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best photos of the month - april 2019


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Willie Nelson the original stoner

April 2019 New Music Playlist

New to me music I added last month. Decent month but only 14. In roughly descending order of coolness, 4 or 5 stars in red...

One five star: Melissa and I saw this in concert. It's a beautiful and melancholy song. Melissa finds the line "So I left home and faked my ID / I f***ed every man that I wanted to be" especially poignant, and there's also that "Baby, I'm afraid But it's not your fault"

Arun hosted a house concert, Caroline Cotter... an amazingly cool thing to do. I got these 3 songs: Two NOLA-style songs: Other songs:

Why Am I A Spinster?

In 1889 Tit-Bits [sic... presumably the 19th Century "tidbits"] magazine ran a contest for the best answers to "Why Am I A Spinster?"
BECAUSE matrimony is like an electric battery, when you once join hands you can't let go, however much it hurts; and, as when embarked on a toboggan slide, you must go to the bitter end, however much it bumps.
Miss LAURA BAX, Pelham Road, Wood Green, London, N.
BECAUSE I have other professions open to me in which the hours are shorter, the work more agreeable, and the pay possibly better.
Miss FLORENCE WATTS, High Street, Fulham, S.W.
BECAUSE (like a piece of rare china) I am breakable, and mendable, but difficult to match.
Miss S. A. ROBERTS, The Poplars, Ocker Hill, Topton, Staff.
BECAUSE I do not care to enlarge my menagerie of pets, and I find the animal man less docile than a dog, less affectionate than a cat, and less amusing than a monkey.
Miss SPARROW, Manor Place, Paddington, W.
--Unearthed via Dr Bob Nicholson - that thread has more interesting stuff. (via)
Just watched Hitchcock's Vertigo - maybe the first film to use computer graphics, albeit in a mechanical kind of way!

May 4, 2019


May 5, 2019

Cora and Chas after their (first) School of Honk Dance Party:

May 6, 2019

Slate about Adam Sandler on SNL reminding you that most life-changing vacations aren't.
"Vomiting is not celebrating."
"...Yes it is."
Jon Snow and Tormund (on how much Jon should drink) on last night's Game of Thrones

Death is not without its silver lining, I guess.... (smbc)

May 7, 2019

I miss the utility of the old Cyborg and Romantic namegenerators, but here's one for general backronyms - "KIRK: that Knocked-out Irretrievable Rectitude by a Kinsperson"
I could listen to Peter Mayhew as an rough English accented Chewbacca yelling at Han Solo (placeholder dialog) all day:

May 8, 2019

If tacos can fall apart and still be delicious and worthy of love, so can you.

When he is falling into a bottomless pit to his death, Mario says "waah" - whereas Waluigi says that constantly. Waluigi is constantly, painfully aware of his own mortality and he deploys that awareness as both lament, cry of defiance, and justification for his actions.

Part of Trumps diabolical talent in marketing is coming up with catchy nicknames for his adversaries- I feel his history in reality tv and the recent tax-record revelation of his unparalleled financial losses is an opportunity... "Biggest Loser" Trump has a nice ring to it. (Or maybe "billion dollar baby"? eh, not negative enough)

And the greatest of these is words

from Pohl and Kornbluth's "The Space Merchants":
"First, words. We want words that are about Venus, words that'll tickle people. Make them sit up. Make them muse about change, and space, and other worlds. Words to make them a little discontented with what they are and a little hopeful about what they might be. Words to make them feel noble about feeling the way they do and make them happy about the existence of Indiastries and Starrzelius Verily and Fowler Schocken Associates. Words that will do all these things and also make them feel unhappy about the existence of Universal Products and Taunton Associates."

He was staring at me with his mouth open. "You aren't serious," he finally exclaimed.

"You're on the inside now," I said simply. "That's the way we work. That's the way we worked on you."

"What are you talking about?"

"You're wearing Starrzelius Verily clothes and shoes, Jack. It means we got you. Taunton and Universal worked on you, Starrzelius and Schocken worked on you--and you chose Starrzelius. We reached you. Smoothly, without your ever being aware that it was happening, you became persuaded that there was something rather nice about Starrzelius clothes and shoes and that there was something rather not-nice about Universal clothes and shoes."

"I never read the ads," he said defiantly.

I grinned. "Our ultimate triumph is wrapped up in that statement," I said.

"I solemnly promise," O'Shea said, "that as soon as I get back to my hotel room I'll send my clothes right down the incinerator chute--"

"Luggage too?" I asked. "Starrzelius luggage?"

He looked startled for a moment and then regained his calm. "Starrzelius luggage too," he said. "And then I'll pick up the phone and order a complete set of Universal luggage and apparel. And you can't stop me."

"I wouldn't dream of stopping you, Jack! It means more business for Starrzelius. Tell you what you're going to do: you'll get your complete set of Universal luggage and apparel. You'll use the luggage and wear the apparel for a while with a vague, submerged discontent. It's going to work on your libido, because our ads for Starrzelius--even though you say you don't read them--have convinced you that it isn't quite virile to trade with any other firm. Your self-esteem will suffer; deep down you'll knew that you're not wearing the best. Your subconscious won't stand up under much of that. You'll find yourself 'losing' bits of Universal apparel. You'll find yourself 'accidentally' putting your foot through the cuff of your Universal pants. You'll find yourself overpacking the Universal luggage and damning it for not being roomier. You'll walk into stores and in a fit of momentary amnesia regarding this conversation you'll buy Starrzelius, bless you."

O'Shea laughed uncertainly. "And you did it with words?"

"Words and pictures. Sight and sound and smell and taste and touch. And the greatest of these is words. "

"The Space Merchants" is a sci-fi novel from 1952 projecting culture's course if Madison Avenue continued to run the place - they missed a few things, assuming only that ads would just get louder and more obnoxiously attention grabbing and ignoring the current concerns we face about privacy and tracking, but overall it's quite prescient.

Overall that passage wasn't as memorable for me as much as this one about trial/interim marriages and especially the urge of landing a romantic partner with achievements that you can kind of show off - borrowed valor so to speak - but overall a remarkable book.

(Also a few months ago I quoted "...should each human being's vote register alike, as the law books pretend and as some say the founders desired? Or should a vote be weighed according to the wisdom, the power, and the influence--that is, the money of--the voter?")

On my dev blog "man, what I really wish I could do is have to jam my finger HARDER into this flat piece of glass"?
All Trump ever wanted to do was make engaging television, and by that standard it's been a wildly successful presidency.

May 10, 2019

The Darth Vader / Obi Wan fight redone in the style of the Prequels / Sequels light saber duels:

http://somervilleartscouncil.org/somervilleporchfest/ My standalone version of the Somerville Porchfest map is live! Probably a few seasons overdue for a visual makeover, but still gets the job done - lets people plot their afternoon without crashing the SAC site. Proud to chip in with that a little, especially now that Somerville is my city :-D
Now that have missile-mounted knives I want to see a missile with a big boxing glove.
We turned out to be superficial to the core.
Anon. friend of Daniel Klein

Nothing's been quite right since John Lennon got shot.

the more i think about it the more deeply ironic it seems that the act of declaiming "virtue signaling" (ie implying insincere lip service to what one's tribe feels is correct) is itself one of the most blatant kind of "virtue signals"

all about that bass

I needed some new headphones and when I was perusing the options at Best Buy I discovered Skullcandy Crusher Wireless Immersive Bass Headphones. These have powered built-in subwoofers and sport a physical lever that goes from "Not Quite Enough Bass" to "WAY WAY WAY TOO MUCH BASS" - like you're at the restroom at a dance club and the pile of dancefloor speakers is just on the other side of the cinderblock wall.

I'm a tuba player, and I don't know if my affection for bass springs from that, or if it's a special case of how I like things that are easy to "read" without paying attention to nuance. Research supports the idea that Bass makes you feel powerful, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say bass-y head phones (especially combined with my "Psyched" mix at work) is a form of self-therapy. (More on our love of and response to bass.)
We should pass a Woman's Heartbeat law: if a woman has a heartbeat, you can't tell her what to do with her goddamn body, ever.

via Daniel Klein's "Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It"

The world is a den of thieves, and night is falling. Evil breaks its chains and runs through the world like a mad dog. The poison affect us all. No one escapes. Therefore let us be happy while we are happy. Let us be kind, generous, affectionate, and good. It is necessary and not at all shameful to take pleasure in the little world.
Uncle Gustav, "Fanny and Alexander"
Sasha goes up to another man and says, "Don't I know you?"
The other man says, "No. We've never met."
"Just a minute," Sasha says, "Have you ever been to Minske?"
"No," the other man says.
"Neither have I," says Sasha, "Must have been two other fellows."
Consider the fact that, in a few years, I shall be dead. This fact can seem depressing. But the reality is only this. After a certain time, none of the thoughts and experiences that occur will be directly causally related to this brain, or be connected in certain ways to these present experiences. This is all this fact involves. And, in that description, my death seems to disappear.
Derek Parfit
It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
Thomas Nagel
Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.
William James

It's weird when little bits of your childhood come together- I was first amused by the concept of "Go-Faster Stripes" as a collectable motorcycle accessory in "Action Biker", a Mastertronic computer game from the UK. Also, as a kid I had a book of "Old Boot's Private Papers", UK comic strips about a sheepdog and the kids he runs around with. Anyway, today I found out that book was from a comic called The Perishers, and that book either invented or popularized "Go-Faster Stripes" as a term.

Another bit of UK ignorance: the two UK football teams I have an extremely mild and vague fandom for are Arsenal (thanks to Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch") and Tottenham Spurs (thanks to a fan of the club I went on a few dates with.) Yesterday I was informed this is a bit of an embarrassing combination to appreciate because they are rivals - sort of like someone from another country saying "I like the Browns and the Steelers" or "I dig the Lakers, and the Celtics".

Also I learned how the Champions league semi-final matches are actually two games - a home game for each club and then they add the points up. (The final is a single game, at a neutral or at least pre-selected location, similar to the Super Bowl.)
YOU CAN'T type "Mos Eisley" without the space bar.

This made me laugh:

I'm not saying Melissa hasn't watched Game of Thrones in a while but she was distraught when I told her hunky Khal Drogo / Jason Momoa died many seasons ago (in her defense he shows up a lot on social media quizlet type stuff still)

May 13, 2019

Part of the journey is the end.
Avengers: Endgame.
I like this message, along with "Waiting is" it's a reminder not to discount times just because they aren't the sweet spot.

monkey mind but the monkey is a friendly go-getter

With "Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset", Fixed Mindset is often presumed to be a bag of only negative things, but it absolutely has useful psychological upsides as this SMBC references:

I'm not saying I wouldn't be a better and more accomplished person if I moved my personal interior needle closer the growth, to embrace practicing things that don't come easily to me and trying to be more observant of places where I have seen change and growth, despite my intuitive skepticism about how likely that is (seriously, if self-change were so easy, me and like half the people I know wouldn't be like 10-20lbs heavier than their own ideal for themselves.)

I guess when I think of real change, I look for some sort of externally recognizable shift that doesn't take a daily or weekly application of willpower to keep going. I guess I have some of that in my growth as a tuba player - my skills were sort of still there despite decades of non-use, and I'm better at some things (especially playing by ear) than I was when I picked my horn back up. And all of that because, or despite, not practicing much, just my old tradition of being reliable in a lot of bands...
In joke at work...

The truly rich are those who enjoy what they have.
Yiddish Proverb

Thank you, God, for this good life
and forgive us if we do not love it enough.
Garrison Keillor

growing up along with "Wired"

Wired's cover story is a terrific piece by programmer and CEO Paul Ford, Why I (Still) Love Tech: In Defense of a Difficult Industry.

I probably started at nearly the same place as him: just getting online in the last great days of Usenet (he references the September That Never Ended) and, not coincidentally at the same time Wired magazine was starting up. It reads like he had a lot more ambition and less fixed mindset than I do, pushing into higher levels of less hands-on activity while I've been content in my role of making small things (and sometimes helping others make things) without needing to decide what everyone should be making. The article is a love letter to people who were building stuff on the early Internet, back when everyone needed their own "homepage".

It also points to how the techno-utopian vision didn't pan out. In particular some of the challenges in terms of inclusivity people trying to climb on this gravy train face:
I keep meeting people out in the world who want to get into this industry. Some have even gone to coding boot camp. They did all the exercises. They tell me about their React apps and their Rails APIs and their page design skills. They've spent their money and time to gain access to the global economy in short order, and often it hasn't worked.

I offer my card, promise to answer their emails. It is my responsibility. We need to get more people into this industry.

But I also see them asking, with their eyes, "Why not me?"

And here I squirm and twist. Because--because we have judged you and found you wanting. Because you do not speak with a confident cadence, because you cannot show us how to balance a binary tree on a whiteboard, because you overlabored the difference between UI and UX, because you do not light up in the way that we light up when hearing about some obscure bug, some bad button, the latest bit of outrageousness on Hacker News. Because the things you learned are already, six months later, not exactly what we need. Because the industry is still overlorded by people like me [...]
I think his attitude is good, and I hear him echoing this quote from Neal Stephenson's 1992 work Snow Crash:
It was, of course, nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists.
Anyway. As my own blog gets to the end of its second decade, Paul Ford reminds me of how lucky I've been, and continue to be, coming into techie adulthood during such a time of flourishing new ideas.

It reminds me of that old Douglas Adams thought-
  1. everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal;
  2. anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
  3. anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
That's where I am! Lets see how I manage to surf a rising tide of ageism - kind of hoping to scrape some kind of retirement together to coast into shore by that point.
Oh hey terrific. Striking down the Voter Rights Act, breaking the constitution by by holding a Supreme Court seat til conditions were favorable, Gov Brian Kemp "overseeing" an election he was running -- there's a bunch of landmarks to see while GOP gets set for decades of white minority rule.
Oy. Came down with something flu-ish. Is it kind of weird that I'm a grown-ass man who doesn't know if fever reducers like Tylenol and Advil will significantly delay recovery? I mean, a body doesn't set up a fever for its health - err, except in the literal sense, I guess - so if I can tough out some shivers and aches by just lying here, is that the best path, don't mess with the body trying to to sous-vide its way to health?

(Only yesterday did I realize, if I took some fever reducers, I shouldn't then be relying on a thermometer reading as a gauge of how sick I am...)
I feel that even a person of faith could look at, say, Psalm 139:13 ("For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb") or Job 10 and accept that there's uncertainty if souls are jammed in there - KAPOW! - when sperm meets egg (in which case, I guess a 6 week old thing the size of a snowpea could carry one along?) or if forming a soul/molding a person is something God + mother's do over time. Since there's potential ambiguity even for people who are convinced the Bible is the protected Word of God, principles of letting the people who bear almost all of the cost of molding decide - i.e. women and respecting their bodily autonomy - needs to win out.

I'm not convinced of the feasibility of changing anyone's heart and mind - and that of their tribe - through words on a screen, but a strict "My Body, My Choice" line is going to be talking right past believers (or even humanists) who counter "Abortion is Murder!!!!" - who might not be realizing they are implying they KNOW that the soul or personhood is an instantaneous appearance vs a process that can be stopped before life / soulness has been achieved. "Souls get knit, they don't just pop" might have more traction, or at least acknowledge that abortion banners think they're heroically saving people.

Sorry if this is too much of a "both sideser" style argument. To be clear I am firmly pro-choice. But when people do attempt to examine the assumptions behind their firm beliefs, I think that's the only way progress can be made.

(I am also not sure it's reasonable to grant benefit of the doubt to people breaking legislative procedure to make these bills happen, that they are solely (or soul-ly) motivated by "saving kids")

the bots of beker

Today I was reminded of George Beker's robot cartoons (as seen in Creative Computing's 1978 book 101 BASIC Computer Games.)

You can go to BekerBots.com and for $10 download "The Bot Folio", which is just the comics plus some director's commentary, and a few bonus drawings...

Cool stuff!

You can't make an omelette without hurling eggs at full force into a metal pail placed 8 feet awa-- wait, how do you make omelettes again?

the bots we actually got

As I approached the elevator I heard voices. I stepped back, but as the door opened it was empty. When i got in I discovered that this was because a spambot had called the emergency elevator phone and was earnestly trying to sell it something.

"WhaaaAAAT the fuck," I said.




"Oh my god cancel cancel cancel cancel jesus christ cancel you robotic shitbezel"


I have seen the future. It's AIs trying to sell each other various horseshit across the blasted, fungus-ridden shitscape left behind by humanity.


Fever dreams provided me this "Shower thought":
You're indirectly touching every item you've known that's not currently airborne--
a chain that passes from you through your clothes to the furniture to the floor to the yard to... everything. The shoulder of your first love. Your elementary school. The grave of your great great grandparents. Whatever existed in whatever form it still exists.

May 18, 2019

On my devblog, retracing some steps of archivists digging into the history of Spacewar! , the first programmed video game. I think I've finally answered a long-stand question I had about collision detection in that game.
The consolation of mortality: we can rest assured that finally - finally - upon death our personal knowledge of the big problems of the world will descend to meet our personal ability to fix the big problems of the world.
Courage is knowing it might hurt and doing it anyway.
Stupidity is the same.
And that's why life is hard.
Jeremy Goldberg.
Compare with:
There is a fine line between genius and insanity; I play hopscotch.
Plato and an anon. friend of Moose aka John Minges

"The unborn" are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don't resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don't ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don't need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don't bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn...You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.
Christian minister Dave Barnhart

And I'm as old as you! [...] Tuba - it's like the fountain of youth, but you blow into it, because that's how brass instruments work.
Me to an old friend just now. I mean, not-old, that's my point.

group troop

A few weeks ago I had a small epiphany at my therapist.

The back story: my parents are officers in The Salvation Army, which (in parallel with its emergency and charity operations) is a church; a denomination called "Salvationism", a near offshoot of the Methodists that took the idea of waging a war against sin to heart, and modeled itself after a military - churches are called corps, members are called soldiers, pastors are called officers and there are uniforms, with tunics and hats and everything.

As in the military, officers get assigned to live wherever the 'Army feels their skills will be put to the best use, and so "OKs" (Officer's Kids) have to be braced for moving every few years.

So, looking back, here's roughly how I viewed the structure of authority:

I'm perched on top, the most precarious place. I am taught how I should live - and then, told WHERE I will live - by my parents. (Here represented by a home) But my parents are supported by The Salvation Army. It has the authority to tell them where to go and what to do, and they comply. The Salvation Army, then, was anchored on and drawing its authority from God. From God! Can't get much bigger than that!

I'm sure the whole "parents are your minister and representative of God" thing is another topic for therapist fun, but right now I'm thinking more about the top 3 levels; when you combine it with the Good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one attitude I think I inherited from my mom (where our personal needs should not be ignored, but weighted in the general balance for choosing best course of action), you get an especially acute sense of "the group will ask sacrifices of you, and you must make them."

As an "OK", less than average of your material life is actually owned by your family... the quarters- the assigned house (or apartment over the church in my case) - will be mostly stocked with its own furniture. Utilities and reliable transportation will be arranged for and life will otherwise be frugal, and your parents are potentially on call at all kinds of hours - especially during that Thanksgiving-Christmas "Red Kettles" season. I'm not trying to bellyache, there are plenty of worse environments to grow up in - but still, the sense of authority and chain-of-command was strong, and The Salvation Army was a calling, not just a job - for example I had a precocious and impeccable "business" phone mojo going when answering the shared line, evn as a pipsqueak elementary schooler - my folks would be commended on their extremely polite secretary.

(My family was graced with longer appointments - I was especially lucky by "OK" standards of the time to be in mostly the same place for most of middle and high school. But I was bummed about the move from Western NY to Upstate NY before third grade, and had so much adolescent resentment moving to Cleveland after sixth that I switched to going by my middle name Logan as a form of existential protest. (err, before I knew it was a "Wolverine/X-men" reference))

So, too much backstory, here is the point, and the small epiphany: So I had deeply ingrained sense of the importance of the group. Imprinted on me: Groups are manifestations of greater goods (even when they don't claim to be prayerfully reflecting God's will) and so can expect sacrifices of you. And not only of you, but of loved ones you're with! People who probably won't be directly involved with the group on a regular basis, and who may have only had been partially aware of the strength of your commitments

(and being reliable isn't just import to me in terms of my concern for my reputation in the group, but my integrity as a person - a group being angered with me for not being dependable would be awful mostly as a signpost towards me not being a dependable person. (I think. Causing someone or some group strong bad feelings because of my own "selfish" needs also does poorly on "greater good" scale, so there is a social aspect of it - not just the objective judgement of God of me, the individual potential sinner.))

So, I need to remember that groups - mostly brass bands for me these days (which actually are also kind of a gift from The Salvation Army for me, come to think of it) - aren't just asking sacrifices from me me, but of me and my presence and energy that might otherwise by my partner's. I need to be more cognizant of that.
Bonus content: it took me years to notice there was a pun/metaphor in calling the printed offering envelopes "cartridges" - these are roughly the ones I grew up with

I remember the "If you are absent, remember the Corps expenses go on just the same". The admonition was watered down a bit from this antique one of the 1800s that has further instructions in a militaristic vibe.
Ever wake up from a nap, and kind of disoriented? Your inner monologue is like "Ok... I think... I'm on a planet... called Earth? And it has... gravity? And sometimes frogs?"
Today at the Friendshipworks Walk to End Elder Isolation - a lesson in photographic perspective, and why you usually put the tuba player and the horn behind the arc not where it angles around... it kind of towers over everyone!

May 20, 2019

Well, in a sense, Hairy One, fire is everywhere. Rather than being an object, say, like your sharp stick, it's really a process, so it can't really be said to exist anywhere. In a sense, fire exists in its own imaginary, virtual space, where we can only talk about what is not fire and what might become fire.
I'd also highly recommend his "Judge John Hodgman" (I just found out about it but it has been around for almost a decade) where he and "bailiff" Jesse Thorn do a kind of People's Court thing - both hosts are so funny, kind, insightful, and well-spoken, it's a real treat.

May 21, 2019

So, lost 4 pounds in fever land. Honestly I think I'm going to miss that time where I was not feeling sick to my stomach or even bad but still wasn't hungry. Wish they could make a pill that did that.
The most insane acidentally bought a brick of heroin story you will read this week.
There's one anecdote I'll always keep with me... (in part because I noted it in my Palm journal) I was commuting on Memorial Drive one Tuesday morning in 1999, not far from that weird rotary at the end of the BU bridge, and was furious, letting myself get all road-ragey over the halted conditions. (In some ways I find it cathartic to let loose during that kind of situation, try to burn out all the irritations and frustrations of the day, but there's some real anger at the scene there as well.)

Anyway, I was ranting and raving over another driver who had pushed in to the lane by tailgating the car in front of him -- *CLEAR violation of the "alternate feeding" guidelines!*, the ones that I had faith were key to letting us all get through this mess.

The driver, who looked a bit like Detective Yemana on Barney Miller, regarded at me in his rear view mirror, took note of my fury, placed his hands on either side of his head, stuck out his tongue and waggled moose antlers. (A favored gesture of my dad, come to think of it)

I was completely disarmed. It was a perfect wordless Zen Koan, a reminder of just how seriously I should take the world and my current place in it.
Me in 2007, recapping an April 6, 1999 incident.
(A friend was writing about a cop pulling up alongside her and advising her to take a deep breath after being an "expressive" driver)

May 22, 2019

Though America had been a nation for nearly 80 years, it was incomplete. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution--those were political documents, pragmatic in their designs for democracy. What America lacked was what Emerson called for: an evocation of what being a democratic man or woman *felt* like at its best, day to day, moment to moment. We had a mind, the mind created by Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders, but we did not know our own best spirit.
"I was simmering, simmering, simmering," Whitman told a friend. "Emerson brought me to a boil." Whitman understood that he was a part of one of the greatest experiments since the beginning of time: the revival of democracy in the modern world. The wise believed that it probably could not be done. The people were too ignorant, too crude, too grasping and greedy to come together and from their many create one. Who were we, after all? A nation of castoffs, a collection of crooks and failures, flawed daughters and second sons of second sons, unquestionable losers and highly dubious winners. Up to now, our betters had kept us in line: The aristocracies of Massachusetts and Virginia had shown us the enlightened path and dragged us along behind them. Whitman knew (and Emerson did too) that this could not last forever. By sheer force of numbers, or force plain and simple, outcasts and ne'er-do-wells were eventually going to take over the nation.

May 23, 2019

I liked this Adult Wednesday Addams bit- asides such as "My parents are despicable monsters. ...and I'm grateful for that..." are pitch perfect to the original.

May 24, 2019

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women;

I'm not saying I make idiosyncratic nutrition decisions but my shopping for the weekend was a carton of cherry coke zero 4 boxes of Chill Cow brand popsicles (excited they had the caramel flavor) and bananas.

May 25, 2019

Free hint, Nintendo. If someone buys a new game through your Switch e-shop, prioritize loading said game over the package updates for games the user hasn't played for months.

Between that and having to enter brutally long passwords over and over, and then general weird details like never having the most useful button being highlighted and ready to press, oddly ugly user experience.

May 26, 2019

"Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves," Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an "intellectualist" point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social "interactionist" perspective.
To summarize, from a socio-evolutionary perspective, the price of going against your tribe tends to be higher than than the price of being wrong on random things.

Sometimes doesn't seem worth advocating for moderate positions (taking the other tribe's presumptions into account) when your loyalty to your tribe may be seen as suspect, and when it's unclear that any potential moderate members of the opposing tribe will return the favor. But that becomes a self-reinforcing tragedy of the commons.

Also, I'm so suspect about psychological lab experiments built under assumptions of economist "rational actor" models. Much like casinos exploit artificially contrived exploits in probability that just didn't occur often to our ancestors, these experiments assume that real world people will take researchers at their word. Taking $50 now instead of $100 3 months from now may or may point a preference for immediate rewards - but also reflects an uncertain world where many, many intervening events can happen in 3 months, even if you basically trust the test operators. (This besides the sketchiness of using undergrads on hand at prestigious American Universities as stand-ins for citizens of anywhere in the damn world.)

lisa simpson sez: embrace nothingness


A friend posted a Guardian article about "best deathbed music" - - this is my choice:

I wish more and more would find out about this song, because it's kind of perfect. "You know that decay is the final move / of everything that grows"

The Golden GPS

It's difficult for me to explain my views that A. A Most True description of the world and how you should act in it exists (even if that has to be, like, metaethics rather than a specific ethical system) but B. It is something akin to blasphemy to presume YOU have the most accurate view of that Truest Truth - especially if your certainty comes at the cost of discounting the views of folk of good faith who disagree with you. This duality can sound like a moral relativism, but the persistent sense of an absolute truth behind the scenes makes it the opposite of that.

Talking this over while driving with Dave, he suggested a pretty good metaphor: what the GPS was showing, as we tried to find a good route from Mass Ave to Porter Square:

The GPS offered 3 or so paths, recommending one, saying this other one might be -1 minute faster, this other one +2 minutes slower, another route is estimated at about the same length of time. Something like that.

So here's the thing: I think it is blatantly obvious that one of those routes will be the fastest. And it is also obvious that you can't KNOW which one it is. You can guess which one is most likely to be best, but there's a fundamental unknowability there, once the rubber meets the road, and since we can't rewind our lives and try again we have to live with never quite being certain. (I think of Milan Kundera: "We never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.")

Of course, the metaphor is imperfect. For example, "fastest route" is such a crisp, obvious metric. Even in car navigation land, we can think of other things we might want to optimize for, like "fewest turns" or "least stressful drive" or "not taking me near my ex's house and dredging up painful memories". And compared to the myriad of possible goals and corresponding "shoulds" that come from ethical systems, figuring out where or when to turn left or right is pretty simple.

More troublingly for the truth of the metaphor: the stakes of ethics feel so high, which might be a result of the fear of fire and brimstone I took on as a youth. It's as if the GPS wasn't saying "take the wrong route and risk being ten minutes late", but "the wrong route might have dragons or pits or explosions and you will probably die!"

Researchers talk about "maximizers vs satisficers" - people who take pains to seek out the very best solution vs folks who can make a quick decision and be happy with it - usually I'm very content being in the latter group - but when it comes to morality, when I'm dealing with these systems many of which say "people who don't believe this will be punished eternally" and those stakes are taken very seriously by millions of believers, I find it hard to just let go and follow whatever the GPS thinks best.

how does he smell? terrible!

In May 1914, Alexander Graham Bell delivered a commencement address to some high school students in Washington, DC. The 67-year-old inventor of the telephone gave a peculiar speech--a crotchety ode to observation, measurement, and gumshoe curiosity. He spent much of his time proposing areas of investigation for his teenage audience to take up. "Did you ever try to measure a smell?" he asked. "What is an odor? Is it an emanation of material particles in the air, or is it a form of vibration like sound?" he asked. "If it is an emanation, you might be able to weigh it; and if it is a vibration, you should be able to reflect it from a mirror," he went on. "If you are ambitious to found a new science, measure a smell."

More than a century later, no one has yet been able to measure a smell, and there is even still some debate as to whether smell is a vibration or a chemical interaction between particles. (The vibration theory is far more controversial, but no one understands olfaction well enough to dismiss it entirely.)
I had no idea about the "vibration" theory. In either case, it seems like the ratio in a biological nose aren't 1:1 receptor to type of recognizable smell (like a piano that can only play 88 notes) but more like chords (where a piano can play thousands of chords)
I used to be bad when I was a kid but ever since then I have gone straight, as I can prove by my record -- 33 arrests and no convictions.
Big Jule in "Guys and Dolls"

May 30, 2019

Republicans are brazen about gerrymandering to screw Hispanic voters and Democrats in general.

what those women want (repeat)

So I've kept up a long lowkey friendship with Johnny, a gal from Portugal who is a ferociously good writer. Ten years ago today I reposted this entry from her blog, and I think it's still a great piece and so I'm reposting it today, partially to think about what in this list I am good at and bad at.

It's been a girl fest lately, and we've been discussing relationships a lot. Men often complain they don't know what women want. This is what we, my mates and I, have to say.

We're in our early thirties-late forties and are, respectively, the ones who are happily married, the ones who are happily together, the one who is so happily together she's doesn't seem to get it anymore, the one who is happily not looking for together right now; the one who is unhappy bcs she keeps breaking up and falling right back into it; the one who can only do flings and has a little black book, the one who cannot do flings at all bcs she always becomes emotionally involved, the one who thought she could cope with flings and is unexpectedly smitten, the one who had a fling turn into an actual love relationship, the one who doesn't even want flings bcs she is perfectly happy alone with her child; the one who says she doesn't want a relationship bcs she was hurt too much but secretely harbours hope, the one who says she does but is visibly too jaded and out of faith; and the one who is waiting for her boyfriend to move out of his ex's flat. We don't always agree abt the details but we know what we want from our men and, for most of us, this is it:

  1. We want our men to understand that sometimes we have Bad Hair Days, Bad Bum Days, and we need an extra ego booster - extra bcs we want our men to think us beautiful and sexy anyway, and to fancy us like bloody hell, and to show us that they fancy us like the bloody hell.
  2. We want our men to understand that sometimes we want them to devour us, we want to merge with them, become one amidst a charm of hummingbirds, but partnership doesn't mean parasitism. We are fiercely independent too, and it is healthy that we meet our mates alone sometimes, that we actually want to, healthy to not always be joined at the hip.
  3. We want our men to not be intimidated by our strong personalities, intelligence or need for a life beyond them, this isn't a geisha drive-thru; in fact, we want men who'll thrive on it.
  4. We want our men to say 'No', and stand up to us. Please stand up to us, we need our men to be men we can respect.
  5. We want our men to be intelligent and cultured, we want to be able to chat with them for hours abt big things and small things, to always want to chat with them; our men may sometimes be aggravating but they're never dull.
  6. We want our men to not be put off by our tears, bcs we sometimes cry and it won't always make sense, they can't always fix it - and it IS alright, we just need them to hold us and pull us onto their laps and cuddle for a bit.
  7. We want men who are manly, bcs if someone's going to be girly in a relationship it'd better be the girl. We respect men who can cry, men who can show pain and sadness, men who can be vulnerable without pulling away - and we want those men as well - but little whiners make us shudder.
  8. The Porties among us want our men to not ever - EVER - read Paulo Coelho/be too esoteric bcs we, as a whole, have found out that that equals absolutely, staggeringly, unbelievably mindfucked.
  9. The Porties among us want our men to keep their bleeding mouths shut regarding past relationships/sexual encounters for the most part. It is not included in our cultural mating rituals, it is no one's business, and we firmly believe there should be only two in bed, not dozens.
  10. We want our men to be able to discuss everything with us, including their exes , we want them to be able to vent if they're still ruminating, if it was traumatic, if they're still finding their footing again - but no ad nauseam obsessing though.
  11. We want our men to make us laugh and giggle, we want to be able to be silly together.
  12. We want our men to make us laugh in bed, sex must never be a power struggle or a source of grief. One of us had a boyfriend with always half-mast erections actually tell her The others were tighter. [And we stil want to kill the limp little fucker.] We want men who will tell us how they like it, show us how they like it, show it when they like it. No need to wake up the neighbourhood really but they must never just lie there like a log. This isn't assisted masturbation, and a huge chunk of our pleasure is enjoying theirs.
  13. We also want our men to be able to listen to what we actually like without being emasculated. One of us once heard back I know what I'm doing!, prompting her to snarl in frustration If you did I'd have had an orgasm long ago!
  14. We want our men to not be selfish, we want to be part of their lives, not a hobby. We will happily and yet with a certain amount of self-sacrifice accommodate exes, children, pets, relatives - we certainly expect the same. If their backs are spasming so badly that they can barely move, let alone drive the 40 minutes to be with us, we will be furious when we find out they spent that very evening jumping up and down at the corner cafe watching the football match with their mates [and that's part of the reason the one of us who keeps trying to break up keeps trying to break up].
  15. We want our men to not be threatened by our mates who are men. Our mates who are men are honorary girls and they've long accepted the fact that, to us, they don't really have a penis. One of us was accused by her boyfriend of coming out of the garage with her mate while wiping and smacking her lips. [Knowing that people expect from others what they themselves would do, all of us are so disgusted we can barely look at him.]
  16. We want our men to like our mates who are girls. The one of us whose boyfriend has yet to move out was out looking at flats with him and they were discussing the space they needed (she has two pets and a tiny flat and they intend to mostly stay at his place) when he said And I probably should get an extra room for *insert her best friend's name here*. It was adorable and profoundly right, we're super loyal - but we also want our men to know that our mates are good for them, and very often we have not started a fight or nagged bcs during a dissection session they told us to not be daft and brought us to reason. Our mates know more abt our men than our men are comfortable with but they reign us in, and our men should kiss their feet.
  17. We don't want our men to move in with us right away. In fact, were they to offer [one of us experienced this on the 2nd day], it'd cause a stampede for the hills. But we need to feel that we can build a future together, that it is indeed a partnership, not a protracted affair.
  18. We want our men to be emotionally available. We know that being wanted is a turn on and during those tentative early days we reply to them when we feel like it, bcs we do feel like it, and we want our messages to be clear. If they want us, they should let us know as it happens - not by Wednesday at the earliest so we don't think them too eager. Interest begets interest, and waiting in trepidation for them to deign to move their King doesn't do much for our self-esteem. It makes us feel rejected and ugly and by now we know better than that. We're not playahs and we don't do games.
  19. We want our men to be emotionally honest. We want them to ring when they said they would, to show up when they said they would, to do what they said they would (we also want the rest of the world to behave this way, btw), and to NEVER make promises they cannot keep. We want our men to know we are trying out best to be lucid and not create expectations, but if they create them for us and not follow through we will be FUCKING PISSED OFF. The one of us looking for flats was in tears today bcs the ex is emotionally blackmailing the boyfriend, begging him to stay, asking what has she ever done to him that he wants to leave her, and he is ravaged with guilt.
  20. We want our men to know we certainly are not like that, WTF?! A man who stays with us stays with us fully, completely, all of him. We want our men to know we can have understanding and patience but there's only so much time we will wait for a proper outcome. We can't say when we will say Enough!, but we know we will say it soon enough. And then our mates will help us cry it out and cry it out we will, but we never beg.
  21. We also want our men to know that we don't like ambiguity. We don't like to remain in a limbo while they sort out their sorry lives. We'll survive the Nos, it's the eternal Maybes/Eventuallies that make our sanity disintegrate. Pain is harsh but prolonged pain is impossible to bear. Our men made a decision? We want them to fucking own it already.
  22. We want our men to have the courage to tell us they stopped wanting to be with us the moment they stop wanting to be with us. A man who no longer wants us we no longer want, even as we still do. We live by blunt truths.
  23. We want our men to know that if they were brave enough to end it when it needed to be ended we may spin from the pain but we will feel respected; we will forever respect them in turn.
  24. We want our men to be absolutely decent human beings, there's nothing better than being able to trust someone. We don't like bad boys and their drama and anxiety-inducing ways at all. It's a home, not a misfits' retreat.
  25. We want our men to protect us from the Big Bad Wolf. We can be fierce and stand on our own feet, we carve our own way, but we need a cave to retreat to. Our men are it, or they're not our men.
  26. We want our men to be good fathers, and we'll forever be judging their capabilities/potential on that. Husbands/boyfriends don't last forever, we're acutely aware of that (and yet we all pray ours will) but fatherhood does. The sort of men they are matters not only to us but to the children we'll hopefully have with them. And if we can't dream of having children with them, whichever way they come, then there's no point.
  27. We want our men to understand that our pets are family, and untouchable, and we are and forever will be animal daft. One of us had to once point out to a fling that it could never go beyond that and state his dislike of animals as one of the reasons (there were more); he replied But if I made you choose btwn your pets and me you'd choose me, right? - and to this we collectively say 1) No one makes us choose anything and 2) Oh, honey...
  28. We want our men to realise that our evergrowing piles of clothes, books, shoes and bags make us better persons.
  29. We want our men to leave the toilet seat down.
This is what we want from our men, and it is not too much to ask, we know it isn't. And we know it bcs we would never ask for what we ourselves aren't more than willing to give.

Batman: shine this light in the sky when u need me

Gordon: u live in a cave how are u gunna see it?

Batman: ...text me when u use it

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