2020 May❮❮prevnext❯❯

May 1, 2020

That Squiggle of the Design Process (via)
Awesomest Rube Goldberg Machine Tweet - and this tweet was great too.
Also this one

april 2020 new music playlist

May 2, 2020
Kind of a slow month, not surprisingly. My friend Arun gave me a birthday gift of a lot of music, and while I'm super selective about what I add into my collection, it's been nice skimming through and finding some real gems.

Super goofy but fun 5 star song!

Watch the World
Ben Cocks
Kind of sweet indie song.
From a "Farming Simulator" trailer video.

Ieva's Polka, Ievan Polkka
Such charming and unintelligible (to me) a cappella!
from Arun's collection.

The Squat Song
Super goofy song promoting squatting... but so funky! Albeit in a very polished way.
Been on my "find an mp3 list" for a long while.

Mississippi Goddam (Live at Carnegie Hall, New York, 1964)
Nina Simone
Racism protest song. Not that there's any reason for Boston to feel smug.
Beyonce's Homecoming video introduced me to Simone in general.

Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime
Really melancholy song, especially in the context of the movie.
Recently saw a film series version of my favorite movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
John Prine
Prine wasn't much on my radar before his death, heard this was a campfire song in some parts.

Rebirth Jazz Band
Interesting that this one doesn't have the classic bassline. Also, not the version I'm listening to, but this longer version adds the lyric "Oh Lord Oh Lord, Tell Me What Did I Do Now" which is less square than "Herbie Hancock Curiosity is Good" I came up with to try and keep my band in time.
from The Street Brass Podcast

Bad Education
Tilly And The Wall
I love shouty women singing.
from Arun's collection.
James Bond Theme (Moby's Re-version)
Nice James Bond theme cover, always love songs that play w/ the big brass.
from Arun's collection.

Let's Get Lost
Cyrille Aimée
Sweet French and Bouncy
from Arun's collection.
Rich Girl (Remastered)
Daryl Hall & John Oates
Hall + Oates were kind of under my radar. Man, I wish I had some old man's money like that.
My friend Sophie posted the Hall and Oates Emergency Hotline: 719-26-OATES
Nice old schol hiphop.
Melissa pulled up a classic hiphop Spotify playlist.
Distant Pyramids
Sight of Wonders
Kinda cornily "middle eastern"
from this infographic animation on oil production
For Her
Fiona Apple
Oof. I wanted to skim through the knew Fiona Apple album, I picked this one for the percussion, but man are the lyrics tough.
Just making the rounds as a bit of Quarantine time art.

Photos of the Month April 2020

May 3, 2020

Open Photo Gallery

Daddy's at the food store, Mummy's out of town,
She's working at the hospital since Rhona came to town,
Hide away, hide away, Miss Rhona's come to town,
Hide away, hide away, she's come to take us down.
Miss Rhona's at the doorstep, I'll keep 6 feet away,
But Grandma needs the paper, I'll take her some today,
Hide away, hide away, Miss Rhona's come to stay,
Hide away, hide away, we can't come out to play.
But Grandma needs the paper, I'll take her some today,
And here's a note from Rhona, she wanted me to say,
Hide away, hide away, keep 6 feet away,
Hide away, hide away, she took us down today.
jus-tea - An attempt to make a Ring Around the Rosie for this time - a future kids song with low-key menacing lyrics. That link has one artist, Alice Dillon who really ran with it, but I like this first pass.

May 4, 2020

Poking around the website "The Video Game Kraken" I ran into Cube World by Radica Games Ltd - a toy line I have just the faintest memory of, but is so far up my alley it should set up a mailbox.

It's a collectible series of magnetically linking boxes and communicating boxes, each with a little person on an LCD screen. The idea captures the same artificial-creature charm of the Tamagotchi, but without the "care and feeding" aspect. (But using movement detection for some basic interactions) I think the commercials give a flavor of it:

and then later they expanded beyond just LCD screens, kind of breaking that tiny 4th wall with real world peripherals:

It's super charming when one resident climbs into the neighbor's box and they interact. I'm really curious if anyone has analyzed the interbox communication protocols - it looks like a new box can "teach" animations to its neighbors, rather than everything a box can display being wired in at the factory, but I'm not sure.

Here's one person's large collection:

I guess I will resist the urge to add another set of tchotchkes to my life, but I really do find these things to be sort of inspiring. Ever since the Game Boy and PalmPilot I've been enamored of cheap LCDs and what they can do...

May 5, 2020

From a tumblr entry about a Press Start! (Retro Gaming) Series by Greg Dmnt.

Super cool use of the design cues of the various old game consoles...

May 6, 2020

From error to error one discovers the entire truth.
Sigmund Freud

Man, I wish Apple stores were open so I could experience Apple's adaptation of the iPad cursor for better use with a trackpad... I love how the article pointed out the breakthrough of the very first mouse cursors - the idea of the cursor being the user's tiny abstract avatar. (Anyone who has played Atari 2600 Adventure with its little box shaped player will immediately understand...) And the further idea that on a regular touchscreen, that avatar is actually your fingertip. (But that means when you withdraw your finger the avatar vanishes!)

Anyway, the near bio-logical clinginess of this new cursor looks like it would feel amazing. (Though hopefully more organic and less brittle than Photoshop clones' "snap-to" which can sometimes be frustrating.)

May 7, 2020

Harness the power of an enormous let-down.
Maria Bamford

The important thing about stand up comedy is to call whatever you're doing -- standup comedy.
Maria Bamford

May 8, 2020

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
Wilkins Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield


Shot in "Portrait Mode", added "Dramatic Cool" filter, then on my laptop I got rid of my thumb behind his head first with a clone tool to replace the thumb with reading material, and then by making a grayscale layer copy behind and erasing bits of the front color layer. I wish I had better Photoshop mojo but I think this came out ok.
Work in progress... Melissa was mildly impressed by my ability to freestyle cut block letters

May 9, 2020

God's covenant with his people begins with a promise to the old and childless Abraham that his descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky. This promise is advanced with the birth of a son, Isaac, but God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac atop Mount Moriah. From the historical point of view, we know that this is a test of faith: Abraham will bring Isaac up the mountain and bind him for the sacrifice, but God will intervene before it is completed. Yet it is in the nature of such a test that one can't *know* it to be a test at the time. Abraham must show himself willing to do something inexcusable, and the fact that he never actually does it is beside the point. What's more, he does not tell anyone--not even Isaac--what he is doing. He suffers the anxiety of that trip up Mount Moriah alone, suffers even the possibility that he has misunderstood God's command, that he is about to do something unforgivable. Finally, having passed the test, he descends the mountain again and returns to his old life, proceeding as though nothing had happened--as indeed, objectively, nothing did.

For Kierkegaard, this was the nature of the truly religious life. It entailed an inward turning toward God, one that could not be reduced to a moral law. In the preceding decades, great effort had been made to rationalize Christianity and situate it as the foundation of a universally binding ethical code. The problem, from Kierkegaard's perspective, was that Jesus did not call us to obey a set of rules; he called us to love. It cannot be that adherence to an ethical code is the highest life, because it is possible to obey every rule placed in front of you without ever feeling love in your heart. To the aesthetic and the ethical was added a third category, the religious, which was beyond both.
As a person not blessed with faith, I think a lot about the story of the Binding of Isaac. Actually, I do have a strong unwavering faith- but is wrapped in an impenetrable shell of anti-faith: at the core, there exists an Objective Truth, but it is obscured in the certainty of uncertainty. You can make decent guesses at the shape and form of it, but asserting you know it is a kind of blasphemy.

In this context, being asked to do an apparently monstrous deed in the name of faith is really tough to distinguish from being asked to a monstrous deed in the name of tremendous self-delusion.

Which is why I lean Humanist - in the face of certain uncertainty we have to lean into principles such as the golden rule, and other truths that seem pretty close to universal, and have some hope that common ground across faiths tells us something of what the obscured Truth actually is.

(Also I feel like I should know more about Kierkegaard than I do, given how cool his name is.)
Not really my cuppa tea, but sometimes I think about the sexy yeti from the Church of the Subgenius...

Lisa Hanawalt of Tuca+Birdie and Bojack Horseman (and Baby Geniuses podcast) wrote a comic on Pride and Prejudice and Horniness during a time of quarantine...

Michael Sorkin's 250 Things an Architect Should Know

three kirkish reflections in pop culture

May 10, 2020
"my mother told me once that when l was three years old, my potty lid was closed, and instead of me lifting it, I shit my pants."
"lovely story."
"the point is, i'm not the type of person...who'll disrupt things just so I can shit comfortably."
Dante Hicks and Randal Graves in Kevin Smith's Clerks
How nice--to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.
English Colonel in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five
These are 3 bits of pop-culture that rattle around my head more often than most things, probably because they reflect parts of me.

My life's central theme of "the important thing in life is to try to align yourself with the objective best, but that you must never feel certain that you know what the best is" leads all 3 of these things to resonate with me.

In Dante's case: I figure things are the way they are for a reason. It's not that I don't have preferences, but I'm careful in asserting them. And if there's something I don't have much of a preference for, I REALLY don't have a preference for. It's not passive-aggressive "I want it to be one thing but I want to see if you can figure it out and will blame if you get it wrong" - if you make a decision affecting both of us after I demure, and in retrospect it turns out to be wrong, I don't blame you! It's true I desperately want to avoid being at fault, but I'm happy to look for a consensus best guess, and if it's wrong, it's wrong,no biggie.

And in the Kelso/Jackie thing- just like I don't have respect for my own intuitive preferences, I can sometimes resent people complaining things out of my control. Yes, I know the joke of the scene is that there WAS something Kelso could have done... and I often am good with sacrificing my own small preferences if it serves the good of the group or beyond. But it's so frustrating to me that most people, including folks I love, don't have the same equanimity about things that comes naturally to me, an equanimity that I try and foster a bit.

Finally, the Vonnegut. It way overstates how I feel - I do feel plenty of things, but I also curate my emotions, stop things from snowballing. When situations are out of my control, when situations aren't my fault, and/or when situations aren't affecting me or my close group... I have trouble throwing my heart into it. I still act in accordance of working for justice for everyone, even people outside my local group, but it's kind of intellectualized. I disapprove of the current administration greatly, I think it's stupid and damaging to things I hold important in a thousand ways, but I try and disengage from the culture of outrage. I guiltily second guess that sometimes, like maybe you have to foment that sense of disgust in order to provoke more and better action (not to mention to show your bona fides to your local group), and maybe it too much flaunts my privilege of not being in a group most affected by it. But it's also a kind of self-care.

I do know of one strong emotional preference: that of subjugating my intuitive emotions to rationality. That's how I *feel* I'm being a good, thinky person. I have a second emotional preference too - having my ego protected. Seeking assurance that I'm pretty smart and useful... that my existence is justified by those two things.

May 11, 2020

Random Videogames-ness:
About 5 years ago, Rocket League, a video game about acrobatic car soccer, came out:

What's interesting how this game is the clear successor to one of the very first games to use a dedicated microprocessor, Exidy's 1977 "Car Polo":

(I think that game might have an option for AI controlled opponents? Which would really be pretty impressive for the era!)

My mom sent me a NY Times Magazine issue w/ a really beautiful tribute to Weird Al (centered on the concert tour I saw with Liz and Sophie last summer, specifically the performance the day before we saw it)

The article is surprisingly meaty - Weird Al really is crazy wholesome, there's a kind of Mr. Rogers energy behind the goofiness. He has really meant a heck of a lot to LEGIONS of nerds. (Also the article really examines how even the goofiest of lines has been lovingly poured over for exact rhyme and meter.)

For me, he was the crucial gateway to getting over myself enough to bring pop music into my life - as a kid I felt it was critical that I live the life of a smart person, and since smart people liked classical and jazz, why, that's what *I* liked, of course. But since Weird Al was *making fun* of the music, I could appreciate it - and eventually, pop-music itself. And that has enhanced my life greatly.

May 12, 2020

Interesting ads on FB for Litiholo, make your own holographic plates at home.

Holograms are amazing - a flat plate can totally capture all this 3D information. Of course they aren't dynamic or projected like R2D2 beaming the image of Princess Leia, and they were fiddly to light properly for best viewing, and you so you don't see them that often. Way back when there would be popup stores at malls selling 'em, but like Magic-Eye (another interesting way of getting 3Dness out of a 2D medium) culture has kind of moved on. (Hey, remember when 3D TVs were gonna be the next big thing?)

When I was in sixth grade I took a class that made holograms! Besides the plates and a laser I think you needed a darkish room but most importantly something like a sand table to damp vibrations.

I was (surprise) a little pretentious, and when it came time for the final project, I decided to go for an austere minimalism, just like a sphere or two and a cylinder (marbles and a stack of round flat magnets). Other kids loaded up there final hologram prints with like chess pieces and toy cars and what not. I learned a good lesson that day, minimalism often sucks.
If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.
Katharine Hepburn

May 13, 2020

RIP Little Richard

on Italo Calvino's "The Complete Cosmicomics"

May 14, 2020
I finally finished Italo Calvino's "The Complete Cosmicomics". In retrospect, going for the "The Complete" may have been a mistake. It has been my "oh yeah I should read another chapter this morning in bad" book since before quarantine. (I know it's a bit foolish to track and then be vain about how books I get through in a year, especially one as disruptive as this one, but still.)

So, a very poetic and playful read - most of the chapters start with an epigraph from an astronomer or a geologist, and then the story is a kind of fanciful exploration of living through that event - often with a recurring narrator "old Qfwfq" who has lived through planetary formation, evolution, the making of matter itself, etc etc. (I think Alan Lightman's "Mr g" took may have taken a cue from it.)

(If you have time for just one short story, check out The Distance of the Moon)

It was a rich and free and contented condition, my condition at that time, quite the contrary of what you might think. I was a bachelor (our system of reproduction in those days didn't require even temporary couplings), healthy, without too many ambitions. When you're young, all evolution lies before you, every road is open to you, and at the same time you can enjoy the fact of being there on the rock, flat mollusc-pulp, damp and happy. If you compare yourself with the limitations that came afterwards, if you think of how having one form excludes other forms, of the monotonous routine where you finally feel trapped, well, I don't mind saying, life was beautiful in those days.
Italo Calvino, "The Spiral"

'I would like to understand.'
'Everything, all this.' I gestured towards my surroundings.
'You'll understand when you've forgotten what you understood before.'
Italo Calvino, "The Origin of the Birds"

Everything summons us to death; nature, as if envious of the good she had done us, announces to us often and reminds us that she cannot leave us for long that bit of matter she lends us, which must not remain in the same hands, and which must eternally be in circulation: she needs it for other forms, she asks it back for other works.
Bossuet, Sermon sur la mort

As for those who so exalt incorruptibility, inalterability, I believe they are brought to say these things through their great desire to live a long time and through the terror they have of death. And not considering that, if men were immortal, these men would not have had an opportunity to come into the world. They would deserve to encounter a Medusa's head, which would transform them into statues of jasper or of diamond, to make them more perfect than they are . . . And there is not the slightest doubt that the Earth is far more perfect, being, as it is, alterable, changeable, than if it were a mass of stone, even if it were a whole diamond, hard and impenetrable.
Galileo Galilei, Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi, giornata I

That morning the city was celebrating Consumer Thanksgiving Day. This feast came round every year, one day in November, and had been set up to allow the shops' customers to display their gratitude towards the god Production who tirelessly satisfied their every desire. The biggest department store in town organized a parade each year: an enormous balloon, in the shape of a garishly coloured doll, was paraded through the main street, held by ribbons which sequin-clad girls pulled as they marched behind a musical band. So that morning the procession was coming down Fifth Avenue: the majorette twirled her baton in the air, the big drums banged, and the giant made of balloons representing 'The Satisfied Customer' flew amidst the skyscrapers, obediently following a leash held by girls in kepis, tassles and fringed epaulettes, riding on spangly motorbikes.
Italo Calvino, "The Daughters of the Moon"

To explode or to implode--said Qfwfq--that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to expand one's energies in space without restraint, or to crush them into a dense inner concentration and, by ingesting, cherish them. To steal away, to vanish; no more; to hold within oneself every gleam, every ray, deny oneself every vent, suffocating in the depths of the soul the conflicts that so idly trouble it, give them their quietus; to hide oneself, to obliterate oneself: perchance to reawaken elsewhere, changed.
Italo Calvino, "Implosion"

The Sun Has No Chill

How lucky we are
That nearer the beginning
When all the atoms
The bits and parts and pieces of everything that jelled and condensed and clumped and gathered and the biggest piles ignited - FOOMF! - into suns, incandescent ravaging furnaces of light and hot

That some of the matter
Kept its distance, reticent --
Gathering in cooler places --
...Still drawn by that great sun hub, sure --
Warmed by it, Illuminated by it...
But still more free to do its own thing

(Poem inspired by Italo Calvino's "Cosmicomics")
How Two Developers Made A Living With Awful Games - I was at the Global Game Jam @ MIT where Alex Schwartz and Ziba Scott prototyped this gaming of the game system, making an automated tool to churn out countless crappy themed slots game - type in a keyword, get a slot machine full of google image search results for it.


May 15, 2020

Continuing a small tradition of when an illustrator is open for commissions I go for a new work for my Alien Bill Gallery...

This one by papercutie.

May 16, 2020

I NEVER restore all old tabs. If I lose them in a restart, they're gone. It is a blessing to be set free from a prison of my own creation

May 17, 2020

If you can't fit your house *in* an airplane, you could try putting it *on* one. That's how NASA transported the Space Shuttles across the country using a specialized Boeing 747 which carried the Shuttle on its back. To carry the Space Shuttle orbiter, the carrier aircraft has a special mount that protrudes from the top of the fuselage. This mount fits into a socket in the belly of the Shuttle orbiter. Next to the mount is an instructional plaque, which features the single best joke in the history of the aerospace industry:
Randall Munroe, "How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems"

It's technically possible that the copy of this book that you're reading is indestructible. Sure, it seems unlikely, but you can't definitively rule it out without trying. There's no nondestructive test for indestructibility.
Randall Munroe, "How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems"

Why are you inclined to interpret nature that way rather than, say, in the more cosmically harmonious manner of the Dalai Lama? You interviewed him for one of your documentaries.
I advise you to go outside on a clear night and look out into the universe. It seems utterly indifferent to what we are doing. Now we are taking a very close look at the sun with a space probe. Look at the utmost hostility of the hundreds of millions of atomic bombs going off at the same time in its interior. So my personal interpretation of nature comes from taking a quick look at the stars.

How do you derive meaning from life if life is indifferent?
Life is not indifferent. The universe is indifferent. But just trying, itself, is something I should do.
I feel like I should learn more about him and his work.


May 18, 2020
One of the things I miss most from my old job was a certain slack channel - "#foolish-idea-friends" (channel name changed to protect the guilty.)

The heart of the slack channel was an ever-growing number list of foolish ideas - concept pitches. A few basic rules were established from the outset: no criticism of ideas were permitted... just because an idea was foolish didn't mean it was "bad"... ideas had to be original as far as we knew to get a number (later a habit of bringing in ideas from elsewhere with the tag "#SEFI" (for "someone else's foolish idea") instead of a number)

One of the fellow pioneers of the channel had written bots to scrape the ideas (one Foolish Idea was to make a "best of" book) and sent me a list of my 1000+ contributions. I had done over a quarter of the almost 4,000 the channel was up to upon my departure!

FIF #600 gives an idea of what the channel was most often used for: So, I read through all my entries and here were my very favorites, in roughly descending order of how much I liked 'em: Some of my ideas I'd like to see for real: Of course, some FIFs I ended up doing for real: Some of my thinly-veiled complaints: Sometimes I just went for the gag or pun: And finally, a few I sort of liked but didn't make the other lists: Anyway. This is the single piece of company culture I'll most miss from my old place, and I think I have a FIF in there about launching new colonies. I'd really recommend it for any big slack organization.

Oh one bonus I almost missed:

May 19, 2020

Last night I headed out for my daily constitutional and followed a sudden impulse to walk past the Old Powder House (I was today years old when I realized that's the oldest stone building in the Commonwealth) to Tufts Campus, where I was an undergrad in the 90s.

The first half of my life was marked by moving - usually across states - every few years, so it sort of weirds me out that I'm just able to walk here. The view from on top the library is great (though I always wanna smack the architect who put a big random squat minitower on top of the library roof, breaking up the panorama.)

My mood was leaning hard into the nostalgic.

Tufts has a random cannon replica, and there's a tradition for groups to paint it. It's current paint job kind of broke my heart:
Those poor damn kids. (Yeah, I know a lot of them are coming from privilege and most will be fine, but still- class of 2020 has had a super unkind cut almost anyway you slice it, whether college or high school.)
Excellent video on if different type of rockets were transparent, so you can see the fuel supplies.

Somehow it seems weird to me that the best way into space is straight up.

May 20, 2020

My entry in the melancholy The Last 'Normal' Photo on your phone meme - cheating a bit because it's a still from a "1 Second Everyday" video.
JP Honk, March 9, outside Stony Brook Station, sneaking in an outdoor practice on an unseasonably warm night.
Trump Administration to End National Guard COVID Deployments One Day Before GI Bill Benefits Kick In Jeezus. From Politico's take: "Tens of thousands of them have been working full-time since early March on a wide range of sensitive and dangerous tasks, such as decontaminating nursing homes and setting up field hospitals, along with performing tests for the virus. They've provided a crucial backup for understaffed and underfunded state public health agencies trying to contain the pandemic." And Trump's administration is all, "thank you for your 89 days of risky service, now don't let the swinging door hit your ass on the way out".

I feel like the National Guard is much, much closer to what the country's founders had in mind than the military industrial complex we have today. (the same one Ike totally tried to warn us about) At this nation's formation, permanent standing armies were seen as a tool of tyrants - you had this idea of the citizen-soldier. Treating our Guardsfolk like this sucks.

May 21, 2020

Yesterday Melissa and I went for a ramble around the North Reservoir at Middlesex Fells Reservation.

logo work from my 1992 notebook

May 22, 2020
In NYC I bought a lined wirebound notebook that travelled with me to Portugal and then for some of Freshman year of college. I decided to scan anything in it worth keeping.

I was really into making logos, and funky typography in general...
Happy 40th Birthday Pac-Man!

more art from my 1992 notebook

May 23, 2020
Some more scans from my notebook in 1992, when I was visiting Marcos in Portugal.

Huh - Pica-Pic used to be the number one place for LCD Game emulation, but now the Internet Archive has picked up the mantle with in-browser playable games! LCD Games are such a charming little part of game history. (UPDATE: Here's some fun emulations of LCD games. Mario's Cement Factory is especially good.)

kirk's favoritest video games

May 24, 2020
I've found that we sometimes outgrow our hobbies and yet because we feel attachment to them we try to find things that are not there.
Nana Komatsu
As I get older, I don't enjoy the same things I once enjoyed.
But I enjoy new and different things!

I just don't enjoy them as much as I used to enjoy the things I no longer enjoy.
Arlo, of "Arlo and Janis"
After a 20 year hiatus, I updated Kirk's Bestof Series - my favorite games across most of the video game consoles I've had.

I think the pleasure of the list was mostly in the making... I might come back to it for a quick stroll down memory lane, and I suppose other people might find some obscure gems I'd like to advocate for, but overall it's just a subjective list of stuff I liked.
Remember when we said 'No Future'? Well, this is it.
A friend hosted an online viewing party using Metastream - it supports more streaming services and seemed more stable than Netflixparty...
(One of the viewers thought this was a good slogan in general.)

Some thoughts on time, and a new visualization

May 25, 2020
Time Thing One: a new era! Tomorrow I start a new job at Monster Worldwide, the jobs board folks. (Not to be confused with Monster the energy drink, Monster the audio cables, or Monsters, Inc.) Grateful that the job search was not all that bad - full of anxiety and self-doubt, and in more of a "buyers market" for hiring companies than in a while, but also reassuring that there are still plans Cs and Ds left untapped, ways I could still make a living even if they didn't meet my usual work preferences.

Time Thing Two: my most consistent ritual is making since quarantine started is making coffee, filling two mason jars and putting them in the fridge every other day. There's this niggling point about the repetition of it and I found I was well-served by reframing the rhythm of it- it's hard to describe concisely, but I was getting worn down by thinking "every other day, I'm finishing up the coffee, have to make some more" but then realized it was much more satisfying to think "oh, I'm going to make iced coffee for the next two days". Somehow looking at it as preparing for an enjoyable future vs having to restock since I ran through my stockpile feels much better, even though the situation is absolutely identical.

Time Thing Three: Looking at my stockpile of old video games, and also thinking about the change of rhythm from looking for work vs the ol' 9-5. How did I ever have time for games? How did I ever have time for band? How did I ever have time for techie projects, especially when I was working?

Time Thing Four: The other week I supplemented my old Timelines project with a small addition, time is relative. Timelines are traditionally a single line, but I wanted to see what it would look like if I stacked up all the periods in a column, inviting comparisons. I further made it so that if you mouse or press on the bars, the amount displayed is not the amount of calendar time, but what % of my life it represented up to that point. (So, I was born in Philly but only lived there 3 months, but that 3 months was 100% of my life that far. The proportional display didn't grant me too many new insights, but it was kind of interesting to see.

Making a Squirrel "American Ninja Warrior" course: Y'know s'funny that for both "Gladiators" and "Ninja Warrior" the American version says "American". (Also almost surprised you can have "Ninja" in the title of "Ninja Warrior UK" given how they made Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.)

May 26, 2020

Video shows Minneapolis cop with knee on neck of motionless, moaning man who later died. Jesus Christ.

May 27, 2020

Two different men, each on one knee

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
Colin Kaepernick

"What's a persistent theme in your life?"

May 28, 2020
On FB my bandmate Rayna Jhaveri asked
What's a persistent theme in your life?"
My answer was
Kirk Israel thinking that there's objective truth, but you can never be certain you know it, which makes me more empathetic (since other people might have a better view of The Objective Truth) and less empathetic (since I don't value their subjective truth, nor my own.)
Kirk Israel perpetual existentialism! So does it annoy you when people say "know your truth"?
yeah, My truth is that everyone's truth is bunk, including my own. we must always strive for a validation we can never reach.
Sebastian Lopez:
Kirk when you "let go" more you'll
Find more peace
I'm trying to come out of this conundrum
The irritable self wants to establish truth and argue
My advice is to forgive oneself
By letting go,
Even if that requires effort
Then the larger picture gets a lot clearer
( I know you don't know me. I'm Rayna's friend)

My long winded answer:
Hey Sebastian! Actually, when combined with the safety and privilege I enjoy in life, mine is a pretty peaceful mindset! Relative to many of my fellow lefties I have to avoid "both sides-er-ism", and I have trouble with the endlessly fomented outrage, as justified as that can feel in this age of racism and inequality and anti-expertism,

(I don't think the left and the right have equally objectively correct views- but I know the people on the right aren't the villains in their own story either, and are struggling for "good" causes. Possibly the wrong "good" causes, which is bad.)

To me, deep and abiding faith is a weird lack of empathy with all those people who don't share your faith. How could they all be so misled? So we can squint and have a "many paths" interpretation, the "know your truth" bit Rayna mentioned, but I find that deeply unsatisfying - a Truth that isn't universal isn't a real truth.

And what if the big underlying truth behind everything is an existentialist giant animated spinning GIF going "LOL NOTHING MATTERS"? Shouldn't we each then be free to find/know/make our own truth? In my way of thinking, no. Even if all truths are relative, with no rockbed of absolutism, some are relatively "better" than others (tho of course there isn't a single axis of worse/better, but still) and so people should be working to figure out which one is best.

But that "relative best truth" might easily have different faces, it might say that the faith you should practically live is context dependent - like if you're raised in a Christian family, the best path for you is likely to be a good Christian, but if you're raised in a Hindu family, the best path for you is to be a good Hindu. But even then, when people do their own casual "comparative religions" study, they tend to appeal to core humanistic principles. Truth is not democratic, Reality can't be put to a vote... but you go against widely held consensus at your own rhetorical peril, and if people from many faiths say "well this death cult is probably tragically misguided, for these instinctive humanistic principles", then I would nominate those instinctive humanistic principles as being closer to the "relative best truth" than any of the separate faiths.

(but again, a caveat: you can come up with cases where our moral intuitions are suspect! People have LESS empathy when shown a pair of siblings suffering than one child alone, and even less when shown a whole classroom-ful... I think it's because a single case of suffering seems like an anomaly we might be able to help with, but once the numbers go up, it just feels like the way of the world... so our instincts and appeals to human feeling are unreliable judges. Emotion and Intellect have to work it out, together.)

I suspect ALL human motivating force comes from an intrinsic emotion. (And at least one form of depression comes from that motivating force just running out, leaving an intellect intact but utterly drained of vital energy.) The paradox In my case is my intrinsic overwhelming emotion is to not be controlled by mere intrinsic emotion, to always second guess and look for that which can be externally justified. (It come from the kind of Christianity I was raised in and then personally fostered as a kid, a Sky God figure I could have a tenuous direct connection to, and then who would judge me for infinite stakes at the end.)

Sorry for the length of this! I probably coulda/shoulda left off after the first two paragraphs! But I find it satisfying to try and summarize where I'm philosophically at, and this seemed like a bully pulpit.

Some fun emulations of LCD games. Mario's Cement Factory is especially good.

I guess I didn't watch much "Friends"... I was today years old when I found out Ross and Monica were siblings.

"Siesta" by Amber Coverdale Sumrall

May 29, 2020
Grandma's house has a green gate that opens on a courtyard with brick-red tiles from Mexico. Bright blue and yellow pots, filled with cactus, sit on the adobe ledges. Birds of Paradise border the patio. Grandpa's handcarved gourds, painted with Indian symbols for rain, hold mounds of walnuts, figs and peaches from the backyard trees.

We sit in wicker chairs, in the summer sun, drinking Postum from tall orange mugs with wooden holders. I pretend it is coffee. I always feel like I'm on vacation when I visit, even though we live in the same city.

Grandpa leaves to work in his garden. When we're alone Grandma tells me stories about her family. She's proud to be Indian. She's descended from three different tribes, one's called Mohawk. Whenever she says Mohawk, I think tomahawk. I know what a tomahawk is; I've seen them for sale in souvenir stores in Yellowstone National Park. Indians used to scalp white men with them. Grandma says tomahawks were the first axes. She says that if white men had minded their own business instead of poisoning Indians with alcohol, shooting them and stealing their land, the Indians wouldn't have had to scalp them.

She sighs, "You'll never find the truth in your school books, honeygirl. It's all been turned to lies. Same with religion. Got to look real hard for the truth nowadays."

Grandma calls me honeygirl. So does Grandpa. Every morning he gets up before dawn to grind wheat in the basement for his breakfast. Grandpa cooks all his own meals. That's because he likes to eat his supper when most people have breakfast, and have milk and fruit in the evening. He even washes his dishes and puts them away.

Grandma and Grandpa love each other more than anybody I know. He brings her flowers from his garden and they hug and kiss a lot. I mean real hugs and kisses, not the quick dabs my father gives my mother before he goes off to work. Grandma scratches Grandpa's back too. Lucky Grandpa. Having my back scratched is just about my most favorite thing. Grandma says love is the most important thing in the world.

"That's why we're born, honeygirl," she says. "To learn how to love each other. And it takes all the time we've got. Some folks never get the hang of it."

We finish our Postum and Grandma says it's "siesta" time. She and Grandpa nap together every afternoon. Today she has promised to nap with me.

The house is cool and dark. I follow her into the spare bedroom and climb on the four-poster bed. Grandma looks like a gypsy. Her dresses all feel like silk; she wears scarves and bracelets, earrings and glittery brooches. I think my Grandma is beautiful. Her dark braided hair is rolled in circles on the back of her head and held by two silver clips.

Grandma pulls back the white chenille bedspread, then the blankets. I take off my shoes and socks, jeans and shirt. She lets me sleep naked, says it's too hot for covers. I crawl across the bed until I touch the cool plaster wall, then lift the sheet over me. The cracked yellow windowshade flaps in the afternoon breeze.

"Santa Ana's are blowing again," she says. "Wind's full of evil spirits. They make folks crazy." She chuckles. "Even spirits got to create some mischief now and then."

She slides her flowered dress over her head and lets her slip fall to the floor. ane

Grandma's huge breasts rest on her belly. Blue veins run through them like tiny rivers. I've never seen real breasts before. Mother hides hers. She says women are cursed because of Eve's sin with the devil, and I'll find that out for myself someday. She says I'll have breasts someday too, but I don't believe her. I hate dresses and perfume and patent leather shoes. Daddy says I'm a tomboy. How can a tomboy grow breasts?

Grandma rolls into bed with me. She is naked too. I thought grown-ups had to wear nightgowns or pajamas to bed. That they could get arrested for being naked.

"Someone's been filling your head with foolish notions, Grandma says. "I won't mention any names. Come close, honeygirl."

I snuggle next to Grandma, nestle against her warm breasts, her soft round belly. She holds me, kisses my neck, then moves slightly away and begins to scratch my back with her long fingernails. I feel goosebumps all over my body. Her nipples graze my back. I want to touch her breasts, suck on the hard nipples.

She traces circles round and round with her fingers until I can barely keep my eyes open.

When I wake, Grandma is gone. I have to pee and pass by Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom. Their door is shut and it sounds like they are bouncing on the bed. I want to peek but I'm scared. They are making strange noises that I've never heard before. I know what they are doing has something to do with Grandma's breasts. I just know it!

I go back to bed and pretend I am napping with Grandma and Grandpa. My hands find the safe, tingly place between my legs.

It is almost dark when I wake up again. The smell of stewed rabbit gets me up real quick. I put my clothes on and go out to the kitchen. Grandma and Grandpa are sitting in their bathrobes, smiling at each other. They are smiling and rocking in their rocking chairs, looking like they've got a secret.

"Supper's almost ready, honeygirl. I fixed your favorite: stewed rabbit and dumplings. And Grandpa made fruit salad for dessert. Are you hungry?"

"I'm starving!"

"Well, we all seem to have worked up powerful appetites," Grandma says. She winks at Grandpa, then at me.

"Powerful indeed," Grandpa says.

Amber Coverdale Sumrall, "Siesta"
This story was in "Word of Mouth: 150 Short-Short Stories by 90 Women Writers", a book I semi-stole from my Aunt a long while back, probably in college-- one of those books you reread and realized hit you at just the right time to be a big influence on you.
That's why we're born, honeygirl. To learn how to love each other. And it takes all the time we've got. Some folks never get the hang of it.
Grandma in "Siesta" by Amber Coverdale Sumrall.
That's the most important line for me. Frankly with my deeply ingrained habit of plucking out intuitive emotion (in order to leave more room for my best guessed of objective and universal truth) I think I might be one of those that never quite get the hang of it, just a mix of affection and admiration and responsibility.

Welp, guess I'm going to be giving up the Hawaiian shirts this summer, because destructionphile "civil war 2" morons are rallying in them? Damn that's like half my summer shirts.

infinity and theology

May 30, 2020
Turning to reading and thinking abstract stuff about the mathematics of infinity as a break from thinking about the condition of the world and a summer that has the potential to be even stupider and more destructive than the Spring...
Cantor's theory constitutes "direct evidence that actually-infinite sets can be understood and manipulated, truly *handled* by the human intellect," Wallace wrote in Everything and More. What makes this achievement so heroic, he observed, is the awful abstractness of infinity: "It's sort of the ultimate in drawing away from actual experience," a negation of "the single most ubiquitous and oppressive feature of the concrete world--namely that everything ends, is limited, passes away."
Jim Holt, "When Einstein Walked with Gödel"
The idea of deeply understanding the properties of infinity - an abstract idea that isn't a part of our actual manifest universe, yet whose principles we can ascertain - it's a mind stretcher for sure.

It brings to mind Anselm's Ontological Proof for the Existence of God, the idea that since God is defined as that which nothing greater can be conceived, and the something with the property of existing is greater than something without that property, God must exist.

But. What if not getting the Divine hands dirty via contact with a messed up, finite lot like us is a greater property too?


That's one of my problems with abstract Theology - it seems to so often to have an agenda of proving a specific brand of Religion plausible - and from there True.

I think I'm overdue for reading Karen Armstrong's "A Short History of Myth", or maybe one of her other books. It was absolutely eye-opening to understand that even staying within the context of Christianity there's been diversity in thinking about God.

I think any thoughtful read of the Bible would see this multifaceted nature (the Trinity being the most well-known aspect of that) - an old Testament God who walks the Earth, who can be bargained with, who is helpless to give his favored people victory because the other side has chariots with steel wheels, and then the transition to the New Testament, the different kind of story Jesus was preaching... not to mention the reckless "oh it's going to be bad but good in the end" nature of Revelation. But, one of the tenets of American Folk Christianity is that God is Eternal and Unchanging, and there's a dissonance there that I think most practitioners don't grapple with. (But, I shouldn't go so far as to say I know they haven't grappled with it, that's a bit presumptuous.)

I think back to Mr. Johnson - I worked in his independent pharmacy during middle school and high school. He was a huge hearted man (with maybe some feet of clay from my lefty perspective - but a giant of generosity despite any of that.) Of all the men who offered to sort of step-in after the death of my dad, it was his offer I accepted the most, and we'd have dinners at restaurants with wide-ranging, man-to-young-man talks.

At one of the later dinners, I confessed my new-found skepticism/agnosticism. I was struck by his confidence that I'd grow out of it. But even now I don't know. I'm not like a strident atheist or anything, but if basic Christianity was as fundamentally true- as overarchingly true, as universally true, as explains-everything-true, as would-be-true-even-if-no-one-believed-it-true, I still can't get over the basic dilemma that caused my turn towards skepticism as a teen at Church Band camp - there were too many other religions in the world, and logic and empathy implied I should assume they take their faith as deeply as the people around me were taking theirs. And all those religions couldn't be That Kind of True.

So I guess I might able to accept a smaller form of Christianity; part of a many-paths interpretation, not taking John 14:6 ("No one comes to the Father except through me") quite so literally. And also looking to its strength as a deep cultural tradition, the wisdom embedded, and regardless of the fudamentalist claims of unchanging truth, the way it has evolved. And what people have drawn from it - sometimes for the worse but often for the better.
(followup thought on FB) I'd say, sometimes it's easier for me to appreciate what other religions bring to the table, vs the one I've been soaking in all my life. Like Islam, it's kind of cool that there's more consistency to the writing, and in some sense the Koran doesn't suffer the vagaries of translation - (though there are some interpretations of it I don't think pass humanitarian muster). Or a lot of positive things about the community and continuity of Judaism. (With some family roots there, albeit ones then filtered through activist Evangelical christianity.) Or the philosophical underpinnings of Buddhism. Or maybe most strikingly, the "many faces of God" approach of Hinduism, along with the time scale of its cosmology -- some how or other their estimates at the lifespan of the universe seem more in tune with science's best observations than any literal interpretation of Christianity...

But my understanding of all those faiths is rather sophomoric.

May 31, 2020

A few related thoughts on food these days:

1. Don't you hate it when you're more or less newly back from a masked grocery store adventure, but you didn't get anything you're actually excited about eating that much, and you know that's like your eating future for the next few weeks?

2. Countering that: I'm always looking for ice cream treats, especially those that come in a fair amount per box and are satiating without too many calories. ("Chilly Cow" used to have some superb options but they got taken off the market.) Current new favorite: "Bomb Pops Middles" S'mores variety. Ten in a box, about 120 calories each, really interesting texture because of the marshmallow inside and the thin hard chocolate coating, graham cracker flavor between. One of those a day makes quarantine better.

3. For some reason salads made at home (or at salad bars, back before they felt like death-via-shared-tongs) never seem even in the same league as, say, a bowl from Sweetgreen. Almost to the point where what should be a delightful fresh salad was making me sad. For a while I thought it was because the flavors didn't have time "jell", but now I think it's just more or less boring flavors and textures. Cooking up some quinoa and getting and putting it on some of those pre-mixed baby greens boxes, along with a distinctive sesame-ginger dressing might be the solution was looking for, and still relatively cheap and very easy.

4. Speaking of easy: I do feel like less of grown-ass adult because I don't cook much at all. It's a somewhat mindful decision: I don't have much of a gourmet palette, and so the time and energy of prep + cooking + cleanup vs the time actually spent enjoying a meal always felt way out of whack. (I totally get why people Instagram that stuff - it's not just showing off, it's also have a record that lasts more than like 20 minutes or whatever!) I admire people who take on those challenges... the transmorgification of basic foodstuffs into tasty meals is a bit of wizardry, but I am ok with anyone (including myself) who channel their energies into other pursuits, and make due with prepackaged meals or simplistic dishes (chicken italian sausage in a wrap with crumbled tortilla and horseradish mustard has been a staple of mine since March) See, unlike programming, cooking doesn't have an easy "Undo" or "Delete" key...
Jesus what is going on with police response to protestors
Watch City Swans

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