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Annual Media Roundup

January 1, 2020
Media I consumed in 2019... 4 star in red, 5 star red and bolded...

Movies at the Cinema (11 (+3))
Into the Spider-Verse, A Tuba to Cuba, Muppet Movie Singalong, The Great Muppet Caper, Avengers: Endgame, The Man Who Kill Don Quixote, Toy Story 4, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Purple, The Rise of Skywalker, Little Women
"Into the Spider-Verse" sticks out as being so fantastic and representing the diversity of Spider-Man... Muppets are sentimental favorites seen at the Brattle... "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" was a nice adaption of a book I had recently read.

Movies on Video or Streaming (39 (+2))
Coco, Return of the Jedi, Bandersnatch, Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather, Big Trouble, Oldboy, Roma, Fyre, Casablanca, 12 Angry Men, Won't You Be My Neighbor, The Big Short, Nanette, Rocky, Drive, Tron: Legacy, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Vertigo, Austin Powers, Brokeback Mountain, Raging Bull, The Deer Hunter, Her, Airplane!, Captain Marvel, Harold and Maude, Louis C.K. 2017, Not Nornal, 48 Hrs., Rushmore, Always Be My Baby, Brick, John Wick, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Step Brothers, Girls Trip, Drumline , Die Hard
Coco was just visually lovely! Bandersnatch was technically a 5, but I think it was more because of the gimmick of "choose your own adventure" in video form - but the attention to retro-computer detail as well as the mediation on free will was appreciated as well. "Drive" stuck with me, of only for that awesome scorpion jacket. It was cool finally seeing "Harold and Maude" (and the manic pixie dream older woman) and its probably influence on the book "Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death" and Wes Anderson films in general. And both "Rushmore" and "Brick" had that cool noir-movie dialog in modern setting vibe.

TV Show Seasons (23 (+15))
One Punch Man, Broad City Season 4, Russian Doll, Workin' Moms, Catastrophe Season 1, Catastrophe Season 2, Catastrophe Season 3, Love, Death & Robots, Catastrophe Season 4, Game of Thrones Season 8, Black Mirror Season 5, Silicon Valley Season 4, Good Omens, Superstore Season 1, Tuca and Bertie, Derry Girls Season 1, The Office (All Seasons, But Sleeping), One Punch Man Season 2, Derry Girls Season 2, Superstore Season 2, What We Do in the Shadows Season 1, Big Mouth, Superstore Season 3
"One Punch Man" really stands out for the fun anime spectacle. "Catastrophe" was really funny, swinging from disaster to disaster (not to mention being Carrie Fisher's last cameo) - I'd still put in a plug for looking up "Pulling", also produced/starring Sharon Hogan. It's a shame "Tuca and Bertie" didn't get a second season- especially the first part of the series, the energy is fantastic. "Superstore" is proving to be a competent carrier of the old Office/Parks and Rec energy. "Big Mouth" is both super funny, and also really thoughtful in parts, about what so many of us went through as we tried to figure things out in adolesence.

Books (30 (-2))
The Beatles Lyrics, Sapiens, Love and Limerence, Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths, The Drama of the Gifted Child, F*ck Whales, I, Robot, I Am Spock, The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, Sing To It, WLT:A Radio Romance, Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life,They Change It, Elastic: Unlocking Your Brain's Ability to Embrace Change, Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI, The Prodigal Tongue, Married to a Cave Man, Normal People, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book, Conversations with Friends, Conscious: a brief guide to the fundamental mystery of mind, The World According to Garp, Station Eleven, Today Will Be Different, Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought, Medallion Status, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, Normal People, The Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox
At the time "Love and Limerence" seemed incredibly important - just this take on if some people are more or less prone to head-over-heels'ness -- and maybe just going over how if you're not, you're not necceesarily broken. Ted Chiang (here represented by "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" will be showing up on my decade best list). "Normal People" was a "low"-five, but really stirred something in - something about romance amoung the young intelligensia- not that I was there myself but I recognized accidentally hurting or being hurt by other people.

Audiobooks/Podcast (17 (+6))
House of the Spirits, getting-started-with-redux, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Original Radio Series (Seasons 1 and 2), 99% Invisible, Baby Geniuses, Beef and Dairy Network, Everything is Alive, Hidden Brain, Judge John Hodgman, Jump the Snark, Making Sense, My Date Wrote a Porno, Retronauts, The Allusionist, The Grandma's Virginity Podcast, The Talk Show, Watch Out for Fireballs!
I think this is the year podcasts really started clicking for me. I'll probably most remember the older "Grandma's Virginity Podcast" made by the inventor of Rick and Morty. Also it was good coming back to "House of the Spirts" after reading it in college

Comic / Graphic Novel (9 (+-0))
Be Your Own Backing Band, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, James Brown: Black and Proud, The Midas Flesh, The Bot Folio, My Dirty Dumb Eyes, Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaption, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", DOOM
"My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness" was a fascinating read from cultures I'm not a part of. "My Dirty Dumb Eyes" by Lisa Hanawalt who made "Tuca and Bertie" was very good. And I think "Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaption" really made that tragic story come alive.

Video Games (17 (+2))
Minit, Picture Cross Summer Pack, Just Cause 3, Just Cause 3: Mech Land Assault, Just Cause 3: Sky Fortress, Just Cause 3: Bavarium Sea Heist, The Oregon Trail, Just Cause 3, Ape Out, Katamari Damacy , Mr. Bullet, NES Remix 1, aquapark.io, Just Cause™ 4: Los Demonios, Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader Archero
I think of all the hobbies I used to pour more time into (maybe because I wasn't playing tuba then) videogames I sort of miss the most - a lot of nostalgia here including replaying Katamari Damacy and Rogue Leader (still my favorite Star Wars game - I guess here I didn't list the single VR X-wing misison on Star Wars Battlefront - not sure if that was worth the cost of admission, frankly.) "Archero" on iOS I'm still messing with- it's one of the few grind/ad-laden things I've put up with, but its control mechanic (you are automatically firing at the nearest enemy all the time, but stop firing when you have to move) is compelling. Probably the biggest story here was "Just Cause 3" - in particular the DLC "Sky Fortress", which basically makes you a soaring Iron Man attacking the Helicarrier (but instead of Iron Man's armor you have Wolverine's healing abilities...) Just Cause is probably the most enjoyably visceral kinetic series I've played

I think this is a pretty good description of why people who don't like Atlas Shrugged don't like Atlas Shrugged. I know some people find that "making things happen via sheer force of will and integrity" inspiring but damn is it a bad book.

best photos of the month - december 2019

January 2, 2020

Open Photo Gallery

Happy would-be 100th birthday Isaac Asimov!
With a certain linguistic register, it's very easy to hide yourself and just sort of repeat phrases that you've heard before. I still have that now when I talk to Americans: I'm always absolutely astonished at the breadth of their vocabulary; how wonderfully they actually manage to describe their own emotions, or express what they really want to say. East Germany, you wouldn't talk in a very open way about yourself, because opening up yourself was always also a dangerous thing. [...] I think in certain in societies, in socialist societies, you don't want to stress your individuality too much, I think. So when you start talking about yourself a little bit too much, I think that's always viewed as suspicious by the state. You don't want to be too individual; you don't want to reveal yourself as thinking too much about yourself or about your situation. But it's astonishing isn't it. If you don't have the word you actually can't understand yourself. You don't have the vocabulary that you don't understand your own feelings about a certain thing. It's astonishing isn't the whole language really sort of shapes the way you can think about a problem. I mean there are these these sort of Sapir-Whorf theories that have long been sort of criticized. They had this idea that your vocabulary allows you to sort of see the world in a certain way, which people don't agree with now. But I think there's still a way in which the way you think about yourself and about the world is shaped by the availability of words to describe it. Right? You can have a sort of an intuitive feeling, but I think unless you can actually describe it in words it's very very difficult.
Former East German Esther-Miriam Wagner on the East West episode of the Allusionist podcast.
The podcast was fascinating; in many ways East German implemented a mild form of Orwell's Newspeak (Paradoxically, their close proximity to the West made them throw up more defenses against Western thought.) Personally I think this is more of a problem with authoritarianism than socialism, though.

Best Photos of 2019

January 3, 2020

Open Photo Gallery

Trumpeteer Kenneth Terry, from our trip to NOLA

Dave bowling on his birthday at Saco's Bowl Haven.

Petal near work near the Cambridgeside Galleria.

Cora and Mama C outside of School of Honk

Johnny "Boom Boom" at the Sam Adams brewery during an arts fundraiser event.

Melissa underwater, probably at Wright's Pond.

Melissa's family

Performers and dancing audience at PRONK festival. JP Honk going there was a highlight of the year.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans

The Young Fellaz

at the Audubon Butterfly Garden And Insectarium

Hog during one of those New Orleans swamp tours.

and the whole year one second per day:

second best photos of the year

January 4, 2020

Open Photo Gallery

CarGuru's holiday party featured Snoop Dogg.

Dave at his Bowl Haven Birthday Party

JP Honk at the docks by the Jamaica Pond Boathouse

At the Mt Auburn Cemetary

Alien Fun at PRONK!

At the Boston Public Garden

Fooz on a wintery excursion with friends

New Orleans cemetary

Liz of Leftist Marching Band gives me a solo

Ezequiel of JP Honk

An abbreviated JP Honk crew leading a pet costume parade.

A marine explains why liberals hate Trump

Former marine Chris O'Leary answered "Why are people so hostile towards President Donald Trump?" (even before Trump started cranking up shit in the Middle East way beyond what was needed- lets see what the blowback is next week!)

O'Leary answered so many issues so well and hopefully has the bona fides my conservative friends will respect that I'm posting this here. (And afterwards I'm gonna play the opposite, and even though I'm a lefty Imma list some reasons I think people who like Trump like him, so conservative (and liberal!) buddies feel free to read and add to that part as well.)
Before you pass my answer off as "Another Liberal Snowflake" consider that
1.) I'm an independent centrist who has voted Republican way more often in my life than Democrat, and
2.) If you want to call someone who spent the entire decade of his 20's serving in the Marine Corps a snowflake, I'd be ready to answer the question what did you do with your 20's?

Why Liberals (And not-so liberals) are against President Trump.

A.) He lies. A LOT. Politifact rates 69% of the words he speaks as "Mostly False or worse" Only 17% of the things he says get a "Mostly True" or better rating. That is an absolutely unbelievable number. How he doesn't speak more truth by mistake is beyond me. To put it in context, Obama's rating was 26% mostly false or worse, and I had a problem with that. Many of Trump's former business associates report that he has always been a compulsive liar, but now he's the President of the United States, and that's a problem. And this is a man who expects you to believe him when he points at other people and says "They're lying"

B.) He's an authoritarian populist, not a conservative. He advances regressive social policy while proposing to expand federal spending and federalist authority over states, both of which conservatives are supposed to hate.

C.) He pretends at Christianity to court the Religious Right but fails to live anything resembling a Christ-Like Life.

D.) His nationalist "America First" message effectively alienates us and removes us from our place as leaders in the international community.

E.) His ideas on "Keeping us safe" are all thinly veiled ideas to remove our freedoms, he is, after all, an authoritarian first. They also are simply bad ideas.

F.) He couldn't pass a 3rd-grade civics exam. He doesn't' know what he's doing. He doesn't understand how international relations work, he doesn't understand how federal state or local governments work, and every time someone tries to "Run it like a business" it's a spectacular failure. See Colorado Springs' recent history as an example. The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise And that was a businessman with a MUCH better business track record than Trump. We are talking about a man who lost money owning a freaking gambling casino.

G.) He behaves unethicaly and always has. As a businessman, he constantly left in his wake unpaid contractors and invoices, litigation, broken promises, whatever he could get away with.

H.) He is damaging our relationships with our best international friends while kissing up to nations that do not have our best interests in mind. To his question "Wouldn't' it be great to have better relations with Russia?" The answer is Yes. But it is RUSSIA who needs to earn that, who must stop doing the things that are damaging to that relationship, or we are simply weaker for it.

I.) He has never seen a shortcut he didn't like, and you can't take shortcuts in government. "Nuclear Option, Remove the Filibuster, I'll change the Constitution by Executive Order...Don...what happens when you remove the filibuster and the other side retakes the majority in the Senate? Suddenly want that filibuster back? What happens if you manage to change the Constitution by Executive Order and an Anti-2A President wins the next election?

J.) He behaves and has always behaved as an unabashed racist. Yes, I've seen your favorite meme that claims he was never accused of racism before the Democrats...Absolutely false. Donald Trump's long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2019 See the Central Park 5, the lawsuits and fines resulting from his refusal to lease to black tenants, the 1992 lost appeal trying to overturn penalties for removing black dealers from tables, his remarks to the house native American affairs subcommittee in 1993. The man sees and treats racial groups of people as monoliths.

K.) He is systematically steamrolling regulations specifically designed to keep a disaster like the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis from happening again.

L.) He speaks and acts like a demagogue. He sees the Legislative and Judicial branches of government as inconveniences, blows up at criticism no matter how deserved and actively tries to countermand constitutional processes, not to mention attempts to blackmail and coerce people who are saying negative things about him

M.) His choices for top positions, with the exception of Gen. Mattis, who is a gem, have been horrendous. A secretary of Education without a resume that would get her hired as a small town grammar school principal, A secretary of Energy who didn't know the Department of Energy was responsible for nuclear reserves, an EPA head whose biggest accomplishments to date had been suing the EPA on multiple occasions, an FCC head who while working for Verizon actively lobbied to kill net neutrality, and an Attorney General who thinks pot is "nearly as bad as heroin" and asked Congress for permission to go after legal pot businesses in states where it is legal. (There goes that great Republican States rights rally cry again, right? *Crickets*) An Interim AG after Firing his First AG who's appointment is probably unconstitutional.

N.) He denies scientific fact. Ever notice that the only people you hear denying climate change are politicians and lobbyists? 99% of actual scientists studying the issue agree that it's real, man-made and caused by greenhouse gasses. Ever notice that every big disaster movie starts with a bunch of politicians in a room ignoring a scientist's warning?

0.) He does not have the temperament to lead this nation. He is Thin Skinned, childish, and a bully, never mind misogynistic, boorish, rude, and incapable of civil discourse.

P.) He still does not understand that the words he speaks, or tweets, are the official position of 1/3 of the US government, and so does not govern his words. He still thinks when he speaks it's good ol' Donald Trump. It's not. It's the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. You have probably spread a meme or two around talking about how no president's every word has ever been dissected before...YES, THEY ALWAYS HAVE. It's just that every other president in our lifetime has understood the importance of his words and took great care to govern his speech. Trump blurts out whatever comes to his mind then complains when people talk about what a dumb thing that was to say.

Q.) He's unqualified. If you owned a small business and were looking for someone to manage it, and an unnamed resume came across your desk and you saw 6 bankruptcies, showing a man who had failed to make money running CASINOS, would you hire him? He is a very poor businessman. This is a man it has been estimated would have been worth $10 BILLION more if he'd just taken what his father had given him, invested it in Index Funds and left it alone.

R.) He is President. But he refuses to take a leadership position and understand that he is everyone's President. Conservatives complain about liberals chanting "Not my President" while Trump himself behaves as if no one but his supporters matter.

S.) He's a blatant hypocrite. He spent 8 years bitching Obama out for his family trips, or golfing, or any time he took for himself, and what does he do? He was already on his 20th golf outing in APRIL of his 1st year in office. He constantly rants about respect for the military, yet can't be bothered to attend the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day because of a little rain. (And that excuse about Marine One not being able to fly in the rain is HILARIOUS.)

T.) He's a misogynist. It's not really ok in this day and age to be a misogynist, but it's not a huge deal if you're a private citizen. It's a pretty big deal if you hate half the people you're elected to lead. The disdain for women seeps out of his ...whatever.... and he just can't hide it.

U.) Face it. In any other election "Grab Em' By the Pussy" would have been the end of that candidate's chances. Back in the 90's I used to marvel about how Teflon Bill Clinton was. I no longer do. The fact that he managed to slip by on that is as much a statement about how much people hate Hillary Clinton as it is about what is wrong with politics in this country right now.

V.) He has one response to a differing opinion. Attack. A good leader listens to criticism, to different points of view, is capable of self-reflection, tries to guide people to his point of view, and when necessary stands his ground and defends his convictions. Any of that sound like Trump? His default is not to Lead, its' to attack. Scorched Earth. The Jim Acosta reaction is a good example. There was no defense of his convictions when Acosta was asking him repeated questions about his rhetoric on the caravan. His response was to attack Acosta.

W.) He takes credit for everything positive while deflecting blame for everything negative. Look at him with the Stock Market. He's been bragging about it since day one, and to give credit where credit is due, speculation on coming deregulation early in his presidency did fuel some rapid growth, but to pretend that it's all him, that we're not in the 9th year of the longest bull market in history and THEN, when the standard market volatility that deregulation inevitably brings about starts to show up? Yeah. Look at yesterday. Hey! Stock Markets losing because the Democrats won! Do I need to bring out the Stock market chart for the last 10 Years again?

X.) He emboldens the worst among us. Counter-protesters are slammed into by a car while countering actual Nazi rally, and the response is there's fault on "Both Sides" The media is at fault for a nut job sending them and Donald's favorite targets pipe bombs. The truth is not all Republicans, not all Trump Supporters are racist, fascist lunatics. Many are just taken in by the bombastic personality and are living in an information bubble made worse by the fact that they unfollow anyone and ignore any source of information that makes them feel uncomfortable. People on the left do that too. The Biggest problem the right has right now is that the worst of the Right is the loudest and the most in your face, and the actual right, especially the Freaking PRESIDENT needs to be standing up and saying No. Those are not our values.

Y.) He seems to think the Constitution of The United States, the document that IS who we are, the document he took an oath to support and defend is some sort of inconvenience. He demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of Constitution, from believing he can alter the 14th through executive order, to thinking The free exercise clause in the first amendment somehow supersedes the establishment clause (not that he really understands either) or that the free exercise clause only applies to Christians. Or his attacks on freedom of expression and the press. He repeatedly makes it clear that if he's read them, he does not understand Articles 1–3, and that's something he really should have before he took the job, because they're not going away.

Z.) I'll use Z for something I do blame him for, but the rest of us have to carry the blame too. Polarization. This country is more politically polarized than I can remember in my lifetime. Some of you who are a few years older than I may remember how it was in the late 60's when construction workers in New York were being applauded for beating up hippies, I think it's pretty close to that right now, but that was before my time. And he is the cause of much of the current level polarization, but also the result. It didn't' start with Trump. We've been going down this road I think since the eruption of the Tea Party in the early years of the Obama Administration. I do hope the tide turns before it gets much worse because the thing that scares me more than anything is what if that keeps going the way it has been? "
So, as a liberal, but one with weird philosophical ideas about how very few people are evil in their own eyes at that moment (even if objectively I'd say their priorities for "good" are so out of wack that they might be objectively bad) I will put forth some of the things people who like Trump like about him:

1.) He kicks over the board. People frustrated with a lot of things in the status quo - and who are sick of liberals being all preach-y and know-it-all, and suspicious of the whole deep state shtick, love the idea of a smart guy who ignores the "so-called experts" and just gets shit done.

2.) He infuriates liberals, fills them with hilarious shit-tons of righteous anger and in this polarized age that's shit tons of fun.

3.) He's fun! The dude was in wrestling matches in the WWE for chrissakes! He got that whole "You're Fired!" Meme started. His third wife is a hot model! And he came from behind and won an election that no one thought he could.

4.) Economic trends have continued their pretty good trajectory for 3 straight years of his presidency.

5.) He's appointed lots of judges w/ hardcore conservative values, not even giving a flying fuck if they're rated qualified by the ABA. (See point 1)

6.) He's a rich guy but he sounds kinda down to earth. Or at least fun in that Joan Rivers energy he has.

7.) He "saved" us from Hillary, and 4 more years of Obama-ish stuff. (Or 4 more years of Clinton... and for liberals, Bill "DoMA" "Launched air strikes when impeached" "Treated women badly/Epstein party plane sketchiness" "invented the presidential talk show circuit w/ his sax on Arsenio" Clinton is not looking good, so even with out any misogyny the idea of not continuing the Clinton path (and PS, Bush, Bush Jr, Bill Clinton, and almost his wife? Oh and Jeb. When the hell did politics return to John Adams / John Quincy Adams family dynasty bullshit?)

(Again, with those 7 points, most of them I could argue the counterpoints, but this is an exercise in empathy even when I find those opinions wrongheaded or gross.)

December 2019 New Music Playlist

January 5, 2020
Small number of new songs for December, because of Holidays and, ironically, a NOLA trip (in that case the best music was live...)

Oh My God
Ida Maria
Intense pop.
Not sure where I ran across this
You're the Top
Cole Porter
Old classic.
I vaguely remember the characters singing this in M*A*S*H. I gave up trying to find a recording of the "dirty version"...
Changes (feat. The Budos Band)
Charles Bradley
R+B cover of a Black Sabbath song. Great song but a little long.
From the intro to "Big Mouth" - it's authentically retro R+B sound and cover art fooled me- I was shocked to find out it's a cover. (Sort of like a reverse Tainted Love)
Jenny (Remastered)
The Mountain Goats
Lo-Fi Indie
On The Anthropocene Reviewed John Green rights about a random note he made:
2010: “Her eyes on His eyes on” - I assume this note was written when I first noticed the pun inside a lyric from my favorite band, The Mountain Goats. Their song “Jenny” is about a girl in love with a boy who has just acquired a yellow-and-black Kawasaki motorcycle. And one of the song’s couplets goes, “And you pointed your headlamp toward the horizon / We were the one thing in the galaxy God didn’t have His eyes on.” I don’t know why, but that line always reminds me of being in eleventh grade, lying in the middle of an open field with three friends I loved ferociously, drinking warm malt liquor, and staring up at the night sky.
Heebie Jeebies
Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
Jazz, baby!
In New Orleans I was looking up the history of scat singing (kind of wondering why it got that name...) turns out this was on of the first recorded instances of it... and given they named the airport after him, I figured it was fortuitous.

Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles
Kind of dark and mysterious song from the NOLA Mardi Gras Indians tradition.
At the NOLA club "Snug Harbor" they covered something like this song. Intersectionality-wise, the whole Mardi Gras Indian is kind of complex (to be honest I kind of ran it by my friend Cordelia of the Seneca people when I ran into her at a party, my take on her view is as long as you recognize the complexity and the long-standing appropriation you probably don't need to shun the derived works)
AP Touro
Rebirth Brass Band
New Orleans Street Band hotness. (googling this I just realized it's probably in honor of A. P. Tureaud, an NAACP legal activist.)
Oddly I saw Rebirth right *before* we headed down to New Orleans, but I shazam'd this song playing at a store in the French Market
Up On Cripple Creek (Remastered)
The Band
70s dirt
Playing at "Coop's Place", our favorite food from our trip to NOLA

Mrs. Claus
Little Jackie
Nice motown-style Christmas song
Playing at an outlet mall in NJ

The Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Tuba and Banjo jazz cover of the famous song
I think I heard Rebirth play this, looking for a good version I found this cover w/ the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, we stopped in the hall for the "All Star" set there...

Beautiful essay by Michael Chabon, the intersection of his fandom and creative work in Star Trek and sitting vigil by what would be his father's deathbed.

Favorite Books Kirk Read, 2010-2019

January 6, 2020
My favorite reads on 2010-2019... I feel like this batch wasn't quite as memorable as last decade's list but still some great stuff. Roughly grouped by genre, but also "level of impact".
Other good reads
(in roughly chronological order)
First Half of Decade:
Julian Barnes' Nothing to Be Frightened Of might have snuck in between decades almost - really thoughtful musings on mortality. The Last Policeman - awesome classic noir in a just-per-apocalyptic setting. 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 was covering a tiny computer program from very many angles. Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus is great for anyone who wants an inside look in the craft of comics. David Byrne's How Music Work introduced me to many ideas including how musical forms tend to be shaped by their acoustic environments, the dance hall vs the drawing room. The Advanced Genius Theory gave such a good reason to enjoy things Advancedly not scorn them Overtly... The Spell of the Sensuous explores what we lost when we took on the phonetic alphabet, and how indigenous people weave their environment into their stories. I loved the multitude of styles in the scoff book Cloud Atlas - the movie was decent too, if a bit weirdly "yellowface".

Second Half of the Decade:
Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls was a fascinating psychological study - won't give away spoilers here. Axiomaticwas more sci-fi short stories: I've loved Egan's work ever since "Permutation City", explorations and extrapolations on quantum physics and consciousness and biotech. Bull Was a great sympathetic retelling of the story of the minotaur. Priestdaddy - I could resonate with the tale of being a preacher's kid, albeit not a catholic (!) one, by poet Patricia Lockwood. The Orange Girl - this book has an odd number of parallels with my life, from the late-revealed name of the titular character ("Veronika"), to a boy coping with the early death of his father, to a tendency to write letters for future reading of young people... Time's Arrow was a homonculus who rides along witnessing a Nazi doctor's life but played in reverse.... Love and Limerence taught me a lot about "infatuated love" and maybe not to sweat not feeling it so often, that it might just be a personality-based likelihood...
According to reports assassinating Soleimani was presented as the obviously too extreme throw-away option to make the other options look reasonable. Note to Pentagon officials: do NOT put in a "throw-away option" of using nukes, please.

And drones, man. Remember that Mirror, Mirror episode of Star Trek, where the evil universe Captain Kirk had a viewscreen in his quarters that could just make anyone it displayed stop existing? Drones are kind of like that, a tool that Obama started using (most infamously to kill a 16 year old US Citizen) and now it's in the hands of Trump.

Favorite Movies Kirk Saw, 2010-2019

January 7, 2020
(For comparison, my list from 2010...)
  1. Her - really great, low-key Scifi about the future of Siri, with a semi-serious attempt to think about what it might be like for a virtual person. Also I love the speculation on what future fashion might be, how Joaquin Phoenix isn't a nerd-y dweeb, he's a hot dude of his era!
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road - the intense spectacle of it all, and the bad-ass heroine who always holds her own. Plus a great blend of mostly practical effects with just a dab of CGI.
  3. I ♥ Huckabees - from the previous decade but new to me, I just love the patter of competing philosophies. "How am I not myself?"
  4. Inception - the decade kicked off amazingly, the surreal image of the earth being folded into itself - overall this movie really represents an excellent maturation of directors being able to do whatever the hell they want with CGI.
  5. Doctor Strange - I think the "Inception"-like alternate reality vision of this film made it my favorite Marvel film (just edging out that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse cartoon)
  6. Gravity - between this film in IMAX and treating myself to one of those zero-G "vomit-comet" flights, I don't feel so bad about not making it up to orbit.
  7. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch - a beautiful sci-fi musing on free-will, along with some amazing experimentation with letting the audience make choices about the narrative. Technically not even my favorite episode of Black Mirror (The "Eternal Sunshine"-like "Hang the DJ") but still, great, and with a weird attention to UK 80s home computer detail!
  8. Speed Racer - another from the previous decade, but I rented a small cinema and played it at my 40th Birthday - it's just so vibrant and kinetic
  9. Perfect Sense - sad and scary and melancholy romantic epidemic horror, I'm sort of afraid to ever watch it again.
  10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - I'm going to say this is my most favorite of the post-Lucas Star Wars films; doomed but beautiful.

Things are so much smaller and bigger than we can really grasp...

Ooh, and this came up as a recommendation:

the title is a little misleading, it's more a deep dive into the practical FX of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back (and some RotJ)

Isis is a fascist death cult that sought to genocide Shias. The group was an existential threat to the region. Soleimani is viewed as a superhero for leading the fight against the Middle East version of Nazis. That's who Trump assassinated. https://t.co/AEy2lsvj7z

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) January 5, 2020

Favorite Games Kirk Played, 2010-2019

January 8, 2020
  1. Just Cause Series - especially 3, and especially the "Sky Fortress" DLC that turns you into early, clumsy Iron Man attacking the Helicarrier, except instead of armor you have Wolverine's ridiculous healing ability. But overall, this series has such a beautiful sense of motion and physics - the whole gliding with your "flying squirrel" wingsuit, starting to lose steam, reaching out with a grappling hook then yanking yourself along to get an extra boost... so kinetically poetic.
  2. Saints Row - especially 4, where they use a Matrix-y world to excuse giving the player crazy superhero abilities, but also 3 that was just a fantastic over-the-top parody of GTA but with better music.
  3. Grand Theft Auto V - the scale of this game is just amazing, no other game I know does such a good facisimile of a living breathing city but is still fun to drive at break neck speeds or fly a plane around... the 3 protagonist story was hip as well.
  4. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I'm less a fan of fantasy or of games that are about gradual levling up, the whole from chump to champ path, but what a compelling world they made here.
  5. Super Mario Odyssey Great return to form, and a heavy dose of what I'm into games for - experience new methods of movement and control, which Mario gains with that (kind of creepy if you think about it as posession) hat mechanic...
  6. Earth Defense Force 2025 - limited and grind-y, but still some of the coolest B-movie material to make it into games, and an awesome buddy game. "Insect Armegeddon" was a fun westernized version as well.
  7. Blaster Master Zero - such a lovely return to my NES childhood. using your weheeld tank's leap to deftly get to a platform, then switching the other way to cut momentum is a lovely bit of classic game physics.
  8. Portal 2 - smart and funny puzzle - so well written - and with a great two player mode.
  9. Redder - really thoughtful indie retro-style exploration game, with just a hint of growing menace.
  10. iOS games in general: Desert Golfing / I'm Ping Pong King / Archero / ENDI Tank Battle / Tron / Picross / Scribblenauts have all had me spending a bit too much time staring at a tiny screen....
Honorable mention: Far Cry series. Not too much that GTA/Saints Row/Just Cause doesn't offer, but still pretty decent.
Thinking a little about taboos and sometimes violent reactions to protect that what's considered sacred - pictures of the prophet Mohammed for example, or the N-word from the mouth of anyone not African-American themselves.

On the one hand, there's the obvious free speech issue - how should people whose group doesn't see something as forbidden be compelled to respect the limits laid out by some other group? But I don't think it's too convoluted to view the free speech issue the other way: shouldn't groups have limited authority to declare some taboos that are universally respected, especially ones in the wheelhouse of that group and its history?

The most correct answer is probably not at the absolutes. And this isn't meant to justify, say, the killings at Charlie Hebdo after the Mohammed comics were published - I'm not going down the Onion's "ACLU Defends Nazis' Right To Burn Down ACLU Headquarters" rabbithole, nor expressing a willingness to live in de-secularized society where the restrictions all abide by have an overt Theocratic justification. But the fact remains, even when you steer clear of the taboos, the remaining possibility-space of conversation and thought remains vast.

favorite music of the 2010s: energy

January 9, 2020
Decide to post my favorite music that I discovered over the last decade, and realized I would be better served by dividing it into "energy" (generally, more verb movement) and "vibe" (generally, more mellowness in a noun kind of way, if that makes any sense to anyone but me)

2010: F**k You - Cee Lo Green:

(I love the lyric video that I first saw more than the one they finally got to)

Runner-up: Back To Me - Kathleen Edwards

2011: Might Like You Better - Amanda Blank:

Runner-up: Satellite - Lena Meyer-Landrut

2012: Golddust - DJ Fresh

Man, this is one of my favorite videos of all time.

2012 All The Rowboats - Regina Spektor
2012 1 Thing - Amerie

2013: So Fast, So Maybe - K. Flay

Runner-up: Werkin' Girls - Angel Haze

2014: Safe and Sound - Capital Cities

Graciously - Chandler Travis Philharmonic
Tightrope (Wondamix) - Janelle Monáe

2015: Feel Right - Mark Ronson

Runner-up: Trouble - Iggy Azalea

2016: Black or White - Dick Brave and the Backbeats

2017 Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) - The Hamilton Mixtape

2018: All This Money - Injury Reserve

Love You So - Bleu
Touch It- Busta Rhymes
Faith - Ariana Grande / Stevie Wonder

2019: Think (About It) - Lyn Collins

Do you remember the movie "Space Balls" when Mel Brooks' character denies selling the planet's atmosphere, then takes a big huff from a can labeled "Perri-air Salt Free Air"? Supposedly $700 Air Filters "raise a class's test scores by as much as cutting class size by a third." Add that to the idea that maybe Rising CO2 levels might (or might not) be linked to rising obesity levels- even in lab animals on controlled diets... and I really wonder if I should be thinking about better air filters at home. (And then my dentist expressing concern that a relative small sinus cavity might make be prone to snoring, and then how that means my body would is less oxygenated than it should be...) .

Hmmm! None of the science is super-definite on this but it is really getting me thinking.

favorite music of the 2010s: vibe

January 10, 2020
Decide to post my favorite music that I discovered over the last decade, and realized I would be better served by dividing it into "energy" (generally, more verb movement) and "vibe" - softer.

Most of the songs here have had a moment of moving me greatly - they catch something in my wistful, melancholy self, a lovely ache that I cherish in life.

2010: Sea of Love - Cat Power

Runner-up: The Girl You Lost to Cocaine - Sia

2011: As It Comes - The Exploding Voids

Addicted to Love - Florence + The Machine
Knockin - Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Luminescent Orchestrii

(Small shout out to my friend Kjersten who made a mix "Tilkirke" (to church, in Norwegian - Knockin and a bunch of other great songs came from there, and I'm a tough person to make a mix for...)

2012: The District Sleeps Tonight - The Postal Service

Socrates - The Lisps
Concrete Wall - Zee Avi

2013: Valentine - Fiona Apple

Needing/Getting - OK Go
Something About You - Cary Brothers (feat. Laura Jansen)
I Need My Girl - The National

2014: Coffee - Sylva Esso

Runner-up: The Writing's on the Wall - OK GO

2015: My Favorite Picture of You - Guy Clarke

Runner-up: How Naked Are We Gonna Get - The Blow

2016: A Cimma - Fanfare Invisible

2017: Make Out - Julia Nunes:

Runner-up: Los Ageless - St. Vincent

2018: Til It's Over - Anderson .Paak

Runner-up: Take on Me (MTV Unplugged) - a-ha

2019: To Turn You On - Nataly Dawn + Ryan Lerman

Runner-up: Curse of the I-5 Corridor - Neko Case
Who cares if the horse is blind? Just keep loading the wagon.

The Boy Who Wears Shorts All Winter. For a very very brief moment way back when, I thought about becoming that, and I don't have a clear idea as to why. (Besides some snip of it being "an attention thing")

January 11, 2020

The formula for achieving a successful relationship is simple: you should treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.
Quentin Crisp

Me + Melissa @ CarGurus Holiday Party 2020 - that's Flo Rida on the House of Blues stage:

January 12, 2020

Does anyone else remember the book I Am Loveable and Capable: A Modern Allegory of the Classical Put-Down.?

The basic idea is you wake up in the morning with a tag that says I Am Loveable and Capable (or "IALAC") but as little self-esteem wearing things happen, the tag gets more and more bits of it torn off throughout the day...

January 13, 2020

Lola on "Big Mouth"

January 14, 2020

On my devblog, some thoughts on the life of companion devices, and their life prolonged via classic longevity vs reincarnation...
It's a vulnerable time for a lot of these young dudes. They need to be taking care of their chicken right, you feel me? If it was me, or if I had an opportunity to let these little young (players) know something, I'd say 'take care of your money, African, cause that sh*t don't last forever.' Now I've been on the other side of retirement and it's good when you get over there and you can do what the f**k you want to, so I'll tell y'all right now while y'all in it, take care of your bread so when you're done, you go ahead and take care of yourself. So while y'all at it right now, take care of y'all's bodies, take care of y'all's chicken, take care of y'all's mentals. Because look, we ain't lasting that long. I had a couple players that I played with that they're no longer here. They're no longer. So start taking care of y'all mentals, y'all bodies and y'all chicken, so when you're ready to walk away, you walk away and you can be able to do what you want to do.
Marshawn Lynch's advice to his younger teammates
Via SB Nation on Beast Mode closing out a post-retirement stretch... I caught a few minutes of the game, and he was impressive.
We are all here on earth to help others. What I can't figure out is what the others are here for.
(not) W. H. Auden

January 15, 2020

Hannah showed me that somehow I missed this tribute to my favorite commonwealth, from the makers of "What Does the Fox Say":

When I am with him, smoking or talking quietly ahead, or whatever it may be, I see, beyond my own happiness and intimacy, occasional glimpses of the happiness of 1000s of others whose names I shall never hear, and know that there is a great unrecorded history.
E.M. Forster

Punch and Judy to Their Audience

January 16, 2020

Our puppets strings are hard to see,
So we perceive ourselves as free,
Convinced that no mere objects could
Behave in terms of bad and good.

To you, we mannequins seem less
than live, because our consciousness
is that of dummies, made to sit
on laps of gods and mouth their wit;

Are you, our transcendental gods,
likewise dangled from your rods,
and need, to show spontaneous charm,
some higher god's inserted arm?

We seem to form a nested set,
With each the next one's marionette,
Who, if you asked him, would insist,
that he's the last ventriloquist.

Theodore Melnechuk
(via Marvin Minsky's "The Society of Mind")

maximalism on mimimalism

January 17, 2020
I've been thinking about minimalism a bit. (And it's a bit nuts to me that I read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" 5 years ago.)

A friend of mine has took the training to be an official KonMari consultant (if you're in MA and interested in her help in your own stuff simplification, let me know and I'll hook you up!) and I asked her something that was on my mind: that whole "does this spark joy" ritual - is the joy the ends or a mean? (i.e. is getting more joy the pursuit for joy's sake, or is joy a signpost to general rightness-with-the-universe?)

She gave me some good feedback. I'm left thinking that the best answer is a blend - some of the point is so that you are getting more joy out of getting a better balance with your possessions, and having better knowledge and focus about what you like in life.

On the LiM WhatsApp group, someone posted the Guardian on the craze for minimalism. It points out that sometimes an awful lot of work goes behind getting to the point where you can just work with the simple bits. Or as one meme put it:

Damn bitch, are you aware that subscribing to popular minimalism does not free you from the focus on your possessions, but ironically causes you to be come more focused on them than before?

It's like there's minimalism of the "noun" - what stuff looks like at this moment, the elegant sparseness - vs the minimalism of the "verb" - the effort it to took to get to and keep it there. As usual, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle - don't be afraid to have stuff you like around you, but don't be afraid to get rid of whatever isn't pulling its weight, Kondo "joy"-wise. Even with everything you might not get to a Steve Jobs like "lamp and cushion in the middle of the floor" look but that's ok.

The article talks about some of the human cost of our technology, but I think the noun/verb dualism is informative even with a more self-centered view. Isn't wireless great? Bopping around with earbuds, roaming around town with a cellphone or parking yourself anywhere in the house with a laptop? No cords- the noun is so clean! And yet - the bargain is accepting a lifestyle of constantly making sure our gear is charged, and so the verb is less minimal than it was before - more demanding of our time and attention.

A while back (7 years ago... again, yeesh.) Slate wrote a similar piece. My take away then was "minimalism a luxury item for people who can afford to keep their stockpiles at retail stores." and I think that's important to keep in mind as well, especially before we cast stones on people who seem content having more clutter around them.
Thinking more about decluttering... last September I wrote
So much clutter represents artifacts from my aspirational self, what I'd like to do or be given enough time and energy, and throwing that stuff away feels like murder of that future self. Or at least more firmly closing doors of potential that are hanging partially open.
Funny thinking of the balance of that vs the sometimes expensive luxury of keeping your "stockpiles" in stores instead of at home. Especially for gadget fans like me. I keep dreaming of setting up regular times to play old games, either on my own or better yet with friends, the old quarterly casual couch-gaming meetups I'd host. So I have all these old games around. But then there are these old tablets and laptops... I can think of all these scenarios where they might be useful, sort-of. And getting rid of them has an additional cost of making sure they're properly wiped of personal information! But overall that gear leans closer to the packrat/hoarder side, where it's tough to admit how valueless they are likely to forever be from here on out.

See. See?

January 18, 2020

See where the frog
under the grass bank sits--
Where I would sit
if I were afraid.

I came down to the lake
this morning, to get away
from the dish/spoon clash
of familiar, familial

loving. Frog sits
rocking on the round
chest of his breathing.
I've seen his black-and-green

eye, I've seen the light
make a wet spot in it.
And there's the tight gold
line of his underjaw,

there's his small large body.
The question: *Why don't you
want to catch him?* A new
answer: *Because he's scared.*

Out in the wet cool air, this
frog's cheeks shudder
like gills out of water.
And I am not yet perfect,

either. I am not yet
adult and whole.
I didn't keep myself from moving.
Too green. He had to leap.

Elizabeth Macklin
I have been trying to find this poem for ages - all my googling was for naught even though my memory of a number of the ending line turns out to be accurate. I just found it in a web-based snapshot I had constructed of everything I had on my PalmPilot...
I like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" a lot because "if they don't win it's a shame!" is the maximum healthy amount to care about any sport.

January 19, 2020

An idea will seem self-evident--once you've forgotten learning it!
Marvin Minsky
Finally getting through his "Society of Mind", which also has this great thought on formal rules and attempts to nail down ideas like birds can fly
trebek: the fact that this might not exist w out despair is a case in point

contestant: what is irony

January 20, 2020

For some folk, nothing has been right since the election of Trump. Others go further back, maybe to the assassination of Dr. King. Some split the difference and rhetorically asked has anything felt right since the rollover of the Mayan calendar in 2012...

Me? I think it's when Lego started putting faces on the back of the heads of minifigs, as well as the front. So sometime around 2002. Yeah, you have more options for expression, and I guess usually the back of the head is behind some kind of helmet or hat or hair blob, but still... for me it's not worth breaking the kayfabe of the "thingness" of the character - that piece is no longer a "head" it's just a brick that you can rotate for the most aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Here's what brought it to mind, I finally got around to putting this Tron Legacy lightcycle kit Diane got me last year...

January 21, 2020

via Bill
What Do Machine Learning and Hunter-Gatherer Children Have in Common? - "They acquire knowledge in remarkably similar ways" - there's a takeaway for the West's kids too - provide high quality environments with lots of stuff and habits kids can use or emulate, from books to tools.
Selling Hedonism in Postwar America. Trying to ponder what I've seen from early-20th + 19th century advertising to see if I can agree that hedonism was kind of a new element. And if it's more of a conspiracy, or more a byproduct of being the richest nation standing after WW2...

January 22, 2020

One of the best additions I've made to my tumblr feed is David J Prokopetz - his main webpage links to his tumblr as well as a pillowfort page that looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but I'm tempted to use binge it.

His main shtick is game recommendations - people ask him for game suggestions (mostly tabletop/rpg, but some video games as well) and he comes back with well-curated examples from his encyclopedic knowledge- he also has advice for aspiring game makers but what I think I love most is when he spins out concepts of RPGs that should be made, or otherwise plays with variant ideas or bizarre implications of existing tropes. Cruising through his past few days of backlog I didn't find as many of the "oh wow" examples but this might give you the flavor:
Concept: a competitive tabletop RPG campaign where one side plays the owners and staff of an unscrupulous restaurant that's known for identifying anonymous reviewers and secretly giving them unasked-for enhanced service, and the other side plays the owners and staff of a prestigious travel guide publisher who are determined to give the restaurant an honest review. It's played completely straight as a high pressure spy-in-enemy-territory scenario, with explicit mechanics for cracking under the mental strain.
Or see this riff on inverting the roles of high elves and goblins in a D&D-inspired fantasy setting...

(I really do love tumblr despite it being past its golden age. Like twitter for me, I use it as a read-only medium, and you really have to curate your main list (which is the trick to twitter btw - follow tons of of people for politeness reasons but then just have one list you actually read, which will be kept in chronological order for you)

Wish my old school handcrafted blog (coming up on 20 years!!) fit neatly into some "stream" like those. Crossposting everything to facebook is as close as I get, and posts that I think are decent conversation starters are getting less attention.)
RIP Terry Jones
I would say overall I've heard fewer 2020 "Vision" puns than I was expecting.

the art of too many books

January 23, 2020
A new IKEA bookshelf, with dedicated tsundoku space
My friend John linked to this great article on The value of owning more books than you can read ("Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku" - note, that page is oddly ad-heavy, consider viewing with an Ad-Blocker or in Safari's bare "Reader" mode) The upshot is, rather than being a swaggering display of "look how much I've read!" an overflowing set of bookshelves can carry a more balanced message of "look at how much I have to learn... but would like to!". The Japanese term for this reading material purchased but left unread is "tsundoku" (As the article says, that's a more sensible term than "antilibrary" which some posit.)

And you can have those legions of unread volumes without overmuch fear of being an academic poseur - in the Paris Review Umbert Eco cites Pierre Bayard's "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read":
Good libraries hold several millions of books: even if we read a book a day, we would read only 365 a year, around 3,600 in ten years, and between the ages of ten and eighty we'll have read only 25,200.
Bayard's book goes on to explain how educated people can still have a reliable awareness of the gist of important works. (I find that view approving of summaries intuitively appealing - there are many works -- books, movies, tv series etc -- where I'd rather read the wikipedia summary of than sacrifice to take on the original content in its entirety. As long as I am suitably humble about the second hand nature of my knowledge, I'll be OK.)

All this is an interesting contrast to some of the current hip minimalism, that whole KonMari thing. I've noted that sometimes in decluttering, we are closing the door on alternate paths, repressing hopes for our future or alternative selves that have made more time to enjoy various pursuits. Thus, an appreciation of tsundoku can seem to be the antithesis of that minimalist impulse to pare down to what is truly actively enjoyed! --Though in practice a good curation might still leave the heart of those unread libraries intact, as long as it's worthy stuff that remains.

Understanding how little of the vast universe of worthy material out there we can possibly consume is one part of accepting the finitude of life. For people who turned away from intense religiosity in their youth, it can be very painful - as children so many of us were promised infinite time! (For a delicious deep pondering of that, Julian Barnes "A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters" ends with a study of how ill-equipped we are to deal with a vision of heaven roughly like our own reality, but with every whim fulfilled, and extended to infinity. Or more simply, as Susan Ertz puts it: "... millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.")

Lately I've been having some parallel coming-to-terms with my own chronological limits, the curation of my own free time that I am compelled to undertake. Even apart from my concerns of "not reading enough", I used to carve out more time for video games - both for the playing of them, and then for the programming of my own humble toys and games. When I assess where that time might be going, I see time practicing and performing with community and activist bands - a high quality activity on many levels, but not inexpensive in terms of hours. Ditto for the work I do on Porchfest websites, empowering organizers to manage these lovely weekend events where scores of musicians can connect with legions of listeners. And I take time to be with my sweetie Melissa - from just being around each other to more intimate times to taking in enjoyable streaming series and movies, that all enhances my life as well.

(Of course, one aspect of many one-on-one relationships is that whole wedding-ish vow of "forsaking all others" - this is yet another parallel to the unread books issue... humans have a distinct talent for making ourselves miserable playing "What-If" and "Mighta-Been" - that's some of why I got a tattoo saying "THIS FATE" - Amor Fati, the love of the situation actually is, not these other worlds that don't materially exist.)

Learning to love the potentials that will be forever untapped is an art unto itself! Cultivate a contentment with discontent, a certain satisfaction with an unfulfillable aspiration...
Had we but World enough, and Time,
This coyness Lady were no crime.
Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"
This poem's open rattling in my head after this morning's ramble...

January 24, 2020

Edgar Allan Poe once argued that a certain chess-playing "machine" had to be fraudulent because it did not always win. If it were really a machine, he argued, it would be perfectly logical--and therefore could never make any mistakes! What is the fallacy in this? Simply that there is nothing to prevent us from using logical language to describe illogical reasoning. To a certain extent it's true that machines can do only what they are designed to do. But this does preclude us, once we know how thinking works, from designing machines that think.

When do we actually use logic in real life? We use it to simplify and summarize out thoughts. We use it to explain arguments to other people and to persuade them that those arguments are right. We use it to reformulate our own ideas. But I doubt that we often use logic actually solve problems or to "get" new ideas. Instead, we formulate our arguments and conclusions in logical terms after we have constructed or discovered them in other ways; only then do we use verbal and other kinds of formal reasoning to "clean things up," to separate the essential parts from the spaghettilike tangles of thoughts and ideas when they first occurred.

Marvin Minsky, "Society of Mind"
This is very simpatico with the "Elephant and the Rider" view. Rational thought is usually an after-the-fact assemblage (or rather, after-the-feel) to justify our actions and opinions to others, and also to ourselves.
So I used to always believe in the "time goes by faster as you age because each fixed interval is a lesser fraction of your life span thus far", but this article suggests it might be changes in the physics of the brain - roughly speaking our worn out old brains are just plain slower, and thus the real world is faster by comparison... (here's another article that covers that general idea and a few other theories...)

January 25, 2020

Yesterday on the Lost in Mobile WhatsApp group we got to thinking about alternate time visualizations - the conversation started with me linking to Slow-Watches. I really like how their watches have a single hand that takes 24 hours to make a complete revolution - and how they put midnight at the bottom, where to my intuitive mind it "belongs" - letting the tip of the hand follow the sun, roughly.

BobD pointed out Tokyoflash that also have some watches with super fun alternative ways of displaying the time.

It got me to revive an old artsy 60 second timer I wrote when I was first learning Processing - I really like it! Plus it's practical for games that need such a timekeeper - unlike Pictionary's ordinary sand timer, you don't have to wait for it to finish before resetting it, just click.

Making virtual timepieces is pretty cool. I wish I liked wearing watches more... and also wish that Apple Watch would let people design their own watch faces, I would so love to have a physical version of TIMISH, a purposefully inexact expression of the current time in words. I really think we get so hung up on thinking of time as a series of numbers... it's so harsh and mechanical...

monster party and mr. snowman

January 26, 2020
Had a monster theme playing with Cora yesterday... made another little p5 toy (not really interactive though come to think of it)
click to run


Plus some of Cora's original creation monsters:

This was all after I found out that Cora was surprisingly good at a restaurant-waiting game I'd only previously played with grownups: "Mr. Snowman". On a restaurant placemat w/ crayons (or a napkin w/ a pen, whatever) one person draws a Snowman. The next person goes on offense and draws a threat that may lead to the Snowman's demise. The first person (or the next person on the defense team) draws a way of thwarting the attack. The next person then draws something to undo the defense or perhaps launches a different line of attack.

Cora was good at the problem solving aspect of this! Water to put out a nearby melting fire, an umbrella to ward off a monkey with water balloons, a wall to stop an oncoming car (or maybe just removing the tires...), unplugging the loud music, bug spray to stop an annoying mosquito, etc. I figured out pretty quick for the kids version, the offense can be annoyances rather than existential threats, and launching new attacks is probably kinder than undoing the defense the kid just put down. (Also with Chas' help the second sheet became helping defend the women of the renovation show Good Bones ("Two Chicks and a Hammer")... not quite sure how that happened but I rolled with it.)

Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired
Jonathan Swift
But I keep arguing anyway, in part to increase my own understanding of views I don't share and in order to try and persuade the other party that people who disagree with them aren't irrational idiots.
The thief who took the moon moved it to Paris.
Marvin Minsky, "The Society of Mind"

Star Trekkin' with Trump

January 27, 2020
First off: the idea of a separate "Space Force" is not as goofy as it first seems. Assuming it's not so much Star Wars or even Moonraker, satellite battles are going to be a bigger part of any future big wars, and those might be better met with a different chain of command not worried about combat in the atmosphere (like how the Air Force used to be the US Army Air Force...)

And yeah, this logo looks like Star Trek:

But it's not Trumps' fault! This logo is from the 1980s:
Of course, they MAY have been influenced by Star Trek...
Of course that 80s Air Force Space Command logo is also predated by the Atari game Asteroids....
But looking back at Star Trek, that shirt chevron may have taken a cue from NASA (the "meatball" logo is from the late 50s...)

SID chips and Pipe Organs "how come a church organ doesn't sound like a chip tune, which is also built up from simple waveforms? Well, actually it will, if you remove the church. And if you connect a Commodore 64 to a loudspeaker in a large hall, it will sound like an organ."
I did not realize the old Dr Demento staple Star Trekkin' had a video, but listening now it kind of makes sense...

January 28, 2020

Questions arise from a point of view–from something that helps to structure what is problematical, what is worth asking, and what constitutes an answer (or progress). It is not that the view determines reality, only what we accept from reality and how we structure it. I am realist enough to believe that in the long run reality gets its own chance to accept or reject our various views.
Allen Newell
(via Minsky’s “Society of Mind”)
yeah sex is cool but have you ever *lives a complete life, rich in all forms of love, full of service & wonder, intimately woven into the network of organic life on the surface of this spinning rock until one day, w no regrets & w a slightly bemused smile, the final surprise*

For future reference, a twitter thread that's stuck in my head about trans folk and how much dumb ass "science" is behind how gender is often thought of. (UPDATE: here's another similar take)
I took off my clothes and stepped into the shower to find *another* one sitting near the drain. It was about 2 feet tall and made of metal, with bright camera-lens eyes and a few dozen gripping arms. Worse than the Jehovah's Witnesses.

"Hi! I'm from Google. I'm a Googlebot! I will not kill you."

"I know what you are."

"I'm indexing your apartment."

"I don't want you here. Who let you in?"

"I am Google! I find many good things. I find that pair of underwear with the little dice printed all over them. And I watch the tape of you with the life-sized Stallman puppet. These are good unique things. Many keywords and links! My masters will say 'much good job, little robot!' Many searchers will find happy links of Stallman puppet see you! Ahhhh."

From 2002 which makes it feel kinda prescient...

January 29, 2020

While I have some ambivalent feelings about "awesome street band as a metaphor for crippling grief and depression", this video (featuring Richard Kind and the band What Cheer) is awesome and moving.

What Cheer? - starring Richard Kind from Five Eyed Films on Vimeo.

Code geek alert - and one I hope not too many future hiring interviewers see... Sometimes it feels like unit tests are like writing tests for individual Lego bricks.

95% of bugs I see that make it out of the developers play area are emergent - they arise from the interactions and poorly understood expectations between the bricks! But when you write a mock or a stub, all you are saying is "if the rest of the world matches my little toy fake-y model here I'm setting up with my mock... then my code is all good, baby."

Returning to the Lego metaphor, the scaffolding you use to hold up your Lego brick for inspection seems at least rickety as the damn brick... combine that with the unlikelihood of a coder hunting really hard for something they don't want to find (i.e. a bug in their own code and indication that they aren't so great...) - again, maybe a good coder codes so someone ELSE doesn't find a bug in their code. Which is good - but again, I feel like a telltale of a properly scoped unit isn't there isn't much in that should be subtly going wrong.

I know there's some side effects of testing that are positive, like breaking things up in small pieces, getting dependency injection going, whatever. But I feel like most of the benefits happen testing higher up, and I don't understand why so much of the coder world loves pouring over individual Lego bricks... are the people who love them that much smarter than me, more brain-washed, or just different, like how prescriptivists and descriptivists are different?

Sometimes they say unit tests help explain what the code does, but honestly, reading a test is usually harder to parse than the code itself - maybe there's some good example data that's a good crisp read, but compared to naming functions and parameters properly, and commenting where needed?

I feel like unit tests come from the same people who think a github site with a minimalist README.md is good enough to describe use of their framework...

January 30, 2020

Exceptions are a fact of life because few "facts" are always true. Logic fails because it tries to find exceptions to this rule.
Marvin Minsky


Each event is quite unique.
Nothing ever happens twice.
What occurs will not recur.
There can be no second time.

Even gear teeth will have changes
by the time they mesh again.
Though they seem to stay the same,
hard things slowly wear away.

As for softer things, they move,
varying in shape and place
and in memory and hope
twenty-seven thousand days.

Still I keep a single name
labeling a twinkling sea
though it is ten billion waves
that are constituting me.

Theodore Melnechuk

we are the albertine algorithm

January 31, 2020
Minds are simply what brains do.
Marvin Minsky, "The Society of Mind"
Consciousness is what running the algorithm feels like from the inside.
Scott Albertine
Reading the book for the former quote, and the latter was from a coworker talking on our feeling of awareness and seeming ability to choose, despite being in a universe that seems governed by physical laws of cause and effect that precede our birth. Or as another author put it:
Our daughter's choices--like everything else--had been written in stone at the birth of the universe, but that information could only be decoded by becoming her along the way.
Greg Egan, "Singleton"
Lately I've been thinking about "Free Will", and the powerful feeling that we are making choices, despite us being marionettes with strings (held either by the statistical predestination or quantum "randomness") of the whole universe's history.

My current guess is that when I am saying "I am choosing", the problem isn't with "choosing" - my "Albertine Algorithm" is going one way or the other and it might not be clear to an outsider - or even an insider - which way it will go, which choice it will make, ahead of time - but with the "I"... like the Buddhists have cottoned on to, there isn't a "there there", a little part of my mind that is the "real me". To the extent I am anything, I am this (sometimes painfully) self-aware and self-monitoring algorithm all the way down.
And of course the algorithm is far more complex than the ones we work with all the time... Consciousness is the model of the world complex enough that the model understands its own place in the world, and make guesses and predictions about its own abilities to make changes in the world. (And one take away from Minsky's book is that the algorithm is composed of lots and lots of similar competing little algorithms...)
"Can I Get a Witness?!" "Testify!" Welp, guess not, LOL.

Between Trump getting his wish for No Witnesses (as would any wanna-be Mafia Don), Brexit clunking forth, and Coronavirus, kind of a shit week.

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