" existed - but still remembered the concept - and so wrote a whole essay about the powerful literary effects of "ambient emotion"

March 26, 2019

Notes to my future self about my Todo list (which may interest exactly no one else, though I'm always a bit interested in how other people keep track of their stuff):

Still using "2Do" for iOS, but things were getting clogged up and stressful. The app was one of the first I'd seen with sterling support for category sublists where you could still see all tasks on a single big scrollable panel (without clicking), but with clear UI for good (but optional) date-specific and repeating reminder support.

Prior to this, I had the first category of "Importantish" and then a series of sorted categories, ("Porchfest", "Home", "Work", "Waiting", "Online", "Band", "Store", "Someday", with "Someday" being the "Someday, Maybe" lower-priority GTD recommends)

An early mistake was putting everything in "Importanish" until it got sorted. Adding an explicit default "Sort-Me" category as second on the list (a while back) made that better -saying it was "important" to sort everything was false, and diluting the urgency of the "Importantish" pool.

The most important recent mental change is saying everything "Sort-Me" is more just "normal priority", and all the categories under it are decreased priority - they were usually "under the fold" anyway.

I added a new "Google this" category after noticing "Sort-Me" was getting clogged with a bunch of potentially quick "someone mentioned this, go see if it's interesting" items... but I think in general, I will be deleting several of the other categories, the aspect of "where am I when I can do this" (like "Home") is less important than the relative implied priority.

I also got rid of a lot of "daily nags"... some are useful (especially tasks that accumulate if I skip a day) but in general they were just clogging the system.

Finally, my one complaint about 2Do was that I never did figure out how to get its icon "badge" count to be quite what I wanted, and the number was just cranking up my ambient stress level without really getting me to do anything, so I removed that badge, and also the badge for gmail, even though I'm trying to be vigilant about keeping my "Important and Unread" to zero (Gmail's "Important" guess automation is really pretty decent.)

(Overall 2Do is pretty grand -- yeah, it suffers from that "more features than you actually want" (since they say everyone uses a small percentage of the features of complex programs, but often not the same things within that percentage) but still manages to make a decent UI that doesn't get overwhelming.)

TIL Rihanna's Umbrella is built from GarageBand's royalty-free "Vintage Funk Kit 03" drum loop.

I really want to work up my composing-for-street-bands mojo. I just ordered a book a elementary school music teacher recommended - it might be a bit too basic. I'm wondering if I should look for some kind of private lessons, or just buckle down and do it. (Basically, I know bass lines, and have some idea of an existing melody, but have little idea of what to tell other parts to do that aren't basic chords...)

the art of computer designing

The other week I went to a "Boston Tech Poetics" meetup. One of the speakers was Zach Lieberman, who quoted this:
The work of past ages accumulates, and is remade again.
Osamu Sato, "The Art of Computer Designing"
I don't think the book resonated as deeply for me as for him, but I could see it hitting the sweet spot if some creative person encountered it at the right age or in the right frame of mind. Used copies on amazon are like $600, but archive.org has a good copy online

Apparently my birthday (last day of the month) is also "World Backup Day"... back up that data people! Maybe even printouts of the emotionally important stuff.

less than an eyeblink


Man. And keeping in mind the doubling of time in the movie (and that old joke about the guy who asked for payment of a grains of rice on a chess board - 1 on the first, 2 on the second, then 4, then 8.... until finally he's asking for more rice than the planet has) I mean all the potential future disasters for the earth - hopefully not for many generations, but still, asteroid strikes and supervolcanoes are gonna be the menu sometime, not to mention how many pleasant ways of life we're gonna be washing away with our love of burning carbon - but all that future-for-me happens in something that by halfway through the movie is less than the tiniest bit of an instant I could possibly imagine.

I suppose to someone who doesn't buy into the scientific method and its current belief about the most likely state and future of things, this is all as unbelievable and unwieldy and wacky as any of the other competing faith systems.

I think of that old line in Woody Allen's Annie Hall where Dr. Flicker tries to console Alvy: "It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try and enjoy ourselves while we're here. Huh? Huh? Huh?"

via kottke

You put a plug in the jug, mister, because if you ever hit Sharon I'll f***ing kill you.
Carrie Fisher's character in Catastrophe
(showing no sympathy for her son starting to drink again, because of her own time experiencing alcohol-fueled abuse.)

This show has given me a great appreciation for Springfield! Springfield! - a collection of transcripts of various television shows and movies. I'm pretty sure they are ripping the closed caption text - so if you don't want the text on screen (whenever I can read what the character is about to say before they say it, it always takes me out of the fiction of the show) but still want to check "what did they say?" it's pretty great. (A little odd to browse, since unlike a script there is no stage direction or even indication of who is speaking.)
How old were you when you realized "thicc" is a typographical pun about butts? I was today years old. (For a guy who longs for the return of old-school, punctuation-based emojis you think I'd be a bit faster with that ;-)

UDPATE: I put a tightened version of this ('The "cc" in "thicc" is a visual pun about butts.') on reddit's showerthoughts channel and it was one of my more successful ones in a while. (There's a theory that says "thicc" comes from avoiding a "ck" which would otherwise mean "Crip Killer", i.e. standing in opposition to the gang.)
Just a reminder that while the electoral college is in the constitution, the way most states are winner take all is an artifact of all the extra-constitutional political party crap- yeah it's "up to the states, then" but they can't back out of this without giving up their voters influence in the election. More gist for the mill of "the popular vote being overturned by the electoral college is immoral, crudely discounting the vote of people in more populated areas" and the "BUT THE CONSTITUTION" defense is weak-ass sauce.

But, who knows, maybe we'll have a year like 1988 again, where a Republican non-incumbent will win the popular vote.

March 29, 2019

Even if it's just to see the sun come up to break a depression. Interact with the world, because that's what you're here to do.

In Christian Circles, the Debate Over Leggings and Female Butts Has Been Raging With Special Urgency Utterly inconsequential side-story: I'm a little bummed some of the preference for stretchiness is crossing over into men's denim, just from a texture standpoint the semi-clinginess that results is less appealing for me to wear, but I guess I'm getting used to it.
Wanna make Kirk feel old? Remind him "The Matrix" came out on his birthday. 20 years ago.

March 30, 2019

"This cake is so moist and delicious I would collude with foreign actors for another slice."
"Oh yeah? Well I would commit human rights abuses just for more frosting."
"I would blaspheme for a few more sprinkles."
"I would wage an unjust war and commit war crimes for the recipe."
"Guys I think we should just chill out."

Kirk 45: Works Every Time

"Kirk 45: Works Every Time" -- this is the year and indeed the day for that joke but I'm not sure if the Billy Dee Williams reference is getting too dated! (Also the blaxploitation-ish aspect is a little unseemly.) Ah well!
Calmly we walk through this April’s day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn ...)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(... that time is the fire in which we burn.)

(This is the school in which we learn ...)
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run
(This is the school in which they learn ...)
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(... that time is the fire in which they burn.)

Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,
But what they were then?
No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)
But what they were then, both beautiful;

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.
Delmore Schwartz, "Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day"
...I was looking for the reference for "time is the fire in which we burn" from that Star Trek movie.

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