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on reading, and writing

July 1, 2019
Thinking about my reading habits. One of the downsides to tracking all the books I've consumed (for almost two decades now) is the tendency to "gamify" reading. I started the practice to try and remember the books (along with movies and games and what not) of my life, but now that there's a yearly number to it, it's hard not think in terms of the tally - whether for "bragging rights" or just to get a feel for how I'm spending my time over the course of a year, and how that number varies over the course of a decade.

That leads to a few knock-on effects, like how I'm more likely to follow a mediocre book to the bitter end, or less likely to start juggling several books at once, partially for the pressure of adding to the tally.

For a while I admired and kind of imitated people saying "Oh, I only read non-fiction, really." Isn't the universe rich enough that we should focus on what is, rather than people who are making up more of it? But now I'm thinking I want to recant on this idea, and focus more on fiction.

I'm a fast reader (and so, secretly a skimmer) and so I tend to read for substance, books presenting superficially interesting and novel ideas. Or better yet, and maybe this is where novels can best produce novelty - books that give me a new way of interpreting the otherwise too familiar.

I read through Kris Gage's 8 Things I Learned Reading 50 Books A Year For 7 Years (Tangent: this article was a recommendation from Firefox's Pocket, the first "let us be your homepage, we'll show you interesting stuff" portal widget I've seen that actually seems good.) The author quotes this lovely passage:
We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance? If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.
Rebecca Solnit, "A Field Guide to Getting Lost"

Arthur C. Brooks in the Atlantic on Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think

It's an intriguing article that starts about professional decline with age, with a sudden veer into a call for spirituality and finding a role in being a mentor. "Corpse meditation" - a practice of literal encounters with the remains of the dead - is touched upon; to me the "exposure therapy" it offers (similar to the "negative visualization" suggested by modern forms of stoicism) is much more satisfying than a life of avoidance...

Interesting wrapping this into where I am now - my long term lack of career ambition (long term ambitions in general, actually), combined with my mid-life rediscovery of community through band, and my version of a spiritual quest in terms of helping people cope with their own mortality, as well as figuring out the sense of ultimately unrealizable but existent and relevant objective truth that has driven me so many years.
So much of my writing is made worse by me trying to say too many things, either to show off my smarts or to acknowledge the validity of people holding conflicting opinions... even before I've stated my own.

Or the fear that if I leave out a detail, it is gone forever, without hope of later retrieval as needed.

"Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity" and you can leave off two of the Simplicities...
Is life fair? Short answer, no. Long answer, nooooooo.

new music playlist june 2019

July 2, 2019
Pretty good month for new music! Felt really packed. A lot of hiphop. List below is newest first, 4 star stuff in red.

Diane said her primary interest is where I discover new music, so I tried to keep closer track. Not sure if there are real surprises- soundtracks (esp commercials/trailers and HBO shows), random tweets, tumblr entries, personal recommendations, youtube recommendations, or random impulses.

best photos of the month - june 2019

July 3, 2019

Having a lovely time at the Jersey Shore, days at the beach, then back with my mom and Aunt Susan ... Aunt Susan's traditional "Kirk's arriving, going to oven fry up some chicken for him to consume cold like an animal at any odd hour" is great, I think only my Grandma's Meatloaf on a white bread sandwich with too much ketchup holds a higher place in my personal family food lore. (huh- both of my favorite dishes are best best day from the fridge...)


Also I love seeing fireflies here. Hope they find an ecological niche in whatever our world turns into.
her lips were netflix red

This medium story resonates for me in two directions; one is it being about the semi-defunct (but revived) GameLab game SiSSYFiGHT 2000 (I knew the coder for it) and the other is because it's about mourning a dad who died in one's youth, and seeking any path to getting to know who they were a bit more.

July 4, 2019

'What does Mammy always tell you, Aidan? About the dark? Can you remember?'

'Tell me again.'

'There's nothing there when it's dark that isn't there when it's bright.' This was the line her father had always spun in her childhood. She'd never found it remotely comforting but had appreciated the effort. Aidan had never before even deigned to respond. But this time, he did.

'No,' he said. 'No good. A monster could be not there at the day and then sneak in at night-time when you can't see him.'

This was a better argument than any she'd ever put to her dad. Through her irritation and exhaustion, she felt a faint glow of pride.
Damien Owens, "Married to a Cave Man"

Had an odd dream last night, I think I saw it as a possible script for a sci-fi comic book or video game- it was about a specially DNA-tweaked intelligent species designed by humans to survive the rigors of space travel, there to tend the colony ship until the planet to seed with "normal" humans who were riding in cryogenic storage. The caretakers were supposed to end their own lives at the end, I guess, but one of them resented that fate and so was trying to sabotage the mission...

I'm currently wonder if most consciousness-altering states (whether drowsiness or dreams or drugs or drink) are suppressing subsystems of the brain, so that parts that are usually constrained or repressed have more free reign. The weird dream drama seems to be the underbrain throwing out (often emotionally laden) sparks and other parts of the brain trying to turn that into a somewhat more cohesive narrative - and then applying feedback loops of interpretation and action as well.
Beachfront fireworks like Asbury Park's are the best. One guy yelled "Take that, England!" at an opportune moment, surprised I haven't heard that line before, it was pretty good!

from "Normal People"

July 5, 2019
Quotes from Sally Rooney's "Normal People":
He shrugged. Idly he wandered over to the bed and sat down. She was sitting cross-legged, holding her ankles. They sat there in silence for a few moments. Then he got onto the bed with her. He touched her leg and she lay back against the pillow. Boldly she asked if he was going to kiss her again. He said: What do you think? This struck her as a highly cryptic and sophisticated thing to say. Anyway he did start to kiss her.
Her breath sounded ragged then. He pulled her hips back against his body and then released her slightly. She made a noise like she was choking. He did it again and she told him she was going to come. That’s good, he said. He said this like nothing could be more ordinary to him. His decision to drive to Marianne’s house that afternoon suddenly seemed very correct and intelligent, maybe the only intelligent thing he had ever done in his life.
He told Marianne once that he'd been writing stories, and now she keeps asking to read them. If they're as good as your emails they must be superb, she wrote. That was a nice thing to read, though he responded honestly: They're not as good as my emails.
By now the unspoken consensus is that Helen and Marianne don’t like each other very much. They’re different people. Connell thinks the aspects of himself that are most compatible with Helen are his best aspects: his loyalty, his basically practical outlook, his desire to be thought of as a good guy.
Not for the first time Marianne thinks cruelty does not only hurt the victim, but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and more permanently. You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.
Sally Rooney, "Normal People"
A terrific fast read, and it's easy to place bits of one's own weird high school and college experiences of on-again, off-again romance into it - I certainly have had the feeling that the email I was writing to try and woo was better than any of the stuff I made for my fiction or poetry class, and I recognize that the desire to be seen as a good guy is a big driver in my life. (For me it's a sign that I am most likely a good guy, objectively, since I trust people's opinions.)

The book was recommended by kottke who did a better job of with excerpts from it than I have here.
Bummed MAD magazine is becoming a zombie. I've fallen off the bandwagon, but when I buy the occasional issue I appreciate the work they seemed to be doing with indie comic strips.

MAD introduced a lot of kids to a lot of pop-culture, and had a terrific mistrust of authority stance.

Never woulda thought the Cracked brand would have become more vibrant (though I think the connection to the old faux-MAD print version was tenuous.)

This is how the world ends: "not with a SPLITCH but a doop"

July 6, 2019
We now live in a time when everyone's a spitballer, from the president of the United States on down. America elected the world's oldest seventh-grader in 2016; we knew what we were getting from the earliest days of his campaign. Asked about one opponent, the successful business executive Carly Fiorina, Trump replied, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?" He bullied the rest of the field with stupid nicknames. The hijinks continue to this day. Recently, Trump play-scolded Vladimir Putin as the Russian president smirked in reply. "Don't meddle in the election, please," said Trump -- as if the two of them had been caught giving wedgies and were forced to apologize. What, us worry?

In the 19th century, physicians discovered morphine and heroin, which suppresses coughing at its source—the brain.
Old wiki-page on The Smith Brothers, linked to via catlezzer who writes "why is this sentence written with such perfect comedic timing"... (I would note that posing a question and dropping the question mark adds to the deadpan timing, too) (via)

Sometimes it's so hard not to shoot the messenger, when the message is the world is not perfectly tuned to bow to your every whim. Or to quote Homer Simpson, "Lousy Minor Setback! THIS WORLD SUCKS!"
If you can't handle me at what you have mistakenly assumed is my worst, then prepare to be unpleasantly surprised in the immediate future.

it don't mean nothin'

July 7, 2019
Yesterday I saw today's Doonesbury (it always seems like odd magic when my mom gets the Sunday supplement a day or two early.) "It don't mean nothin" is an interesting fatalistic line, up there with "it is what it is" (as the comic points out) or "this too shall pass". I think it's wise to incorporate that into one's outlook, but to finesse it so that you're still fighting the good fights - don't let some of level of acceptance become apathy, but also don't burn your rage candle at both ends.

2019 has been the year of tending to my old blog entries, a process about halfway through, since it's early July. Over the years I've been (along side the typical blog-ish writing) collecting quotes, posting links and embedding videos I've come across, putting up little virtual toys and games I've made, and posting photos. This year I'm adding demarcation to the quotes, find replacements for videos that have been taken offline, relinking to the javascript version of old java toys and games, and putting photosets with 4 or more entries into thumbail galleries.

Every morning of 2019 I load up kirk.is/thisday/ and do the necessary for this date over the years I've been running the blog. Of these tasks, the quote thing is the most significant. Somehow it feels just right to me to have a bit of design that concisely says "I'm quoting here, not composing"

My blog, following in the "commonplace book" tradition, is becoming more deeply rewarding to me as I keep at it - now reaching the end of two decades of activity! From seeing glimpses of my past self to being able to find the exact version of almost any quote I remember hearing and liking, it's terrific. I think nearly everyone should keep a journal and a commonplace book, even if it's not public - and they should probably do it in a way not dependent on any one company like facebook, tumblr, or blogspot.
'we love the sea because it's where we come from we fear it because we left so long ago', I say suddenly, startling myself, and the waitress

Ithaka

July 8, 2019
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
K.P. Kavafis, "Ithaka". Via a person from Greece I knew once upon a time.

on blogs

July 9, 2019
Two decades in, I'm in a retrospective mood and I've been thinking about what blogging means...
The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999.
Thinking about it, I guess "blogging" can encapsulate many or all of many different kind of activities: There's a lot of overlap there, but it's amazing how versatile a medium "Blogging" is.

Social Media covers many of those same outlets for many people. A while back I wrote on The Facebook:

But Facebook banks on one brilliant idea, one other sites leverage as well: empowering users to assemble a collated page/wall/feed of content from people the user finds interesting. Sites using this trick -- Tumblr, LiveJournal, Twitter, Instagram and FB all had different hooks (visual collectors, diarists, pithy bon mot makers, snapshotters, and people you know, respectively) and of all of those FB's "people you know in real life" seems to be the most compelling in a universal kind of way.
Those are all legit outlets, but I am wary at having my content potentially lost to corporate mishandling or malfeasance . I come from the DIY oldschool - a group privileged enough to have the knowledge and freetime and funds to build the tools we use to post stuff. The barrier to entry is high there, but there's almost total control over the results. But then again I end up mirroring nearly everything I post on my blog on Facebook, because that's the only way I have of getting feedback. (And it hurts when you realize how few people any individual post gets put in front of... feels weird to have to sort-of go viral just to get a piece of content in front of the majority of your friends and family)

The other element is the private/public aspect. For many folks, many of those categories list, especially "Dear-Diarying", Commonplace Booking, and Scrapbooking, might be better served with private tools - maybe even paper! Personally I've always been more interested in attention and knowledge sharing than privacy, but I know different people manage that balance differently.

(Last year kottke collected 3 interesting essays, Did blogs ruin the web? Or did the web ruin blogs? - worth checking out.) RIP Ross Perot. I sometimes wonder if his 1992 campaign denied re-election to the elder Bush, and if the backlash about losing what was "rightfully" theirs spurred the "Contract With America" (brilliant piece of propaganda, that) and from there it's all been more and more unlikely extreme swings. Also in a day and age where executives seem unworldly tall, a 5'5" guy becoming a self-made billionaire is a good story.

8.4 little birds

July 10, 2019
Trying to adapt songs:
Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin, (this is my message to you-ou-ou:)
Singin: don't worry bout a thing,
Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Or, rather, every little thing is gonna be what it gonna be.
Within your ability to withstand it,
but not necessarily to your preference,
and sometimes pleasant if you pay attention to the right details.
And if you look you'll see you're on a hedonistic treadmill
and will get back to your happiness setpoint soon enough
but if you cultivate your focus and your expectations
maybe you can grow your contentment and courage
and bump that setpoint up a few notches.

That is why I'm not a songwriter, I guess... but mostly, I don't have an intuitive understanding of people finding the sentiment "it's gonna be ok" comforting, at all. When I find someone trying to soothe me like that, I get MORE worried that the external objective reality must be REALLY bad and they're blowing smoke to get me to calm down. I always want as unflinching and uncompromised view of likely outcomes as possible, with the reassurance applied to the idea that I'll be able to adapt.

I mean- I sort of get it. "It's gonna be ok" has that mix of authoritative confidence and reassurance about external things, kind of parental - and maybe that faux-parent is seeing things that the scared inner child can't. And most people aren't as entangled in an obligation of seeking unconfirmable ultimate objective reality as I am. "It's gonna be ok" is fighting fears that aren't in the realm of the rational, so for many folks it's ok to fight emotion with emotion.

RIP Rip Torn. I just like saying that.
Hi, its God. Sorry I missed your call because I'm everywhere but I'll get back to you, maybe in strangely fitting words from a coworker or a dog's smile

O Celia, You're cuttin' some farts

July 11, 2019
Thus finishing his grand survey,
Disgusted Strephon stole away
Repeating in his amorous fits,
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!
A poem I read in class, though I don't recall if it was high school or (more likely?) college.

I also like the opening "Five hours, (and who can do it less in?) / By haughty Celia spent in dressing;" but overall the misogynistic bend of this poem is very ungood. (And was called out at the time, see for example Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's The Reasons That Induced Dr S To Write A Poem Call'D The Lady's Dressing Room that suggests Swift was bitter and looking for something to blame for not being able to perform with a prostitute.)

Also this poem showed me that "Betty", my mom's name, was once upon a time the stereotypical name for a maid, a fact that bothered my mom not at all.

Everybody poops.
Rob Plath, back cover of MY SOUL IS A BROKEN DOWN VALISE:

"a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1000/24th)".... do you think it would be too much to ask that the guy with the nuke codes could understand fractions? Do you think.... Obama knew fractions? Bush?

July 12, 2019

I'm a bit older than Melissa. Usually close enough that we're on the same page pop-culture wise but I remember this add and she doesn't:

"You're just in time..." "Uh oh-" "...for my Chicken L'orange!" "Ooh!" "And my biscuits!" "Ahhh!" "And my-" "-ring around the collar..."
Finally watched "Captain Marvel". Dig that they didn't soften her edges to make her "likable" or whatever. Also, noticed the arcade game in the orbiting hideaway was Centipede, one of the few games of that era with a woman programmer (Dona Bailey), and one of the first designed to attract women players. (Trying my hand at updating the IMDB trivia page for the movie)
I almost hate to say, because having a functioning home office printer is such a damn sign of being grown up, but the Brother HL-L2300D - black and white, laser-jet, does double sided printing, is fast... is good to have. The toner just lasts and lasts, I'm no more subject to extortionately-priced color ink packs.

Of course even writing a post like this reminds me this old Onion, from when Steve Jobs was resigning from Apple for the last time - New Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'I'm Thinking Printers'

July 13, 2019

I love how the summaries from these vintage Star Trek Trading Cards all sound a bit off, like they're written by a neural net or something.

And then the fun for fans is trying to figure out the episode!

from Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running"

July 14, 2019
from Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running":
Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy.
I'm struck by how, except when you're young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don't get that sort of system set by a certain age, you'll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.
In every interview I'm asked what's the most important quality a novelist has to have. It's pretty obvious: talent. No matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. This is more of a prerequisite than a necessary quality. If you don't have any fuel, even the best car won't run.
I don't care about the time I run. I can try all I want, but I doubt I'll ever be able to run the way I used to. I'm ready to accept that. It's not one of your happier realities, but that's what happens when you get older. Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it's been moving ever forward without a moment's rest. And one of the privileges given to those who've avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.
On the body of the bike is written "18 Til I Die," the name of a Bryan Adams hit. It's a joke, of course. Being eighteen until you die means you die when you're eighteen.
Emphasis mine on the bit on aging.

I was most struck by the bit about talent as an intrinsic property... sometimes my employer talks so much about "we have a growth mindset" that I feel a bit called-out, or like as a person with fixed mindset I should be able to file some kind of discrimination suit...

Not really of course, and they probably are using a looser term of "growth mindset" than I am - but yet, I'm aware I have fixed mindset, it protects me in some ways, throws up roadblocks in others, and I try to act to mitigate its disadvantages while enjoying some of the psychological reassurances it offers.

It does strike me that there's an amusing meta-issue here; someone with a "growth mindset" is OF COURSE more likely to believe that switching mindset is possible than someone starting with a "fixed mindset"...

ENGLISH GAME: PLACE THE WORD "ONLY" ANYWHERE ON THE SENTENCE:
She told him that she loved him.
I wonder what other languages that works with...

from Sally Rooney's "Conversations with Friends"

July 15, 2019
from Sally Rooney's "Conversations with Friends":
I felt restless, the way you feel when you've already done the wrong thing and you're anxious about what the outcome is going to be.
I knew Bobbi would know what to say in this situation, because she had a lot of opinions about mental health in public discourse. Out loud I said: Bobbi thinks depression is a humane response to the conditions of late capitalism.
All I could decide was whether or not to have sex with Nick; I couldn’t decide how to feel about it, or what it meant.
At some point the chocolate cake was gone. I looked into the box and saw crumbs and icing smeared around the paper rim that I had neglected to remove. I got up from the table, put the kettle on, and emptied two spoonfuls of coffee into the French press. I took some painkillers, I drank the coffee, I watched a murder mystery on Netflix. A certain peace had come to me and I wondered if it was God’s doing after all. Not that God existed in any material way but as a shared cultural practice so widespread that it came to seem materially real, like language or gender.
I closed my eyes. Things and people moved around me, taking positions in obscure hierarchies, participating in systems I didn’t know about and never would. A complex network of objects and concepts. You live through certain things before you understand them. You can’t always take the analytical position.
After enjoying Normal People I went back and read this, Sally Rooney's first novel. I guess I enjoy reading stories of the romances of academic people. (heh... I guess to be honest I ended up treating my undergrad degree in computer science as a high-end trade school... and the English major I kept up to go with was a bit perfunctory...) This one told some of its story in quoted emails and going over old text messages, I really appreciate when stories do that... maybe it gives a smidge of validation to my own archiving with very occasional review.

FWIW The scene of people hanging out at a wealthy european's beach dwellings reminded me a bit of Martin Amis' "The Pregnant Widow"

--Panel from this Oglaf comic riffing on Hamlet - Oglaf is such a raunchy, fun, goofy, R-rated romp (maybe even NC-17) of a fantasy cartoon. I really like how it celebrates the joy of gettin' it on across a wide range of genders and sexualities.
French Inventor Totes Rifle While Flying Turbine-Powered Flyboard at Bastille Day Celebrations - word is previous Bastille Day stuff inspired Trumps' Campaign-Rally-With-Thanks July 4th ambitions. How long 'til he says we need one of these?
School of Honk on parade with "Rock Anthem" - at 4:06 you can hear me leading the call in the call/response:

deteriorata

July 16, 2019
You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here.
Deteriorata. Deteriorata.

Go placidly amid the noise and waste,
And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep.
Rotate your tires.
Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself,
And heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys.
Know what to kiss, and when.
Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do.
Wherever possible, put people on hold.
Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment,
and despite the changing fortunes of time,
There is always a big future in computer maintenance.

Remember The Pueblo.
Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate.
Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI.
Exercise caution in your daily affairs,
Especially with those persons closest to you -
That lemon on your left, for instance.
Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls
Would scarcely get your feet wet.
Fall not in love therefore. It will stick to your face.
Gracefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan.
And let not the sands of time get in your lunch.
Hire people with hooks.
For a good time, call 606-4311. Ask for Ken.
Take heart in the bedeepening gloom
That your dog is finally getting enough cheese.
And reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot,
It could only be worse in Milwaukee.

You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore, make peace with your god,
Whatever you perceive him to be - hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin.
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal,
The world continues to deteriorate.
Give up!
National Lampoon's "Deteriorata" See this page for the original it parodies as well.

This image is part of my inkjet printer's built-in print test and I genuinely find it very moving

I think the way to be a successful human is to not give yourself too many roadblocks to happiness -- and a hot warm tortilla, you know what? Don't think too much about it, just put that right in your mouth.
Addy discussing the non-vegetarian nature of proper tortillas, on the podcast she runs along with my buddy Dylan, Jump the Snark

[At MIT in the 1950s] there was a Tech Model Train Club, where they had the people who were like "let's look at the top of the table, and make the models, and make the trains and make the things and everything pretty!" and then there were the people who were like "let's look at the bottom of the table there where all the switches are, and the electronics, and do all the tinkering" - and that kind of divide between "I'm looking at the flavor", vs "I'm looking at the systems"... FF Tactics is like the hard-core systems game.
Shivam Bhatt on the Retronauts episode on Final Fantasty Tactics. That's a fun analogy I haven't thought of in a while. (Many of us were introduced to it via Steven Levy's book "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution")

apolloinrealtime.org/11/ Wow. And to think...50 years. Man, our relationship with space is sad. It's just a challenge we're not up for, and so we'll sit here til an asteroid takes us out, unless the climate gets us first.
from The Atlantic The 2019 Artistic-Swimming World Championships

Just finished all the available levels of "Mr. Bullet", a pretty decent little puzzle game for smartphones. Each level is a tiny puzzle, where you play a shooter doing fancy trick shots (with lots of cartoony blood). Then they have variants where you throw grenades, or have to NOT hit hostages, or where finally you're not longer magically invisible to your own bullets. Each puzzle is so bite size, and none of them are too grindingly difficult, that it's a great pick up and play and then put down game. The model of "free with commercials, or a couple of bucks to just play" seems pretty decent to me.

July 17, 2019

What did the average ancient Roman apartment look like? I found this Quora response one of the more interesting ones I've seen, I almost want to find a good kids book on the subject of Roman city life. When you read about how many assumptions about "your place" and use of shared, public things it's quite striking - switching to ancient Greece - it's sort of like reading the original versions of Aesop, and the way people have very different concerns about honor and friendship.

That all makes me think about how Christians treat their scriptures, and the cultural context they were written in. For many believers, they grow up so close to the Bible stories (if not actually reading the book that much) and they're so use to regarding it as the foundations for correct modern behavior, that that sense of estrangement is lost.

I recall years past, feeling a bit Christian-hip, and in on secret knowledge, in understanding that early Christians were setting up communes, it seemed a strong rebuke to the materialism of current-day capitalism and its accompanying consumerism, but now thinking in terms of this Quora, maybe the early Christian setup wasn't quite as much of a stretch from its surrounding context as I used to think.

via

20 hours to anything

July 18, 2019
20 minute video about 20 hours by Josh Kaufman:

In a nutshell, he's saying that the "10,000 hours" rule is over applied - it talks about the people at the tiptop of a specialty, pressing on to an elite place way out on the learning curve. Kaufman argues how 20 hours is often enough for a solid amount of competence.

It's a great point! Reminds me of Jake the Dog:


But those 20 hours are not a walk in the park. Kaufman ends with the slide:

The major barrier to skill
acquisition isn't
intellectual...
it's emotional.
And then he says
We're scared. Feeling stupid doesn't feel good. In the beginning of learning anything new, you feel really stupid.
Especially for people with Fixed Mindset - folks so skilled at finding low hanging fruit of stuff that are variants on what they're already good at, and so much in the habit of moving on and considering the difficult task unimportant - those 20 hours are going to be a slog! And 20 hours is a longer time than might first appear, especially if you're setting aside big swaths of dedicated focused and thoughtful practice...
You might want to cmd-+ or ctrl-+ your way to zooming this to 200% to take it in, but a Magic Eye of Bob "Church of the SubGenius" Dobbs in ASCII is pretty amazing....
BOBoBoBoBoBoBOBoBoBoBoBoBOBoBoBoBoBoBOBoBfNoRdBoBOBoBoBoBoBoBOBoBoBoBoBoBOB
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!::::'___`:::::::'___`:::::::'___`:::::::'___`:::::::'___`:::::::'___`::::!
!:::'/_ _\`:::::'/_ _\`:::::'/_ _\`:::::'/_ _\`:::::'/_ _\`:::::'/_ _\`:::!
!:::|/ ~ \|`::::|/ ~ \|  `::|/ ~ \|'   `|/ ~ \|::'  |/ ~ \|::::'|/ ~ \|:::!
!:::|'-.-`|  :::|'-.-`|    :|'-.-`|     |'-.-`|:    |'-.-`|:::  |'-.-`|:::!
!:: (|e|e|?   ::(|e|e|? '   (|e|e|? ` ' (|e|e|?   ` (|e|e|?.:   (|e|e|? ::!
!.  `._^_,''   :`._^_,'..'  `._^_,'`...'`._^_,'  `..`._^_,'.   ``._^_,'  .!
!.   \\=//       \\=//       \\=//       \\=//       \\=//       \\=//   .!
:    U/_/        U/_/        U/_/        U/_/        U/_/        U/_/     :
@/      \&~  @/      \&~  @/      \&~  @/      \&~  @/      \&~  @/      \&
Y/\.::./\S\ /Y/\.::./\S\ /Y/\.::./\S\ /Y/\.::./\S\ /Y/\.::./\S\ /Y/\.::./\S
E$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$E
%%%%XX%%%%%%%%%%%XX%%%%%%%%%%%XX%%%%%%%%%%%XX%%%%%%%%%%%XX%%%%%%%%%%%XX%WiZ

So near the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, lets not forget the software engineer who made it possible - she has some lessons for the coders of today

You know how you can make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell. [...] He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.
Senator Lindsey Graham on CNN on December 8, 2015

Back in the day you could get something called "Weslyan Tetris" for Macs... it had really annoying sound clips that would comment on your performance, and then sometimes it would "nyah nyah nyah" and cheat...


As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn't as easy to get programs right as we had thought. Debugging had to be discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding mistakes in my own programs.
Maurice Wilkes, 1949

from Annaka Harris' "Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind"

July 19, 2019
Harris' book is a pretty decent survey over research into the problem of consciousness, and she cites some fascinating research... often pointing out how our (mis)conceptions of the world radically distort our view of some otherwise promising theories.
[Neuroscientist Anil] Seth refers to our experiences of ourselves in the world as a kind of “controlled hallucination.” He describes the brain as a “prediction engine” and explains that “what we perceive is its best guess of what’s out there in the world.” In a sense, he says, “we predict ourselves into existence.”
We make a map (our experience) of the territory (reality) and it is damnably easy to mistake the map for the territory.

She then talks about some of my favorite bits of mind-blowing research:

The split-brain literature contains many examples suggesting that two conscious points of view can reside in a single brain. Most of them also topple the typical notion of free will, by exposing a phenomenon generated by the left hemisphere that Gazzaniga and his colleague Joseph LeDoux dubbed “the interpreter.” This phenomenon occurs when the right hemisphere takes action based on information it has access to that the left hemisphere doesn’t, and the left hemisphere then gives an instantaneous and false explanation for the split-brain subject’s behavior. For example, when the right hemisphere is given the instruction “Take a walk” in an experiment, the subject will stand up and begin walking. But when asked why he’s leaving the room, he will give an explanation such as, “Oh, I need to get a drink.” His left hemisphere, the one responsible for speech, is unaware of the command the right side received, and we have every reason to think that he does in fact believe his thirst was the reason he got up and began walking. As in the example in which experimenters were able to cause a feeling of will in subjects who in actuality were not in control of their own actions, the phenomenon of “the interpreter” is further confirmation that the feeling we have of executing consciously willed actions, at least in some instances, is sheer illusion.
There's so much thought talking trying to describe this phenomenon of our other selves - elephant and rider, id/ego, inner-child - it makes me think there's something to it. I am convinced that our physical brains (and the nervous system of the rest of our bodies) are the medium for multiple entities - deeply connected, but still with their own agenda and independent point of view. (I'm not sure if that split is strictly hemisphere-based or not, or how much it might vary from person to person.)

For most people it's the narrative self, the inner voice, that is the most "us" - the part of our brain that uses its unfair advantage of language, the scaffolding to build magnificent structures of thought, and a habit of justifying the whole's actions to others - and to ourselves - to claim to be the true us. It plays at being the competent Dr Jekyll to the rest of the brain's Mr Hyde.


To navel-gaze a bit: I wonder if this distinction, this dual-life, might be especially heightened in me, personally, relative to most people. Evidence for thinking I'm such a weird dual snowflake follows:

When I read, I read fast, which means I skim - I've come to realize it's like a whole level of my brain absorbing the words from a page or screen and then efficiently summarizing the content to a higher level of awareness. This silent, speedy skimmer system has shown to be so serendipitous for me on standardized tests... and it leads me to think of myself as a truly "deeply superficial" person.

(Furthermore, this voiceless low level reader system is mostly attuned to seeing how systems interact... and so the internal essence or superficial aspects that don't really change how the object of the reading material interact don't even get reported to the higher brain! This is coupled with my theory about why I'm somewhat faceblind - the details of a face just aren't that important to me, because they don't change how I'll interact with it...so at the higher levels I don't even see those details. I am terrible at spelling for similar reasons - twisty little vowel combinations don't change how the word sounds much, so they are devilishly hard for me to remember to write correctly.)

The other part of this silent system is - my inner child as shown by my "inner snacker" - is especially difficult to control. It's a bit embarrassing really. I mean I know willpower in terms of food is tough for many people, but when I observe how I will chow down on snacks at work - if there's like an array of cookies, it seems like I will not be sated until I have sampled one of each. And I haven't witnessed quite the same level of that with other people. I'm not as much an outlier here as I am with the skimming/reading thing, but I think I am on the far side of this bellcurve as well.

But, countering what I think might be a particularly active subconscious - my religious upbringing has left me - the inner-voice me - hyper-vigilant about keeping myself in accord with How Things Should Be. An early fear of eternal damnation and hellfire kind has constructed a system of rational vigilance, a gardener of the emotional garden. Almost every sprout of a feeling is inspected, and if found to not be rationally justifiable, it's plucked from the soil before it has a chance to grow. With lust, my physiological response is repressed unless my narrative self is convinced it's a safe and reasonable thing. I'm not even sure I love like other people seem to - I admire like hell, but I haven't had a "Crazy in Love" feeling in a long, long time. (My theory is, though, people search for that crazy in love feeling especially in the early days of relationships, because it puts the feeling out of the reach of market forces, that irrational love will better weather the travails of life and stress and aging and not be on the hunt for any better offers.)

And I think the two systems of me have warped each other a bit, goaded each other on. Like, my inner snacker is super quick in driving me to grab a tasty food on impulse, because that silent system knows that the inner voice nanny is on patrol.

If this two-entity model of myself is correct - it's a little scary. My narrator self - which is in many ways dominant, which is writing this rambling essay - is worried that my silent self may become sullen and resentful and uncooperative. In fact, when I think about my skullslinkies incident, where in a alternate mind state I had a clear picture of my those inner, short-lived thought processes, clear of the influence of the narrator self and finally able to express some of their resentments...I'm further driven to try to find ways to get my parts to be content and in harmony. And it feels like if I ever have some kind of psychotic break, this divide might be where the fault line lies.... or at least I think that I will never be as well-integrated as most people.

Phew! Back to the book...


Harris takes a lot of time defending panpsychism - the concept that consciousness sorta exists in almost every system, even simple ones - maybe even clusters of atoms. While "everything is conscious, sorta!" can sound like new age woo-woo, or a kind of Western shintoism, she defends it - not that she's fully convinced about it, but it isn't as nutty an idea as it might seem. A thermostat has a kind of awareness of the world around it, albeit just the ambient temperature. Personally I am comfortable with thinking of the thermostats inner state as the tiniest glimmer of consciousness. I think full consciousness involves having a rich model of the world and of the self as an actor within that model, and if you have a system with those characteristics, you probably have consciousness...

Finally, Harris reminds me of some of the absolute, batshit weirdness of the implications of the double-slit photon experiment - how light is a wave or particle depending on if it's being observed (meaning observation - which might be inexorably deeply linked to a concept of consciousness - might be a weirdly causal part of reality) and not only that, but a 2007 experiment confirmed John Wheeler's prediction that that effect seems to go backwards in time. At trivial scales of time, or unimaginably vast ones:

You can now ask, for each photon that comes to me, whether it came from the left [or the right] side of the gravitational lens. [Let’s say] I decide to measure which side it came from, and I find out that it went on the left side. That means I can say that for the last ten billion years, that photon has been on a path that started from the quasar and went around the left side of the gravitational lens. But if, instead, I had chosen not to make that measurement and just measure the interference pattern, it would not be true that for the last ten billion years that photon had gone [down a path] around the left side. So the choice I make today determines the ten-billion-year-history of that photon.
Mind-bending stuff.
I had to draw a wildebee

July 20, 2019

It takes a lot for a white guy to learn that he is not unbreakable... I remember showing Hari Kondabolu a picture of my son as we were on the side of a precipice trail, a cliffside, in Arcadia Park, in Maine, and he said 'Boy O boy, the things some white people will do to feel danger in their lives.'

Anything's porn if you jerk off to it... that's from the Supreme Court decision.
Baby Geniuses Podcast - didn't realize that's Lisa "Tuca + Bertie" Hanawalt, and then Emily Heller who I was following on twitter already... (not sure which said the quote though, I'm terrible with that.)

DAILY PRAYER TO COMBAT IMPOSTOR SYNDROME: God give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude

July 21, 2019


roses aren't red

violets aren't blue

the world is an illusion

& so are you

July 22, 2019

Once, in an exuberant state, feeling filled with the muse, I told another writer: When I write, I know everything. Everything about the characters? she asked. No, I said, everything about the world, the universe. Every. Fucking. Thing. I was being preposterous, of course, but I was also trying to explain the feeling I got, deep inside writing a first draft, that I was listening and receiving, listening some more and receiving, from a place that was far enough away from my daily life, from all of my reading, from everything.
It made me think about my usual excuse for not pushing myself to write fiction: on some level I see fiction as a selected window in a constructed alternate reality - but that fictionality reality has to be like an entirety, it shouldn't just be this tiny world where the only thing happening is what the author wants to talk about, free from cause and effects outside the narrative window. And man, that's just too much responsibility! (Also, some podcast said, yeah, everyone has that idea in the back of the head for a movie or show or comic or game whatever... and I really don't, and as someone who would like to think of himself as creative that seems a little sad.)
Form is all we have
to help us cope
with fundamentally chaotic
facts and assaults.
Formulating something
is a great start.
I trust form,
trust my feeling
or capacity
to find the right form
for something.
Even if that is only by being
well organized.
That too is form.
David Means, "What I Learned from Gerhard Richter" - he found it in a New York Times interview and turned it into a poem, though I'm not sure I am convinced it benefits from the rhythm of the linebreaks. Though I like the last one.



The Real ID Act - in October 2020 you're gonna need a specially verified driver's license to get on a plane or enter a federal building. Looks like in MA, it's considered an option to get a license with "Real ID"-ness included, and see my own license would otherwise not need to be renewed for a few years after the October 2020 deadline. So, countdown til lots of people, worried either about their personal inconvenience or for another tool for big brother, notice this and start complaining.

July 23, 2019

I guess Tim Gunn's "Make It Work" is kind of the more urbane version of "Git-R-Dun" I was looking for, though "Make It Work" has that subtext of "huh... I have serious doubts about where you are with this project now" while Git-R-Dun is less judgemental in its encouragement.
OK, note to self. "Al Capp" did "Li'l Abner" and turned right later and bickered with John and Yoko during their Bed-In for Peace. "Andy Capp" is the English comic strip with the hat-wearing pub guy who's on the packets of "Hot Fries"
It's not hard to see in the demographics, the words, and the behavior of Trump supporters an ethic of total retaliation at work. These are men and women who defend their vote by saying things like: "I just wanted people to know that I'm here, that I count." These are men and women whose scorn of "political correctness" translates into: "You can't make me talk the way that you want me to talk, even if that way of talking is nicer and smarter and better." These are men and women whose denials of climate change are gleeful denials of scientific expertise in a world where scientific experts have unquestioned intellectual respect and social status. These are men and women who seemed to applaud the incompetence of Trump's campaign because competence itself is associated with membership in the elite.

July 24, 2019

At a junior college in South central Kansas there is an introductory course taught by Death. The course, Basics in Animal Husbandry, is transferable to most major Universities, except for a few small liberal arts colleges who are skeptical of Death's academic qualifications. At least once, but usually two or three times, during every semester, Death would be absent from class. In her place was always the same man, who simply announced himself as Death's Substitute. He spoke with a strong southern accent, was very overweight, and told stories about his wacky shopping mishaps at discount stores to highlight his lessons. The next day Death would be back in class, excusing her absence because of some cold or flu. Then the class would laugh, to which Death would respond with a slight smile, because we had all seen the mornings news about some plane crash or earthquake, and knew what she'd really been up to.
R.C.G. on the Love Blender message board, 1998-10-11

If one is fortunate enough to reach a level of middle-aged, one encounters that phenomenon where any fixed interval of time is at risk for seemingly curiously compressed. (A "where did the years GO?" type thing.) Perhaps it's an artifact of any set unit of time being smaller percentage-wise of the overall length of time lived.

Lately for me it gets manifested as "what the hell, time to cut my fingernails AGAIN??"

(Also, FWIW: I'm often skeptical about the benefit/cost ratio of gourmet versions of things, but "Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clipper (SS-106)" has proven worth the extra cost.)

This piece about this series of videos:
Eight years ago, a middle-aged Japanese man started a YouTube channel and began posting videos of himself feeding stray cats. A lot of videos. Usually one per day, every day. As of this year, he had posted over 19,000 times. If you put all his videos into one big playlist and turned on autoplay, it would take you roughly six and a half days to reach the end. It’s possibly the most prolific non-automated channel on YouTube.

It’s also one of the loneliest.
I kind of love it!

July 25, 2019


snicker

July 26, 2019

@AyannaPressley's set to introduce a bill to end AG Barr's reinstatement of capital punishment at the federal level. It's about 70 words.



Melissa out with an old coworker friend, I just got done with a short-notice parade ("Fly, Buzz, Hop and Squeak! Parade" with day-campers from Summer Honk) - got a popsicle, a sour beer, the AC, and a good book, my summer evening is ready :-D

the elephant and the rider redux

July 27, 2019
I often speak of the metaphor of "the elephant and the rider"; how we pretend it's our inner-voice, our narrator-self, that is running the show, but actually that part of us is just justifying the gallumping about the emotional elephant has done as the rider clings on. (With time and patience the rider can train the elephant somewhat and coax better behaviors - that's what growing up is all about - but a beastliness remains.)

These riders get so good at telling the stories of why we do what we do, but fudging the timestamps so the explanation sounds like a reasoned decision and not a post-facto justification. Thus an illusion of rationality and thoughtfulness is preserved, and a our trustworthiness is advertised to our fellow humans, and to our selves.

I worry that people in the social media age seem to go out of their way to work up the elephant, as if they WANT to feel, not think. It's not enough to just identify and categorize things as desirable / undesirable, we are compelled to JUDGE - to say this makes my elephant happy and so I am FOR it! Or -- this is terrible and me and my elephant are on TEAM AGAINST IT.

It might be true that getting the elephant charged up is probably critical to taking action (in fact a friend corrected me that his depression isn't a manifestation of irrationality - it's his fully rational rider unable to prod his comatose elephant into action - there's just no feeling and energy to DO anything, even something as seemingly necessary as to get out of bed) but when problems are too big for individual or even group action to change, helpless rage - the elephant ramming itself into the side of the enclosure the rider has constructed for it - results.

I've quipped that one consolation of death is that, finally, my awareness of the big problems of the world will shrink to match my capacities to fix the big problems of the world. That's pretty morbid! The balance of that whole serenity prayer thing - acceptance of what we can not change, courage to change what we can, the wisdom to know the difference - seems wiser and wiser the more I think on it.

So, we persist. Firing up the elephant is a good way to show ourselves to be good members of our tribe, and acceptance in our tribe is important. (From a social evolution standpoint, being well-aligned with the wisdom embodied in the practices of your literal tribe was more important than being correct about any one issue! Lone humans didn't have great survival or mating prospects.) The cynical right labels the public elephanting "virtue signaling", but I can't for the life of me figure out what's so bad about honest signals that reflect a life valuing justice, fairness, and the prevention of harm.

And sometimes I use this story to explain my special snowflake status to myself: The hellfire elements of my religious childhood burnt themselves out in my adolescence, but left a scorchmark of compulsive need to prove my value - my worthiness as judged by objective criteria. (In this view, one's alignment with objective truth can never be proven or fully certain, but rationality - a rationality aware of the limits of its methods - seems like a critical component in avoiding absurdities.)

So it's as if MY emotional elephant, a love- and validation-seeking beasts in most everyone, is more willing than most to elevate my rider - giving rationality a boost up with its mighty trunk, and letting that rider guide the elephant to trample over proto-emotions before they grow into something that might distract the elephant. As far as I can tell, love and lust and loyalty are all more inspected and less intuitively and spontaneously enjoyed in me than with many folks. But I seem less prone to addictive or risk-taking behaviors. (I'm taking pains to avoid sounding a facile "why am I the ONLY RATIONAL ONE around here" argument here - I suspect being this flavor of mild pseudo-intellectual neurotic isn't the best way to live. Also, if I'm honest, my elephant's intense pomposity too often drives me to self-limiting avoidance behaviors, where it's so much easier to not try and not succeed than to try and fail and have my limitations shown off to me and the world.)


From my devblog: developers and hot hands...

July 28, 2019

I came here to do two things: define what separates us from the world & love the collection of molecules we've both decided are "you" [huskily] & I'm all out of definitions

from "The World According to Garp"

July 29, 2019
I just finished rereading John Irving's "The World According to Garp" - it's either a particularly memorable novel, or I consumed it at a particularly tender time, because so many bits were so lodged in my memory, but I had forgotten the source.

Irving gives some of his smartest thoughts to the titular character, who (like the author, of course) is a novelist:

You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.
T S Garp
Human sexuality makes farcical our most serious intentions.
T S Garp
People will always make sides--of everything.
T S Garp
Imagining something is better than remembering something.
T S Garp
Another good quote:
In short, all that is body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors.
Marcus Aurelius
I had a vague memory of hearing about a childhood mishearing of warnings about "the undertow":
It was Walt's fourth summer at Dog's Head Harbor, Duncan remembered, when Garp and Helen and Duncan observed Walt watching the sea. He stood ankle-deep in the foam from the surf and peered into the waves, without taking a step, for the longest time. The family went down to the water's edge to have a word with him.
"What are you doing, Walt?" Helen asked.
"What are you looking for, dummy?" Duncan asked him.
"I'm trying to see the Under Toad," Walt said. "The what?" said Garp. "The Under Toad," Walt said. "I'm trying to see it. How big is it?"
In the novel. "undertoad' becomes the family's expression for anxiety and foreboding. My family has a somewhat similar phrase from an anecdote:"got 'em all back now mom!" which expresses relief a danger has passed - specifically a danger that wasn't recognized when it was extent.

Garp knew what to take for courses and whom to have for teachers. That is often the difference between doing well or poorly in a school.
I always thought that the difference between institutions was probably a lot less important than how hard one applied oneself, but I think getting lucky (or smart) about individual teachers is more important.

This was another instructional excerpt that lodged in my brain:

She was suddenly no drunker than Bill; or she had become miraculously undrunk, or she was enjoying that half hour of clarity between stupor and hangover--a half hour Garp had read about, but had always believed was a myth. Another illusion.
Fair warning, the final two are a little on the raunchy side, starting with this pornographic glossary:
The picture Garp looked at in the dream was considered among the highest in the rankings of pornographic pictures. Among pictures of naked women, there were names for how much you could see. If you could see the pubic hair, but not the sex parts, that was called a bush shot--or just a bush. If you could see the sex parts, which were sometimes partially hidden by the hair, that was a beaver; a beaver was better than just a bush; a beaver was the whole thing: the hair and the parts. If the parts were open, that was called a split beaver. And if the whole thing glistened, that was the best of all, in the world of pornography: that was a wet, split beaver. The wetness implied that the woman was not only naked and exposed and open, but she was also ready.
And maybe most of all, this:
Garp first sees the young man reflected in Mrs. Ralph's dressing-table mirror. Sitting naked in the chair, he is combing out the blond end of his thin ponytail, which he holds over his shoulder and sprays with one of Mrs. Ralph's aerosol cans. His belly and thighs have the same slick buttered look that Garp saw on the flesh and fur of Mrs. Ralph, and his young cock is as lean and arched as the backbone of a whippet.
The "as lean and arched" analogy really stuck with me.
Slate argues You Have a Moral Obligation to Claim Your $125 From Equifax.
"Now I'm going to sign this bill [for funding 9/11 victim compensation] into law - and I don't know if this stage will hold it, but if it doesn't we're not falling very far... but I'd like to ask the families and I'd also like to ask the first responders to come up... and we'll give this stage a shot... let's see how well built... 'Made In America'... let's see how well built it is."
Ladies and Gentleman, your President of the United States! Cruel and tacky, or merely stupid and tacky? You decide! (I'm sure he hired only the best people to build his stage.)
Man I miss Vine sometimes...

There's some meanness here sometimes, but also such creativity and exploration of comic timing...

July 30, 2019

It's simplistic to the point of goofiness, but the smartphone game aquapark.io has a beautiful kinetic quality....

The slip-slideiness is pleasant enough, but then the "soar off the side, then catch up on a lower piece of the track" is kind of fantastic in a dreamlike way. (and reminiscent of certain shortcuts in Rainbow Road in Mario Kart) I paid $2 or $3 for the ad-free version, and it's great to just try a level and see "can I soar-shortcut my way to victory or no?" in a bitesize way.

It's a little weird that they have fake-y multiplayer, but they're all computer players a handful of which will always be on your tail no matter how "clever" your shortcut.
The AI Weirdness Book - I am flat-out amazed at the "AI weirdness blog" - applying neural net stuff in a way that sometimes gets so deep (in terms of seeming to understand language in order to generate more examples of stuff in a group, like ice cream flavors or pickup lines) that it feels fake, but I'm pretty sure it's legit. Anyway Janelle Shane is making a book, and she says the preorders are the best way of signaling excitement, so consider ordering a copy if so inclined!

undone

July 31, 2019
Why Don't I Read All My Books? - about the books left unread. Some of the ideas here apply to decluttering efforts in general - I think of that Molly Gardener line "Sometimes, my body feels like a burial ground for all the people I should have become" - and when you're getting rid of the supplies and props for projects you'll probably never get to, it feels like you're shoveling dirt on the grave of those alternate "you"s who mighta been but never quite were. More firmly latching the door for places you still might go, but probably won't.

I feel like my paper towel is making joke references I don't get. Any idea?


UPDATE: friends on facebook point me to "câlin" being hug in French... my 3 years of Middle School French were not enough for me to spot it. And kind of a gendered joke about shaving bristles to boot.
On my company's blog, Shayan wrote about Text and Emoji analysis on CarGurus text and chat.


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