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Best Photos of the Month - July 2020

August 1, 2020

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Russian (and some other) cursives. So weird that so many languages with perfectly reasonable block letters evolve a high-falutin'/faster version. A weird elitism to it I guess? Like if you're just barely literate, stick with writing the same characters you read in print, but if you are privileged enough to have a life among words, and to have reason to write words down, you want a higher speed method.

I missed a school year of drilling in cursive, so my meh-handwriting was even worse in cursive, and for folks like me it's a big relief to student and teacher alike when we're "allowed" to go back to printing.

I can't say I think it's that important, and pretty much all the time I spent on cursive would have been better spent on keyboard skills. (Psychomotor skill building not withstanding. Maybe just playing a lot of videogames doesn't quite make up for that.)
Heh, though I guess people have to decide their signature... or as this tweet puts it:
Signatures are so weird. It's like, okay you have to believe it's really me because I used cursive.

A little bit more known about Umbrella Man, the white supremacist asshole breaking windows at an AutoZone early in the George Floyd protests, working to turn them into riots. Uh, at least he's not that one cop guy? (Assuming this is a legit lead.)

July 2020 New Music Playlist

August 2, 2020
The Bouncing Souls
Rock cover.
from a playlist Boys Will Be Girls, maleish cover of femaleish songs

Live a Little
Nice horns and drums and vocals.
Arun trying to zone in on the kind of music I dig - modern but with brass + good percussion is a good bet!

The Raincoats
Man, the idea that the original made it so big just blows me away. And also that Weird Al used it for a parody...
from a playlist Girls Will Be Boys, femaleish covers of maleish songs.

You Were Cool
The Mountain Goats
God, such a resonant song - I can also think back to the people being treated badly in high school, how we got to bear witness to people working out lots of things about their identity, and we were hardly ever kind enough about it. I hope the kids today are better.
I listen to John Green's The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast, and The Mountain Goats are profoundly important to him. I couldn't find a version to buy so I had to make a rip.
Righteous Rocker (Hard Rock Version)
Larry Norman
Not a bad funky 70s rocker. Why can't all Christian music be so light handed?
via the movie "Knives Out"

Uproar (feat. Swizz Beatz)
Lil Wayne
Excellent well-hooked new hip hop.
My friend Jonathan Z is probably the most adept at catching songs I'll dig...

Coolin' With Da Homies
Savan Kotecha
Kinda inane like everything in Eurovision (I keep my chains low (woo), they droppin' to the floor / They're really, really, really low, they're droppin' to the floor, uh / I don't need gin and juice, I got a caffe latte) but hella catchy
from the Will Ferrell‎ Eurovision Song Contest movie, in-movie done by Swedish act Johnny John John.

Only So Much Oil In the Ground
Tower of Power
Not my favorite Tower of Power song but not bad.
BABAM played a Filk version of this at an Extentinction Rebellion Die-In protest
You Gotta Hear This Funk Band
Key & Peele
Pretty authentic sounding Parliament/Funkadelic sound, even if the end joke falls a little flat.
Random Youtube recommendation
Got Your Money (feat. Kelis)
Ol' Dirty Bastard
Older hop hop, dig the "Blacksploitation" aspect of the video.
Random Youtube recommendation
Land of the Living
Kristine W
Clubby Pop.
Another from Arun's set of music
Lebo M
From the new CGI Lion King.
Mentioned in Cracked's Black Creators Who Got Their Material Stolen though sadly I liked the percussion in the Disneyfied version better.

Power to the People (Ultimate Mix)
John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
Probably don't need another white dude protest song but I do dig the percussion of this.
Ibram X. Kendi's "How to Be an Antiracist" mentions the Black Christian group Soul Liberation as their famous song, but I couldn't find reference to them doing it.

I just finished "Art of Atari" by Tim Lapetino, about all the art that tried to push the clunky pixels the Atari 2600 could offer into new worlds of drama. (Also with a side trip into the industrial design of some of the hardware.)

I learned my favorite Atari artist was Hiro Kimura. Probably the best find of the book's author was this unused art for Pac-Man- I just love the weight of the ghost monster concept.

He also did Yars Revenge and Joust and a bunch of others. But growing up it was the B+W illustrations inside the manual for "Berzerk" that really grabbed me, the nod to Da Vinci and then the internal workings diagram that I think is a nod to some classic Astro Boy:

Another specific influential (on me) cover was Terry Hoff's art for Star Raiders (reused for Solaris) - I must've drawn starfighter cockpit interiors based it dozens of times as a kid:

how to be an antisexist

August 3, 2020
A bit less than halfway through Ibram X. Kendi's "How to Be an Antiracist". The most important points I've absorbed so far are how "Not Racist" (e.g. the "I don't see color" and "lets not move on and get into 'reverse discrimination'" stuff) is not the opposite of "Racist", and how in the racist/not-racist camp, Kendi points out the segregationist tendency and the assimilationist.

Sometimes the line between an assimilationist mandate to deny differences and the antiracist ability to recognize differences without hierarchically judging them seems a tough row to hoe. Celebrating difference, but still holding on to a bit of a tabula rasa view - or at least a view that recognizes how the crushing majority of inequalities result from racism baked into the system level.

It's the systems that are the problem, especially tricky are ones that fancy themselves race- or sex-neutral. I've been in bands that modeled themselves in a no-real-'leader' / non-hierarchical / democratic way, but when disagreement resolution then becomes "loudest voice in the argument wins", that's likely to be sexist or racist.

Melissa mentioned a parallel inversion, she got so sick and tired of certain men at work cutting in and talking over and interrupting her. And she saw it was sexist. But then she witnessed the same guys interrupting each other guys in the same way when women weren't around. So it's still sexist, but sexism embedded in a system of interaction, not sexism that is explicitly acting like it knows "men are better than women".

I've thought about this before in the context of the term "racist". We have the one word for (as Kendi might frame it) a segregationist view, that races or sexist are unequal and should be treated that way, as well as the softer but more insidious assimilationist view that grants a superficial equality but doesn't recognize how the entry requirements are proportionally different because of the status quos of society. (Like, "we don't discriminate against poor people - anyone is free to buy this $1000 ticket!" or whatever) And anti-racists don't want to give that "softer" racism a pass, so they call it out using the term racist. But people who are assimilationist "not racist" resent being called the R-word because they know that they believe in the equality of different groups. (Kendi also argues against seeing "racist" as a slur, in the sense of letting people assume it's just 'a view I disagree with', and looks to more technical definitions.)

Back in the band, another weird bit of geeky systematic sexism snuck in, one woman had used some of her spoons to set up a particularly nice socially distanced gig and she posted it on "Gig-O-Matic", the tool we use to email blast rehearsals and gigs within the group. This gig had some parallels with a gig we had had the week before, but the location was different. Some dudes in the group grumbled about the change in venue and it got into a bit of a debate where there shouldn't have been, since it had been set. And I personally took a "lets figure out both sides of the debate" role - but part of that sprung from my never having read the Gig-O-Matic entry closely, just glanced at it at best - to the extent I hadn't even realized 'til after the whole event who had set it up.

But not realizing it was a woman in this case is not exculpatory - if a technological system is set up to be a fair, open-access thing, but then is not properly heeded, that can be a form of soft sexism or racism too.

Some tough stuff! Oh and to top it off I managed to land a non-apology ala "sorry that you were offended" - I really did mean I was sorry I had chosen poorly to both-sideser, even if it was not deliberately sexist because I wasn't even cognizant of who had made the initial post. Whoops!
Life is tragic simply because the earth turns, and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.
James Baldwin

RIP Wilford Brimley!
My Band JP Honk were part of a joint production of the Fenway Porchfest:

(video assembled by Red Shaydez who ends the video spittin' a little fire)
I love how everyone has an ideological point that isn't wrong during COVID-19: libertarians are mad at the FDA and CDC; socialists are mad at the fact that we don't have universal healthcare; liberals are mad at the Trump admin; conservatives are mad at the media.

You can take seriously the socialists' concern for the welfare of the least fortunate, the libertarians' worries about bureaucratic bloat and calcification, the nationalists' desire for robust self-sufficiency, and the conservatives' concern that the media isn't seeing a crisis situation clearly (though conservative media has arguably been even worse). In all likelihood, the stubborn people from the different groups counterbalance each other anyway. If your goal is to be a pragmatist and a pluralist, you can go ahead and, as MGMT sang, "take only what you need from [them]."
Oliver Traldi, Stopped Clocks in a Pandemic "Everyone claims the pandemic proves their preexisting political beliefs. Maybe everyone's right."

August 4, 2020

The whippoorwill's name reflects the sounds we hear it make. But studies show there are two more notes to its song beyond the range of human hearing. Scholars wondered if other birds heard these notes, and recordings of mockingbirds, a species that mimics the songs of other birds, revealed that they did.
Charles Bowden
(He goes on to write "I think I want to hear these missing notes about the border and the ground about us when I write and bring the full song to the attention of others." The Harper's Magazine review I got the quote from talks about how he was a tremendous force writing reports from the American Southwest and Mexico.)
I was just trying to recall what comic this was, with a vision of cities as kind of a memetic parasite... turns out it was Grant Morrison's "The Invisibles".

Didn't realize how into Magic he was, like has part of his process. (Made me think of Damien Echols talking about magic on the trippy series "Midnight Gospel")
the tree who set healthy boundaries, an alternate ending for Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" (Part of the "Topher Fixed It" series for young people)

August 5, 2020

Trump on the death toll (boosted greatly by Trump and Kushner's decision not to make a national plan, assuming this was a "blue state" problem):

"it is what it is."

That's such a classic reality television show line! Maybe next he can be part of a montage and say "I didn't come here to make friends."
Oof, Beirut.
Two thoughts on WFH life:
1. Remember Sniglets? Words for phenomenon that many people encounter but don't have a single term for? I need one for when you get 3-4 notifications for the same damn event at the same time, button on different devices or from different programs. Like I have my Outlook calendar events mirrored in Apple Calendar, but then both fire alerts, along with maybe Microsoft Teams separately for the video call, the phone and maybe even an iPad I keep at hand. Same for phone calls! Phone, laptop, iPad... all suddenly clamoring to let me pick up an incoming call. Probably I could shut off some of these that are always redundant...

2. Thinking again about the challenge of staying focused during meetings, how it helps to think of it as a form of mindfulness. Same for dealing with coder angst during the workday, actually... (hopping up to get a drink of water or whatever... then realizing it's already chugged by the time I sit down again...) Social media's the most obvious ever present temptation, though I know always present Internet has been an all-too-easy escape hatch since my first job. I've learned to control it but still.

I think about what I was doing before always-there Internet... like in high school and college. I was a doodler, and many of my class notes are decorated with doodles or sometimes even back-and-forth margin notes conversations from those times - analog text messaging! So not being fully engaged has always been a challenge for me, probably some kind of shadow-ADD. (I suspect that so many syndromes might be spectrums - which shouldn't be a tool for people with rather mild presentations to excuse and not work on their bad traits. But still, I do wonder what my behavior and cognition with Adderall would be like.)
Watched Sam Jay's Netflix special "3 in the Morning" last night. Really good! For the recording she's sporting a shirt with a Roxbury Zip+4 number on it.

August 6, 2020

The unconscious mind doesn't know the difference between past, present, and future and is always trying to heal old wounds in current time.
I wonder if that's true, that the unconscious mind is so much less time aware. I really wish I had a better model of it. Is it the same as saying out emotional self, our intuitive self? Is it useful to think of it as a separate entity, like our "inner child"? (Or lately it - that is, my subconscious self - seems more akin to a clever but unruly dog.)
Life was durably sweet, it improved like a keeping apple.
Ralph Kello in Sylvia Townsend Warner's "The Corner That Holds Them"

August 7, 2020

Unbelievable to be living through this? No, it's believable. I believe it, the way you wake up in the middle of the night on a trans-Atlantic flight and believe: I am 35,000 feet above sea level, moving at tremendous speed through freezing air.

August 8, 2020

'God is dead, God is dead' ...Perdition! When God dies, you'll know it.
Confessions of St. Argentine, via Greg Bear's Petra

He was short, stout, with huge hairy arms like the clamps of a vise. He had once killed a spouter with a single squeeze of his fist, and spouters are tough things, since they have no guts like you (I suppose) and I. The hair surrounding his bald pate was white, thick, and unruly, and his eyebrows leaned over his nose with marvelous flexibility. He rutted like a pig, ate hugely, and shat liquidly (I know all). A man for this time, if ever there was one.
"Petra" was my favorite story from Bruce Sterling's "Mirrorshades" anthology of cyberpunk... and the most idiosyncratic and least mirrorshades-y - projecting a future where faith is what underlies the fabric of reality, and where the Death of God isn't just a philosopher's pontification, but a universe-shaking event where only pockets of belief (like around a cathedral) keep things together.

(I think also of the old New Yorker lede "The death of God left the angels in a strange position")
I'd rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.
Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, being called out on the anti-sexism message of "Song for the Man" vs the chauvinism of their early work.
That's a challenging statement for someone like me, who doesn't have much of an intuitive belief personal growth.

Watching "The Beastie Boys Story", Ad-Rock and Mike D on stage talking about the band's progression. You know, it's weird that I've liked their stuff for like 32 years and never noticed that two of them were named "Adam".

August 9, 2020

by HappyToast on b3ta

August 10, 2020

Sort of on a gaming kick, like playing through this one really fun little game called "What The Golf?" - a bunch of physics puzzle-y microgames, pushing the boundaries of what qualifies as a golf game, lots of neat mechanics and smart little parodies of games like Portal and Superhot.

But mostly, games have become a less taxing way of spending parts of big 4 hour stretches of facetime on a semi-weekly basis with my 6 year old super niece Cora. The majority has been Zelda: Breath of the Wild, because it has detailed horses in and she digs those. We've also dabbled in Mario Odyssey, which has a lot of fun things I can show her.

I picked up Animal Crossing at her prompting (someday we might visit each other's islands, or something?) but man, that just isn't my kind of game. There's no sense of motion, and while I can sort of see the Sims-like build your space charm, I don't dig the tamagotchi chore slash roulette wheel reward aspect of it.

In general I'm up for suggestions for remote fun games. She has access to a Switch and her own iPad (definitely routing for the whole Phonics game thing) but she's pretty content playing witness and telling me what to do while watching.

(I'm half tempted to try Red Dead Redemption 2, and see if you can get to a place where you're just doing horse stuff... though the game itself would be a huge time sink, and I think the ratio of horse fun to cowboy violence might be a bit out of wack for a 6 year old.)

Getting back to the games... it's funny how Animal Crossing has some of the same weirdnesses of Zelda: like crafting, and how stuff wears out and breaks. I'm still knocked over with what a richly developed land Zelda creates in, so much detail it makes Animal Cross look really primitive, but of course it's a very different energy.

Once I finish What The Golf?, I'm trying to figure out if I want to slip into game sessions as a nice way of unwinding in quarantine freetime or if I should stick with coding projects, reading, and a bit of band stuff. I get bummed that I feel more distant from games in general...

Alligators don't even alligate.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture.
Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts. We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.
Ira Byock, "The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life"
It's a cool thought but the podcast I heard it on pointed out that the attribution is suspicious - and also we need to be careful by what we mean by "civilization" - groups considered "wild" or "savages" by "the civilized" were certainly capable of this level of empathetic care and treatment.
Humans just can't fathom a billion dollars. Casually we mix 'billion' and 'million' in the same sentence, but they're apples and Death Stars. And until we get our arms around that, some fundamental stuff about the American economy will elude us.

August 11, 2020

One big takeaway from Ibram X. Kendi "How to Be an Antiracist" is the idea of segregationist vs assimilationist racism. Both are problematic. I'd say the latter has its heart in a slightly better place. It's sometimes the result of acknowledging the hierarchical judging people generally use to evaluate differences in groups, and so tries to blur everything into a big melting pot any race can participate in.

The book mentions the importance of black (and other group) spaces, enclaves where a given minority is empowered to make the decisions about it - and where a member of that group can be part of a local majority, the default, instead of always being "othered".

In December's Wired (catching up on a backlog) Jason Parham echoes that idea and talks about some important places on the early web that were that.

It's an idea I can get behind but man do I dread the dumbass "but doesn't that make THEM the racists, not letting fine white folk like me in because of the color of my skin?" arguments I'd likely have to get into rebutting. (And I do wonder, how gatekeeping for that kind of thing could/should work - but of course the whole point is that's not for people like me to decide.)

Parham talks about the Blackness of the current web:
Functionally, the web is still very black. Our identities are embedded in Black Twitter-fueled memes and reaction GIFs, from Kermit sipping tea to Real Housewives star NeNe Leakes' virtuoso shade-serving. Black culture is likewise a major artery of platforms like TikTok and our beloved Vine (RIP). Even the very modes of exposure find root in blackness: Black death and its digital-era companion, the police brutality video, became a terrifyingly mundane 21st-century spectacle, recorded, uploaded, and shared with perverse frequency. "Blackness gave virality its teeth. Turned it into trauma," the writer and academic Lauren Michele Jackson has said. In life and in death, black people are the bones and lungs of the web, its very body.
Of course it's interesting- and disturbing- to think of some the toxic whiteness at other parts of the web are fostering, the whole 4chan/QAnon/alt-right shit, which is so very talented at coopting shit.

August 12, 2020

I was impressed that my half asleep dream brain was thinking about rendering 4D shapes and what not, like maybe using a timer playback to see the 3D shadow of it change over time....
then it got stuck on the old jingle with Rosemary Clooney singing "Extra value is what you get, when you buy Coronet" and was like "ah, that's more like it"
Wow - this 120 year old photo of a cat (from a recently unearthed time capsule) has a strong energy - see the link for another one with a companion kitten...

August 13, 2020

Reading memes about how parents don't understand you can't pause online games (but they should, because you can't pause cable TV either.)

That's kind of funny, because the Atari generation couldn't pause, but it's the Nintendo generation having kids.

(And maybe a later generation grew up with more Tivo than cable TV, where you could pause after all.)
Worthwhile episode of the podcast 99% Invisible: Policing the Open Road. Automobiles really changed how policing was done in the USA - they added a whole bunch of rules everybody had to obey (because roads are a shared resource, and cars have are hugely empowering for people but also dangerous) and the decision was made to add enforcement of these rules to what cops do, beyond classic crime fighting roles like dealing with theft and violence. (Enforcement of vice laws was another issue some thought were below what police should be dealing with.)

So this car-based stuff was the wedge for our 4th Amendment protections getting split open... during prohibition, it was decided that cars were so potentially empowering for "bad guys", they were no longer part of "person, houses, papers, and effects" that were protected and cops didn't need a warrant. And once that precedent was set, that the 4th Amendment wasn't an absolute protection and times change, somehow "Stop and Frisk" seemed ok too. (Funny but I don't recall too many "strict constructionists" bitching about that clear violation of the letter of the law/Constitution?)

The podcasts talks about ideas for trying to treat traffic enforcement more like an administrative task, for example they mention you don't give building inspectors guns just in case they run into some criminal activity over the course of their work. But attempts to de-police-ize traffic enforcement have sometimes failed.

But it is weird. I'm in about the most privileged + protected demographic class the country has got (save for not being stinkin' rich, and having a car that's even shabbier than that) and my pulse goes crazy if I think I may have caught the attention of a police cruiser.

Gotta be a better way.

One of the more common frustrations I've seen expressed on Tumblr is "why don't neurotypical people just say what they want?" – and I guarantee you, 100% of the time the answer is "because we live in a society that imposes an obligation to agree to any halfway-plausible request, no matter how unwelcome or inconvenient it is, unless you can cite a specific justification for refusing it". That leads directly to this elaborate song and dance of implying requests without actually expressing them so that the receiving party is free to refuse without being obliged to justify themselves. It's not irrational – it's a specific solution to a specific problem!

(Now, if you're going to ask why this deranged expectation that one should always agree to explicitly stated requests unless one can justify refusal has come about in the first place, well, that's where we're gonna have to get political.)

anti-racism and IDIC

August 14, 2020

The Star Trek ideal you refer to is IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations), the cornerstone of Spock's logical Vulcan philosophy. IDIC celebrates all diversity -- color, race, appearance, age, goals, beliefs and lifestyles of all sorts -- including individual sexual preferences.

IDIC glorifies diversity -- not tolerance of diversity.

I was with Nichelle Nichols once when she was being interviewed. "I don't want to be liked in spite of the fact that I am black," she said. "I want part of the reason you like me to be because I'm black. Because that's one of the unique things about me -- one of the things that makes me specifically who I am -- one of the things that's interesting about me."

I couldn't agree more. Nichelle doesn't want people to be color blind (that kind of tolerance was the goal of 1960s integration), she wants them to enjoy it!

Kerry O'Quinn editorial Starlog #114 (Jan 1987), "Down With Tolerance"
My friend Bob was able to dig up a scan of an editorial he was reminded me after reading some of my thoughts on "How to be an Anti-racist".

I've been thinking about how my kneejerk reservations to "diversity for its own sake". But then I compared it to my personal "what is humanity all about anyway" view - that possibly the best goal humanity can set itself to is the creation of non-trivial categorical novelty - interesting stuff that wouldn't exist in this corner of the universe if humans weren't here to make it.

I added the "non-trivial" caveat to answer my own worry that "isn't a good random number generator all the diversity we could ever need, technically?" and similarly, when thinking about "IDIC" - we shouldn't worry overmuch about people going out of their way to be diverse. People are diverse, and we honor that diversity not as a new random creation but as the current artifact reflecting a history of human lives and interactions.

(Also, appreciating diversity for its own sake is one of the few ways I know of stopping the "most common" from becoming the standard mold everything else should try to cram itself into fit.)
Tying in today's Star Trek and some earlier talk on people teaching themselves to type: my mom and I loved the original Star Trek (I think we may even have been watching it on a B+W TV!) and we loved this one book we got Allan Asherman's The Star Trek Compendium, information about each episode of the original series. (Valuable stuff in that pre-Internet age!) One weird omission in it - it didn't have an index/table of contents to the episode! And I was SO impressed when my mom went ahead and made one - a pretty solid data management and typing feat to do without a computer

August 15, 2020

This lovely cool down reminds me how the first part of quarantine was marked by my library of hoodies.

Seems like a long time ago! And it was. And its has not been as fun a summer as some but not as bad as it could've been.
Ha, someone leveraged the Evangelion / Animal Crossing logo similarity I noticed into a crossover:

You can get stickers of it here.
Cicada on the window screen

Cicada on the window screen

weekend builds

August 16, 2020
Yesterday I made up a virtual version of one of those gimmicky binary clocks I had once given to my Uncle Bill... mostly so I could see how some variations I thought of would look like in practice.
click to see

(I really dig recreational programming, being able to take a few hours and make some odd idea like this a reality)
Lately I've been spending Sunday mornings hanging out with my superniece Cora - playing some sort of dolls, or drawing together, or parallel building play, or more lately just hanging out playing video games - her telling me what to do and me doing it in game. Anyway, I had a hard time finding a holder for the phone so I could position the back camera towards the TV (but still see Cora on the screen) so I decided to build a new one out of Lego during our session this morning... here it is

And here it is in action...

I'm sort of frustrated with my Lego collection. I split my childhood Lego collection into threes, and gave two of those parts to different friend families. (I'm planning on giving the final third to Cora at some point, though Lego has only been a minor jam of hers thus far.) So my current collection, the one in my office that I used to build this, is just the stuff I got as a grownup. And I'm not sure if it's the number of bricks or a trend towards more fiddly, specialty pieces, but it seems harder to come up with stuff for a good build. Of course, I've always done more in Space Lego then Technic and actual sturdy construction, and while there are more "flexible joint" pieces than ever I'm not as practiced with using them, and I don't have enough of any single type to focus on it.

(Incidentally this is my third phone cradle out of Lego... here's one from 2005, also at a jaunty angle, and then a simpler upright on one for my 2009 work phone. All 3 of them were built around making sure the charger cord could snake on through.)
Whoa. I just realized at bricklink you can just...order individual pieces, like Lego "Pick a Brick"... and it's cheap! (though there are some minimums... it's so weird to think about these dealers having to do all the legwork to gather an order) The hardest part is finding the piece you're thinking of... I find myself longing for a "natural language Lego brick search engine"...

But overall it feels like a "cheat code" for Lego... you don't have to rely on the vagaries of what high price sets you receive as gifts (or maybe if you get a big ol' flea market tub) - you can just go and get it!

Actually it reminds me of one of the weird things about the "LEGO Masters" series... I think roughly there are three types of builders: people who keep the bricks in the form of the original purchased set, like on display, people who put all the pieces from the set into a big bin (the model I grew up with) and people who carefully sort (I dabbled with that after college, but it was so much work.)

But whatever the level of organization, for casual Lego fans it's often a scarcity model- you have a limited number of really unique or useful pieces and you have to dole them out - like for me with Space Lego it was a certain number of cool Blacktron wings and cockpits windows. But to compete on a show like LEGO Masters, you have to be designing with the idea that you'll be able to get your hands on all the parts you need, or close enough...

August 17, 2020

I didn't start properly getting drunk with friends until I was about twenty-three years old and I think the reason I started joining in was because I couldn't stand around watching people getting drunk any more. Not because I was jealous but because when you see people get drunk it looks like the most pointless activity you could ever imagine. You are watching someone become progressively worse as the night goes on and yet they insist it's the best. Unless you also have some sort of buzz going, drunk people are the most irritating company you could ever wish to keep. Having a conversation with a drunk person when you are sober is like being a classroom assistant in a primary school for kids who are drunk.
James Acaster, "James Acaster's Classic Scrapes"

A child looks at your average office and sees a playground; an adult looks at an office and sees a prison sentence. Then there are adults who love swivel chairs and hole-punches but can't openly enjoy them because they aren't children anymore and their playground days are over. The universe is cruel.
James Acaster, "James Acaster's Classic Scrapes"

I've been getting into Luigi's Lemon Italian Ice, great texture, made me wonder "100 calories? how have i been missing out?" and then I tried Marinos and was like "oh that's right, this is icy trash"

the catholic non-believer vs the protestant non-believer

August 18, 2020
I'm part of a small 3-5 person online crew that evolved for playing games and staying in touch a bit. Last night the discussion pivoted from some book recommendations talk to morality in general.

One of the friends was lapsed Catholic. He mentioned one moral question he ponders on, the abstract question of who is the more moral person, the person who is always tempted but consistently defies it (possibly because of fear of hellfire) and does the right thing, or the person who is never tempted in the first place.

I realized the question didn't resonate for me, because I'm not as concerned about "interior states"... what matters is the interactions among people... actions in the outside world. So by that measure, both hypothetical people are about the same level of goodness, since they're doing or refraining from the same observable behaviors.

As we dug in further, he described that his interest in the question probably sprung from his childhood anxiety about a God who could read his heart and mind, and how the need to keep one's thoughts in good moral order had been driven into him - very classic Catholic guilt-producing kind of stuff.

That was kind of a revelation for me, because even though the Protestant vision of God I grew up with was certainly capable of looking into my heart, it's like... He didn't all that much? You could pray silently to him, but I wasn't so worried about Him listening to my inner monologue (hm, maybe more of a dialog, but that's a different story) all the time, even though I believed he could, and knew that he would make my eternal judgement.

The vision I constructed for myself about my final judgement was that of a heavenly judiciary tribunal, where They'd "playback the tape" and I could try and argue or justify what I had done - but that reckoning (that would lead either to my endless havenly home or infernal eternal torture) lacked the sense of interiority that dogged my friend.

I hadn't thought about how Protestantism informed the character of the cosmology I made for myself, real "Ye shall know them by their fruits" stuff. All I care about is how people interact with the world (and not what is in their heart) since that external stuff is all that can be definitely known and that is amenable to external verification - like God playing back the tape.

A sense of the deepest Truth being equally available to all, but equally obscured and uncertain for all, is so basic to me.

Lately I've also been thinking on intuition. I don't reject intuition entirely - I understand it can offer a post-subconscious-processing "AHA!" moment of real grace and wisdom, but I need a "trust, but verify" approach. In my view, any truth that can't be scrutinized might not be worth having, lest we lapse into self-delusion.

And I see a strong parallel with intuition and faith - faith often relies on believing in a one-time "special revelation" to a select few, and it feels like intuition is just a "special revelation" to yourself. But those revelations may or may not be in line with the True, objective universe, so you have to check your work, always - and in the case of religion, if many many well-meaning people disagree with you, it feels like missing basic empathy to presume they must all be wrong and that only your tribe has it right.
Another thing that challenged my buddy's Catholic faith was Theodicy - the fancy word for why bad things happen to good people, how an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God still lets this bad stuff happen. For some reason, that never resonated for me as a problem for my faith.

I figure there are two main ways Believers keep their belief despite an abundance of badness. One is thinking it all works out for a "greater good" we just don't see yet. But like I put it ten years ago:
Every event had a cause, no matter how opaque or oblique. So yes, "everything happens for a reason", but not necessarily a reason you'll like. Perhaps you're thinking of "silver linings"- they're down the hall, to the left.
I guess my intuition was more... God just isn't that detail-oriented? Like his eyes are too busy being on the sparrows or what not, and stuff falls through the cracks - or maybe, nothing in this mortal realm matters that much, really, compared to its role in setting up our eternal destiny. So all kind of evil crap happens here on Earth, but it only matters as a matter of prelude.
Happy 100 years of women voting. (Of course the country is almost 250, but hey.)

August 19, 2020

The Covid-19 lockdown, after all, was full of new experiences. Some were grim: I lost a friend to the disease; I smashed my face up in an accident; we had to wear masks and avoid physical contact and worry about where the next roll of toilet paper was coming from. Some were more positive: the discovery of new pleasures, the honing of new skills, the overcoming of new challenges.

But I doubt I am alone in finding that my memory of the lockdown months is rather thin. No matter how many new people or old friends you talk to on Zoom or Skype, they all start to smear together because the physical context is monotonous: the conversations take place while one sits in the same chair, in the same room, staring at the same computer screen.

The psychologist Barbara Tversky, author of Mind in Motion, argues that our minds are built on a foundation of cognition about place, space and movement. That creeps into our language with phrases such as "built on a foundation" and "creeps into". Our brains started by helping us process our surroundings and the threats and opportunities they presented. Abstract thinking is an adaptation of those basic spatial capacities.
A few thoughts: one is thinking about how I have already been oddly obsessed with daily notes - aiming for a daily blog entry (which I try to make less about me and more about stuff I find), a "mundane" journal entry, and for 7 or 8 years now a "One Second Everyday" video snippet. I guess I dislike that feeling of lost time.

The other is a tangent - I think the ambient details of surroundings is one of the reasons why RSS and other tools to retrieve "pure" content but with the same visual context each time never worked for me- the visual details surrounding an article give it a flavor that helps it land in my mind.

Finally - I wonder if there's a lesson in artificial intelligence like this. Tversky writes about how the human path to thinking about the world so often depends on the physicality of it all, of being an actor in a space and learning the principles of cause and effect (with ever present considerations like gravity and mass and texture) I read her book last year and actually corresponded briefly with her, very good stuff.

(see also this xkcd)
Man. Some cops are way quick to totally bullshit after stuff goes wrong.

August 20, 2020

Might your morning be better with some Jackie Chan Parkour? I suspect it might!

A kind of intriguing (if USA-centric) Baby Name Toy From Time Magazine... the idea is you put in your name and birth year and it tells you what name is as popular now... for example Kirk was #192 in 1974, which is as popular as "River" is now. I appreciate a name with strong "R" energy that begins and ends on the same letter...not as powerful as monosyllabic names but still good.

(don't use if you're paranoid about revealing your year of birth and first name in combination!)
Thinking about my long-term disinterest in wearing a watch. In a way it's unfortunate because Apple Watches seem great with all the messages and health encouragement stuff (though I sorta wish they were round, the rounded rectangle stuff seems a bit dorkily pragmatic :-D)

But somehow, wearing a watch has always seemed confining to me, somehow - it's like a handcuff, but instead of being attached to a physical object you're a attached to be worried about what time it is.

August 21, 2020

I've always loved that moment when someone shows you the thing they built for tracking books they've read or for their jewelry business. Amateur software is magical because you can see the seams and how people wrestled the computer. Like outsider art. So much of the tech industry today is about making things look professional, maybe convincing Apple to let you into the App Store to join the great undifferentiated mass of other apps. That's software. When people build their own Airtable to feed the neighborhood, that's culture.
I get asked a lot about learning to code. Sure, if you can. It's fun. But the real action, the crux of things, is there in the database. Grab a tiny, free database like SQLite. Import a few million rows of data. Make them searchable. It's one of the most soothing activities known to humankind, taking big piles of messy data and massaging them into the rigid structure required of a relational database. It's true power. Or mess around with Airtable or its no-code ilk. If you do it long enough and work with friends, you can do wonderful things. You can build data models that work well enough to feed people who need the help. That's real programming.
I think about something I heard about how in the 90s you could make a decent little business setting up little MS Access databases with custom Visual Basic front ends for small companies.

I've seen some of this with people using Google Docs and Google's survey tool - also I've seen some neat homebrew efforts for various Porchfests that often rival the results I've put into my sites for 'em, but took a lot less background knowledge.

I know I've gotten great utility out of a little Perl DB (later PHP, and overdue for a front end makeover) I made - just rows and columns and a customizable form, like a less-fancy, more functional Excel. I've made dozens of tables in it but mostly I use it record media I consume, coworkers I want to keep in touch with, and lately to assemble my monthly playlists.
Everything is habit-forming, so make sure what you do is what you want to be doing.
Wilt Chamberlain

August 22, 2020

I'm pretty sure I had a dream where Nicki Minaj (dressed in business casual) was a consultant for the company I was programming for. She had written a plug-in that our build system used called KACHINGulator. She was tolerant of but not impressed by my attempts to freestyle a few lines.
Water is really what a rainbow tastes like.
/u/SplungerPlunger, Thoughts from the Shower

my aunt Susan, "Papa Sam", and mom Betty... Melissa was struck by how my Aunt looks like me on the left there...
(of course my mom here looks a lot like Cora...)

pond day

August 23, 2020
Some of Melissa's friends (Kristin and Dave) live in central MA and have access to a private neighborhood pond and minibeach... it's a nice thing to have! We met up with Anna and Kellie.

August 24, 2020

Got and installed the TUSHY Bidet attachment. Ready for the next great TP shortage I guess!

August 25, 2020

August 26, 2020

August 27, 2020

Terrifying 63-tweet thread about the machinations to hassle a public defender representing an accused attempted murderer of a police officer. Retaliatory warrants from bizarre-ly out of the way jurisdictions follow.

August 28, 2020

Sitting on a bench enjoying the low sun over Jamaica Pond... caught myself at risk for manspreading a bit? but realized in an age of social distancing its at least less of a space hogging issue than it used to be, though a lot of it has to do with attitude.

Man walking through the trees on the dark asphalt path in the dark after pond side band rehearsal, accompanied by August crickets, had a serious bandcamp energy - even if the flashlight is now a smartphone. Shout out to my Starlake Musicamp Peeps!

August 29, 2020

Queen Elizabeth's final words on her death bed, as reported in a dream I had last night.
I'm guessing that wasn't a particularly prophetic dream. Shades of Douglas Adams "Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why [Queen Elizabeth has said] that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now."

RIP Chadwick Boseman. I think his Marvel movie was an inspirational spin on Afrofuturism and inspired legions. And I loved his take on James Brown.
Postel's Law: Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.
via The Laws of UX, lovely illustrations of some very important ideas.
(I think I first saw Postel's Law cited by Larry "Perl" Wall.)

August 30, 2020

At the end of his life, the great picture book author Maurice Sendak said on the NPR interview show Fresh Air, "I cry a lot because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more." He said, "I'm finding out as I'm aging that I'm in love with the world." And I remember, when I first listened to that interview, wondering if I would ever feel that way.

It has taken me all my life up to now to fall in love with the world, but I've started to feel it in the last couple years. To fall in love with the world isn't to ignore or overlook suffering, both human and otherwise. For me anyway, to fall in love with the world is merely to look up at the night sky and feel your mind swim before the beauty and the distance. It is to hold your children while they cry, to watch as the sycamore trees leaf out in June. When my breastbone starts to hurt, and my throat tightens, and tears well in my eyes, I want to look away from feeling, make a joke, I don't want to feel this, because I've loved enough to know how loving ends. They die and I can't stop them, Sendak said. But to fall in love with the world is to let the world crack you open anyway.

Sendak ended that interview with the last words he ever said in public: "Live your life. Live your life. Live your life."

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.
Alan Kay
Surprised I don't think I've cited that idea on this blog before - inspired by this McGST post about the author's family heavily into the Apple ecosystem...
Forget trying to make a kidz bop version of the Card B's raunchy hit "WAP"... I want the geek deep-cut followup "WML"

August 31, 2020

Random self-indulgent first world nerdery: for a long time I've really liked having a second monitor up above my laptop, using the laptop as the keyboard and trackpad and secondary monitor. It seemed like such a no-brainer, I almost had pity on my coworkers who put the laptop on a stand and needed a separate mouse and keyboard. I loved how the trackpad is right there beneath your thumbs, none of that reach over for the mouse, and just how efficient it seemed in general - and also the elegance of having the same arrangement when on the go or at the desk, so never having to retrain my hands...

Well... I've been having second thoughts. Honestly it's mostly because I was tired of warm wrists from overheated laptops, but also I realized I was using the laptop screen less because it was so low, plus I knew I would get a better webcam angle with the laptop riding higher.

Sadly, I don't think anyone makes a good "keyboard with trackpad integrated in front" (honestly, if I could somehow adapt the new iPad Pro magic keyboard/trackpad combo for use on a Mac, that would be ideal...)

So I bought a laptop stand, grabbed an old Apple Apple "magic" keyboard Melissa wasn't using much, and bought a "Magic Trackpad" to place right in front of- recreating the laptop w/ trackpad-at-the-thumbs experience. But, it was uncomfortable, and prone to accidental hits... even after several revisions of lego-constructed wrist rests:

So I guess I'm back to keyboard plus mouse... I still find myself reaching my thumbs down but there are some advantages to the mouse: the cheap bluetooth mouse I got has a scrollwheel, which is a tactile pleasantness I had forgotten, and a distinct button for right clicks, which Mac still supports, albeit grudgingly. Still, it feels so oldschool to need a mousepad (for my white IKEA desktop) -- it's like I'm back in the AOL generation...
Looks like it's a lot better to be white than black if you're gonna wrestle with a cop

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