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April 1, 2020

I was talking about our kitty Dean's "vulturing" on a chair to Melissa, not realizing it was a bit of family-injoke, referring to Snoopy's classic play-act:

Photos of the Month March 2020


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new music playlist march 2020

Not a bad month! Can't believe I hadn't heard of Beyoncé's Homecoming before now... also I found out I am re-empowered to rip youtube to MP3s, thought that's always, always a last resort for me... but I had a backlog of things to check out.
Wynona's Big Brown Beaver
Driving indie. Freaky video!
From this tumblr post but I think the band was a favorite of my ex Mo.
Gipsy Kings
A more authentic feeling version than Dean Martin's...
Just randomly started singing it one day...
News Background A
Sammy Burdson
Sneaky sounding music... a little manufactured but good.
Background music in the movie "Logan Lucky"
Atomic Power
The Buchanan Brothers
Bluegrass with a cornball modern apocalyptic edge...
Like I write here, from the Hidden Brain podcast...

Crazy in Love
Sofia Karlberg
Total How To Make A Blockbuster Movie Trailer energy...
Maybe some show had it on?

Make Way For the King
Ohana Bam
Awesome big horn hip hop.
Some show I guess...
Mama Doh Like (Bubalups Riddim)
Some kind of carnival music... I've heard HONK variants "Mama Don't Like" that must have similar roots.
Lua in my band mentioned he had a cassette tape of this, youtube was the only place I could find it.

The Suburbs (Continued)
Arcade Fire
Such a haunting song.
One of the youtube rips. I think Amber was a big fan of these guys.

Still Alive (From "Portal")
The 8-Bit Big Band
Big Band cover of the brilliant video game song - really captures the sense of menace in it.
I think this was on the youtube list, but I was able to find a copy to buy.

Movin' On Up
Mama Digdown's Brass Band
Cover of the old Sitcom Theme - I had thought it would be a good band song for a long time.
A recommendation from the automated music system gnooisc I think I seeded it with Deee-lite, Pomplamoose, Rebirth Brass Band
Claw or Friend
Robbie Down
Indie sound.
Another recommendation from the music system gnooisc...

Tennis Ball [Explicit]
Hello Peril
Funny hiphop
From the movie "Always Be My Maybe"

Welcome (Homecoming Live)
Intro to her Coachella show - loved the giant band version "Do Watcha Wanna"
I can't believe this musical goddess going full on HBCU Marching Band flew under my radar!

Catastrophe Theme
Theme to the show Catastrophe... eclectic mix, banjo, yodeling... there's a lot going on here...
Another "find or rip"
Formation (Homecoming Live)
More Marching Band cover.... always love "Come on ladies, lets get in formation... come on ladies lets get information..." Adds some slow ponderous weight to the original..
From her Netflix special.

No Children
The Mountain Goats
Kind of beautifully cynical and bitter indie song.
From this tumblr entry "why would you watch marriage story when instead you can get just speedrun the experience of divorce angst by listening to the mountain goats’ ‘no children’ which is both more dramatic and also under 3 minutes long"

Sweet Dreams Seven Nation Army Mashup
Great mashup - love how it swaps one melody with the other's bassline...
JP Honk plays both of these... maybe we need to try this mashup...

Lilac Wine
Nina Simone
Stunningly haunting...
Used during the behind the scenes part of Beyonce's Homecoming
No One Lives Forever
Oingo Boingo
New Wave... I like the macabre lyrics a lot more than the sound.
This tumblr post.

Way Down in the Hole (87)
Tom Waits
Man, Tom Waits.
Background music in "Tiger King"

How Naked Are We Gonna Get (Live at Trainstation)
The Blow
Beautiful trainstation cover of their own song... I just love the gentle, tentative sexiness of it.
Youtube rip, from way back.
The Gunslinger
Tommy Guerrero
Like "News Background A", this seems suspiciously background-music friendly...I still dig it.
Background music in "Tiger King"

We are star mud, just a little wet star dust.
Tom Munch
(responding to the Bokonist and Babylon 5 quotes on my mortality quotes page)
me in front of my new virtual wallpaper, in a zoom hangout...

April 4, 2020

No reason to die all tensed up.
Robert "Hoot" Gibson, Space Shuttle Atlantis commander, encouraging a casual stoicism (even as an unknown number of heat tiles had been knocked off)
via astronaut Mike Mullane's book "Riding Rockets"... I think this is a great attitude to have these days. Maybe I'm too blasé, and if I felt more immediately threatened, I'd behave all too emotionally myself. Or maybe it's that weird religiosity I grew up with that enhanced my ability to weed out feelings while they were still young sprouts. But overall, whatever is going to happen is going to happen whether you go forth singing and laughing when you can or making yourself sick with worry about things that may or may not happen, or swamped by empathy for things you can't control, and that weren't your fault.

Anger and fear are only useful insofar as they help us make smarter tactical decisions and wiser strategic ones. To the extent we can make the same decisions without them (admittedly, an uncertain proposition) the more we can live our lives fully, despite our circumstances.

Another quote comes to mind:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Viktor Frankl
Also his thought "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."

UDPATE: former dorm-mate Mike Maines said this reminds me of one his favorite quotes which I found as:
Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
Hunter S. Thompson
(Mike cited it as "Trust in" but the core message is there)
On my devblog The Dumbness of Smartquotes - realized the smartquotes were breaking my phrase search on my blog, and then some further thoughts on autocorrect in general
Bad News Wrapped in Protein: Inside the Coronavirus Genome - deep dive into this f***er. The article reminds me of computer program analysis/disassembly I've seen. Bums me out that despite all our great technology, we can't simulate a cell well enough to get the answer to some of those questions...

the well-temperanced child

So when I was 5 months, I was recruited into the WCTU, the Women's Christian Temperance Union... (The Salvation Army requires temperance for its members so it's not such a stretch.)

I don't know what's worse, calling my mom "Mrs. James Israel" or calling me "Kirt".
The first humans to make water boil must have been super freaked out

Interesting theory about the toilet paper shortage it's not (just) hoarding - it's that TP for home is a different production line than for offices/institutions - and one is seeing a lot more use. And of course, once there is a demonstrated problem, people will grab more when they see it...

April 6, 2020

Straightened up the stand under the TV a bit yesterday, it's been a chaotic mess for a while.

Got sad about my tendency to have old video game systems around, ready to play, and then hardly ever doing so. A fair number of foolhardy purchases, a system I spend big-ish on, play a bit, and then not much again. (Like, the PS4 VR Helmet, where the only memorable thing I've done with it is a single X-wing mission in Battlefront - though in that case I was kind of goaded by my erstwhile buddy for not practicing what I preach in terms of neophilia.)

Or the older systems, stacks and stacks of games for some of those. Of course, it's extra melancholy... in the Aughts I'd run quarterly or so gaming get togethers, and now my pipe dreams of getting some like that again (or even adjacent to my birthday party) seems even more pathetic in the shadow of COVID. (Never been a big fan of online play - as with music streaming, I think the tech is moving away from my preferences.)

There's so much interesting stuff in games. So weird to think about how many programmer and designer hours went into so many of these, and how forgotten so many will be. I suppose that's true for other big media things, like movies. And when I think about culling my collection... I dunno... Should old a-game-ance be forgot, and ne'er brought to mind?

Finally, as I rejiggered the tv connections, sometimes it would lapse to broadcast TV. I don't watch much live TV, so commercials already seem a bit odd... and now, all the ones remade under COVID times are truly bizarre feeling. Toyota talking about how they will still keep their repair centers staffed in a socially distanced way, Taco Bell making some offer of free Doritos Locos on some specific day... "family" and "safety" seemed to be a big point of emphasis in a lot of them.
Oddly whimsical Soviet "There is No God" poster.

I suppose this is subject to "and now there is no Soviet Union" retorts...
YIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKES - Big Bird was slated to be on the Space Shuttle Challenger, the one that exploded. Good lord, I never thought the death of teacher Christa McAuliffe and the other astronauts could be the less-bad scenario.

April 7, 2020

I really gotta up my game...

Wisconsin Republicans are fucking evil, and the 5 if the 9 on the Supreme Court has got their back. "Oh does little snowflake want an absentee ballot? GUESS YOU SHOULDA THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE A WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC, HUH CHUMP?"

from the article:
"Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. There are more than 3,800 seats on the ballot, and a crucial state Supreme Court race. But the state's ability to conduct in-person voting is imperiled by COVID-19. Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself with an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote."
Seriously, what kind of brazen bullshit is this?

We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here..and isn't that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama.
Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's new Press Secretary
Well, it's not like Trump uses a press secretary (see Stephanie Grisham's 9 month reign sans an actual press conference) but still... these people make good ol' Baghdad Bob look like reliable sources.

the quarantine diet

Trigger/Content Warning: weight loss.

So, about a month into Quarantine/WFH and I've lost about ten pounds.

I have very mixed feelings about that.

I know for some people, it has been going the other way, and understandably so - life is that mix of extremely stressful and extremely boring that, combined with stockpiles at hand and a more sedentary lifestyle, means there's a tendency to gain.

For me, it seems to be in line with a few theories about me and eating:

1. I'm an opportunistic eater. So these days are a combination of "I should try to make our hoarded resources last" along with the selection being limited - tasty, but repetitive.

2. Exercise is important for many reasons, but not for weight loss, at least for me. (Possibly for more sustainable weight loss.)

3. A few times, I've noticed feeling distinctly unwell if I haven't eaten enough during the day. I don't have too many recollections of this happening before, at least not without band parade exertion, so I guess the theory is... I usually eat pretty steadily.

4. Conjecturing: when life returns to normal, my weight will probably rebound, at least somewhat. I mean, this kind of a lean time is just what our bodies are designed to cope with, to make adjustments when food is more scarce, followed by piling on pounds when it can

That first point is the most philosophically interesting to me. When I say "I should try to conserve", that's an objective, God's-eye-view sense of "should" - and I've worked out that in many aspects of life I feel compelled to subordinate any innate desires to that objective yardstick.

But most times, a wide variety of delicious food is more readily at hand - it's like the Universe is saying "Eat, Eat" and surrounding me with tasty things... those time it's really taxing to muster up the willpower to limit myself.

Anyway, thank heavens we didn't ditch the old Cuisinart coffee maker! Two mason jars full of Chock full o' Nuts (the coffee that has to constantly proclaim how it's actually nut-free) Arabica "New York Roast" put in the fridge once every 2 days is a fine ritual.

(In other health news: my pulled back mercifully ran its course in about a week.)
Husband just told me, "watching the federal government deal with COVID-19 is like watching the Ministry of Magic deal with Voldemort's return," and damn if that isn't the best take I've heard this month

April 9, 2020

y'all remember being 15? That was fucked up

#you hit 50 and get angry again

Trump rejected these excuses. He made three points, beginning with a simple rule: When the government fails, the president is responsible. "You always have to look to the person at the top," Trump told the Washington Post. In a CNN interview, he quoted President Harry Truman: "The buck stops here."

Second, Trump noted that the 9/11 plot succeeded because of poor coordination within the federal government. The FBI, the CIA, and other agencies "had a lot of information that, if it could have been correlated, it would have been very, very helpful," he explained. But these agencies "weren't talking to each other"--and that, he concluded, was a failure of "leadership." In a Fox News interview, Trump argued that "a good leader would have made sure they'd get along and they'd talk."

Third, Trump pointed out that in the months before the attack, Bush had received intelligence warnings. "George Tenet, the CIA director, knew in advance that there would be an attack. And he said so to the president," Trump told CNN. In a CBS interview, Trump added that "the CIA said there was a lot of information that something like that was going to happen." Trump faulted Bush for not heeding these signals. "George Bush had the chance," he complained in a February 2016 debate. "He didn't listen to the advice of his CIA."
American Death toll for 9/11: 3,000
American Death toll for COVID-19: 16,000 and counting

objectively objectionable

I've been thinking about these 3 comic panels, after an inadvertent offense on my part the other day:

I'm mulling this over in the context of increased awareness of my deeply ingrained worldview, the closest thing to faith that I possess: objective Truth - the most correct and universal way of interpreting a situation and providing us instructional "shoulds" - exists, but it is obscure, and it is as incorrect to lightly dismiss someone else's belief in what that Truth is (they may be more correct than you!) as it is to say "the objective Truth doesn't exist, and so therefore everyone can have their own Truth that is equally as valid."

In this context, Steve Trevor's semi-apology has three different framing interpretations:
  1. Steve's blunder should be overlooked, because his intent was good
  2. Steve's blunder should be dwelled upon, because Wonder Woman was offended
  3. Steve's blunder should be dwelled upon, because what he said was objectively objectionable
The question is complicated by.... eh, identity politics is the wrong word. But a sense of every action of a person springs from who they fundamentally are, at least at that moment. So when there is a transgression, it's framing the story of who that person is. Like to put it in the most fraught terms: a person says something identified as racist. So that person is *a* racist. And in a polarized age, that would mean they are on the wrong side -- and with a sense of identity as destiny, on the wrong side not just for the incident, but for all of life. The apple don't fall too far from the tree.

From a gender and race studies perspective, the crucial point is: who gets to control the narrative. Who determines what is objectively objectionable? No wonder transgressors get so defensive; they are often acting from a place of security and privilege, and that position is threatened if it is the transgressed against who are in control of reality and interpretation.

I guess the defense from the transgressors side is: but you know, some kind of reality does exist, it's crucial that we be as sober as possible in our assessment of it, and to allow anyone to manufacture insult + injury would lead to chaos, the potential for anyone to sow invisible rhetorical minefields of tremendous destructive power with claimed offence.

But neither side will fully trust the other. The accused transgressor can claim good or neutral intentions, but that claim is of an internal state and as difficult to prove as the received transgression. Furthermore, there's the "ignorance of the law is no defense" aspect too - that people should be expected to understand what is offensive, and that a kind of willful or neglectful ignorance of that is in itself an offence.

I do hope people get better at giving each other the benefit of the doubt: that felt offences are real, and being described proportionately, but that relatively few people we're engaging with have malice in their heart and are being deliberately offensive, and also a hurtful remark doesn't have to be a defining characteristic of that speaker.

April 11, 2020

One day, some system will run on code older than all living humans
BibianaAudris, /r/Showerthoughts
The reddit thread is worth checking out for folks who geeks on about old computers.
I only had the first sourcebook and never played Warhammer 40,000, but I kind of dug the grimdark world building - less crazy about some of where they went with it (the harlequin clowns especially, and the faux-egyptian terminator robo-zombies ) but still it's kind of interesting...

Anselm of Canterbury's ontological argument doesn't work on programmers because we know what a broken pointer is.

April 12, 2020


RIP John Conway. So many people's minds were opened a crack with the Cellular Automata of his "Game of Life"
One thing I've absolutely noticed about myself, and which should be true as you get older: it's not that you want to die, but you are less attached to life. You're less panicked.

"How should I think about this, Toni?" And I mean think. Not "How should I feel about this?" I know how I feel. But what is the right way to think about this? Because we would disagree about things, and lots of times she made me change my mind. And no one else has made me change my mind.

April 13, 2020

But scientifically speaking I think social scientists mean a particular thing when they use the term 'happiness' or 'well-being', and this is the definition I end up using in the course, which is that you can basically say you're happy if you have a lot of well-being in your life, and for your life. And what we mean by that is happiness in your life is the sort of... almost hedonistic kind of positive emotion-type stuff. You're happy in your life if you have lots of positive emotions, and laughter, and so on, and not many negative emotions, like relatively speaking there's not a tremendous amount of sadness, and anger, although we can debate about how much of that you want. But that's kind of being happy *in* your life. But there's another feature that the social scientists really care about, and that's you're happy *with* your life. And so that's basically your answer to the question, all things considered, how satisfied are you with your life right now?

Laurie Santos on Sam Harris' podcast. Her course "The Science of Well-Being" is the most popular course offered by Yale to date and she hosts the podcast "The Happiness Lab"
This two sided approach to happiness - happy in your life AND with your life - is a better answer to that issue of, most people would decline a drug that made them happy but dysfunctionally stupid forever... my previous answer was "well it's the 'wrong type' of happiness" but this dichotomy labels it more neatly

Non-Americans Are Baffled By Some Of The Things Americans Do In Movies (30 Tweets)Most of these were pretty much "yes" tho less so chips ON sandwiches
Melissa and I watched "SNL-from-home" last night.

Never anticipated that a side-effect of a major worldwide pandemic would be turning all entertainers who usually work with studio audiences into basically less-polished Youtubers.

It is fascinating to see entertainers homes though. (Especially SNL, where the same room is going to be used for multiple skits.)
You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.
Mr. Rogers

Third in (what is apparently becoming) a series:
Just something about that cat and that chair...
I'm grateful we're on the upswing for daylight! Third floor benefit, even on an overcast day on a fifth week of mostly being inside, the amount of natural light is helpful...
When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's gotta be.
King(?) Trump

The President doesn't have total authority. We have a Constitution. We don't have a king.
Governor Cuomo

April 14, 2020

I want a story about a king whose son is prophesied to kill him so the king is like "whatever what am I supposed to do, kill my own kid wtf is wrong with you" so he just raises him as normal, doesn't even tell him about the prophecy, and instead of some convoluted twist of events that leads to the king's murder the son grows up and when the king is very old and dying and in excruciating pain the kid is just like alright I'mma put him out of his misery.
The king's son becomes the new king, and is prophesied to defeat evil and bring an age of prosperity. His generals and knights all crack their knuckles but he pretty much ignores them and focuses on strengthening the infrastructure of his kingdom. Forty years later he is old and sick but still hearing his subjects' grievances, and a general's like "how will you defeat the prophesied evil now? You're old and weak." Another visitor, a teenager fresh out of the kingdom's public education system, looks at the general like he is an ignoramus. The king eradicated poverty, housed the homeless, taught the ignorant, ended class exploitation by abolishing the nobility and imprisoning the corrupt, and established a highly respected guild of doctors that recently figured out how to cure the plague. There are no brigands because there is enough wealth for everyone to live comfortably; hiding in the woods and taking trinkets from people simply doesn't make any sense for anyone but the desperate, and the people are not desperate. Evil is a weed, explains the teenager. It grows in cracked roads and crumbling houses and forgotten corners, rooted in indifference and watered by suffering. But the king demands that broken things be mended and suffering people be made well.

No evil lives in this kingdom, says the teenager. It starved to death before I was born.
broliloquy on tumblr... very "Terry Pratchett's Discworld" Energy...

Stephen Wolfram thinks he may have a path to unifying physics - he claims that, rather than starting with Einstein as axioms, Einstein's equations are emergent from the connected graphs he is starting with.

I certainly can't follow most of it! I was struck how computational irreducibility is a central theme to it. I think of this one quote from "Singleton", a story by Greg Egan, with the narrator talking about swapping out a deterministic CPU brain for his robotic daughter a quantum computer:
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.
That idea seems pretty central to Wolfram's thoughts.

It is sad yet beautiful we are seeing this even as we grieve John Conway - the connections to cellular automata such as his Game of Life, with simple rules iterated to provide complex, unpredictable(?) patterns, are striking.

Also: the idea that paths that split (like a quantum event happening one way or the other) but they often remerge - show why so often the quantum uncertainty doesn't matter.

Reading further, I'm sort of glad that he doesn't seem "spacetime" as a single thing... that at least matches some my intuitions - not that intuitions matter that much at this level of thinking.

Anyway, Stephen Wolfram is the kind of genius that pop-culture assumes Elon Musk is, though Stephen Hawking is more apt a comparison...

April 15, 2020

Sitting in your car outside of your house is self care. I can't explain it but if you know you know.
Man, that is true. I mean less true now that I'm never driving, but finishing a drive at night, turning off the radio, enjoying the silence and stillness for a bit before rejoining a loved one inside or just the hopeful coziness of one's room... so healing.
So, successful, if obvious, protip for finding paper goods in stock: ask. I asked a CVS shelver when they restocked (Tuesday night) and went first thing this morning. (Oddly, they have a vulnerable population hour but it starts an hour after they open.)
On my devblog, the Atari Portfolio and other early PDA fun...

Monday I noticed gratitude for more daylight; today I'm really noticing the pleasantness of an open window. Don't know if it's being inside so much because of COVID, or just a mild but long winter...
Alternate panel for Donkey Kong arcade game... love the take on Pauline and Jumpman...

April 16, 2020

I can tell you who didn't make it out. It was the optimists. [...] They were the ones who always said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' Christmas would come and it would go. And there would be another Christmas. And they died of a broken heart.

This is what I learned from those years in the prison camp, where all those constraints just were oppressive. You must never ever ever confuse, on the one hand, the need for absolute, unwavering faith that you can prevail despite those constraints with, on the other hand, the need for the discipline to begin by confronting the brutal facts, whatever they are. We're not getting out of here by Christmas.

I can so relate to this. Sometimes, especially if you're prone to anxiety or building up chains of steamrolling disaster, some naive optimism is in order, maybe. But the BEST optimism isn't contingent on external circumstances changing... it's facing facts, knowing you're not hiding anything from yourself, and embracing the existential truths - and that you will get through. Embrace the Suck, like the soldiers say.

And like Wavy Gravy said: “There's always a little bit of heaven, even in a disaster area.” In the meanwhile, 'til things change, or until they end, look to those.

April 17, 2020

What has two thumbs, solid React/Redux UI skills, and is going to be looking for a new job after COVID-related downsizing?
👍 👍
Updated my interactive resume:

April 18, 2020

I've been steadily using Woebot, a chatbot app that does a light form of CBT. It pointed me to this "whiteboard video" from a Carol Dweck lecture on helping kids to not grow up with fixed mindset:

I know there's some critique - but not really disagreement that some of the basic themes have something to them and are likely useful.
My wife and I play this fun game during quarantine, it's called "Why Are You Doing It That Way?" and there are no winners

You can't believe it's not butter? Buddy, almost everything is not butter

the bellcurve of economic suck

Dan Ariely on procrastination - he's been through a lot of harsh stuff, and he's an advocate for "reward substitution", giving yourself immediate rewards when having to toil at a project with a payoff that is far-off or uncertain.

Of course it takes a lot of discipline to do that; you're making semi-arbitrary pairings, rewards that don't directly come from the effort, and you have to be in control enough to not just gobble the reward without the work.

I am somewhere in the middle of the bellcurve of economic suck - a curve that has slid suckwards for nearly everyone. I'm between the folks who really feel the wolf at the door on one end, where rent and bills are absolutely looming on one side, and maybe with work experience that only makes sense in social times - and my peers who are muddling through, adapting to work from home but with something like stability, collaborating with people they know from the before times. Hopefully closer to the latter group, but we'll see.

(And that's the bellcurve for people who have stayed healthy, or muddled through a mild or medium case- but with 33K deaths in the US alone, how many of those people wish they had the luxury of fretting about the economics of it.)

I miss the goal structure of the workday - the fuzziness between worklife and homelife still got a little weird, but I could knock off at the end of a day and then think about what else I wanted to do. And I can still do that a bit, but it's always under the spectre of how maybe by not grinding more, I'm going to make my life worse for myself and loved ones.

And in the shadow of the religiosity I brewed for myself as a kid, that guilt feels a ton like a great example of the consequences of sin; in this case the sin of not going at 100% all day long, all weekend long. Trying to go flat out all the time is a bad idea for a number of reasons - among them, a denial that some large percentage of the final outcome will be the result of luck or good or bad poor decisions I made "in the before times"

Tangent: I found this poster on tumblr:

As one commentator said - "Farm equipment association going hard w the truisms". But also a reminder that things are bigger than we are, and our own efforts are necessary but not guaranteed sufficient to the outcomes we most want.

The work/relax decisions remind me of why I'm not much of an entrepreneur - unless you're wildly successful at making bank, able to turn on the cash spigot whenever you need it, life is always going to feel full of these tradeoffs of work and play. I guess good entrepreneurs enjoy the hustle, the chance to make the big win and know they did it themselves. (It's akin to why I don't have to worry about becoming a gambling addict, the rush of the win doesn't feel better to me than the grind of the losing.)

I'm (as always) a bit full of myself but I feel like I would be a productive, creating person even without having to find channels that still pay the bills. (Which is why I still permit these idle daydreams of some unsuspected rich benefactor swooping in and granting me early semi-retirement, freeing me to make porchfest websites and band stuff and teaching people to program and make virtual toys and also more comics about coping with death, and maybe even coping with the stuff that comes along before...)
Im sorry if I am wrong. My feeling and this is just my opinion : is if people are losing their businesses and homes after only a few weeks then were they actually thriving in the first place. If they were so strong they should be able to survive. Just saying.
Joyce Kelly, a friend on FB from my Salvation Army connections.
I think it's a great point on the fragility of our economic lives. As much as I question his wisdom on the economy and pretty much everything else, Trump was keeping the slope he inherited from the Obama-era recovery going - but there's a superficiality to so much of that. There are so many problems we haven't worked out - how to make a society that blends and balances capitalism's "Freedom To" and democratic-socialism's "Freedom From" so that we try to iron out some of the more egregious instances of bad fortune (being born in the wrong neighborhood, to poor parents, or coping with being in/of a subculture that is discriminated against) while keeping the incentives alive, the connection between hard, smart work and better results intact.
The risk of getting sick from handling mail or packages is extremely low and, at this point, only theoretical. There are no documented cases of someone getting sick from opening a package or reading a newspaper.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take precautions. After handling mail or packages or reading the newspaper, dispose of the packaging and wash your hands. If you still feel especially anxious about it, take guidance from the New England Journal study and just let mail and packages sit for 24 hours before handling them.
TL:DR; far and away the biggest threats seem to be proximity to infected folks (whether they are showing symptoms or not)

Also, clothing isn't so likely to carry contamination away, the way air flows around us and not into us means that most particles are ending up on the floors etc.
Facetimed with Cora. We co-played for some of it, her with her kinetic sand on her end and me with my Lego on mine... wasn't super interactive but probably pretty par for the course for two only children :-D

Working the message of embracing challenges, or as she put it's "pushing herself" - going for multiple layers with sand, or a snake complete with head and hissing tail etc.

Of course, having watched the end of "Lego Masters" - humbling. Though it makes me think it must be a very different experience playing with a vast supply of well-sorted Lego - for most kids, it's a resource management game (actually reading the interviews with some of the contestants, you could notice that some had much more Lego Privilege than others...)

not a form of acquiescence but a form of resistance

Melissa pointed out that I needed some kind of life outside of the screen, which is at least somewhat true. Yesterday for lunch I decided to tackle some fraction of the Harper's and Wired magazines I let build up lest year. Of course it's odd becaus that backlog is all from "the before time"...
If you're worried that the election of a populist demagogue with no apparent respect for democratic or constitutional norms has put the United States on the road to fascism, bear in mind the defining feature of totalitarian societies: they are places in which all modes of life are subsumed under the political, in which each citizen's most important relationship must be his or her relationship to the state. This is why totalitarian governments reliably shut down or take over religious groups, trade unions, and other voluntary associations. The ultimate aim of scaling back our political attention is not apathy but the creation of autonomous space for social, spiritual, and aesthetic experiences. If creeping totalitarianism is your worry, such work is not a form of acquiescence but a form of resistance.
I could see disagreeing with this statement, and saying that not struggling is an unacceptable form of giving up. (Though the strongest action I know in favor of this view is what I've heard of the philosophy with School of Honk, and why for being Honk! adjacent it doesn't get into politics; it's not always clear that blowing a trombone helps people who hear it change their minds about important issues, but building a community is and empowering people in the arts is good activism, and some of the radical inclusivity means not presuming the political views.)

It would nice to think that the American sense of individualism (challenging sometimes for people who see the value of coming together and with a democratically elected government being a bulwark against corporate bullying) might help prevent the kind of overt fascism Baha describes. I wonder if it there are more insidious forms though. The overwhelming factor in American politics seems to be 2-party polarization and while it might not be the government per se shutting down/taking over groups, most every group has to display its left or right allegiance and set of assumptions. (Remember Republican "Never Trumpers"? They seem to have melted. And on the left, there are a lot of circular firing squads - the concern for the oppression of so many groups makes for a lot of litmus tests. It's not clear that such diversity of opinion under either the right or left ideological banner is tolerated. )

Baha cited a C.S. Lewis sermon, presumably too young Oxford students wondering about the prospect of their education and of cultural pursuits in general while on the verge of war, though reading the original I see it was (unsurprisingly) less secular than Baha let on.
This indeed is the case with most of us: certainly with me. For that reason I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective, The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life". Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of cries, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never come. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumable they have their reward. Men are different.They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffold, discuss, the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.
Lewis seems to advocate for a blended view, then, where Christian duties hung over normal life but did not replace it.

(Thinking more on this - I think too few Western philosophies stress the importance of moderation for its own sake. If turning up some dial of virtue higher is better, if that virtue is truly good, than cranking it up to 11 should be better, right?)

Before then, though, he does make a case for one's care for the eternal soul being paramount:

If we do not believe [in the dominical doctrines of Heaven and Hell], our presence in this church is great tomfoolery.
This seems to be echoing his trilemma:
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
I believe that there can be tremendous value in Christianity, but think Lewis presumes both that everything the Bible says about Jesus has been divinely protected over the centuries, or that even if the message was well-preserved, that the "wise and good teacher" model was incompatible with his claims to divinity, which I don't think is the case.
Jim Yong Kim in The New Yorker, It's Not Too Late to Go on Offense Against the Coronavirus. Good I guess to see Massachusetts is one of the better states in terms of pursuing this. Sad that federalism combined with inept early denial and missteps on testing means that those benefits would not be nationwide.
Two more in the series... I think these will end up dominating my "Best Photos of April" set.

Netflix has unlocked a bunch of educational documentaries and put them on youtube...

April 21, 2020

Nothing between human beings is one-to-three. In fact I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is to six-to-five against.
Odds-maker Sam the Gonoph, in Damon Runyon's "A Nice Price" in "Money From Home".
The last quarter of that (starting with "all life") used to be my .signature file on Usenet, and I seem to be the only bearer of the phrase Google knows of.

I got it From William Kennedy's introduction to "Guys and Dolls", a re-release of Runyon's short stories published around the 1992 Broadway revival (my mom had just moved to NYC and we saw Nathan Lane and Peter Gallagher on stage in it... and I had been "Big Jule" in Euclid High School's production a year or two before.)

(Not sure what made me think of it - perhaps the C.S.Lewis trilemma yesterday made me think of "1-to-3 against"...)
You're born with too many marbles. You can afford to lose some. In fact, you only need one marble.
Larry Moyer
Larry was one of the "anchor-outs", an off-shore community of about 100 people in Richardson Bay off of Sausalito, living in abandoned and unseaworthy vessels (via Joe Kloc in Lost at Sea in Harper's.)
Got a bit chilly so I decided to double down on the hoodie action. But then I realized I was really rocking the watermelon angle.

And yet another Dean in the Chair pic...

Worthwhile videoNo one knew there'd be a pandemic, or an epidemic of this proportion - except Obama, 5 years earlier.

April 22, 2020

I just got a new laptop. Ordered a month ago, given the new uncertainty in my economic circumstances, the timing wasn't ideal, maybe - but at least I know I have a machine that would see me through a "Bring Your Own Device" workplace. (Also good to have a usable backup machine at hand, tbh.)

Anyway, new machine = time to bust out the stickers! Clockwise from bottom left, my old laptop, the cases of two work machines, and my new one, the MonkBook Air. I like sticker'd computers. They make it easy to tell one from another, for starters, and I dig the aesthetic, and what I think it says about me. (Not entirely complimentary things for every audience, I'm sure.) Also, I hope it makes a computer look less worthy of stealing...

I kind of wussed out, and the MonkBook has its stickers on a case. I decided I wanted a wall-to-wall, no whitespace, but i also ended up using a selection of stickers consistently nearer and dearer to my heart than ever - Cleveland ("You've Got To Be Tough!"), School of Honk ("I'd Rather Be Parading"), JP Porchfest, Boston ("Remain, Reclaim, Rebuild") - and I didn't want to obscure their messages, so I had to be careful with the additional layers.

Arguably, I have too many stickers...

Trump, who has met Kim in person three times and crossed the Korean Demilitarized Zone alongside the young dictator last summer, said they had developed strong ties.
"I've had a very good relationship with him," Trump said.
Trump has previously described "falling in love" with Kim and exchanging glowing letters that underscored their unusual relationship.
He said last week he received a "nice note" from Kim recently.
"I think we're doing fine," Trump said at the time.
Later, Pyongyang denied that Kim had recently sent Trump a letter and accused him of evoking the personal relationship for "selfish purposes."
What an odd, summer-camp-romance sounding thing.

Reminds me of GWB talking about Putin in 2001:
"I looked the man in the eye. [...] – I was able to get a sense of his soul."

(As the Putin character in The Capitol Steps put it:
"......very romantic")
Saving Your Health, One Mask at a Time - really good, common sense advice.

Masks and maybe even gloves are important for stores. But it's not too hard to make your house and even your car a reasonably safe and more relaxed sanctuary. Your risks will never be zero, but you can bring them down to the point of livability.

(Caveat: the article doesn't mention it but once someone has it in your home, things are clearly much rougher.)

Happy Earth Day, here's a piece by an old mentor of mine...

Earth Day 2020 from Jeffrey Ventrella on Vimeo.

Sophisticated new research links Hannity's coronavirus misinformation to "a greater number of Covid-19 cases and deaths." Take it with a small grain of salt but I think they're doing their statistical due diligence: FOX viewers who watched Sean Hannity who was blase and not talking much on Coronavirus in February made less cautious decisions, got sick, and died more often than FOX viewers who watched Tucker Carlson, who sounded the alarm more consistently.

What people watch matters. The further you get from reputable sources - sources who base their reputation more on being correct and fact-checkable most of the vs being in good political alignment most of the time - the more dangerous and unreliable your information is.

(that said, I recognize Vox has a political lean - but from what I hear about the paper, it seems legit.)
Alright, you probably knew this was coming... in the words of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist - Playin' the Cello:

Good kitty self-care isn't always pretty, but it can be kind of funny!

April 23, 2020


via Cracked - Man, that's so Evil Villain / Death Star looking - if we have literal Flat Earthers, there's gotta be some contingent who won't believe that the moon won't just rotate around once this is built and point a big laser at Earth... (more information from NASA)

April 24, 2020

Parallels with COVID-America and 80s Eastern Bloc - does raise the spectre of what would follow. it's a ramp that quickly leads to thinking, can we formulate shared goals for our society, which quickly launches to the existential questions of what do we find to be the point of life as individuals.

Poor Dr. Birx, you can almost see her trying to calm and re-center herself with the President's level of medical advice, on par with the My Big Fat Greek father gargling with Windex and using it for every treatment. And just the dummassery arrogance "oh yeah, good thinking sir, we never thought of that! we'll test that out" - followed by the brilliant closer, "hey, I'm the president, and you're fake news"
I am proud to consider myself a "hack," bearing in mind that a "hack" by definition is "A sound, reliable horse that can get you where you want to go with ease and pleasure in a reasonable length of time." Yeah, I'm good with that.
(i.e. they "fly (or write) by the seat of their pants")
Sheila G's Meyere Lemon Brownie Brittle taste EXACTLY like the old animal-cracker like cookies you used to get in Happy Meals... weird when you stumble on a flavor nostalgia you didn't realize was there.

April 25, 2020

poem emerging from the fog of drifting asleep:

Unlike This

In a world not too different
from this one
I'm the person
fluent in telling you
things you need to hear

April 26, 2020



April 27, 2020

Absolutely not meant as any kind of critique of or even suggestion for the parents out there - I think there are a dozen reasons why this sounds intriguing on paper but would have problems in reality, especially these days (both in the "this decade" and "this quarantine" sense.) But still thought-provoking, and an invitation for us to think about what our own respective upbringings were like - to the extent that we can remember!

April 28, 2020

An online friend of mine, Matt McIrvin, was talking about a cassette with some simple public domain-ish games he got as a throw-in when he got his first Atari 8-bit computer. It made me think of one of my favorite software toys, "Jane's Program":

(I keep forgetting the name of it, looking for it to be "Jesse's Program" "Jane's Game" or something like that.)

It was made by Douglas Crockford, who worked on a lot of Atari stuff including Lucasfilm's games, and later he became famous in the Javascript world - partially by helping to popularize the use of JSON, showing how simple collections and maps were much easier for humans to understand than all the pointy and obnoxious bits of XML.

(It's interesting looking at his career trajectory vs, say, Jim Butterfield, whose tech career seemed to rise and fall with the 8-bit Commodores he established his name with.)

Ha, though I just realized Crockford was not also the "De Re Atari" guy- that was Chris Crawford... an easy enough mistake to make.

Anyway, "Jane's Program" is lovely, and honestly would be a tricky thing to replicate even with today's abundance of processing power - it's not immediately obvious what kind of data structure would best capture the blocks as whole objects (with elasticity and velocity) as well as a chunky particles "blocking" columns and supporting or colliding with particles from other blocks.
Trying to find a video for the early APX Crockford game "Burgers!"- so far I just found this manual, and it's striking how oddly philosophical Crockford gets in it. (Update: found this video but I guess the player didn't have the needed paddle controller...)

To be read at the memorial service of Edwin F. Taylor

I am co-facilitator of The First Church in Belmont Unitarian Universalist "Science and Spirituality" reading and discussion group. For many years it was capably lead by physicist Edwin F. Taylor. Edwin's life has shifted gears and he no longer attends the group, and while his death is not imminent, it is on his mind. He has prepared a text to be read at his memorial service, and my own recorded thoughts on mortality is what put me in a select group requested to review and tender suggestions... but it was a beautiful and touching piece from the first draft I saw.

If We Did Not Die

Edwin F. Taylor

[Two readers, one to read the text, the other to read the quotes formatted in blockquotes. Please speak slowly, one hundred words or fewer per minute.]

When I was a graduate student at Harvard, the Crimson newspaper ran a column by David Riesman, a Harvard sociologist. One sentence jumped out at me.
If we did not die, I would have no hope for man.
This sentence has rattled around in my skull for more than sixty years and forms the basis of this meditation.

Turn Riesman's saying into a positive statement. Change "man" to "humanity" to make it inclusive. Add the word "all" to make it universal:
The fact that we all die gives me hope for humanity.
The death of a child is tragic. So was the death of my father at age 55 in a mountain climbing accident. Here we will limit ourselves to death in old age, which is my good fortune.

My thesis: Death in old age contributes to life, both the life of the individual and the well-being of humanity.

The playwright Samuel Beckett denies my thesis and uses death to tell us that life is meaningless. In "Waiting for Godot" Pozzo declares:
They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.
Humans rebel against mortality. Those with rank, power, or genius often use these tools to attempt immortality. The report of Jesus' resurrection made him, for his followers, an immortal. Saint Paul offered every Christian spiritual immortality as a believer in the resurrected Christ.

The poet William Cullen Bryant suggests that death provides motivation to live a good life.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
My wife Carla often said that we grieve about everything we will miss after death but rarely grieve about what we missed before birth. Leave it to Shakespeare to turn this symmetry into poetry.
                   our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The poet Shelley too pondered the fleeting nature of both life and fame. In his sonnet Ozymandias he describes the monument of an ancient ruler on which the inscription embodies the uselessness of worldly ambition. The sonnet ends with the words:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The Great Pyramid of Egypt is another "colossal wreck" from which "level sands stretch far away." A paid army of citizens worked with dedication for twenty years to erect this only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World. Scholars now understand that the Great Pyramid was designed to be a resurrection machine for Pharaoh Khufu. A pair of tunnels, one from each side of his burial chamber, connected it to the outside world. Every night Khufu's spirit traveled out through these tunnels and ascended to become a star in the heavens, a star that showered blessings upon every Egyptian.

By good luck, when I was inside the Great Pyramid in 1978, I discovered a path to one of these tunnels, a path cut through the rock by thieves. My dollar pocket flashlight revealed the tunnel's cross section to be square, about six inches on a side. Straight lengths of this tunnel, each eight to ten feet long, connect Khufu's burial chamber in a sweeping arc to the outside world. The pair of escape tunnels for his spirit were a working feature of Khufu's "resurrection machine."

The cathedrals of Europe contain burial crypts for the famous. Most of those buried there expected eternal life. Prominent families funded elaborate side-chapels where their members were buried. English poet and dramatist Ben Jonson insisted that he be buried in the vertical position, standing up. Jonson said to the Dean of Westminster Abbey, "Six feet long by two feet wide is too much for me."

"The fact that we all die gives me hope for humanity."
David Riesman felt that without death humanity could not move forward. Even a genius has but a few truly revolutionary ideas. Albert Einstein created special and general relativity between the ages of 26 and 37. During the remainder of his long life, Einstein's fame and some of his work was a drag on physics. He hated the idea that quantum mechanics predicts probabilities, not certainties. He claimed that "God does not play dice with the universe." Well, it turns out She does!

Steve Jobs did not share Einstein's blindness about quantum mechanics. Here is a central point of Jobs' 2005 speech to the graduating class at Stanford University:
[D]eath is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. . . . Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
I rest my case that death contributes fundamentally to our individual lives and to the well-being of humanity.

But why must we ALL die? Why not limit death to those who would hold us back in some way? You know the answer to that: No person limited by the accepted truths of his or her era can know which proposed innovations are blind alleys and which few will carry us to surprising goals. No, we must all die, preferably in old age.

The pillars of my life are not built of stone like the Great Pyramid. These pillars are, first, my children and, second, my textbooks, particularly those on special and general relativity.

God willing, my children – and Carla's child – sit among you. They turned out well and bless this world with professional lives and children of their own, as Pharaoh Khufu's spirit among the stars blessed his people.

Writing textbooks thrilled me. I found breathtaking the power of a well-edited phrase and the way a small handful of fundamentally simple equations embody the mighty physical structure of the universe -- and predict its action. I truly felt that to express a beautiful theory with accurate and comprehensive clarity is to "bring it into being," at least for the reader.

More: To summarize this structure in a textbook gave me extended tutorials from co-authors John Archibald Wheeler, who resurrected general relativity from obscurity, and Edmund Bertschinger, who is its master. We tried out scores of sequential chapter drafts with students worldwide. Their comments helped us to present these subjects powerfully and effectively.

In addition to my children and textbook writing, I was inspired by humans that have gone before. Among those from our nation: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. Rank upon rank of others worldwide illuminate for us what it means to be human at the highest level. The columnist Roger Cohen memorializes such "great souls."
Great souls resemble the elements in their immensity. They absorb everything -- pain, injustice, insult, folly -- and give back decency and kindness. . . . They come into being through unflinching confrontation with life's spears. They reach quiet. Discipline is the backbone of graciousness. Stoicism is the other face of wounds. In the most beautiful smile, painful knowledge hovers. . . .

Life hangs by a thread. Pay attention to its ephemeral gifts.

My son Lloyd suggests that we might greet death with more gusto by following the advice of Hunter S. Thompson:
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"
Selah, amen, and farewell, Edwin

Incomplete References:

Great Pyramid: National Geographic DVD "Engineering Egypt"

William Cullen Bryant: The end of his poem Thanatopsis

Thanks to Kirk Israel, who has thought about death for a long time, and to Downing Cless, a professional dramaturge, who had many suggestions and showed me how to turn this into a performance piece.

Free download of relativity books at spacetimephysics.org and exploringblackholes.org

i am mine

Armed with a new laptop I decided to try and gather all my saved files in one place - random junk, old photos and projects and programs and what not- gigabytes and gigabytes of it.

It's weird how much there is in life, and how much of it we forget!

As I think about curating this giant heap, I think of something I wrote a few weeks back, apologetics for my nostalgia :
Again, I celebrate myself and my past, sometimes to an unseemly degree. But that's all I have, you know? I think about stories of old folks on their deathbed who, like, wish they had had more sex and what not - or to put less juvenile-y: deeper, better relationships, that sort of thing. And there's not a lot glamorous about my life and my loves or my history in general - it was good, and I did the best I could with what I had then, the same way I'm doing what I'm doing now, though now I have a little more insight to what drives me at fundamental levels. But, glamorous or not, it was mine.
Of course, in this time of quarantine, certain videos or photos take on this stupid sense of foreboding...

But going over the old material... it's a way of reclaiming my past. As it all slips into foggy memory, it's tough to remember that those were real times, as real to me then as my now is to me now.

I just thought of the case of Joël Aubin, a man knocked down with Alzheimer's at the unbelievable age of 38. Even as his mind was dissolving, there was a a certain Pearl Jam song he was fond of citing, and I'm playing it now: I Am Mine...

I am mine, you are yours. Try and enjoy it and cherish that as much as you can. Even the broken pieces have something to show you.

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