2020 February❮❮prevnext❯❯

February 1, 2020

Ws listening to Terry Crews on Marc Maron's WTF podcast. They mentioned all his Old Spice commercials, I found this compilation:

Of course those were used so well by Youtube MowtenDoo remixing it with Super Mario Bros:

I am guess the original Old Spice commercials were inspired by the beautiful madness of Powerthirst:

Melissa and I enjoyed the first half of Rick + Morty Season 4. Like with "Black Mirror", there are these brilliant episodes doing a great job of sci-fi's coolest job: taking a single idea and then riffing on it and exploring the details of what it would mean if that event happened or if that technology or culture existed.

Anyway I thought the Netflix Executive in "One Crew over the Crewcoo's Morty" was about as much of a Rick and Morty version of me as I'm gonna get.

"Is it art or landscaping? Look for a plaque!"


Open Photo Gallery

Yesterday Melissa and I went to the deCordova Sculpture Garden and Museum...

First 3 photos from Leeza Meksin's "Turret Tops" - two tipi-like structure made of modern materials, said to bring to mind many things including Madonna's bustier-cones and "the iconic turrets of the deCordova museum". My line was "Oh, my bad, didn't realize your turrets were iconic!"

Also, Melissa wanted me to explain she was explaining how this sculpture brought to her mind the miracle of birth.

Maren Hassinger's Monument 3

Elliot Offner Figure from the Sea

Melissa through Saul Melman's Best Of All Possible Worlds

Just a fly.

The museum seems especially eager to redirect you to Andy Goldsworthy's Watershed though I think it might be better during/after a rain?

Why Britain Brexited While I don't think Brexit is a good thing (not to mention the lies told to drive it) this article goes into how over the past half-century the issues of control (internall) vs influence (externally) involved have come up in different forms...
Happy Palindrome Day!

Regardless of if you write the date DMY, MDY, or YMD, the date will still be a palindrome (02/02/2020 or 2020/02/02). This (a palindromic date on the Gregorian Calendar regardless of date formatting) won't happen again until 12/12/2121 on the Gregorian Calendar.

On top of this mathematical palindromy, today is the 33rd day of the year with 333 days left in a year. This "super palindrome" will never happen again on the Gregorian Calendar
Aleksandra Love

Best Photos of the Month - January 2020

I admit, I don't think this was my best month for still photos...

Open Photo Gallery

january 2020 new music playlist

Huh. Either it was a really good month for music or I'm getting soft in my old age - only a few songs were less than 4-stars, and one was even 5...

Problem 99 (Jay-Z vs. Ariana Grande)
Best of Bootie mashup - a lot heavier on the Jay-Z side... really started growing on me.
End of a pile of Best of Bootie I set aside.

F-cking Boyfriend
The Bird and the Bee
Frustrated pop...
Found while looking for Again + Again by the same folks.

Rosie the Riveter
The Four Vagabonds
Sweet little bit of patriotic a cappella... I was kind of happy such an early culturally important song was known for its performance by African-American artists... also love the "Rrrrrrrrrrr" sound effect.
Referenced at the WW2 Museum in NOLA.

The End
The Beatles
My Beatles lore has some odd holes, especially their later stuff.
Referenced in Every Sample from Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique"

Jimmy Buffett
I'm not in much danger of becoming a Parrot-head but I appreciate the middle aged fantasy narrative of this one...
They had a singalong of this on a live podcast of "My Brother My Brother and Me"

Franny London
I'm always a sucker for female-vocalist covers, of a disco classic in this case...
Heard on the animated series "Big Mouth"

Underwater Temple, Underwater Monk
Ollie's Sonic Emporium
Goofy little joke hiphop piece, but catchy.
Via this tumblr entry
Hump Day
Miss Eaves
Super-direct and raunchy hiphop homage to women flickin' the bean...
Ending credits of "Big Mouth"

Compared to What
Roberta Flack
Beautiful lowkey jazz protest song. Great light percussion and bass.
My fellow activist bandmember posted Les McCann & Eddie Harris' version... more uptempo, and I love how you can see the musicians communicate in the video - but I love Roberta Flack's version, which is also a bit more concise.
No One Kisses Like a Tuba Player Can
Brett Harrington
"You ain't been 'til you kissed a tuba player, no one kisses like a tuba player can..." Corny hayseed music... makes me ponder on the cultural artifact of "kissing booths"...
Some youtube recommendation...

Talkin' out da Side of Ya Neck
University of Washington Husky Marching Band
Marching Band cover of hiphop. I dig the chanting.
The national champion LSU Tigers have a Marching Band that plays this, and there were articles about trying to get students to stop singing a dirty version of the lyrics... different Marching Band here tho.

What a Man
Linda Lyndell
The original that Salt N Pepa borrowed from...
I might have been looking for a version of Lena's cover? But like with "Shake Yo Thang"/"It's Yo Thang", I'm grateful for Salt N Pepa covers introducing me to such great songs...
In the Pines
Lead Belly
Old Blues. Known covered by Kurt Cobain, later.
Don't know where I heard about this, but it's interesting some versions are "My Girl" but the original might be "Black Girl", which has a different feel.

Low-key protest song about mass-shootings; the video is kind of an amazing pun that doesn't come out as much in the song.

Unchained Melody
Lykke Li
Lovely soft cover of the song we shmaltzily dance to in high school. (The one thing is the weird repetition of syllables (rivers flow, rivers flow, rivers, to the sea, to the sea, to the sea) - is that even in the original? ))
from the movie "Booksmart"

The Monkey
Dave Bartholomew
More blues. Interesting which verses the Dirty Dozen Brass Band version leaves out.
The "Fabulous Thunderbirds" cover was on the credits of Silicon Valley.

Bad Blood (feat. Clara C)
Kina Grannis
Really sad breakup song.
"Big Mouth" again.

Middle Age is the era of life where you've been doing everything for like at least 5 years, even the stuff that feels new...
Few situations are so bad that they couldn't be worse, which is cause for both thanks and alarm.

from "Getting Over Homer"

Two decades ago I excerpted a lovely bit from "Getting Over Homer" by Mark O'Donnell, a funny, wistful short novel I just reread- I can imagine seeing so much of my mid-20s, only-semi-requited-lover self in it, and its story of gay men either dying or being hyper vigilante about AIDS is poignant as well.

Anyway, here are some bits that are either terrific, or weirdly stuck in my head for decades, or both...

Crawford joined us. "That Deco poster is very valuable. He shouldn't hang it where the sun is going to bake it like that. It'll fade. Red is the most fugitive color."
"Fugitive, it flees. It's the color that fades quickest with time." I thought of the ads in the window of the candy store where Dad was shot. True enough, the ice cream and potato chip images, and the smiling, outdated teen faces adoring them, had been sunburned to unappetizing, faint blues and grays.
For some reason "red is the most fugitive color" has really stuck with me.
I think of a story Sean brought home from CYO camp, about an Indian brave so in love with a maiden from the tribe across the lake he tries to swim over to her and drowns. The punchline is, And from that day to this, it has been known as Lake Stupid.

Life is a traffic jam of crosses to bear.

It was a little clammy in his darkling living room, but Sean sat without turning on a light.
I did not realize "darkling" was a word - "growing dark or characterized by darkness."
"Your eyes are different, too. Like if you had been kidnapped and raised by a different tribe." I heard that. Life may be a river, but more exactly it's a river delta, and every branch you choose or are swept into changes your course. Some jostling in the womb, a few minutes between births, a few playroom power struggles, and we who were one were already on different tributaries.
Spoken to the narrator by his twin brother's fiancée.
I like that description of "the butterfly effect"
"Well ... You know what they say, Blooey. Experience is the ability to recognize a mistake--when you make it again!"
An oldie but a goodie...

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence.
Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
Carl Sagan
Whoa, they kinda chopped off an important part...
I know I'm more of a in-the-family, fair-weather fan of the Red Sox than a die hard, but This Mookie Betts thing sucks out loud.

February 6, 2020

RIP Kirk Douglas. Here's a chart plotting the rise and fall of the name "Kirk" against his five biggest movies... James T. not withstanding, I think he was the true King of the Kirks...

February 7, 2020

I'm taking Facebook off my phone, I think. Not as a grand repudiation of the site, as problematic as it is (-it's unfortunately about the only place a small-time blogger-wannabe can get eyeballs and feedback...) but just as something that doesn't need to be quite so available to fill idle moments.

February 8, 2020

John Hopkins Coronavirus map tracker.
David J Prokopetz wrote
Wonder bread guy is out; that guy on Twitter who has his own personal murder chamber where he builds elaborate murder machines out of plywood and kitchen knives and then just uses them to pop balloons is in.
When asked to explain:

of course hipster that I am I was doing that over a decade ago:

mini-adventure day w/ cora

Mama C has had some surgery so it seemed like a good time to make an mini-adventure day for Cora and Uncle Kirky...

February 10, 2020


from the collection "Exhalation"

I just finished Ted Chiang's short story collection "Exhalation" - about half of the pieces I had already read, but he is truly a master at what I love about science fiction - exploration of the human by looking into what would be different if just a few parameters were changed - a new technology, or a belief system discredited in our world turning out to be true. (At their best "Black Mirror" and "Rick and Morty" pull the same trick.)

Chiang is especially interested in issues of free will and consciousness...

Experience isn't merely the best teacher; it's the only teacher. If she's learned anything raising Jax, it's that there are no shortcuts; if you want to create the common sense that comes from twenty years of being in the world, you need to devote twenty years to the task. You can't assemble an equivalent collection of heuristics in less time; experience is algorithmically incompressible.
Ted Chiang, "The Lifecycle of Software Objects"
The story is about people raising virtual creatures - basically digital toddlers, with similar capacity for learning. He talks about this idea that it might always take a few decades to grow a mind in the "Story Notes "section. I think some sense of human value comes from the way so many years of effort goes into raising it. But of course, humans have the additional "value" that unlike software they can't then be trivially duplicated... Update: my coworker Scott Schmitt, who mentioned this collection, read my comment on human value because of unduplicatibility (and hence, scarcity) and suggested:
I would say, trivially duplicated or reset to an earlier state. Once experience is in us, it never really goes out.
Great quote (the concept of "rolling back to a previous state" gets a lot of play in the story.)
As he practiced his writing, Jijingi came to understand what Moseby had meant: writing was not just a way to record what someone said; it could help you decide what you would say before you said it. And words were not just the pieces of speaking; they were the pieces of thinking. When you wrote them down, you could grasp your thoughts like bricks in your hands and push them into different arrangements. Writing let you look at your thoughts in a way you couldn't if you were just talking, and having seen them, you could improve them, make them stronger and more elaborate.
Ted Chiang, "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling"
Cool story drawing parallels with a oral-tradition culture learning European writing and hypothetical future tech that would let us quickly jump into any moment we had livestreamed (and which might then replace our regular ways of remembering things...) and what that has to do with our sense of truth and meaning. (Another quote that struck home for me: “Fine,” she said. “But let’s be clear: you don’t come running to me every time you feel guilty over treating me like crap. I worked hard to put that behind me, and I’m not going to relive it just so you can feel better about yourself.”- the ran parallel to some pushback I've gotten from exes as I try to evaluate what the hell happened...)
Lord, perhaps you don't hear my prayers. But I've never prayed with the expectation that it would affect your actions; I prayed with the expectation that it would affect mine.
Ted Chiang, "Omphalos"
Deep dive into "What if the physical evidence for a Young Earth was there?"
I'm pretty confident that even if the many-worlds interpretation is correct, it doesn't mean that all of our decisions are canceled out. If we say that an individual's character is revealed by the choices they make over time, then, in a similar fashion, an individual's character would also be revealed by the choices they make across many worlds. If you could somehow examine a multitude of Martin Luthers across many worlds, I think you'd have to go far afield to find one that didn't defy the church, and that would say something about the kind of person he was.
Ted Chiang, story notes for "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom".
See also some quotes from The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate, a beautiful, Tales of the Arabian Nights tinged study in the only kind of time machine that might be vaguely possible, a portal connecting to different eras (in the story notes he mentioned he took on Islamic trappings because there seems to be an acceptance in those cultures of Allah preordaining everything.)

don't do crimes!

Two things rattling around my head.

One is the use of the verb "do" for crimes. (Vs "commit", I guess) Is this a new thing? On Gruber's podcast he was using it in a discussion on encryption (specifically how Paul Manafort thought he was being clever using WhatsApp to communicate for his illicit activities, but the backups were still available to authorities - so like "if you're going to do crimes, don't use WhatsApp to talk about what you're doing.")

"Do crimes" (Or adventures) does sound kind of cool, I admit. Is it a sort of new construction? In other words, are people using it feeling like they're being a little amusing and deliberately avoiding the older fussier and more traditional "commit crimes" or worse "criminal acts"

Secondly, the quote I put in this comic continues to gain gravitas for me.

I'm still wondering if I could somehow improve the comic I made for it- I think the first panel does an ok job of showing the threat feeling amplified, but maybe not increasing the danger. (Or maybe it is a lot more dangerous to have your back to an alien dog...)

But still. So often I can be bullied by the dumbest ass little tasks on my todo list. Like maybe I get anxious that a band I'm in won't be able to pull together a big enough group for a gig... like that possibility is what it is, but letting the email from the person looking for a group stew in my inbox helps nothing - in fact it reduces the chances of finding a good plan B or making a pitch to my bandmates if I think it's a really important thing.

Or, dozens of other tasks that might bruise my tender ego by not being as easy as they should be, or just might go wrong in general.

So that pile of email and undone todos grows and grows and makes it hard to do anything, and even easy but time sensitive things get lost. Churchill was right, I could have halved the danger! (Rather than just self-medicating with social media or pursuing web esoterica, like a junkie nodding off in an opium haze...)

If it's not Mitchell's, get back in the truck!

"You and Greg were having a little..."
"You and Craig... so you weren't talking to Greg about this."
"No... what?"
"It's a relief, just because I know, I mean..."
"No I said Craig."
"Fine, if it's Craig it's not as much of a problem."
"Why, what's ...wrong with Greg?"
"Just me and Greg, we've been having a little bit of a..."
"About what?"
"A contretemps."
"About what?"
"He's the easiest, easiest man to get along with that I think I've ever met in my entire life"
"Well, that's the thing. He's almost a bit too easy going, isn't he, and um, started to rile me a little bit, basically I was having lunch with him and my wife, and um, he was just being SO easy going... that um...you know I picked him up on it. And he responded to THAT by... carrying on being easy-going. And at that point I had to leave, I was absolutely... I was in a red fury."
I sort of aspire to being that kind of easy-going...

This is a rather young podcast, mentioned on Beef and Dairy Network Podcast - both are these great and FUNNY, improv-feeling British comedies, really playing in that space of keeping a stiff-upper lip through all kinds of madness and/or personal irritations, both keeping up their own little meta-fictions (the former pretending to be a small neighborhood newsletter replacement, but utterly ineptly edited, and the latter being a long running food industry information source.
bummer if we lose Betelgeuse! And psychologically rather upsetting.

February 14, 2020

i do not want to have you
i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own
i want to be so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of us combined
could set it on fire
Rupi Kaur, from "milk and honey"

February 15, 2020


One of the ways that you can say 'I love you' in Irish is 'mo cheol thú' -- 'you are my music.'
Pádraig Ó Tuama
I've started listening to his Poetry Unbound podcast. The poem is read, pontificated on briefly and thoughtfully, and then read again, and it's beautiful. One of the few I don't listen to at 1.5x speed or faster- and not just because of the narrator's terrific Irish accent. Honestly it's a secular sermon.
Just passed a mum with her little girl, no older than 7, who was crying over a skinned knee.
Mum: I don't think we need to cry over this anymore.
Little girl, still crying: This is in NO WAY a WE situation.

I spent way too much of my childhood assuming the Harlem Globetrotters would have utterly decimated the rest of the NBA.

February 16, 2020

Shirt Retirement! Graphic Tees are funny - ultimately expendable, but also often literally irreplaceable. Here are two I'm especially going to miss:

This one I got in Japan in 2008, a Manga-ish frame of a boxer being knocked down. It was my lowkey message shirt when I was expecting a bad day, like layoffs at work or whatever.

Probably my dorkiest and most pretentious shirt - Kay and I collaborated to screenprint a batch of these - it's my favorite exchange from "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" where the titular characters realize they're below decks on a ship, but the last thing they remember was being ready to be hanged...
"We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat?" "No, no, no... Death is...not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat." "I've frequently not been on boats."

People CLAIM they like gum, but as soon as I describe it as "putty you put in your mouth so you can drink you own flavoured saliva" they're all "ew gross" and "Ryan why"

Fascinating digging into how No congenitally blind person has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia - implications for the connection between vision, timing, and how are minds model and predict the world.

February 17, 2020

Melissa and I were at the Brattle Theatre's Bugs Bunny festival - in Long-Haired Hare he plays a tuba! A notable well-rendered sousaphone (so many comics and cartoons clearly use no reference art and draw it like something out of Dr. Seuss....)

Man, this sucks: Cracked on 5 Ways The World Undermines Teen Girls' Confidence.

I'm so grateful I was able to stake out an "affable goofball nerd" personality for myself in high school. My fixed mindset "smartest kid in the place" ego was (is?) tender and needing lots of coddling, but I was able to carve out a social niche that wasn't as worried about standings in social hierarchies- and there's probably a lot more room for boys to do that than girls.

I wish I knew how to start distilling useful lessons for the kids in my life, the virtual nephews and especially nieces. But, like with job advice, I only know what's worked pretty well for me, from my rather fortunate starting places and an affinity for computers, and so have never had to be very analytical or planning-smart about my trajectory....

February 18, 2020

I'm back to pondering on KonMari "does this spark joy" like I was a month ago - back then I realized the answer to "is the joy-spark test a way of answering 'do I *really* like this?' or 'is this cosmically a Good Thing in my life?'?" is a blend - getting a joy out better establishing the balance with possessions in your life. (I like that day's thought on hip minimalism as well)

Yesterday, perusing some sweater-y top things I inadvisably decided to take a chance on during the death throes of the local Sears, I realized the "joy spark" test is a way of counteracting the anti-joy that comes with having to admit "huh maybe I was a bit of dum-dum for buying this"... so it reminds me of how decluttering is a negotiation with both our past and our future selves! In the past, as we consider why we brought this into our life, and with our future, as we make some doors of future possibility a bit less open. (Maybe the opportunity to wear this special use clothing item won't arrive, probably I won't get around to engaging in this hobby thing I bought stuff for, perhaps it will never be quite worth swinging back to this old video game system, etc.)

Anyway, our friend Maile became a for-reals KonMari consultant (she was the one I went to with the "what's the joy spark test mean" question) so if you're in Western Mass and are struggling under your own clutter and need help or might be interested in a workshop, she'd be a good person to contact and/or follow at Cloud Eleven Organizing...
There was an open bag of "Birthday Cake Oreos" at work. These things are so sugary, it's like your mind skips back a beat and things time warp and you are literally tasting the sweetness before you put the cookie in your mouth.

February 19, 2020

All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. ... Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't.
Carlos Castañeda

Oh your "brain" is acting "illogically"? It's meat with electricity inside what the fuck did you expect

Only an idiot picks a fight he can't win. Balls don't enter into it.
Kensuke Aida, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Finally watching this bit of the geek canon...

inner-me vs inner-child vs inner-dog

I'm thinking about taking a break from my current therapist Terry Hunt, whom I've been seeing for ten years- I rate him very highly and he has helped me figure some things out that otherwise would have remained obscure, but I am worried he's become more of a "rent-a-dad" figure of paternal-ish approval for me, feeling a lack I had since my dad died during my teenage years.

Also I think there might be other approaches - specifically IFS, Internal Family Systems - that might be better designed to help answer what seems like the next most important question: what is the most proper and/or useful stance for my inner-voice "rational" self to have for my subconscious, my intuitive self? Are they peers, like pop-psychology is right and each corresponds to a whole hemisphere of my brain? Or does being "co-equal" give my emotional brain too much credit? Are they both "really me"?

As a child I developed a heightened sense of rationality - I would someday have to justify myself, via words and logic, to a righteous God who might choose to send my soul to burn forever in hell. So what my intuitive, feeling self wanted - its mortal concerns vs my immortal destiny - just didn't matter and so my gut self must be forever subjugated to my rational self. Even after I was no longer a person of faith, the rationality and sense of "ultimately true judgement is external" lingered, and I fear it stunted my intuitive self, badly. Observing people at work I think that when my intuitive self does act out, it is more childish and less controlled than those of my peers (but of course it's tough to know what their inner lives are like...)

So in that case, maybe "inner-child" is the best explanation. But maybe that gives it almost too much credit - when I realize my intuitive sense has been lurking and waiting for a moment of distraction to get me to grab that cookie from the kitchen I had "decided" to avoid, I think of a dog waiting for the humans to look the other way before snatching the meat from the table. And that side of me rarely manifests itself with human language. So... "inner-dog"? (Or maybe just the elephant in Haidt's "Rider and the Elephant" metaphor.)

Or- given the varied ways the intuitive side of me expresses itself, the patch work of competing desires - or the way it seems like a feeling anxiety starts as just a pang, and then I have SOME control over whether that feeling takes over my whole emotional self, or can be sweet-talked into calming down- it feels like a herd or pack of animals. Like one member of the herd is anxious, and tries to get the whole herd to gallop off. (I think IFS thinks a lot about this kind of internal crowd, except instead of heard they talk of managers and firefighters protecting the vulnerable exiles. I think IFS encourages visualizing those members of the group to be dramatized as full-on people, which is one part I'm still skeptical of.)


After years of my navel-gazing journey, I'm delighted when I realize I've figured something out that used to be mysterious. When I was in my 20s my friend and coworker Paul put it as "Kirk is his own Enigma- 'I just don't understand myself!'" but years later I have a better sense of some of my own inner workings.

Just this morning I realized that the sense of religiosity I talked about above explains a long-running characteristic of mine: I don't have a strong sense of privacy. I blog nearly everything, because my own personal enjoyment doesn't count for much. Everything only has meaning in a context of connections with other people - to me, value is an emergent property that rises of from groups. I don't have self-actualized value at all, so I put everything out there. (This can lead be to come across as self-absorbed, and it's a fair cop, but what people who accuse me of that don't always get is I think everyone should be just as self-absorbed. It's not that I find myself so fascinating relative to them, it's just that I need a public context to generate and evaluate the value I do have... and I'm the only person I can grant myself permission to think closely about.)

Anyone watching Lego Masters?

This last one was kind of weird - odd that Manny / Nestor team get so little attention in the thing. Also the "pick the 4 most struggling teams for a pep talk" was so pointless, I kept waiting for some reveal but it was just filler...

(I'd love to figure out where to watch the UK version.)

I wish they'd have a website with timelapses of all the build stations...

February 21, 2020

The grass is greener where you water it.

Programming is just saying "I have a meeting in an hour so better not start on this yet" to yourself until you die.

Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It's just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing.

February 22, 2020

Someone on the left, in the atheist movement, has a mission; has a 'this is my pet thing'. And anybody who doesn't fall completely in line with that gets labeled as if they're an enemy, rather then they're just not as pure an ally as they might be.

How do we start - or do we start, do we just allow the divisions to continue - or do we start building bridges, and talking about this issue - "What's important to you, is important to me too, but it may not be as important to me because I'm dealing with this.
I know some of the problem is - and maybe this is more acute for liberals - that the "pet thing" may be some of desperate importance, that if not attended to will cause harm to come to some vulnerable group... but that "labeled as if they're an enemy, rather then they're just not as pure an ally as they might be" aspect happens all too often.
Oh, I so love the "see how it's made" DIY vibe of this

(also: Tik Tok wants to be the new Vine?)

February 23, 2020

I had forgotten that Ukrainian President Zelensky was the star of a TV show "Servant of the People", about a teacher whose secretly recorded rants about the political elites goes viral and he becomes the Ukranian president. A party was formed named after the show, and it won.

Television, man. Yeesh. At least President Regan and Gov. Schwarzenegger had the gravitas of movies. How many years are we from the first Youtube Vlogger president... and then the Tik Tok candidate shortly thereafter...
"You're inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age? A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon. Zip! They go rocketing by so fast. How the hell else are you ever going to slow time down?" Dunbar was almost angry when he finished.

"Well, maybe it is true," Clevinger conceded unwillingly in a subdued tone. Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it's to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?"

"I do," Dunbar told him.

"Why?" Clevinger asked.

"What else is there?"

Joseph Heller, "Catch-22"
Dunbar has figured out the trick of going to shoot skeet with people he despises, because of how much it slows down time.

This passage was on my mind because lately I've been really pressing to stay focused at work, keeping on the grind, and boy, it does make some weeks feel longer. Last Wednesday I was shocked that it wasn't Friday. And that was with Monday off!
I used to tell dad jokes.

He's dead now though.

I tried making a video this morning & my roommate did this 🙃 pic.twitter.com/deJOfGnSwX

— Afo ❼ (@ifyouwereafo) October 22, 2019

from Joel Stein's "In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You are Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book"

Regarding the push to remove Confederate memorials like this, Emma says, "The world is falling apart. I'm glad I don't have any grandchildren." It's the same overwrought despair I hear when my liberal friends say Trump's election, global warming, or racism makes them not want to have kids. I intuit a deep lesson here about human beings: they are not nearly as fond of children as they claim.

Elites feel the same way about college as non-elites do about church. Actually, we feel even more strongly because we lived inside our church for four years and our church got us drunk and laid.

A few other comments about the news make it clear that the main difference between the people of Miami[, Texas] and me is that they believe there is only one right and one wrong and they're always right, whereas I believe that there is a shifting, multidimensional matrix between right and wrong and I'm always right.

Rush Limbaugh declared the Four Corners of Deceit to be government, academia, science, and media. Sure, there's a logic flaw in being told not to trust the media by one of the most influential members of the media, but nerdily pointing out logical fallacies is exactly the kind of sneaky lawyer crap the media pulls.

When you give people too much information, they instantly revert to pattern recognition [...] An electronic world retribalizes man.
Marshall McLuhan

You do practice democracy for its own sake. It's not a tool you choose because it delivers more money, more happiness, or even more peace. You choose democracy because freedom, human rights, and self-government are moral goods. If those goods have a price, we should be happy to pay it.

The world never loved perfect poise. What the world does love is commonly absence of poise, for it has to be amused. Napoleans and Andrew Jacksons amuse it, but it is not amused by perfect balance.
Henry Adams
Explains Trump and maybe Bernie Sanders. Not sure about Obama though, who was always well-poised.
Sacred history is not history, dude. It's the equivalent of saying there's proof that George Washington never told a lie. Because he cut down a cherry tree and told people about it.
Reza Aslan, religious studies scholar on the movie and book "The Case for Christ"

February 25, 2020

There's no such thing as expertise. It just doesn't exist. The expert is full of shit.
Scott Adams, partially in reference to two cabinet drawers in a corner where one is blocked, quoted in Joel Stein's "In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You are Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book"
I've been thinking about this, in the context of a quote I can't find about "guys so dumb that they think smart doesn't exist". Or about a Quora I can't find about what it's like going up against an elite fencer - that the match is over before you know it. Or (I think Nick Hornby - dang I am usually better at relocating passages than this) on playing against a retired pro football player in his amateur league, and when they saw the player on tv they derided his speed and kicking strength, but in that context of that league he was inhumanely fast with a cannon for a leg.

So, one the one hand, it would be stupid for me to be in denial about how much better elite professionals can be - but I don't have a knack for absorbing that lesson, because of my fixed mindset that intuits that people never change that much, or at least, not often. So everything just feels lucky, plus a bit of practice - but I know that's a distorted view.

Maybe Adams' view is more true for intellectual stuff? Like you can get muscle memory for physical tasks, but there's no real equivalent for the intellectual stuff, that the more complex a set of ideas gets the more of a house of cards it becomes, prone to collapse by some unforeseen, out-of-the-model force?

Stein quotes Libertarian billionaire Charles Koch:
If you believe, as for example Hillary does, that those in power are so much smarter and have better information than those of us in the great unwashed out here have--that we're either too evil or too stupid to run our own lives, and those in power are much better--you have what Hayek called the fatal conceit and William Easterly called the tyranny of experts.
The "so-called experts always get it wrong!" is the rallying cry of a certain type of populist. Joel Stein's point, though, is that there's the Meteorologist Fallacy™ you get stuck on the day they get it wrong, and don't notice how often they get it right:
Meteorologists are getting better at predictions, making the Meteorologist Fallacy™ even more ridiculous: three-day forecasts of high temperatures are now as accurate as one-day forecasts were in 2005, making a huge difference to people involved in aviation, commercial fishing, and last-minute three-day vacations.
And when I pause to look around me- most folks I know would be hard-pressed to make a decent cottage, never mind what it must take to build a skyscraper with toilets that can flush 40 floors up. Expertise clearly exists; the only question is, it what fields might it not apply, or where intellectual expertise starts to be used as a cover for more basic agendas.
Oy, speaking of trying to take down the "so-called experts" - Flat-Earther Mad Mike Hughes died in a homemade rocket.
Happy Mardi Gras!

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. "It's likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic," he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)
A big part of the key is going to be resist panicking. Be brave, be ready, we will get through this if and whenever it comes around. It's going to spread so widely because it is not as deadly - not to be blase about who gets hit, but this isn't germ-pocalypse.

But jeez, neither government nor the free market has done well with vaccines - not enough concern from voters, not enough of a clear path to near term profit. SARS was a warning shot, and we blew it off.

The Profane in Me Salutes the Profane in You.

I'm reading David Whyte's "The Three Marriages" (people's lifetime of a commitment to a relationship with a partner, to their work, to themselves) these days and thinking on how the externality of God, and the concept of there being a true measure and judge of all things, really molded me, became the fundamental story of who I am and how I relate to the world. I'm not saying it was the direct or only way to grow out of the particular religious upbringing I had, but I wonder if other faiths would have left me in a more useful, more self-actualized place.

The Hindu "Namaste", "The Divine in Me salutes the Divine in You" never really rang true for me, because I have no feeling for there being divine in me. Or you. Or anyone (In fact I half-jokingly asked my yoga instructor if there was any gesture saying "The Profane in Me salutes the Profane in You.")

Would Catholicism's greater respect for wonder and mystery have left me more open to a belief in inner light? That's just a scatter-shot guess. I know some Catholics, or former Catholics, who do seem to have that kind of ease, and others who seem to have imbibed more of the guilt and fear.

I've mused before on growing up as not just as the Sweet Talkin' Son of a Preacher Man, but as a Salvation Army "Officer's Kid" - witnessing my parents being commanded on where to live and what to do, pseudo-military style, their home provided and furnished and then changed up at will by an organization which in turn set itself as commanded by God... yow! That is more of a direct and all-encompassing God->kid chain of command than most kids deal with! And I think more so than for preacher's kids in other Protestant churches where the Pastor and Congregation have more autonomy in choosing one another. (Catholics of course have even bolder claims from God on down, but it doesn't become a family matter.)

And I guess there might have been some synergy with my self-aggrandizing as a clever, precocious kid. Parallel to me trying to force a love of jazz and classical, since that's what smart people liked, I fostered a love of science, since that was what smart people believed! Plus, as with my religion, science was an externalized source of The Truth. In both cases, the only meaningful - or perhaps transcendent - role the individual has is as a conduit for that external Truth. Everything else is just mundane and arbitrary.

As a teen, I had to shift away from active faith, when considering how many different faiths there were. if a Faith was True, if it represented a supernatural or at least objective absolute truth, then how on earth (or from heaven) did we get to have so many religions? What hubris the Believer, the person sure of their faith, displays -- to presume that all the believers in incompatible cosmologies are either deluded or being disingenuous! Absolute Faith seems so incompatible with universal empathy.

I suppose you can squint and take a "many paths" interpretation of all or at least most of the world's religions. Again, if I had more of a feeling for my own inner light, a better intuition on the legitimacy of self-actualization, "many paths" would feel like less milquetoast, makeshift compromise to me than it does now.

Instead, I guess Science is weirdly more compatible with the religious notions that formed me- science strives for doubt and skepticism and constantly putting itself to the test against The Truth, which it assumes exists, and would by definition be the same for all people who took the time to measure it accurately.

But of course Science is limited. It shouldn't be mistaken for philosophy, because "You can't get ought from is". Once your goal is selected, science can be useful in aligning your methods with your target, but it doesn't have much to say on what that target Should Be. (Maybe science can give you a better idea of the possibility space? But maybe not, since almost by definition that extends to the dark edges science has not yet brought light to.)

Yeesh. I'm in my mid-40s now and had my crisis of faith when I was in my mid-teens. So it took me about twice as long to figure out what was going on than it did to go on in the first place!

So I navel gaze a lot, but I appreciate when a new interpretation seems to provide a better explanation for aspects of me that have always seemed kind of weird. I've always noticed my own lack of a need for privacy... maybe that's just because I don't have a meaningful inner life worth shielding- and by trying to put good stuff out there, I can create value for the group (which is what matters) as well as get validation that is always best when it's external, because I don't trust my own self-serving evaluation to be as in line with the objective truth as what outsiders can tell me.

And a lack-of-inner-light helps explain my skepticism about the idea of personal growth (and resulting indifference to literature involving character arcs). I mean, there's just not much there to grow! People are who they are, they don't change all that much over time, myself included. Behaviors can change but it always seems to take a tremendous force of will.

I guess I should credit my estranged debating partner EB for cottoning on to some of this. He's noted a phenomenon where he tells me an idea that I reject at first and later come around to, often forgetting to credit him for it - his take being I just can't accept something if it comes from him, that I'm perpetually ad-hominem about it all.

I don't think that's quite fair; he's presented difficult to accept truths that are often married with things that I believe are untrue. Like he was right to note some of the influence the Salvation Army had in externalizing approval for me but also (operating under the misassumption that most of my dinners were communal) he'd go on to assume that's because I live in fear of rejection from the group - like if they rejected me, I wouldn't eat! But in practice I'm kind of indifferent to people's opinion except as a way of getting to an objective evaluation.

For example, I was always willing to stand up to teachers if they were being unjust - if a fellow student missed a question I got right, but thought it was an unfair trick quick question I happened to see through - I would fight for that student. (Sometimes I was an argumentative pain in the butt.) The teacher's authority can only rightfully come from being righteous in an objective sense. I suspect EB's irritation sometimes springs from me paying insufficient heed to his authority - and again, he's a really good thinker - he finds insult in the time it takes me to come around, and the places where I never will.

So I've been consistent for the first 8 or so days of my "walk half an hour over lunchbreak" club at work. A few days a coworker joined me, but mostly I listen to podcasts.

Another daily ritual is an after-lunch popsicle - uh, freezer bar. Whatever the hell Outshine bars are even when it's the creamy type.

New idea: I can't have my daily popsicle 'til I get to Inbox Zero. I've really been struggling with that lately, but it's a classic case where procrastinating on it hardly ever makes it better.

February 27, 2020

The kind of sad story of the Bible "oozing oil". Sometimes people argue that faith is important, but man are they eager for supernatural proof, or at least taking special delight where God has deigned to locally interrupt the laws of physical cause and effect he established.

February 28, 2020

The ideological slant of Choose Your Own Adventure books. I grew up with these, and hadn't thought much about the possible conservative ideological implications of "your fate is determined solely by your choices". I'm not sure I fully buy Eli Cook's view -- for example he points out that the author was scoffed at by publishers in the 60s but embraced 12 years later, though I would say that could say more about the fallibility of publishers than being a sure sign of cultural shift -- but it's interesting to consider the implications of the 2nd person, flexible genre.

I guess I still see the narratives as dominated by authorial intent. The writer demarcates a certain possibility space, and the reader picks a single path through it. Or on subsequent readings, recalls the previous experiences and gets to try something new. Or, what I think was my preferred method, sneakily peeks ahead before commiting to the full page turn... sometimes devolving into an exercise in how many bookmarks you can make with your fingers.

Eventually the reader can develop a map of the entire possible narrative space territory. (And a few books even play with the idea of unobtainable pages - only the transcendent explorer, or peeking pageturner - will know the full lay of the land.)

I suppose my cautious, bet-hedging engagement with the books reflected my developing view that there is an objective, God's (or Author's) Eye truth to things, and a likely best-path, but the optimal choices can be obscured.

I think despite Cook's reservations about peddling ideology that presumes choices and culpability, these books are pretty great - learning that you can make choices with consequences is also a good lesson for kids. I wonder if anyone makes similar books for young readers, or for a grownup to read along with a little person - that sounds like huge fun...
The podcast "Watch Out For Fireballs" recently did an episode on Atari. On their followup letter reading episode, they read the note I sent in (a scooch before 1h29m) - I try to pack a lot in - about writing my own Homebrew JoustPong/FlapPing in assembly, the book Racing the Beam (didn't realize they were going to cover that in the episode), and then a shout out to Batari BASIC for lowering the bar for folks and the communities on the Stella list and the website Atari Age. I'm grateful to all that!
I'm reading through [Kirk's Old Y2K PSA page]. It's definitely a review of a number of years of my life. And I remember managers suggesting that the systems would be replaced by then. Hah! Governments still use COBOL. I remember one of the "rules" I was told early in my career that systems have 20% of their code changed every year. That meant that in 5 years, everything had been replaced. What they didn't realize was that it was pretty much the same 20% that kept getting replaced, so any problems in the remaining 80% did not disappear.

Rammstein stage setup timelapse... what a feat of organization...

If you took professional wrestling, and McDonald's french fries, and the NRA, and infomercials about bogus products that don't work and you just mixed them altogether and you stick them in the back of a tacky white limousine, and you drive it around Central Park 500 times, you open the door, out would step Donald Trump.
Sam Harris

happy leap day!


via Jay Pinkerton's Superman Origin Comics
(the comics are hilarious but juvenile and a
tad foul-mouthed so clicker beware.)

UCLA's Nia Dennis rocking Beyonce, amazing mix of athleticism and fun.

Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years.

Socialism is what they called public power.

Socialism is what they called social security.

Socialism is what they called farm price supports.

Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance.

Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations.

Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.
Harry S Truman, Oct 10 1952

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