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photos of the month - october 2019


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This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically woke and all that stuff... You should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and, you know, share certain things with you.

One danger I see among young people particular on college campuses is a sense -- among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media -- that the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that's enough. If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn't do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, cuz, 'Man, you see how woke I was, I called you out.' Get on TV. Watch my show. Watch Grown-ish.

That's not activism. That's not bringing about change. If all you're doing is casting stones, you're probably not going to get that far. That's easy to do.

new music playlist october 2019

Some really solid 4 star songs in the second half of the month. Give that it was the month of HONK!fest, surprised that didn't have more of an impact...
Coming Home Baby
Cool remix of a classic swinging song.
We play a simpler version of this in JP Honk, Matt sent around this link.
Green Day
Protest-y 90s alt-rock.
Aleksandra arranged a version of this for the Second Line Brass Band and tried to explain the bass line to me to play at a BABAM thing.
Lady of Spain
Eddie Fisher
Old school.
My dad was fond of the naughty version of this (Lady of Spain / I Adore You / Pull Down Your Pants / I'll Explore You...)
93 'Til Infinity
Souls of Mischief
90s hiphop, nice slow groove.
Played in the Netflix movie "Always Be My Maybe"
Threw It On the Ground
The Lonely Island
I love the sound of this hiphop, even though the song is a bit inane. Still, "I THREW IT ON THE *GROUND*" is catchy.
Random youtube recommendation from doing last month's music wrap-up, specifically "aceyletone"
Where Is My Mind?
Dreamy. Or nightmarish.
Weirdly I didn't know about this recording until I was googling a link to last month's piano cover of it - and I realized it was just a cover.

Blood of the Fang
Hiphop - similar vibe as Childish Gambino "This is America"
Found in a tumblr entry.

I Get No Joy
Jade Bird
Look out for this artist, she's going to be huge.
Arun mentioned her cover of "Walk Like an Egyptian" and speaks glowingly of her in general.

Harder Than You Think
Public Enemy
The sample (Shirley Bassey's 'Jezahel') makes this my favorite song this month.
Some show had this on.
Johnny Cash with June Carter Cash
I like how every once in a while I run into a new to me Johnny Cash song.
Referenced in the novel Tell The Wolves I'm Home (set in the 80s) - the main characters were singing along to it.
Waltzing Matilda
Slim Dusty
Traditional Australian song (though of course now I always think of Tom Waits' Tom Traubert's Blues...)
Referenced in the novel Tell The Wolves I'm Home - question in a Trivial Pursuit.
Go Cut Creator Go
LL Cool J
80s hiphop leaning pretty heavily on that Johnny B Good clip, but I love how it modulates that one guitar chord...
Referenced in the novel Tell The Wolves I'm Home (set in the 80s) - it mentioned an SNL episode with LL Cool J.
Monster Mash
The Misfits (feat. John Cafiero)
Higher-energy cover of the old halloween classic.
Heard at the Gallery X Halloween Fundraise in New Bedford.

Baby's on Fire
Die Antwoord
Hard not to be fascinated by Die Antwoord and Zef in general... love the big acoustics of this one.
On a Spotify List at Miller's Jack-O-Lantern Carving.

Stereo MC's
Could do without the "I patted your behind / And ya givin' me aggro" but overall this song has a great sound.
Not sure where but I think it's been on a Best of Booty compilation.

November 3, 2019

Poem I wrote in high school or college, then thought lost, then found 2 years ago, then forgotten that it had been unearthed:
A rock sat in the woods, thinking,
for many years, of many things.
Realized God and His plan
How to perfect life for plant and man
but it was a rock, and rocks can't speak
so it had to keep it to itself
I'm fascinated by it as an early instance of a thought I later had, how the interior lives and origins of things matter so much less than their surface interactions...

November 4, 2019

Whatever you may have thought about Hillary Clinton, my daughter watched as a highly experienced and qualified woman lost a job to a neophyte dilettante cartoon character of a white man who openly bragged of molesting women. My daughter isn't dumb. She got the message.
John Hodgman, "Medallion Status"

via. But I do get my friend point out this inter-generational conflict is not great, and may be a semi-manufactured way of reducing class solidarity.
You don't have to wait for the end of the world. It ends a little every day.

November 5, 2019

Color is a fiction of light.

At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — let go because you can.
Toni Morrison, "Tar Baby"

Nice Quora: If I shine a flashlight at Mars, does a small amount of the light actually reach it?. Someone is chanelling my childhood!

November 6, 2019


There are only four questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for? And what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.
Don Juan (from the movie of the same name)

November 7, 2019

While I grant that Yoda's characterisation in the prequel trilogy has serious continuity issues, the basic premise of his character arc doesn't bother me – I have absolutely no difficulty whatsoever believing that the Yoda we see in the original trilogy has committed war crimes.

My first encounter with the weird sex aspect of the Internet, back in like 1993 or so, was the text The Sexual Adventures of the Smurfs, describing the annual orgiastic "Smuckfest". (R-Rated link, I suppose, but kind of too goofy to really titillate.) "And, as is his privilege, Papa Smurf throws out the first throe" is an idiosyncratic turn of phrase that has stuck with me... like, the throes of passion? But singular? Weird.
Lovely piece on Mr. Rogers and the upcoming movie with Tom Hanks. There's a religious stance that so deeply molded everything about Fred Rogers - but his lessons in the public square were purely humanistic and secular, which I think is worth noting.
Want to help? Focus on lowering Drug Consumption in US. Want to help some more? Stop the ATF and Gun Law loopholes from systematically injecting high powered assault weapons to Mexico.

growth and judginess

Grooming old blog entries I found this article about comic artist James Sturm giving up the Internet (which made it so much less convenient for him to get reference art, for starters.)

He solicited letters during his Internet-fasting-process, and the article has some of those turned into comic panels. This one struck me:

It reminded me of my estranged debate partner and friend EB, whose frustration at himself and me for our respective bad habits was sometimes palpable - and to be fair, he was pretty good at making mindful choices and exclusions to cultivate his life.

For me and my fixed mindset, it’s weird, the feeling of self-hatred referenced in the comic is more “you can’t grow unless you declare your previous self an idiot for getting yourself into these patterns in the first place"… but your previous self was probably about as smart as you are now! (See Tallulah Bankhead's "If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.")

Obviously that fixed-mindset stance excludes the whole “learning from experience” possibility and is therefore kind of stupid… but recognizing that there were better decisions that could have been made earlier requires a judginess I find difficult to muster for other people, much less myself.

(Compare to EB, who judges freely and often, with great and often justified confidence, but some terrific misses -- bold misjudgements. For me, a fear of such misjudgements - that I asserted my subjective viewpoint over somebody else's, and was unjust and unempathetic and wrong to do so - keeps me from judging much in the first place.)

I mean when you look at your current habits and how they were formed - you can guess it would have been better to have lived otherwise, but you don’t know, and so the mandate for mustering the willpower to make a change is that much less…

This all brings to mind one final quote, also from an autobiographical comic:
Sure it mattered. When you get to my age you discover that everything mattered. Life isn't a series of good and bad choices. It's harder to steer it one way or the other than most people think. You just get pulled along. You look back and you wonder 'could I have changed the course of my life?' Maybe you could've ... but it would probably have taken a tremendous force of will.
Old Man in Seth's "It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken"

Following up on that to EB:
I guess you and I would both agree incorrectly judging something is wrong - especially when you're forcing your opinion over someone who ends up being correct. But for you it's an acceptable (and necessary) cost of doing business, and hopping to the meta-level, endlessly not judging can be judged to be a bad life pattern as well. All while my delicate ego keeps me as far away from being incorrect as possible and only asserting things I am overwhelmingly confident about.

My first attempt at jogging was in middle school- I think to try and improve my gym class grade or something, around the hallways of the school. I remember the gym teacher responsible for that discouraging me from listening to music on a walkman, citing something about blocking alpha or beta waves or what not. Was there something to that or was it just new-age-y hokum?
Content Warning: Diet and Food Stuff
(I have at least one friend who reacts badly to this stuff, so, fair warning.)

Realizing calorie counting works better than good-intentioned food journaling.... Kind of obvious, I suppose. But part of my fluffy cloud of economic privilege is that I measure the cost of food in calories not dollars - and so given that the lunches and snacks at work are free to me dollar wise, I guess I need the accountancy of quantifying the calories, rather than trying to juggle my good intentions against my random hungry impulses.

Calorie counting that for a few days - even though I have to guess, or go out for a Blaze pizza or Chipotle salad not for nutritional reasons but because I can have higher confidence estimates of the calories - has given me a satisfying feeling of control (which I know is a fraught thing for people with more serious food issues.) In fact, I'm able to have more generous evening meals because I know what the numbers are.

And without calorie counting... it's like "all this food is free! In both money and calories! So why not?"

I know my "calorie is a calorie is a calorie" thinking is naive - diets create responses in our metabolism, and the other part of the game is figuring out satiation within that calorie limit - but this kind of math is the only thing I've found to work for me, in the 4 times I've lost 10-15 lbs over the past decade and a half. ( diet.kirk.is for the graph)

six seasons instead of four

One sort of optional thing you might do is to realize that there are six seasons instead of four. The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, spring doesn't feel like spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for autumn, and so on.

Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June. What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves? Next comes the season called Locking. November and December aren't winter. They're Locking. Next comes winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold!

What comes next? Not spring. 'Unlocking' comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They're Unlocking.

Kurt Vonnegut, 1978 commencement address at Fredonia State
Been thinking about this off-and-on ever since I saw it a week ago in kottke (who says Vermonters name for Locking is "Stick Season", after the foliage has gone, and Unlocking is "Mud Season", the byproduct of all that snow melt...) What a beautiful idea - Vonnegut was talking about Upstate NY but it applies to so much of the Northeast, where I've pretty much always lived...

One of the things I love about this is that it lines up the Seasons with the Calendar year! I've been doing stuff like "One Second Every Day" seasonally, and it irks me that Winter is December, January, February and so straddles the year boundary. (I always prefer the meteorological season reckoning to the overly-cerebral astronomical pattern...)

November 10, 2019

Hung out with Cora yesterday, I showed her my emberley animals and then we made this together:
click to play

I also made a virtual orrery which mirrored the cardboard and wood sun/earth/moon model we had just constructed out of a Kiwi Crate.

hello, drum taps my old friend

Candace posted a link to Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think or as she said "One of [her] most desired and favorite sounds..."

It reminded me of this formative anecdote I don't think I'd journaled before, though I know I've talked about:
One lesson I carry with me is from this one ill-advised "24 hour march-a-thon" my high school band ran as a fundraiser for a trip to Atlanta. Participating students took shifts: one hour marching, two hours resting. (and I made it more surreal for myself with a combination of a box of taco bell from my mom and by accepting my AFS brother's donation - with its contingency that I wear his green tinted sunglasses the whole time, waking and sleeping.)

We started right after a Friday night football game, and by Saturday late morning we were already pretty wiped - most of us had given up playing our actual instruments and switched to percussion. And then to make matters worse they sent us down to the indoor track rather than the corridors of the school where we had been marching, because other students were taking the SAT or similar that day.

So the booming percussion echoing in that short-ceilinged made everything more hellish, until some wise person in that shift figured out we could just go to "taps" - not the funereal trumpet song, but this minimalist "tik....tik....tik-a-tik...." pattern the actual drum squad would play on their drum rims when the band needed to keep in step but had to be quiet.

The difference to my nervous system, from a barrage of loud percussive chaotic thuds to the minimalist, controlled "taps" was palpable - a true balm and blessing at the time and a lesson that has stuck with me ever since.
Not quite "silence", so maybe a tangent from the original article, but with a similar energy.
I had forgotten about Jamie Livingston: some photos of that day - a polaroid taken every day from March 31 1979 until the artist's death in October of 1997.

I did the date math (with my own Time Toy) and realized just this year I've been doing daily blogging for longer than this project ran. But of course blogging doesn't have the focus (no pun intended) of a photo every day. Also it feels like charting the 80s and 90s was inherently more interesting than the 2000s and 2010s...

Of course now I'm doing "One Second Everyday" [sic] and have been for... yikes, 6 1/2 years? I kind of don't know to stop... it just seems so odd to say "yup my early 40s were extremely well documented but nothing else was".
CAPTAIN:Trouble with a long journey like this is that you end up just talking to yourself a lot, which gets terribly boring because half the time you know what you're going to say next.
ARTHUR: Only half the time?
CAPTAIN: Yes, about half I'd say.
Douglas Adams, "The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts"
Shades of E.M. Forster "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" - Adams really has some sly and wise commentary all over the place.

November 12, 2019

Years of work and effort are required before true freedom can be attained in this art [of ideograms], before it becomes an intimate and personal means of expression. The results, however, are to be included among the great aesthetic attainments of mankind. I believe it possible to argue that the failure of Asia to develop an art of music comparable to that of the west was due to the fact that in the east the need for abstract beauty found full satisfaction in writing; the same satisfaction that Europe discovered in the harmony and orchestration of sound.
Fosco Maraini, "Meeting With Japan"
A fascinating book (my copy rescued by EB from a municipal book swap shed) - it's from the late 50s where Maraini, a photographer and anthropologist from Italy, returns to Japan after being interred there during WW2. There's a lot to unpack in his stances and assumptions, but I think about this attitude about music a lot, especially when I'm trying to think about how much of the music I know is universally human, perhaps with roots in biology - like how the human nervous system itself responds to the underlying math of harmonies and rhythms - and how much is a cultural construct. I feel like I've seen a few other quotes suggesting that the level of complexity and detail in classical Western musical notation is unique, but I don't if that's deeply true or just chauvinistic rah-rah.

Something about the mood; the chords, the instrumentation, the lyrics: it's like it's tapping into the heart of every un- or semi-requited love I've ever chased after and I'm beyond misty about it.

November 13, 2019

No other textbook, and possibly no other book, will ever have a better opening paragraph than Goodstein's "States of Matter":

You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.
J. Michael Straczynski
Of course, the same thing applies as an argument against "meritocracies". If you can't recognize the luck - good or bad - that is a big part of whatever you're situation you're in, you are a fool.

November 14, 2019

Mentioned at my therapist's this morning....

I posted that on FB and got back:
What's the difference between a hedonist and a Buddhist? One believes nothing is sacred, and the other believes nothing is sacred.
That's a bit better than the Edie Brickell ("There's nothing I hate more than nothing / Nothing keeps me up at night...") I was posting, but I might quibble anad think the joke would be better with "skeptic" instead of "hedonist"... (or as the original author ponders on, maybe "nihilist"- "hedonist" is funnier though)

November 15, 2019

Yikes. So in Browns/Steelers last night, Myles Garrett ripped off the Steelers QB Mason Rudolph's helmet and then used it like a club. But - and I think this is really not getting enough attention - the video looks like Rudolph is working to rip off Garrett's helmet before. WTF is up with that? (Some of the comments say maybe Rudolph's hand was stuck? I dunno. But to ignore that part when looking how Garrett should be punished would be an injustice)
This Tweet asks "Explain your ideology in six words or less without naming it directly." I guess it's more the Social Justice Revolutionaries and the Libertarians who have ideologies that can be so boiled down. Mine was going to be "Everything Matters, Nothing Matters That Much" but maybe that's more of an underlying philosophy rather than an ideology, per se?
The USPTO wants to know if artificial intelligence can own the content it creates... What a weird question! My first thought is no - since this is one step away from personhood, and most AIs like this don't seem that autonomous.

But we grant virtual personhood to corporations, and they can hold copyrights, right? Is an AI less of a person than a corporation is?

Also shades of the issue if a monkey can hold a copyright on a photo they clicked the shutter for or if it fairly belongs to the human who set up the situation and owns the equipment...
On my devblog, some thoughts on the Apple Watch and when technology is telling humans what to do.

"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings."

The website Lost in Mobile has a corresponding WhatsApp chat I great enjoy - admittedly a bunch of blokes, but from all around the world, and we enjoy chatting on techie and sometimes philosophical things... the top bar of the site has a link to start with the chat if you think it's something you might dig... anyway, here is some stuff from yesterday and today... I realized my rambling was more of a blog post, so here it is...

The USPTO wants to know if artificial intelligence can own the content it creates... What a weird question! My first thought is no - since this is one step away from personhood, and most AIs like this don't seem that autonomous.

But we grant virtual personhood to corporations, and they can hold copyrights, right? Is an AI less of a person than a corporation is?

Also shades of the issue if a monkey can hold a copyright on a photo they clicked the shutter for or if it fairly belongs to the human who set up the situation and owns the equipment...

Doesn't the patent thing depend on the definition of "person"? Is part of that being self-aware? In the case of the simian selfie, my question would be did the simian in question initiate the copyright. Now one could argue that just because the copyright might not belong to the simian, that doesn't mean it belongs to the photographer.

As for corporations, don't they represent either the owners or the shareholders?

It's just lawyerly bullsh*t. If you created the AI you own the works it creates. An AI is just a machine, albeit a complex one.

What happens if we get to the point where an AI is a separate, self-aware entity? Something that we would consider sentient if it weren't a "machine". Further, let's say it's mobile and has human-like appendages?

And going further, what about an AI that creates an AI? Is the second AI considered a derivative work? At what point is the AI no longer "just a machine". Think Data from Star Trek The Next Generation.

It's tough luck. Data was still created artificially and he's still a machine.

Not to be picky, or too pedantic, but I could argue that we're all machines in a way, but I know what you mean. I'm waiting for the dolphins to tell us that we're ruining their oceans.

"Si, abbiamo un anima. Ma e fatta di tanti piccoli robot."
--Italian philosopher Giulio Giorello
"Yes, we have a soul. But it is made up of many small robots."

I do get that we're bio-chemical machines but I do think there's something special about biological machines. Yes, there's a spectrum from us to amoebas, and some animals probably should have more rights than they do, but machines don't feature.

And for all I'm a geek, I think we should strongly resist making machines that are too human-like. I think it's dangerous on many levels.

The machines we have now don't feature (hadn't heard that phrase before) but I don't think I buy there's anything eternally unique about biology -- and if there was, at some point we'd figure out how to make "wetware" robots.

The book "Minds in Motion" suggests one idea: that much of biologicals' cognition is based on development and moving in space (and as humans so many of our ways of modeling the world are fundamentally physical)

Maybe we just shouldn't....
We're not ready to be gods.

I am :-)

I kind of agree (with Andrew not Shaun) but mostly just because I worry we'd be bad at it- that if we create something that has its own agenda, that agenda might not be well aligned with our own.

Famously folks keep moving the bar on "well if a computer can do THIS it must be intelligent" - playing chess, vision recognition, etc. Computers can do that stuff and still we see that well, it's still mostly a well crafted tool - it "thinks" in the same way birds "know how" to fly, designed into the system so to speak (not designed per se in the case of birds but you know what I mean )

Of course, Alpha Zero changes that scene a little bit- I've always said "chess programs, ho hum, wake me when a chess playing program is also good at playing backgammon" and that's kind of what we have here- Alpha Zero starts with no knowledge and plays against itself in a matter of hours or days becomes a world beater! with a way of playing its games that often seem uncanny and alien to experts in the game's usual progression

But still.... I guess now I want to say "wake me when it's a program that WANTS to start up chess or some other game of its own volition" And we're not there yet - or if we are, that system simultaneously figured out how to keep a low profile since humans might not appreciate the competition :-D

All this gets quickly into "what's humanity all about, anyway" - like is there a secular purpose or universe goal that many people could agree on? There might not be - but one proposal would be "to keep humanity alive for as long as possible" - this could be a means to other ends, or an end unto itself.

(Of course not everyone agrees with that - who think humanity is nature's current primary experiment with memetic intelligence, and it's certainly taking its toll on the biodiversity of the planet... (biodiversity being a pretty good other candidate for what best uinversal goals might be)

So I do think a decent mission for humanity is the creation of new categories of things.... ideas and concepts that wouldn't exist if we weren't here, but not just novelty in the way a list of random numbers is novel: novelty in meaning I guess. Which means, technically, if our robot or virtual children could do that after us, like could be made to explore the cosmos so would survive an asteroid strike or solar fair that made the earth uninhabitable for us... i dunno, I guess I'm for that! But not at the cost or risk of humanity.... but maybe if we had a really nice retirement ....

Of course, say we could make real AI, true virtual people, we'd be in an odd state. Like, it would seem morally wrong to not give the AI rights. Not treat them as intelligent, feeling and thinking slaves. Let them vote. But what happens to democracy when you can make all the clones you want, legions to swamp any popular vote?

(Of course, when you apply too much of that same thinking to humans of the real world rather than this still very hypothetical example, you get into some ugly eugenics and fascist places real quick)

But coming back to the democracy idea - should a virtual person get to vote, why or why not.... the argument against, at least for the clones, would be in part "because they were too easy to make, once we grew the original in a somewhat more organic way, teaching it etc" So that suggests a model that the value of a person is somehow tied into the effort and expense and time and resources that went into making them? Or maybe a better model is, the value of a person is somehow tied into the guesstimated quality and uniqueness of what's likely to come out of them.... like I think many omnivores would feel bad about the death of, say, a black bear in the woods more than a cow or pig thats lived in a controlled farm environment all its life... maybe partially because that bear has had a more unique life?

Or I dunno. This all might morally suspect territory - any line of reasoning that suggest devaluing some group of humans because of some constructed measure of "human value" is deeply suspicious! So maybe it's not worth going there for the sake of still very hypothetical questions about AI and virtual people...

Heh, I remember the Optimus Prime toy from the original Transformers line... every robot had a biographical 'tech spech' with a tagline, and his was "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings."
So for me this all brings up the question: "Am I on 'team human', or am I on 'team sentient being'"?

Just saw Trevor Noah at the Chevalier, a week after seeing Nick Kroll at the same venue. (Part of a birthday triumvirate of comedy for Melissa with Maria Bamford at the Wilbur next week.)

Never sure I will ever get used to fairly big time celebrities going "Helllllloooooo MEDFORD!"

thinking to embrace the long winter

Sometime this fall -- using a combination of Stoicism, stubbornness, and a sort of magical thinking that Jason-in-his-30s would have dismissed as woo-woo bullshit -- I decided that because I live in Vermont, there is nothing I can do about it being winter, so it was unhelpful for me to be upset about it. I stopped complaining about it getting cold and dark, I stopped dreading the arrival of snow.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the potential and limitations of just willing changes in one's own mind to make them happen.

I feel over the past few weeks I've been doing a solid job of pruning some of my weird little angst-y habits, and generally living a positive sense of Andy Warhol's "So What" - a deep acceptance of things as they are, and not as I'd prefer them to be.

(It is helped immensely by a looming backdrop of "LOL Nothing Matters". Like, it's all the heat death of the end of the Universe at the end of the universe anyway, so why get worked up about much along the way - why run, you'll just die tired. But it also works on smaller lifespans... I get anxious about something going poorly for a band I'm in and love. It's probably not the end of the band! But even if it is, that's ok too.)

Sometimes I wonder if the kind of mindset-driven change Kottke references (linking to several other great pieces) can go anywhere... for instance, I feel like I (perhaps) live out a Buddhist-ish principle of my "self" not really mattering that much, to the point of seeing it as being illusory - but if I'm there, or anywhere near there, it's not thanks to the kind of intense meditation that marks the path for so many people. Have I found a shortcut (albeit one that mostly works for people who have a lifetime of stressing the importance of groups and rational interpretation over personal preference) or am I just fooling myself?

I hear about people who have either radical outlook changes or major behavior improvements (like, completely giving up smoking) thanks to LSD. And what I've heard is, it's not like the one time use of the drug banged out a new permanent pathway at the neurochemical level - instead, there was a moment of insight at the memetic level; a thought, an idea... maybe one devilishly hard to express to others through words, but still, something that lives and makes changes at level of thought and interpretation.

Really brings you to the woo-woo of "words have great power", eh?

(There is one dark side to this: people who ARE able to reshape their outlooks through some kind of force of will still need to have sympathy and empathy for folks who for whatever reason can't use that same approach. Yelling "snap out of it!" at someone is not great or loving therapy.)
It takes a snowflake two hours to fall from cloud to earth. Can't you just see its slow, peaceful descent?
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
By synchronicity I also saw my first flakes of snow today, so I'm busting out this quote I've been saving...

November 18, 2019

Had a dream where I left my tuba on the green line! While I was relieved to wake up and realize it was just a nightmare, I was also sort happy that even in the context of the dream, after having put in some weird claim at a lost and found and full of anger and self-recrimination and anxiety about what state if any I'd get my horn back in, I was able to calm myself and say: look, I can control my emotional reaction to this, take a breath, I have resources to get another tuba if it came to that (even though I have a strong fondness to Scheiny.)

When you get your first
kiss pic.twitter.com/1Kuh903cLO

— viralvideos (@BestVideosviral) November 16, 2019

My mom's early holiday gift was a replacement iPhone... at the Apple store they gave me this certificate or ad for classes there, like photo walks and general intros... but can you even read what this says?
Kind of like the Wired 90's aesthetic of hipness over legibility...

grandma + grandpa, a long time ago...

Taking a quick minibreak with my Mom and Aunt in NJ (thanks, use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy :-D ) ... I'm raiding my mom's photo collection a bit, so for the next few days I'll be posting some of the highlights of what I liked in her collection.

The Garbers were farm people...this is my grandmother Mary as a young'un.

John + Mary!

I think the impact of superheroes on popular culture is both tremendously embarrassing and not a little worrying. While these characters were originally perfectly suited to stimulating the imaginations of their twelve or thirteen year-old audience, today's franchised übermenschen, aimed at a supposedly adult audience, seem to be serving some kind of different function, and fulfilling different needs. Primarily, mass-market superhero movies seem to be abetting an audience who do not wish to relinquish their grip on (a) their relatively reassuring childhoods, or (b) the relatively reassuring 20th century. The continuing popularity of these movies to me suggests some kind of deliberate, self-imposed state of emotional arrest, combined with an numbing condition of cultural stasis that can be witnessed in comics, movies, popular music and, indeed, right across the cultural spectrum. [...] I would also remark that save for a smattering of non-white characters (and non-white creators) these books and these iconic characters are still very much white supremacist dreams of the master race. In fact, I think that a good argument can be made for D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation as the first American superhero movie, and the point of origin for all those capes and masks.

a small purple artichoke
in its own bittered
and darkening
grows tender,
grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,
my species

keep testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart
Jane Hirshfield, "My Species"


All but the first one (my mom and her posse) are my Mom and my Aunt...

Open Photo Gallery

My mom looks like she's seen some stuff go down... (but their names are inscribed on their PJs which is a nice touch.)

With these next to I swear my Aunt shoulda been cast in a live-action Studio Ghibli remake...

"Jazz is about taking risks... it's the only way you get better!"
"At jazz?"
"At life! Jazz is LIKE life! It goes on for longer than you think, and as soon as you're like, '...oh I get it' - it ends!"
The Ghost of Duke Ellington on "Big Mouth"

Oh, I'm becoming so sensible! We've got to be reasonable about everything we do here. Studying, listening, holding our tongues, helping others, being kind, making compromises, and I don't know what else! I'm afraid my common sense, which was in short supply to begin with, will be used up too quickly and I won't have any left by the time the war is over.
Anne Frank's Diary
I just read Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaption. I don't recall if I read the original in school or not, but so much more of the day to day life - the banality of it - came through in comic form. And the elegance of her self-awareness is always so moving.

Another quote I liked:
Every child has to raise itself.
Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father

the young kirks


Open Photo Gallery

that last one of my dad and Grandpa doesn't have me in per se, but if I combine the caption on the back (Reunion 1973) together with family lore, I think it is very likely taken on the day I was conceived...

Salamanca Press and Gothic

One of my parents' favorite appointments was in upstate NY, the city of Salamanca - as Salvation Army officers they really connected with the communities and groups there, from the Seneca people (from whom the land was leased in an odd arrangement) to the Newspaper that was literally right next door to the church to the Catholic school down the street (St. Patrick's, where I attended and my folks got a "clergy discount") to the local theater troop "The Village Players" to the people who had standing orders for bread or cookies when my dad did a round of baking...

The best way not to be unhappy is not to have a word for it.
Douglas Adams
(I'm not sure if this is actually true- it's a pretty big stretch for the whorf hypothesis)
F*** Trump's use of the phrase "Human Scum"

high school photos

Final day of photos scanned from my mom's collection... after high school I was more on my own for documenting my life in photos....

Open Photo Gallery

Aunt Susan and Uncle Bill smooching over my inflatable T-rex named Sir. (Variation of an old joke ala What would YOU call a Dinosaur in real life?)

I had Chicken Pox at a fairly old age... not a great look but yow, those collar bones.

Jeff Kropf, whom we called "sahib" when he was our marching band squad leader, here shown in front of 222 Street Jazz. (Must have been a photo nabbed from the yearbook project.)

Me and Toni Y!

Me Mike Wendy and Lynn...


Veronika Kirk Heidi Mike Maria and Ellen.... EHS cafeteria. Wonder why Mike and I are in ties...

Sometimes, magazines hid their best 'Huh?' moments deep inside stories that were otherwise utterly normal. I was drowsing through a Newsweek cover story called 'Clinton Now' when suddenly a comment by Julia Payne, the ex-president's spokeswoman, made me laugh out loud. 'One night last year he called about 1 a.m, ranting and raving about something,' Payne recalled. 'And I said, "Sir, are you watching Fox again?"'
Peter Carlson in a Washington Post article in 2003.
These days.... that's just how the presidency works! Fox tells Trump what to think. The relationship can be a little adversarial, but it's pretty clear Trump trusts fellow television personalities more than diligent people in the government.

November 24, 2019

I like these engravings of the founders of the Salvation Army, William and Catherine Booth... in British Heritage Travel Magazine's The Story of the Salvation Army.

Usborne Computer Books of the 80s were pretty dope. If outlining some rather overwhelmingly ambitious hardware projects...

November 25, 2019

I posted this at the beginning of the year, but I think lately the quote has really been helping me with my angsty procrastination-- when I catch myself putting off clearing email because I know there's an unpleasant one I have to deal with, say.

(The panel is sort of a daydream concept for an expanded comic I'd like to make.)

Lava is the earth's yolk. Go on about your day

The Hidden Brain podcast: The Ventilator: Life, Death And The Choices We Make At The End This is an excellent and moving podcast; I will always be for people having more control over their own end-of-life decisions, but this is an important reminder that people will sometimes see things in differently when the prospect seems remote and abstract versus when the decision point is at hand.
One of my fellow HONK! musicians posted this NYT article, by a former "Tuba Girl" about college marching bands:
"Tubas play the bass line. They're essential but usually relegated to the background. They tend to be pretty chill, maybe because no one really chooses to play tuba; it's a heavy instrument that sounds weird and looks goofy. Circumstance is what makes a tubist. [...] I didn't formally decide to join until the tail end of the summer before my freshman year, when I received a recruitment postcard written by a Tuba Girl.
There were 26 tubas while I was in band. But the Tuba Girls, a foursome who were two years ahead of me, were a fierce unit who had created a mini-sisterhood within a fairly masculine section."
My comment was
Great article! In high school I found Marching Band to be great for demographic slicing: along with gym and health class it was the only place where I was in contact with students outside the little nerdy AP-class bubble - plus, it's a place where freshmen and sophomores can develop we've-been-through-heck-together camaraderie with juniors and seniors.

In both high school and college I was often the only tuba, and often my departure was filled by a female-identifying musician, so I dig on that whole "Tuba Girl" vibe

November 26, 2019

I was looking for software that could extract individual photos from a single scanned image file - someone suggested Photoshop Elements - their webpage shows off other tricks the software can do. Now I'm no marketing genius, but you wonder if their design team could have come up with a better example of "Easily remove unwanted objects" than "Your other child"...

Tommy Siegel is brilliant:

November 27, 2019

Huh. So for a while now I've been thinking about different forms of expressing the balance between our rational selves and our emotional selves - the conscious and the subconscious, the Id and the Ego, the Elephant and the Rider...

Following a link about Boba Fett in this Quora "What is something that almost nobody knows about Star Wars?" Rui Sonofel had an answer on The Force had a bit that made me realize I've been living with a pop-culture example for decades:
A Jedi channels the Force through sheer willpower alone. They distance themselves from their emotions and from that part of the Force.

A Sith channels the Force through their emotions. Their emotions is like the lightning rod they use to channel the Force. They don't deny themselves any desire or restraint themselves from anything.
The "sheer willpower alone" part is what's really grabbing me. I've heard a model of one person's depression that said it wasn't the emotional side overruning the rational side with sadness (which I had assumed), it was more that the emotional side was just conked out, and that was the side that had been providing the critical motive energy.

Huh. I want to revisit some of the arcs in the original trilogy and the prequels and maybe even the new ones and see if this idea has any useful expressions there, or if it's just a bolt on from the "expanded universe".
The world's a fucking garbage fire, we're just two hobos warming our hands.
Nick Kroll (I think he's talking about himself and Trump)

November 28, 2019

Are Bacos™ a spice?

take control of netflix binging

LIFEHACK: You can disable "autoplay" on Netflix, but the option is rather hidden - you have to login to the account via the web, click "Account" under the top right corner menu, scroll down to "Playback settings", and then uncheck "Play next episode automatically" and hit "Save". (Possibly you have to repeat this for other profiles in your account.)

I deeply resent "Play next automatically" being the default - partially because many shows throw in awesome music behind the credits, but mostly because of how it promotes and presumes a kind of mindless binge culture. And also, why not put it into the settings on the device? (Actually, being a per-device, per-account setting might be a useful option for many folks.) It's so suspicious that Netflix tucks it away in the web only - and then invented that semi-humiliating "Uh, are you still watching, or are you like asleep or dead?" dialog if you don't use the remote for a while, as if to make up for the crappy default binge mode UI.

(Thanks to Sami (of OxGadgets) in the Lost in Mobile site's WhatsApp group who pointed out the setting and its web-only nature... so glad I griped about this issue there!)

November 30, 2019

Two from I Am Devloper - the first help explains our life to other folks, the second is more of an insider joke...
The highs and lows that we experience in programming are so extreme and so fast to come: you're great one minute, you're shit the next. The problem is, the shit-stink hangs around longer than the great feeling.
Flight attendant: Is there a doctor on this flight?

Dad: *nudging me* that should've been you

Me: Not now Dad

Dad: Not asking for a programmer to help, are they?

Me: Dad, there's a medical emergency happening right now

Dad: Go and see if "rm -rf node_modules" helps

Up in Maine for the back half of a Friendsgiving Melissa's crew runs... a few of us went up to Lapham Loop for a beautiful view of Bryant Pond...

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