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photos of the month - march 2019


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Aww, work buddy Mifi left me a little Etcha-A-Sketch Animator birthday card...

march 2019 new music playlist

Music I added to my ever-increasing playlist last month - as usual, 4-star stuff in red, listed in decreasing "you need to hear this" order.
TIL we do not know the secret name of bears - not even our own word for it:
Our ancient ancestors were so worried about bears, they didn't even want to name them because they feared [the bears] might overhear and come after them. So they came up with this word -- this is up in Northern Europe -- 'bruin', meaning "the brown one" as a euphemism, and then 'bruin' segued into 'bear'. We know the euphemism, but we don't know what word it replaced, so bear is the oldest-known euphemism.

love's a placebo

I had a thought: Love and Support are basically placebos.

But it's not a true thought. People think placebos are "remedies that shouldn't work, but do anyway" and that isn't what I mean. Rather say: I, Kirk, have middling-poor instincts (and thus distrust) about "remedies" where the primary workings are internal to the "patient", and so are not amenable to externalized examination, and explanation - and classic expressions of love and support are in that category.

See, when people talk, it's rarely starkly forthright. They're not just telling you the objective facts, the speaker has in mind what they want you to know - and if they care about you, what they believe you want to hear. There are those touches of agenda, always.

Both of those kind of agendas (selfish and selfless) come into play when a supportive person (call them "the helper") goes into "advice mode" when a person going through tough stuff (call them "the helpee") just wants to be heard and validated. The helper wants to offer tangibly useful suggestions -
that's a more or less selfless agenda. But also: they don't want to be reminded that they might be helpless to tangibly help! (thus, the selfish aspect).

The helper needs existential fortitude to accept being in a world where their friends and loved ones suffer in a way the helper can't fix, even though the helper desperately want to. So would-be helpers need to cultivate the "internalized medicine" of listening and offering reassurance.

But man, sometimes those reassurances seem so hollow to folks like me, who look for objective, rational measures for everything.... "Everything's going to be ok", "This is temporary", "You'll get through this". The speaker doesn't objectively know this stuff is true, except in high-falutin' existential and long-run senses (to quote Keynes - "Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.")

But I need to remember, that's just me, I'm a bit of an outlier. Not everyone is as muddled by attempted rationality and external validation as me - and I need to remember the internal states of suffering loved ones may be maelstroms of irrational confusion and mislogic anyway - there's a good chance my "you're going to be ok", while still a bit of a platitude, is more true and honest than the helpee's view of the situation at that moment... and the sugar pill wrapper of real love and support might be medicine in and of itself.

(As to why I'm such a "rational" outlier - I think somehow in my youth I absorbed too much of the judge-y aspects of religion - that at the end of it all, I was going to be called into account for what I did in life, and so I trained to make my inner self and desires subservient to and explainable by the external / objective rationality that would hold sway in that final Divine Court, and thus avoid an eternity of hellfire torment.)

April 4, 2019

The art in life lies in taking pleasures as they pass, and the keenest pleasures are not intellectual, nor are they always moral.

April 5, 2019

I'll be helping to move a piano soon, and I'm thinking of this cartoon, Heavenly Puss...

...at least I think that's the cartoon I'm thinking of - I'm conflating it with ones where the gag is the piano drops on the head, and then the person rises up dazed out of the middle of the wreckage and their teeth have been replaced by piano keys.... this family guy references it but I'm pretty sure there's an original I can't quite find...

April 6, 2019

casually saying "you can't squeeze hummus out of a baby" instead of "you can't get blood from a stone"

the good of the many, the few, the one

I've been thinking about Spock lately.

As a child watching original Star Trek (and on a black and white TV for many of those years - come to think of it, these days many of the effects and makeup look bad when seen in HD - but considering only between 25-50% of TVs were color when the show was being broadcast, it holds up pretty well - I wonder how many design choices were made because they would read ok in black and white as well as showing off the new color capabilities.)

Ok, back to my point - growing up watch Star Trek at an impressionable age, I took the Vulcans' party line of "Vulcans don't HAVE emotions" at face value- assuming the aliens were somehow *physiologically* rational, and that it was just Spock's human half that was adding the drama. Now of course I see that the writers were showing a more nuanced picture, that Vulcan itself was a planet with a history of deep emotion, now rigidly controlled by training, philosophy, and cultural norms, and you could see signs of that in the few "pure" Vulcans the series provided.

I think about the old "I Grok Spock" campaign, and while it was a bit of a early fandom shibboleth it also reflected the fans' own working through their own dualities - how we have this emotional core that might be providing all the raw motive energy, but that needs to be tempered by logic and rationality. (Some of that is speculation, since that movement was before my time.)

Later came the movies. In "Wrath of Khan", Kirk and Spock return to the phrase "the good of the many outweigh the good of the few, or the one." (Though looking at the script I see the first time through it's "the needs". probably close enough to synonyms, but interesting.) Depending on how you draw the venn diagram of many/few/one, the result can be monstrous -

if the three sets don't come together and you are still playing a utilitarian "many vs few" game then you are deep in tyrany of the majority territory, where minority rights will be ignored.

Logically, Spock was probably implying nested sets:

What's slightly non-obvious about this diagram, and how it serves as the model for Spock's sacrifice that saves the ship, is that the good of the one is *still a component* of the good of the few, and the same for the few of the many. But sometimes what looks like "playing the martyr" to an outsider, or "masochism" (to use my therapist's term for it) misses the fact that it's not sacrifice for its own sake that is the pleasure, but logically aligning oneself with a kind of logical, group utilitarianism.

(Arguably you could see Spock's sacrifice as lessened since he was doomed along with the rest of the crew anyway, but his fight through the radiation in the reactor room entailed a radically painful death. )

In general, I think it's human and ok to add a bonus modifier in the "one" and "few" vs the "many" calculation when there's a conflict, but unlike the Ayn Randians I think that multiplier needs to be modest.

(Incidentally, I recently refreshed my memory of every episode in ST:TOS with the podcast Gimme That Star Trek's TOS Full Series Review - recommended)
next weeks finish line for the marathon this weeks viewing stand for the greek parade:

i'm gonna miss this shirt. For Old Navy it was a surprisingly authentic seeming Aloha shirt, with the vibrant print on the inside and the outside more muted. Like Kondo suggests I thank it for its service.

April 8, 2019

'Outlook not so good.' That magic 8-ball knows everything! I'll ask about Exchange Server next.

I did not forget your name, it's just that my ears are possessed by a name-eating goblin and any name that reaches my ears are devoured by the goblin before it can reach my brain.
I feel like this is true-er than it sounds - at least for some people - my theory is people who are fast readers etc tend to kind of skim the world of information, and if the low level reader flag something as "not really pertinent", the detail doesn't make it up the stack of cognition - and too often people's names are of this category. (I think here, for me, "peterinence" is defined as "informs on how this thing interacts with the world, or how I interact with it". And a rose by any other name would interact as sweet, you know?)

arts advocacy day

A few weeks ago BABAM supported Summer Street Brass Band in helping out MASSCreative's Arts Advocacy Day....

One of the first 3 CDs I bought was Maynerd Ferguson's Chameleon - I think Jeff Shaffer introduced me to this astoundingly brash and funky cover of Herbie Hancock's classic in the late 80s or early 90s:

It's a popular song in HONK circles, and as far as I can tell it's the focused Ferguson version that is the more direct influence for street bands, rather than Hancock's synth-heavy jam.

(My band JP Honk has played it for a while, but one tricky bit, kind of a reverse arpeggio, was never quite as tight as it should be, so I slowed down the part by about a third...)

Anyway, in researching itm and finding some liner notes I found out it and the album was recorded the week after I was born.

Coincidence? There's no such thing.

UI hall of shame: Samsung NU8000 onscreen keyboard

Last December I bought myself a Christmas gift, a lovely 65" Samsung NU8000 television. (I miss my old projector, but given my space, this is the smallest size that still feels like a billboard, and Wirecutter likes the low-lag mode of these for videogames)

Overall its UI is pretty grand - much better than the older Samsung my mom has - all the apps are easy to get to and most are of good quality, and the shortcuts from the main screen generally make sense (and I'm not TOO worried about the data collection I'm sure this beast is running on me.) But the onscreen keyboard they use for some of their setup/config is THE #&$#(*$@& WORST, especially for entering a password.

It's kind of a standard "use the cursor up/down/left/right, select the letters via an onscreen keyboard" (laid out like a normal typing keyboard) that video game console owners have put up with for a decade BUT -- 8 letters or so into typing a minium-length-8-character password, say -- once you select a letter, the space immediately to the left of the character you just typed becomes a checkbox, a short cut to "I'm all done".... so if you're bopping along, trying to efficiently enter your password, and it starts with "ireallyreally" in it... you enter the r of second really, that's the eighth character - meaning you've meant the minimal wifi password length, so then when you go to move the cursor to the left, you're not over the "e", you're about to select the "I'm all done" checkbox.

And you hit the center of the button thinking you're on the e, and the thing thinks you're done, and takes away the screen to try out your (of course incomplete) password, and you have no idea what is going on, but you're on a totally different screen entirely, and you don't know what the hell happened, so then maybe you repeat this dance two or three times, because it's such #$#(*@ STUPID HALF-BAKED DUMB@#$#@ INCOMPETENCE in trying to make a "helpful" - yet fundamentally unpredictable -User Interface

A core of "Tao of Programming" is the "Law of Least Astonishment", i.e. a program should always do that which surprises the user least - and this is a FLAGRANT violation of that very simple principle.

Of course, even once the user has overcome the surprise of a barely-useful shortcut showing up where there wasn't one before, to REMOVE the "helpful" checkbox you simply go select another letter and the checkbox goes away- but it comes back, so for the rest of the text entry if the next letter you wish to type happens to be to the left of the one you just entered, you have to wiggle the cursor around to shake off the dang uselessly premature checkbox.

Programmers. They need to learn the difference between "can" and "should"

(Mercifully, the searches on the various apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime implement their own keyboards, free of this half-baked-crap.)
Yesterday was a weirdly bad, Mercury-in-retrograde technology kind of day - sometimes by fate, sometimes by design - dev servers that were oddly recalcitrant, gnarly technological problems from labyrinthine code bases, laptops needing rebooting, phones needing rebooting, earbuds needing rebooting... and a TV that dropped its wifi connection (set months ago) and wouldn't regain it (even after I successfully wrestled its idiosyncratically terrible UI "helpfulnes" I rant about above) and I had to resort to an ethernet cable.

It's the kind of day that makes me glad I don't need a pacemaker!
As I go through and groom old blog entries and see just how many broken links predominate, how the old geek vision that "urls can be forever" is almost completely unrealized, but sometimes I can use a search engine to find a replacement for a yanked Youtube video, I realize that one purpose of Google is weeding out the underbrush of fallen sites, if search wasn't a constantly renewed process and we relied on old archives we'd be choked in a forest of dead wood.
Things I came darn near to forgetting: once upon a time I had and enjoyed this LCD game:

Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.
John Wooden

April 11, 2019

The other day they posted some of the first photos of the area around a black hole:

My first thought was, maybe the Mother Brain in Metroid was using mini-black-hole technology for defense...

What we have is a tangled mess of ad-hoc opinions, constantly sliding past each other in search of a position that favors itself the most, like a 5 gallon bucket of earthworms.

The rules for marriage are the same as for a lifeboat. No sudden moves, don't crowd the other person, and keep all disastrous thoughts to yourself.
Garrison Keillor


April 12, 2019

Diligence is the mother of good fortune
Miguel de Cervantes
...cited in Leonard Nimoy's "I Am Spock", an exceedingly gracious book that I binge read last night. (Hm, is there a synonym for "binge"-watch or -read that isn't associated with eating disorders?) I wish it dealt a bit more with Spock's character and the general challenges of learning to control and utilize our emotions (which I'm increasingly thinking is our sole source of motive energy) and less about Nimoy's career, though it was a varied and thoughtful one.

dave's big birthday bowling bash blowout


April 14, 2019


--via this Quora where a former Soviet Propaganda executive points out how Russian Trump's us vs them mentality is.
On my devblog - really old web design
Your old man's gonna knock on the sky, listen to the sound.
Flynn in Tron: Legacy

there ain't no such thing as a free lunch

My friend Erica suggested a diet for me - "Have a quasi-religious taboo against free food". Admittedly, this is only really relevant for people with jobs where free food is handy - like many dot com's ever-full snack kitchens.

Of course my place is in full on Google-wanna-be mode and provides free lunch, which I think explains at least part of the "Freshman 15" I put on there and still haven't lost.

And it's tough, that's like $8-12 a day easy, or a greater amount measured in food prep and thoughtfulness- I can afford it, sure. But between that and the giving up of snacks... oy.

Still, that's the whole dilemma of modern weight control. Most people reading this are living in food cornucopias of such abundance and variety that we would be seen as like unto gods by most of our ancestors. Even the ones that managed to arrange plenty for themselves would be impressed by the year round variety of super-flavors we have access to - to quote Matt Crowley:‏
We take it for granted today, but a single Dorito has more extreme nacho flavor than a peasant in the 1400s would get in his whole lifetime.
When you combine that with zero cost (save for strolling over to the kitchen area and peering into a cupboard) - that means most folks attempts not to indulge will be a constant drain of willpower.) The "quasi-religious" aspect is an attempt to piggyback on other bits of human weirdness. Which, frankly, is one of the better parts of religion, when it provides a framework we can hang on to climb above our all-too-human natures.
Star Wars: Episode IV sound design explained by Ben Burtt:

Always satisfying to hear a friendly professional pull back the curtain on his craft. If you're in a hurry, the best part is the antepenultimate bit on Tie Fighters and elephants at 39:10, and then the "Sound People... or Worse" shtick to end it was amusing.

It's rather easy to forget how important soundscapes are to movies - until you try assembling your own videos by splicing shorter scenes (and of course in some ways the advent of "talkies" set the visual part of film construction back decades.) And I think he underplays how cool the radio voices (36:58) trick was - hearing the voice of the pilot currently shown "flat", then having that pilot continue to talk but the visual and audio switches to a different cockpit so the voice is distorted, is enormously effective, parallel to a deep focus change.

Also he mentions making frequent use of "worldizing", playing back constructed audio and then using recording of that, which adds a lot of acoustic life to it. To me it sounds similar to the echo chamber in Phil Spector / Larry Levin's "Wall of Sound" recording style.
The Starks are a family who chilled in their own segregated neighborhood, not bothering anybody. Ned was the father, and he had five kids. He was also raising his nephew Jon Snow. (His sister got knocked up by this crazy guy, and ... you know how we do.) Anyway, Ned let his homeboy convince him to take this "good job," let his daughter marry a white boy and moved his family into a white neighborhood. Ned fell for the trap, and the Lannister/Trumps cut his head off because Ned knew about the Russian collusion.

notre dame is burning

notre dame is burning.

this is ok.

it has happened before. it will happen again. it has been lost before. it will be lost again. and again. and again. and again. art and architecture are transient, and temporary, and 850 years may seem like a lot to the individual, who will live maybe 100 if they are very lucky and very healthy, but even the pyramids at saqqara have only existed for about 6000 years and that's still not all that much, if you consider the grand scheme of things.

yes, this is terrible. as someone who is deeply religious and literally a professional historian with a focus on art and architecture, this is terrible. im mourning. im gutted. im horrified and upset and miserable. but.

it's not over.

victor hugo wrote hunchback because notre dame du paris was in the process of collapsing and falling apart, and revitalized the entire world's focus and love for this church, and that was not even 200 years ago. it led to it being renovated.

the roof has fallen in. the scars of fires are on its buttresses. the rose window has fallen out. the beams and piers have collapsed. the spire has toppled. the stones have suffered, and will suffer again, but it is not gone.

renovation work is essential. sometimes things collapse and burn and break and have to come back. it's not a terrorist attack, it's renovation, an accident, but we have so much evidence, history, carefully documented everything on one of the most studied places in the world.

it's not the end.
Hey so, French person here. And also an ex History student. I'm here to say: Please listen to o.p. above.

Obviously everyone is shocked but here's a few important key facts:

The roof is completely gone. Part of it dated back from the 13th century but the rest was from the 19th. The stone arch roof under the top roof is fine.
One of the three main stained glass rose windows has fallen out. Most of the other stained glass windows are okay.
The spire has fallen down and that's the saddest part. BUT! It was in the process of being restored and the 16 statues that were there were removed just four days ago! So they're fine.
The main structure is still here and nothing has "burned down" unlike what some people have been saying.
The "treasure" (sacred objects) is safe.

Notre Dame is still there. It's just damaged. Almost nothing was lost today, and nobody was wounded either. It's scary, but it's gonna be okay.

The only thing that should follow "i'm not racist, but..." is "I do live in a system of institutionalized racism that I absorb & actively benefit from"

April 17, 2019

A cathedral calls us to consider time beyond the boundaries of one life, enclosing us in a grand view of what humanity can do that humans cannot.
Alexis Madrigal on Andrew Tallon who made the scans that should help rebuild Notre Dame

A "billionaire" who hides his tax returns. A "genius" who hides his college grades. A"businessman" who bankrupted a casino. A "playboy" who pays for sex. A "Christian" who doesn't go to church. A "philanthropist" who defrauds charity. A "patriot" who dodged the draft.

If you look at the sort of Internet as a whole, or the whole computational ecosystem, particularly on the commercial side, an *enormous* part of the interesting computing we're doing is back to analog computing. We're computing with continuous functions, it's pulse-frequency-coded... Something like Facebook or Youtube doesn't care -- the file that somebody clicks on -- they don't care what the code is, the meaning is in the frequency that it's connected to, very much the same way a brain or a nervous system works. So if you look at these large companies, Facebook or Google or something - actually they are large analog computers. Digital is not *replaced*, but another layer is growing on top of it, the same way that after World War 2 we had all these analog vacuum tubes...

April 18, 2019

"AAAAAAAH! I could bring you to small claims court for this!"
"Small claims court costs thirty dollars. Do you have thirty dollars?"
"Of course! What do I look like?"
"Normcore Ted Kaczynski."
Ryan and Lolly on "Shrill"
The characters are written super-broadly, but man does this show deal with some real issues of sexism and fat-shaming
Baghdad Barr

April 19, 2019

Semi-serious Kondo/Shinto question: when you thank something for its service and then discard it - what happens to it? Like, she talks of the unhappiness objects have when they're sitting, being unused and being clutter, but when you thank it to let it go, then what? Does it reflect a kind of animism that is basically a reflection of the human's life energy, and so when you move an object out, that spirit goes away? Or maybe the more nostalgic idea is that the object becomes inanimate and the spirit it held is free to go off? Or is that spirit just trapped in there, moldering away in some landfill?

April 20, 2019

He should resign because he has resolutely failed--and continues to fail--the most fundamental test of any president: to put his nation's interests first.

The least any American can expect of a president is that in a crisis he will readily put the welfare of the nation he leads ahead of his own well-being. In other contexts, that is the ultimate test of character. It separates the military leader or executive who accepts blame for failure from the one who tries to shuffle it elsewhere.
USA Today in 1998, calling for post-Starr-report President Clinton to resign.

kliban's kitties

My friend and bandmate Sophie was looking for advice on reassembling a pile of cat, and I thought of this old Kliban's Cat:

Either my dad or I or both had this T-shirt when I was a kid, and we loved singing the little jingle:

(I think we usually sing it to that "I Eat My Peas With Honey" tune)

April 22, 2019

EARTH DAY REMINDER: none of us are getting our security deposit back, but that doesn't mean we have to be lil turds for the rest of the lease

April 23, 2019

"Are you sure about this?"
"Of course. I can do anything as long as it's just paying for something."
The Mindy Project.
I usually remember that quote wrong, so I tend to misquote it as "What, I can just throw money at this? Why didn't you say so!" I'm lucky enough with my job and constrained enough in stuff like freetime that sometimes throwing money at something seems like just the ticket.
My back had a twinge last week and so I developed a habit of stifling all sneezes. And now it's a weirdly hard habit to break! I want to sneeze again.

April 24, 2019

been trying some recipes recently and every one of them seems simple until they bury all the complication in one step that throws me

1. add paprika
2. heat for 5 mins
3. form the butter into the memory of a beach holiday until it crumbles through your hand like the sand on that long forgotten day crumbled through your father's fingers as he lovingly carved parapets into your sandcastle
4. cover and simmer

April 25, 2019

Found on tumblr with the caption "incel bimbofication" So, Incels/"Involuntarily Celibate" guys are kind of obsessed with their perception of how a "few millimeters of bone", the chin and brow, are what make up good looks in men, and therefore eternally determines a dude's luck with romance. This is one of the most memorable photoshops showing off the transition.

As a sort of faceblind guy, I'm sort of amazed by how this works, and how much diversity there is in the geometry of faces. I really wish there was the reverse of "make a character" software that some videogames have that would scan your face, then give you a bunch of sliders that would A. show you where you are on various face geometry bellcurves and B. let you mess around with how you'd look if settings were different.
But now I want to watch episodes of Monster Factory
Once bigotry or self-loathing permeate a given community, it is only a matter of time before deep metaphysical significance is assigned to the shape of human skulls.

I come from St. Paul, Minnesota, a city full of angry maudlin Irishmen and flabby chinless men with limp mustaches waving their shrivelled dicks at the cruel blue sky.
Garrison Keillor, "WLT" (passage is from a sabotaged script for a radio cowboy story)
Surprised I never quoted it before here in my commonplace, it's really stuck with me - For more WLT see kirk.is/2007/08/22, I added this quote and a few other choice ones that really have stuck in my head for decades now... it must've tapped into my college-aged virility at a critical time.
God Save the Lobster Queen

Damp Tubas Whispering Secrets


Train your heart like a dog.
Frida Kahlo

April 27, 2019

Watched "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", one of the films on my "100 Movies To Watch" scratch off poster. I didn't think it was all that great - yes, the music, and yeah the cinematography, but all those little vignettes of uncompleted poetic-justice revenge started to grow tedious. And even without his later politics, I don't find Clint Eastwood appealing - in this one he looks like Edward from Twilight, just with less glitter.

April 28, 2019

Man, fixed mindset drains the sweetness of even successful coding accomplishments - if you have to muscle through something, even if you manage to code up something that seems pretty good, even if you can say "sure, that's something many people, even some other coders, couldn't have readily done", there's still this haunting aspect of "shouldn't it have been easier?"
There's nothing like unrequited love to take all the flavor out of a peanut butter sandwich.
Charlie Brown.
Thought of this quote in the context of my last complaint.
Signs that I might be over-relying on Joel on Software's "never rewrite" principle - I just removed this block of HTML (that had already been commented out):
<!-- div style='font-family:impact,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;'>
<span style='line-height:73.1px;font-size:86px;'>JAMAICA PLAIN</span><br>
<span style='line-height:95.2px;font-size:112px;'>PORCHFEST</span><br>
<span style='line-height:71.39999999999999px;font-size:84px;'>JULY 19TH 2014</span><br>
</div -->

what makes it funnier is that that must be from the first iteration of the front page map- and today's project is making the front page map but starting with the code base of the admin tool that lets you review and renumber the porches (since it's been updated for this year's improvements in data handling) So this HTML comment has made this roundtrip from front page to admin tool to front page
As a fan of pithy, self-aware "oveheard"-style one-liners, Our Valued Customers might be my new favorite comic - the one below is super-true for me.

April 29, 2019

Today some BABAMers supported Cosecha Massachusetts at the end of their 4-day march to the State House demanding a public hearing in the transportation committee to push the bill for drivers licenses for all - here's the state house and Cosecha folks as reflected in the bell of a french horn

#DriversLicensesForAll #ManejandoSinMiedo

April 30, 2019


The belief that a loved one has been replaced by an imposter is called Capgras delusion. It was first identified in 1923, when a psychiatric patient claimed her husband and children were "the object of substitutions."
One of the most interesting aspects of Capgras delusion is the element of love. Usually it is not a stranger who has been replaced, but a beloved. In the 1990s, psychologist Haydn Ellis and others theorized that Capgras delusion is the result of your mind recognizing a face without feeling the love that you normally associate with that face.

Love is how we know we are in the right time.

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