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New Music Playlist October 2020

Ultra Black (feat. Hit-Boy)
Great steady Black pride hiphop.
Random youtube recommendation.
Play That Country Tuba, Cowboy
The Vandals
Cornball novelty.
Who knows.

Grace Kelly
Strong Freddy Mercury energy. (Called out in the song, actually.)
Some random tumblr post "do kids these days know about grace kelly by mika"
The Suburbs
Arcade Fire
The (Spike Jonze) video is kind of haunting juxtaposition with a middle class American suburb turning into a war zone.
The reprise of this REALLY hit me one morning on the Jersey Shore.
On the Dummy Line
Wayne Erbsen
Old-time novelty song.
Almost as good as my family's version!
Blue Song
Mint Royale
Rocking club-y song with a inspiring video.
(A Cracked article mentioned this video was kind of a test run for the famous opening scene from "Baby Driver")
Funny Song
Playful Royal Free backing track music... like the nice beat and array of instruments - from banjo to kid's chimes.
Background to a video ad.

Highway 61 Revisited
Bob Dylan
Rollicking Bob Dylan.
Ken Jennings' book on humor pointed to this as a rare example of humor in non-novelty music.

What Makes A Good Man? (Radio Edit)
The Heavy
First 5 star for me in a bit. Just has the percussion on soul choir effect and general great feel.
At work we put together a joint Spotify "music to put on to get heads down at work" playlist.
Can't Put It In The Hands Of Fate (feat. Rapsody, Cordae, Chika & Busta Rhymes)
Stevie Wonder
Protest song w/ great hiphop guests in on it. I think the beat is DC-area Go Go?
Some news article mentioned Stevie Wonder was coming out of retirement, this was one of the 2 songs he was releasing.

Intergalactic But It's Ghostbusters
Beastie Boys / Ray Parker Jr. / William Maranci
Brilliant mashup of two great songs! At around 3:15 it shifts gears tho, REALLY focusing on the one time the Beastie Boys make a pun on "Uranus"- I tell iTunes to cut it off at that point...
Posted to the School of Honk group ("Ghostbusters" is one of SoH's staples.)
Can't Get You off My Mind
Sister Sparrow
Soul/R+B feel.
From the shared work spotify playlist.

Hello Hello Hello
Remi Wolf
Nice Tik-Tok era melange.
Soundtrack to some snapchat post or ad Melissa was looking at.
Hello Good Morning (Remix) [feat. Nicki Minaj & Rick Ross]
Diddy - Dirty Money
I really do like Nicki Minaj's flow - other rappers on it are good too.
Found while trying to find "Hello Hello Hello" on iTunes music.

Moliendo Café
Fanfare Ciocărlia
Added this at the end of the month, so the 4 star is a little conditional... still catchy as hell Balkan brass music.
This group saw a lot of play in the Borat films, and I hear about them in HONK adjacent stuff.

Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
euro club cover of the 1991 hit...
Ending credits to the new Borat movie.

Oh good. Just like every month that starts on a Sunday we get a nice Friday the 13th this month.

I like what some folks added to my more or less vanilla Chameleon bassline:

(I just wish people would tell me when my bell cover is crooked)

November 3, 2020


"Portrait of My Anxiety" by Margaret Curtis

November 4, 2020

Yesterday, in between sessions doing voter support with my tuba and some musician friends, I was on The McGST podcast - affiliated with McGST, formerly "Lost in Mobile", a website and corresponding WhatsApp group that is one of my higher quality and most consistent forms of online socializing these days.

Hopefully I acquitted myself well. I took some chances expressing my views on topics that are contentious. As someone who tries to see where the other side is coming from, I worry there are times when I will seem to wishy-washy to fellow lefties.

And all of us - right and left are all on tenterhooks seeing how the election played out. In the group, Shaun said "Kirk said something in the podcast that stuck with me. How much of [the political fight] actually affects your life day by day?"

Of course, the answer is, we don't quite know. Almost all of us enjoy the fruits of a technologically advanced society and culture and there's a suspicion that it would not be so pleasant were it not for this kind of struggle... or at least, some kind of struggle. We benefit from a history of people working on projects bigger than they were, and so it behooves us to keep our roles on the struggles that are happening today.

And wondering about the actual day to day impact probably implies a lot of protective layers of privilege. And maybe the recent waves of Trump/Brexit populism are an angry rebuttal for people who feel poorly treated by the system. (If I hadn't chanced on a well paying tech career path compatible with my natural inclinations, where would I be?) But do they think their lots are greatly improved by these guys? Or is it enough to infuriate the libs, and have the sense of "life still sucks but at least our team won". Or perhaps they think these kind of go by the gut leaders would make things actually, locally better were it not for the meddling of the darn other side? (Republicans have controlled all 3 parts of the US government for years. What have they done good with that? Or is that a stupid thing to ask given for decades they've run on "government is the problem" and then they are compelled to make that true?)

These questions get philosophical quick. A lot of greek lines of philosophical "how to live a good life" ended up looking for equanimity: that we should learn how to emotionally carry on and not be overwhelmed with delight or despair in things that happen to us, especially when we have little say in them. Other times, things get existential, in the loose sense of the word. What's it all about? Is there a goal we can agree on for society and for ourselves, regardless of our religion or lack thereof?
F***, who was against Ranked Choice Voting??? So few people are enamored of the Republican/Democratic Duopoly that utterly, utterly dominates our politics. If we ever want to get out of that without splitting crucial votes we need options like this.

Like, I can see there's an argument against prolonging elections and needing more time / rounds to get to a better result, but is that what people were thinking of who voted no, or just that it seemed weird and different? What a wasted opportunity.
There's a line from the movie "The Commitments" (about an aspiring Irish Soul/R+B band:)
What you were playing was not Soul! Soul solos are part of the song - they have corners. You were spiraling – that's jazz!"
Jimmy "The Lips" Fagan in "The Commitments"
In general, I really prefer music with corners, and historically don't have much a gut feel appreciation for jazz. But right now this Johnny Hodges album "Lover Come Back to Me" feels like a balm.

I think the times are emotionally grinding and grating enough that I have a new appreciation for stuff without corners.

moral, rational people with very different moral conclusions

There is a lot I think Sam Harris is wrong about, sometimes dangerously wrong, but this is at least a thought provoking juxtaposition:
It's like one of those magic eye illustrations, where you're starting at a random dot stereogram, forever, and then finally the embedded 3D image just pops out. And this picture of Trump's appeal is really best understood in comparison with the messaging of his opponents on the Left; that's how you can see it in stereo. That's how the image finally pops up.

So taking the Trump half of this picture: one thing that Trump never communicates - and cannot possibly communicate - is a sense of his moral superiority. The man is totally without sanctimony. Even when his every utterance is purposed towards self-aggrandizement, even when he appears to be denigrating his supporters, even when he's calling himself a genius, he is never actually communicating that he is better than you, more enlightened, more decent... because he's not. And everyone knows it. The man is just a bundle of sin and gore, and he never pretends to be anything more. Perhaps more importantly, he never even aspires to be anything more. And because of this - because he is never really judging you, he can't *possibly* judge you - he offers a truly safe space for human frailty. And hypocrisy. And self-doubt. He offers what no priest can credibly offer: a total expiation of shame. His personal shamelessness is a kind of spiritual balm.

Trump is Fat Jesus. He's "Grab-Them-By-The-Pussy" Jesus. He's "I'll Eat Nothing But Cheeseburgers If I Want To" Jesus. He's "I Want to Punch Them in the Face" Jesus. He's "Go Back to your Shithole Countries" Jesus. He's "No Apologies" Jesus.

And now consider the other half of this image. What are we getting from the Left? We're getting exactly the opposite message. Pure sanctimony. Pure judgement. "You are not good enough." "You're guilty, not only for your own sins, but for the sins of your fathers: the crimes of slavery and colonialism are on your head" And if you're a cis-, White, heterosexual male, which we know is the absolute core of Trump's support? "You're a racist, homophobic transphobic Islamophobic sexist barbarian. Tear down those statues and bend the fucking knee."

It's the juxtaposition of those two messages that is so powerful.

Sam Harris podcast #224
I think the Left's message is subtler than that; it's not that the current day White Folk are responsible for their forefathers sins; but they might be responsible for not recognizing the benefits they continue to enjoy FROM those evils, generations after; the way society sets itself up and digs deep furrows for its constituent groups that are nearly impossible to escape from. Responsible for not seeing those furrows as something worth fighting against. Responsible for not recognizing that this nation is - in an ongoing way - not living up to its ideas of Liberty and Justice For All- that Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness has preconditions of equitable opportunity that are not being met.

It's rough. I know as I clash on Social Media that I carry some of that holier than thou, but I try not to. More so than many of my fellow lefties, I try to give every outlook the benefit of the doubt, and see what are the difference in starting assumptions that are leading moral, rational people to very different moral conclusions.
I think--and this is the commonly accepted view in political science and economics--that [the majority of people voting for reasons that have to do with identity, not ideology] is a result of perverse incentives - it's just not worth voter's time to know things unless they're interested in politics--unless it's their hobby or job.
Jason Brennan, in a Harper's Round Table "What's In A Vote?"
This ties in to the idea that a voter needs to be reconciled with their individual vote only mattering as part of a larger trend/demographic, without losing that emotional energy to keep at it.

the future of games is here

The publisher Usborne has a long history of great tech books for kids - that link even has downloadable copies of their 80s book. One book not on that page (but available at Annarchive, a repository I've contributed to) is this book, "Computer and Video Games: How They Work and How To Win"
(honestly more about the working than the winning!)

One of my favorite parts of it growing up was this page, on the future of video games:

click for full size

But this panel stuck in my mind the most:

Back then, I was versed enough in the ways of "LCD" to dismiss that the kind of graphics shown were a fantasy! LCDs were what gave us the canonical "Game and Watch" look of detailed but non-overlapping game display elements. And even on a TV, what kind of game could look like that?

Of course I was wrong. Gameboys used LCDs as pixels, and even smartphones are LCDs, all the way up to the OLED days where we live now. And while I'm not sure what kind of game with motorbikes would have an angle quite like that for play, it's certainly in the realm of what we've had in our hands for the last decade.

(Handheld or no, 3D game worlds have become astonishingly beautiful and detailed. My superniece has persuaded me to keep with Red Dead Redemption 2 because it's so realistic, and man... it really is jawdropping, compared to the sprites of the 80s and 90s.)
You can now legally compost dead bodies in Washington state Love this idea. Americans are so uptight about how we deal with dearly departed - it's like we deny our mortality by preserving our old form as long as possible - and make our loved ones left behind vulnerable to all kinds of profiteers! There is beauty in being able to live on in the ecosphere in a purposeful way.

Año 2020
Vídeo de instagram @pianolitopeter pic.twitter.com/T2vtVAau7x

— Josef Ajram Tares (@josefajram) November 1, 2020

Not to count chickens but doesn't this look nice? It took my breath away during my "slightly-less-doomed"-scrolling

November 7, 2020

Guess we're Abidin' with Biden!

Noontime tweet:

Ok, chief.

Actually its been fun the last few days now that twitter has been placing "uh this is not actually factual" tags in front of Trump's tweets:

reminds me of comics that show a physical "CENSORED" sign to cover over the swearing... I think that's a pretty good solution, he's not fully censored, but the idea of facts and truth mattering is taking precedence to being his mouthpiece.
There are some interesting lessons for democrats. Trump showed surprising strength w/ some minority groups - like emphasizing borders + police appeals, since it's like "well he's talking about that OTHER group" , there's not a solidarity in the coalition. And Trump did a shit ton of damage but he did energize the left in a lot of ways.
Four Seasons... Total Landscaping? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA
Theory is, this is a dude who just had a good cry in the car.

Also... that hat. Reminds me of those phones they used to have for senior citizens, with extra big buttons.
Took part in 2 celebrations and a protest.... the protoversion of my community band in JP, a reminder that there are many fights still to be fought at Nubian Square, and then an impromptu jam at Davis Square.

November 8, 2020


RIP Alex Trebek. Or is that, "What is RIP Alex Trebek?"

November 9, 2020

141 Optical Illusions - some are so amazing. After going to one of those Ripley's Believe It or Not tourist places (one in Atlantic city) - it was all dated, but most everything there held up pretty well, except for the optical illusions... we've really come a long way.

Nailed it


— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) November 7, 2020

November 10, 2020

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.
Billy Collins, "Litany"

Movies with Mikey is always so good, and while I knew most of the bits and pieces here, he covered the rise of Mario and Nintendo really well, his stuff is always so insightful AND full of emotional strength - SPOILER: Nobody Knows What They're Doing is a message of hope.

an open letter to michael bach

The other day I linked to Michael Bach's "Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena" page, today I finally got a chance to go through them all, and I shot him this note:

Hello! Thank you for your site on optical illusions, I enjoyed taking the tour.
I think the one most glaring absence (from the "face" section) was this:

The mutual distortions are truly remarkable, especially how the viewer can focus on one face or the other at will and it quickly returns to normal.

It probably wouldn't be too difficult to reconstruct that, I suspect any set of faces might work.

On more well covered territory:

On Structure from motion at equiluminance - I find I am relatively insensitive to the "equiluminance" aspect.

I first saw a version of the effect at the (sadly defunct) Boston Computer Museum - I think the visitor could add one dot at a time that would slide back and forth, and then as more dots were added, the rotation would become more obvious.

Years ago I recreated the effect for a "P5 advent calendar":treemergent and frostyspin

(I use trivial math - each dot has a yspeed, and if it's to the left of the center, a constant is added to the yspeed, otherwise subtracted - I always wondered how close that was to actual "sine" numbers and today wrote a little program to empirically demonstrate the similarity... pretty close! - I have forgotten too much Calculus to see if this is an equivalency via integration...)

The old 16bit computer game "Star Control" also used the effect for a rotating star map:

That shows the illusion would work even for "interior" objects, not just as points on the surface of a rotating solid.

Thanks again! I am amazed at how much "new stuff" has been discovered in terms of illusions: I feel like the books for kids I grew up with in the 80s were stuck with "these two lines are the same length!" and "look at this Escher thing!" - but the "rotating snakes" are truly mind bending.

November 12, 2020

Feelin' the Hulk today...

"have you ever noticed you pick up little habits and phrases from the people you love? it's no wonder our hearts are so easily broken when people leave. we become a reflection of the people that we care about and those personality traits stick with us even if the people don't"

"I make my ramen the way a friend taught me in eleventh grade. Every fall, I listen to a playlist made for me by a boy I drove across a border to hook up with. I eat sushi because a girl who won't talk to me anymore made me try it, and Indian food because my best friend's parents ordered for me before I knew what I liked. There are movies I love because someone I loved loved them first. I am a mosaic of everyone I've ever loved, even for a heartbeat."
smokeinsilence and viridianmasquerade, via

Yeah. My gut feeling is that I shoudn't trust my intuition....AARGH PARADOX. I'm going to try not to think about that too much.
Happy 50th to the Exploding Whale!

November 13, 2020

Dear White Evangelicals,

I need to tell you something: People have had it with you.

They're done.

They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here's why:

They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character--all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

And through it all, White Evangelicals--you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

You violently opposed him at every single turn--without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

And yet you give carte blanche to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth--that the mind boggles.

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you're now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you're suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you--they see it all clearly.

They recognize the toxic source of your inconsistency.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.
They see that you aren't interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.
They see that you aren't burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.
They see that all you're really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus--not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

And I know you don't realize it, but you're digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you've gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power--but you've lost a whole lot more.

You've lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You've lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You've lost any semblance of Christlikeness.
You've lost the plot.
And most of all you've lost your soul.

I know it's likely you'll dismiss these words. The fact that you've even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you.

But I had to at least try to reach you. It's what Jesus would do.

Maybe you need to read what he said again--if he still matters to you.

I wish I could find the text that made the case that Trump lived out almost every nasty stupid stereotype people joked a black president would have before Obama showed that it would be with relative simplicity and dignity - but from using the office to enrich himself, by giving jobs to his family and sycophants in his gang, to gorging on fast food, to all the divorces and dalliances before that, to being ever anti-intellectual and making a sorts of inflammatory decisions and pronouncements...

November 14, 2020

Just saw someone in a mask the same color as the skin above it. Damn at first glance that is creepy as heck, like the old Star Trek episode Charlie X...

November 15, 2020


In a way aren't we all stuck between a sex shop and a crematorium?
Marc Stauffer
(In reference to the how long ago was it? Trumps' lawyers' press conference at the Four Seasons...Total Landscaping yard.)

For me, the funniest thing about Giuliani's badness for Trump overall is my (I guess unconfirmed?) theory that Trump just loves, loves, loves how the damn Mayor of NYC - with all his 9/11 gravitas and what not - is his personal lapdog. Like it must have been such a nice piece of the power trip for him...

November 16, 2020

Friends of mine on FB wondering what I'm doing in the background of Stacey Abrams greeting Jimmy Carter...

November 17, 2020

Random devblog entry on apple + computing in general's idea of safety vs privacy, the decline of # of domains on the web, the appeal of FB, and my many years on the independent blogosphere
Happy Frickin' Birthday COVID.

A little Nicomachean Ethics to brighten up your morning

Reading about Obama's first visit to Kenya (before he went to Harvard) and his discomfort with the remainders of colonialism he saw led me to looking up the Wikipedia page for "Guns, Germs, and Steel"- a book that describes how much of a culture's grown power is much more a matter of happenstance than of intrinsic values of the population. I guess the book talks about The Anna Karenina principle- I've always wondered about
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
but wikipedia interprets it as
In other words: happy families share a common set of attributes which lead to happiness, while any of a variety of attributes can cause an unhappy family. This concept has been generalized to apply to several fields of study.
The article goes on to point out a parallel with Aristotle in "Nicomachean Ethics":
Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult – to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.
I don't think I agree. A single axis to gauge success and failure is very limited; or even the text is more about a dartboard model: the singular point of success in the center, everything else various degrees of failure.

Yeah. That's nuts. If a dart expert gets a bullseye because of their excellent form after years of practice, that's one thing; but even a duffer will get the odd bullseye. And at least in that case, the results the same, but the implications for future success are very different.

And single target? I'd say everything of worth in life is a competition among competing priorities, competing targets, and the struggle is getting the right compromises set among them

I keep getting my Greek philosophers mixed up but it looks like it was Socrates who said "No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly.". I've thought of that as "hardly anyone is the bad guy of their own story at the time their living it". I think I've previously been corrected that that isn't as universal as I thought, that some people are conflicted even as they are drawn or compelled to act in ways they know are ultimately bad.

But still, everything is a compromise. Barbara Tversky puts it as "There are no benefits without costs". We gotta do some robbing Peter to pay some Pauls. Sci-fi fans put it as TANSTAAFL, "There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch". Understanding that isn't the same thing as moral relativism - at some point you gotta pick what lunch you're paying for, and some lunches are better choices than others. (And the religiosity of my youth compels me to think there must be one objectively correct best algorithm for deciding which lunch is best for you - even if that's not the best lunch for everyone or in every circumstance.)
There is more worth loving than we have strength to love.
Brian Jay Stanley

November 19, 2020

Thought of this poem I wrote in college (trying to woo my crush) which made it onto my "PalmPilot" journal but I also have deeply memorized:
A fire knows
But one sensation
And cannot dream
Of its own cessation

But ice knows
Many voices
Ones that sit stolid
And one that rejoices
The same Palm journal entry has this
Had a bit of an existential crisis last night. (Why do these things usually happen in bed? Guess that's what I get for trying to go to sleep too early.) It framed itself in terms of "I might be dying and aware of it someday"- of course, I'm dying right now, but (relatively) slowly. The thought might have been brought on by Mo's observation that one of us might have to live through the other's death. Which bothers me, but doesn't grab me as much on the reptile brain level. Mostly it's the thought that interesting things will happen and I'll have lost my chance to see them. On the other hand, the planet and even the universe probably aren't immortal in any meaningful way either. Possibly dying on my own time means I'll avoid dying on somebody else's, some giant tragic disaster. 00-3-7
That was probably the train of thought that ended up as my Skeptics for Mortality webpage and then the So, You're Going to Die comic.
Balk's First Law: Everything you hate about the Internet is actually everything you hate about people.

Balk's Second Law: The worst thing is knowing what everyone thinks about anything.

Balk's Third Law: If you think the Internet is terrible now, just wait a while.

November 20, 2020

A few weeks ago I got a cheap bright yellow silicone case for my phone. (easier to find when placed down on a surface!) I decided to use black tape to make it more bumblebee like:
I already mentioned how I stole a bumblebee design (but bought these earrings) and made a lock screen :
(I lowered the Bee so it wasn't obscured by the currently playing podcast or music widget.) Anyway I added these two charming bees as well:
At first they were facing outwards, but the way it zooms out when you swipe up from an app made it look like they were flying backwards... this is much cuter.

Incidentally I had a heck of an irritating time in both Acorn and Pixelmator trying to do some basic pixel-centric layer clipping and rearrangement... maybe I should try sticking with Piskel online...

November 21, 2020

Sometimes when I think about death
I remember to cherish each breath.
But most of the time
I forget and then I'm...
Willing to pretend it won't happen*

* very few English words rhyme with death
Derrick Te Paske
He's a local artist who ran a session of the Unitarian Universalist Science + Spirituality group I run, we talked about his work making Reliquaries, and the history of those, Ossiaries, and our mind's (in)ability to think of its death.

November 22, 2020

The other day I was reading about China's curious cult of the mango.

November 23, 2020

roses are red, violence is money

physical conflict is just the frothy peak of a wave on a sea of mammalian rage & fear, honey

from "Dreams from my Father"

I finished Barack Obama's "Dreams from my Father", published when he was the Junior Senator from Illinois. I was kind of hoping to find the secret to his equanimity, how he got the nickname "No Drama Obama". Not sure I found that but it was still a good read. I definitely got more admiration for his work as community organizer, and a suggestion of how few opportunities present themselves in the tougher urban districts of Chicago.

Guilt is a luxury only foreigners can afford. Like saying whatever pops into your head.
Lolo Soetoro (Obama's stepfather)
I fell back on the couch and lit a cigarette, watching the match burn down until it tickled my fingertips, then feeling the prick on the skin as I pinched the flame dead. What's the trick? the man asks. The trick is not caring that it hurts. I tried to remember where I'd heard the line, but it was lost to me now, like a forgotten face. No matter. Billie [Holiday] knew the same trick; it was in that torn-up, trembling voice of hers. And I had learned it, too; that's what my last two years in high school had been about, after Ray went off to junior college somewhere and I had set the books aside; after I had stopped writing to my father and he'd stopped writing back. I had grown tired of trying to untangle a mess that wasn't of my making.

I had learned not to care.
Barack Obama, "Dreams from my Father"
(That might be where the book comes closest to his equanimity, but I don't think this quote on how to deal with a potentially endless series of racial insults put against the feeling of never being able to do enough for his family, community and race. On FB, a friend points out this might be a reference to the movie Lawrence of Arabia)
But power was patient and knew what it wanted; power could out-wait slogans and prayers and candlelight vigils.
Barack Obama, "Dreams from my Father"
From the politics after the death of Chicago's iconic powerful black mayor Harold Washington. Sometimes when I'm out there with my horn trying to add musical energy to some good cause my thoughts fit in that same groove.
Once upon a time, Jesus spoke to an angry crowd that wanted to kill a guilty woman. "Of all of you, he who can say he has never done anything wrong can come forward and kill her."

After they heard this, the crowd stopped.

When the crowd retreated, Jesus raised a stone and killed the woman, and said, "I am also a sinner, but if the law can only be executed by a spotless person, then the law will die."
An account of John 8:3-11 in a law-and-ethics textbook published by the Chinese Communist Party, translated from the Chinese by Annie Geng, via "Harper's Magazine".
Whoa. I'm struck by how the Americans who might find this retelling the most blasphemous... kind of act like they agree with this Jesus' point?

November 25, 2020



November 26, 2020


Being a reader these days is amazing in terms of being able to almost effortlessly look up any reference, no matter how obscure. I'm reading a Dwight Garner's commonplace book, absolutely nothing but quotations loosely categorized (but without having the topic explicitly listed) and being able to find out more about who said any particular thing, or maybe get it in context... amazing.
Dolly Parton is even more amazing than I thought!

Private Screenings, Games Magazine December 1982

As a kid, I loved reviews of video games, especially if they were colorful. I just managed to trackdown one of my favorites that someone scanned online - the December 1982 copy of Games magazine (All I remembered was that it had a time travelling detecting story "The Hemlock Kiss-Off"). I was really taken by monkeyshines, a game I wouldn't even see footage of for years, there's something so weirdly appealing to me about autonomous little monkeys...

Also, "Microsurgeon" certainly has a memorable screenshot:

trying to figure out if the machines schools in the 80s had were mimeograph or ditto machines. haven't thought of that weird purple ink ina long time... hard to explain to a kid in age of photocopies and printers. almost as weird as microfiche.
Nothing bums me out like finding quotes I put on my blog from a book I don't recall reading. It's like a reminder of how quickly any mark I leave on the world is likely to be eroded away, I can't reliably place a mark on my own psyche!
Speaking of old video games... On the FB Atari Age group Herb Branan writes "The warranty card I found in the box for a Magnavox Odyssey 3000, circa late 70's."

Question #8 is just amazing. Such a weird way cart before the horse way of thinking about what a player might like in a game... (also the salary ranges and the lack of zip code in the address are quite telling of the time.)

from "Garner's Quotations"

My mom sent me a NY Times article by Dwight Garner about his keeping a commonplace book for 40 years which he published as "Garner's Quotations: A Modern Miscellany".

I enjoy setting my two decades of blogging in the context of commonplace books - starting as text files on my Palm Pilot in 1997. As in the case of this book, it can just be a bunch of quotes. Garner lumps them by topic a bit, usually in clumps of 3 or 4, though the lumps are titled, so part of the pleasure is recognizing the commonality.

Anyway, here are my favorite quotes from it... usually I'm a little hesitant to bring in quotes wholesale, but what the hell. I especially like the Richard Avedon quote on how surfaces are all we have to work with.
I'm not much but I'm all I have.
Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip

One melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can't make old friends.
Christopher Hitchens, in Harper's Magazine

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, journals

If dolphins tasted good, he said, we wouldn't even know about their language.
Lorrie Moore, "Bark"

I pick twenty [cherries] at a time and stuff them all into my mouth at once. They taste better like that.
Anton Chekhov, A Life in Letters
He is so right!
If you're not at the table, you're on the menu.
Origin unknown

A wise old chef once told me: Wait till peas are in season, then use frozen.
Fergus Henderson

The better a singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying.
David Byrne

Two of the saddest words in the English language are "What party?" And L.A. is the "What party" capital of the world.
Carrie Fisher

The surface is all you've got. You can only get beyond the surface by working with the surface.
Richard Avedon

Some exemplary unpleasant facts are these: that life is short and almost always ends messily; that if you live in the actual world you can't have your own way; that if you do get what you want, it turns out to be not the thing you wanted; that no one thinks as well of you as you do yourself; and that one or two generations from now you will be forgotten entirely and that the world will go on as if you had never existed. Another is that to survive and prosper in this world you have to do so at someone else's expense or do and undergo things it's not pleasant to face: like, for example, purchasing your life at the cost of innocents murdered in the aerial bombing of Europe and the final bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And not just the bombings. It's also an unpleasant fact that you are alive and well because you or your representatives killed someone with bullets, shells, bayonets, or knives, if not in Germany, Italy, or Japan, then Korea or Vietnam. You have connived at murder, and you thrive on it, and that fact is too unpleasant to face except rarely.
Paul Fussell, Thank God for the Atom Bomb

We cherish our friends not for their ability to amuse us, but for ours to amuse them.
Evelyn Waugh

Time misspent in youth is sometimes all the freedom one ever has.
Anita Brookner, A Misalliance

Freedom isn't speaking your mind freely. Freedom is having the money to go to Mexico.
Nell Zink, Mislaid

What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.
Susan Sontag

Somebody put it on the Internet and it went bacterial.
Donald Hall, A Carnival of Losses

When people call you intelligent it is almost always because they agree with you. Otherwise they call you arrogant.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it.
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.
H. L. Mencken, attributed

We're all just walking each other home.
Baba Ram Dass

the arc of a love affair

A while back I started playing with timelines - I wanted to be better able to see the footsteps of my life so far.

That's one thing about life: it's easy to forget how much of it many of us our blessed with. Days rush by, weeks drags, and years can fly past - but there's a lot in there if you pay attention. That's good news if you're living a life (as long as you're having a reasonable time of it!) but bad news if you're trying to make an information-rich detailed graphical representation of it.

In making my main timeline, full of photos of places and people that I've loved, I experimented with different visual displays. This weekend I put together one more form: the rainbow-like arch:
click for full size

As usual with the experiments, I condensed things to where I've lived, jobs I've had, and people I've had some kind of romantic connection with.

Using a divided arch was interesting - it's more bounded than a simple linear timeline, and the curve gives a bit more room to cram stuff in, making better use of the plane.

Although Tufte famously warns against pie charts, I think this display does invite comparisons of ranges, without too much distortion.

(Also, I was thinking a bit about Jastrow illusion where two identical thick curved rails appear vastly different in size depending on how they're nested.)

November 30, 2020

Beautiful episode of Poetry Unbound on Dilruba Ahmed's poem "Phase One" - a meditation on self-forgiveness.

Bringing it to me (which is something I do a bit too often, but I forgive myself for :-D After all I'm the only person I have first hand knowledge of):

My first thought was, maybe I'm better than average at self-forgiveness, and forgiveness in general (Sometimes it makes juggling friendships tough when some of my friends are NOT so forgiving/tolerant of other of my friends... but of course, I'm not in a place to judge my friends for being judgey.)

I was molded with a sense of "judge not lest ye be judged" - or maybe more accurately, I have a kind of deep empathy for those terrible "Only God Can Judge Me" tattoos. I have a deep sense of an objectively True, God's Eye View of things, even as I live with intense skepticism about the form of God that resides there. So I don't point out the specks in my brother's eye even as I am happy to gloss over any lumber in my own.

But... maybe a lack of self-forgiveness is what drives my steadfastness. For example, I enjoy my time playing tuba in bands... but I always show up even when I really don't feel like it, or push off some other demands, because I couldn't quite forgive myself for being unreliable. Or, more accurately, because I think the objective truth might not forgive me, and I struggle mightily to be a conduit of that.

Of course a more mature view might point out that I'm doing all kinds of curation of what is judgement-worthy all the time. Subjectivity is the sea we all swim in... still, I find it an important act of empathy to keep thinking there's an island of Objectivity we can get to, and that other people might be sighting land in a way I can't.
she had curves in all the right places, and all the left places, also, and in places forgotten by time, and in places known only by dwarven scholars

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