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January 1, 2021

Been thinking on the idea of "Locus of Control" - the idea of whether you feel things are more dependent on factors you control vs external circumstances and other actors, I realize there's an interesting concept of "Locus of Judgement"... whose judgement are you most worried about. I guess it looks something like this:

For some people, judgement is coming from the smaller "you" at the center there... your head and your heart make judgements. But for other folks, it's that dominating external figure that matters the most. And it gets messed up - certain kinds of anxiety can come from internalizing the judgement of others, living in fear of what they think and imagining horrible consequences if you go against their wishes.

Then there's that weird blue circle of figures I added... that's my crude way of representing striving for the objective view - like, the "God's-Eye View", the viewpoint from God's Throne that I feel exists even though I'm not sure that there's a Divine Butt in that chair.

I was always willing to stand up to authority, I think because of my faith in that view - not that I could be confident I had that correct view, but that it existed. Authority is only legitimate to the extent that it represented a good faith effort to manifest and further that objective truth.

This (probably too cluttered to be useful) diagram came to me while reading "Why Buddhism is True" - Robert Wright is pointing me to some further reading, like Thomas Nagel's "The View from Nowhere" - I have hopes that that will explore and extend ideas about the importance of presuming the existence of the objective view.

Open Photo Gallery

photos of the year 2020


Open Photo Gallery

"No War in Iran" protest in January

Cora upsidedown...

Melissa outside the deCordova...

Cora at Not Your Average Joe's

Buildings reflected at Lechmere Canal.

In April I did a series of shots of the kitty Dean...

Swans near Watch City May 31

Counter rally against alt-right jerks.

Underwater foliage at the Burlingame Park on a July 4th bit of distanced floaty rafting.

Melissa and Deborah the Inflatable

Sweet Gum pod near Jamaica Pond.

Sea Gull at Dawn over Ocean Grove NJ.

Mom on the Ocean Grove New Jersey Shore.

some quotes from "Why Buddhism is True"

Sometimes understanding the ultimate source of your suffering doesn't, by itself, help very much.
Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True"

Feelings are designed to encode judgments about things in our environment.
Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True"

The cost of survival of the lineage may be a lifetime of discomfort.
Aaron Beck (via Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True")

It is possible to argue that the primary evolutionary function of the self is to be the organ of impression management (rather than, as our folk psychology would have it, a decision-maker).
Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True"

Every thought has a propellant, and that propellant is emotional.
Akincano Marc Weber (via Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True")

"Reason alone," Hume argued, "can never oppose passion in the direction of the will." Nothing "can oppose or retard the impulse of passion but a contrary impulse."
Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True"

There are probably very few perceptions and cognitions in everyday life that do not have a significant affective component, that aren't hot, or in the very least tepid. And perhaps all perceptions contain some affect. We do not just see 'a house': we see 'a handsome house,' 'an ugly house,' or 'a pretentious house.' We do not just read an article on attitude change, on cognitive dissonance, or on herbicides. We read an 'exciting' article on attitude change, an 'important' article on cognitive dissonance, or a 'trivial' article on herbicides. And the same goes for a sunset, a lightning flash, a flower, a dimple, a hangnail, a cockroach, the taste of quinine, Saumur, the color of earth in Umbria, the sound of traffic on 42nd Street, and equally for the sound of a 1000-Hz tone and the sight of the letter Q.
Robert Zajonc (via Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True")
Man, I have really been wondering how most people (myself included but maybe less so than most people) attachment value judgements to EVERYTHING. It's like we're incapable of categorizing anything without assigning ourselves to "I am on team for this" or "I am on team against this".
It can let you experience your feelings--anger, love, sorrow, joy--with new sensitivity, seeing their texture, even feeling their texture, as never before. And the reason this is possible is that you are, in a sense, not making judgments--that is, you are not mindlessly labeling your feelings as bad or good, not fleeing from them or rushing to embrace them. So you can stay close to them yet not be lost in them; you can pay attention to what they actually feel like. Still, you do this not in order to abandon your rational faculties but rather to engage them: you can now subject your feelings to a kind of reasoned analysis that will let you judiciously decide which ones are good guiding lights.
Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True"
This is the heart of the book. But despite this, I don't feel particularly drawn to try and start a meditation practice. I might be full of myself, but I think because I am CONSTANTLY applying a sense of "if I don't know the God's Eye View of This" I should withhold judgement -- really living the 'judge not lest ye be judged" I picked up as a kid.

Also I wonder if a mind wandering during meditation gets a bad rap?? Yeah, if it constantly spurs emotional reactions, that's bad, but what's wrong with intellectual play and meandering if you don't end up getting buffeted by emotions from it?
Einstein became famous by asking a similar question in the realm of physics. He acknowledged that our intuitions about the physical world--about how fast objects move, for example--work fine for the purpose of steering each of us through that world. After all, for practical purposes, what matters is how fast things are moving in *relation to us.* But, he said, if you want a deeper understanding of physics, you need to detach yourself from your particular perspective--from any particular perspective--and ask: Suppose I occupied no vantage point? Since I wouldn't be able to ask how fast things are moving relative to me, what exactly would it mean to ask how fast things are moving? Questions like this led him to the theory of relativity and the realization that E=mc2.
Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is True"
I do wonder if Einstein's thought has a meaningful parallel to my current idea of the impossible "God's Eye View" - not a particular perspective, but every perspective, or no perspective (or is every perspective and no perspective as opposite as they sound?)
Yesterday I hung out with Cora and her Mama C in their backyard - we picked out faces etc in the clouds, which were amazingly turbulent. This video is a time lapse, so it's a bit exaggerated, but even without the speed up it was fascinating seeing the edges of the clouds curl back in on themselves... (top of my head peeks in at around :03)

Astounding audio of Trump trying to pressure Georgia Secretary of State into "finding" 11,780 votes.
To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernable but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through. What else will do except faith in such cynical, corrupt time? When the country goes temporarily to the dogs, cats must learn to be circumspect, walk on fences, sleep in trees and have faith that all this woofing is not the last word. Time to shut up and be beautiful and wait for the morning. Yahooism, when in power, is deaf, and neither satire nor the Gospel will stay its brutal hand, but hang on, another chapter follows. Our brave hopes for changing the world all sank within view of their home port, and we become the very people we used to make fun of, the old and hesitant, but never mind, that's not the whole story either. So, hang on. What keeps our faith cheerful is the extreme persistence of gentleness and humor. Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that the faith rules through ordinary things; through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and book, raising kids- all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. Even in times of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. Lacking any other purposes in life, it would be good enough for their sake.
Garrison Keillor answering Life Magazine's "Why Are We Here?"

2020, 1 Second Everyday


I've been cleaning up my blog's tag system, so now the 1sed tag just has the annual versions, going back to 2013...

January 5, 2021

I put together a photo slide show to go with a recording of JP Honk's gig Saturday night:
Pretty pleased with how it all came out!
You know as a kid I wondered about making a robot that could play a brass instrument -- guess it's harder than it looks!

January 6, 2021

100 Tips for a Better Life
True Patriotism includes accepting election results (whether you see it as losing by 74 electoral college votes, 7 million real votes, or over 50 lawsuits)
If you tuned out of news tonight: kudos to the joint session of congress reconvening, and for many Republicans from backing down from their plans to object to various state tallies. There's still many storms ahead but the ship started to right itself tonight.
Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.
The Dutchess in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
I think of this line sometimes when I hear arguments how like Trans-peole and genderqueer folk or whoever just are that way to be cool, or trendy.

Also in some discussion tonight... besides obvious parallels with how society has learned to somewhat better live up to its principles of equality and justice for gays and people of color in a way it hasn't for trans... just think about left-handed people. Man, "left-handedness" is just in their head, right? Those sinister people, it's not biologically real or anything. Society was right [sic!] and within its rights [sic!] to force those sinister folks to be normal, right?

But as always, an an objective universe where we are all trapped in our subjective realities, the damn HUBRIS of "oh I understand your gender better than you do" just infuriates me.
So, yeah, leading a rally and then segueing into storming political buildings... that is pretty much an attempted coup?

One wonders what these treasonous, deluded blowhards will do on inauguration day.

muffled sounds of gorilla violence


Danish Kids TV is pretty dope - I love the idea of having a loop of the characters sleeping running overnight, so parents can say to their kids "see? the people on TV are sleeping too!". Plus they create a thing great for kids that doesn't bow down to the rightwing.

LBJ - he of the legendary endowment that he would use to intimidate folks with - was known for quoting the consensus-building statement that starts Isaiah 1:18: "Come now, and let us reason together".

But the secret of that was he was probably thinking a verse or two down as well:
"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

Being very interested in consensus, I would use "Come now and let us reason together" more if I wasn't aware of the verses that follow!

new music playlist for december 2020

Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See
Busta Rhymes
Not my favorite Busta Rhymes piece, though I do love that video style he had in this era.
Mentioned in Cracked One Man's Crusade To Officially Name A Island (... After Busta Rhymes?)

Fight The Power: Remix 2020 (feat. Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, Jahi, YG & Questlove)
Public Enemy
Great update of the Hip Hop classic. Love hearing women's voices on it too.
recommended by Youtube off of “Public Enemy Number Won” from the same album.
Dig It Up
Holes Soundtrack
A little too polished, but the the rap / piano swing works well.
via Cracked Meryl Streep Is Now Apparently A Rapper (err but not in this song)

Crash of Worlds
Rocco DeLuca
Lovely, plaintive song for a cowboy game.
From "Red Dead Redemption 2" which I played through.

Funky Christmas feat. Big Freedia
Too Many Zooz
Great holiday song! Love Freedia's voice, and Too Many Zooz always has a great sound.
Youtube recommendation.
Sump'n Claus - SNL
The skit isn't all that funny but I love the concept.
Youtube recommendation.
Joe Hill
Paul Robeson
Damn, that voice.
Mentioned in a McSweeny article.

Times Like These
Foo Fighters
There's something stirring in the way he holds "I...."
They were on SNL recently, and they did this song.
Far Away
José González
Another cowboy song.
Sought out more from the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack.

This is like a set of tracks from "Crash of Worlds" but I think I prefer it... the sound is amazing, and playing it over a crucial lonely death scene was amazing powerful in the video game "Red Dead Redemption 2"
Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band
Spirited war song, by one of the good guys.
The original song "Dixie" has been popping up for me a few places, like on Veep, mostly with people making fun of racists.

Hands To Myself
Selena Gomez
Kinda sexy! I think Janelle Monáe's PYNK drew from this, maybe?
Credits music for an episode of "Big Mouth"

Under Pressure
Karen O & Willie Nelson
Random spotify.

The Five Crises of the American Regime...

This is a really interesting article. I hope it doesn't ring too many bothsiderism bells for people - I mean there is some of that, but I think there's also some significantly smart analysis going on.

There's some shit I just don't see ("the Democrats, by tacitly encouraging and bailing out foundation-funded NGO staffers with secret identities and superhero-style Antifa outfits during the tolerated anti-Trump riots of Summer 2020" -- whut? and "The Democratic street armies, with their national networks of bail funds that enable the coastal rich to spring left-wing rioters and looters from jail in staged protests across the country" - maybe I was too far from the action thus summer with my activist bands, but I didn't see much of that) but some other stuff rings way too true:

"And the elderly Boomer politicians of our time in both parties have chosen to wield their enhanced power to delegitimize the mere existence of the other party as a threat to the nation that must be humiliated if not annihilated."

And at the very least historically, it absolutely started with Conservatives:

The Republicans started the cycle of escalation in the 1990s. Rejecting the very idea of a bipartisan consensus, Newt Gingrich disseminated a partisan vocabulary to make it appear that Republicans favored the opposite of everything Democrats favored. Gingrich told Republicans to contrast the "conservative opportunity society" with "the liberal welfare state." Semantic warfare was combined with quasi-military organization, as Gingrich and his Republican successors imposed a degree of discipline on the Republican party in Congress that was alien to American traditions. The 1990s Republicans weaponized impeachment against Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, occupying the same office as the great conciliator Lyndon Johnson, continued Newt Gingrich's tactics of treating the Democrats as enemies to be completely thwarted, not as partners in government.

And again, later the author claims that men do a lot worse job wise, but CNN tells me "According to new data released Friday, employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, signaling that the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is backtracking. Digging deeper into the data also reveals a shocking gender gap: Women accounted for all the job losses, losing 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000."

January 9, 2021

"I'm curious: who would you say is the smartest straight, white man you know?"

"[Long pause.] If I could decide who it was, I would never tell you. Because the other straight white men I know--all of whom think they're geniuses--would be very insulted."

Annual Media Roundup

Media I consumed over 2020... 4 star in red, 5 star red and bolded... # of items more or less fully consumed in parentheses, with the +/- from the year before after.

Movies at the Cinema(2 (-9))
WBCN and The American Revolution, Stop Making Sense
So... not too many movies in person in 2020 for obvious reasons. The background of "WBCN and The American Revolution" was cool to see at the Somerville Theater... (The concert film Stop Making Sense was pretty cool as well)

Movies on Video or Streaming(53 (+14))
Booksmart, Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty, Hustlers, Brittany Runs a Martathon, Parasite, Logan Lucky, End of Envagelion, Homecoming, End Times Fun, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Astartes, Event Horizon, React for Beginners, Maria Bamford: Weakness is the Brand, The Shawshank Redemption, Sincerely, Boyz N The Hood, Modern Times, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future, Patton Oswald: I Love Everything, Beyond, UHF, It Happened One Night, Just Mercy, Dave Attell : Captain Miserable, Moonlight, Eric Andre Legalize Everything, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Knives Out, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Jim Jeffries Intolerant, School of Rock, Dolemite is my Name, Sam Jay: 3 in the Morning, The Beastie Boys Story, Shazam, Rob Schneider: Asian Momma, Mexican Kids, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, The Science of Sleep, What Happened Was, Zach Galifianakis Live at the Purple Onion, The Machinist, Halloween, On The Waterfront, American History X, Lewis Black: Thanks for Risking Your Life, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Oath, Uncle Frank, The Witches of Eastwick, The Great Dictator
Alot of live comedy on Netflix. "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" was my social birthday flick, early in quarantine. "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" has stuck with me, and I liked the otherwordliness of "The Science of Sleep".

TV Show Seasons(16 (-7))
Big Mouth Season 2, Star Trek The Next Generation Season 1, Big Mouth Season 3, Superstore Season 4, Star Trek The Next Generation Season 2, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, LEGO Masters, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 14, What We Do In the Shadows Season 2, Travel Man Season 1, Workaholics, 90 Days The Other Way, The Eric Andre Show, Chapelle Show Season 2, Rick and Morty Season 4, Veep (Random Seasons), Big Mouth Season 4
"Big Mouth" is such an interesting thing - it's hard to tell who it's aimed at - like it's stuff you think teens (and maybe younger) should know, but too raunchy to feel ok with showing them - but the way it personifies things like anxiety and depression is so dead on. It was good going exercising my geekdom with "Neon Genesis Evangelion"

Books(30 (+/- 0))
Checkpoint, The Society of Mind, Getting Over Homer, Exhalation, milk and honey, In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You are Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship, My Digital Generation 2.0, The Complete Cosmicomics, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, When Einstein Walked With Goedel, Atomic Design, aha! Insight, Existentialism Is a Humanism, Instantiation, aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to puzzle and delight, Art of Atari, How to Be an Antiracist, Daddy: A Memoir, James Acaster's Classic Scrapes, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, My Tank Is Fight!, Homegoing, Making Sense, Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture, Majora's Mask (Bossfight Books), Dreams from my Father, Garner's Quotations, Such a Fun Age, Home Buying Kit for Dummies
Ted Chiang (of "Exhalation" - I pull quotes from it here) makes such good, thought-provoking sci-fi. A lot of Black literature, thanks in part to a reading group at Belmont UU I joined.

Audiobooks/Podcast(16 (-1))
Poetry Unbound, No Stupid Questions, Retronauts, The Talk Show with John Gruber, Watch Out for Fireballs!, Triple Click, My Brother, My Brother And Me, St Elwick's Neighbourhood Association Newsletter Podcast, Making Sense, The Allusionist, 99% Invisible, The Anthropocene Reviewed, The Argument, Baby Geniuses, Beef and Dairy Network, McGST Podcast
"Poetry Unbound" has seriously moved me at times. And I'm happy to be part of the community that helps with "McGST", a spin off of a small tech blog I've liked for a long while

Comic / Graphic Novel(14 (+5))
Atari Force (1-5), Bucko, Stuck Rubber Baby, The Invisibles Book One, The Invisibles Book Two, The Invisibles Book Three, The Invisibles Book Four, Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street, DC Meets Looney Tunes, Let's All Shut Up and Make Money!, The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925-1975, WE3, Creating a Champion, The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy
"Stuck Rubber Baby" was an excellent semi-autobiographical piece from the Civil Rights movement in the South, from the point of view of a white man also coming to terms with is homosexuality.

Video Games(12 (-5))
Luigi’s Mansion 3, DOOM: Knee-Deep in the Dead, The Nightfall Incident, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Woebot, What The Golf, Animal Crossing: New Horizons,Minecraft, Star Wars: Squadrons, Star Wars: Squadrons, Red Dead Redemption 2, Saints Row IV
I played "Animal Crossing" at behest of my super niece. In retrospect I'm not sure how I feel about it- charming though. "Red Dead Redemption 2" was seriously moving - took me a while to really groove on its mechanics (a few too many systems for my liking) but it emotionally engaged in a way few games have. "Star Wars: Squadrons" is the game I thought I wanted. Also I think it proved to me that VR helmets just aren't my thing.

January 11, 2021

Hey remember when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma Federal building, killing 168 folks (including a bunch of kids) and injuring 680 others? That's the QAnon "Stop the Steal" vibe right there - the American militia movement.

January 12, 2021

A year later I'm still trying to figure out the most appropriate - or maybe the most pragmatic - relationship between my rational, narrative self and my emotional, intuitive one.

So many traditions run into that split - Freud's Ego vs Id, the Elephant and the Rider, the inner-child...

I think because since a young age my predominate subjective desire is to subvert my other subjective desires to my best understanding of the objectively true and good, that might mean my emotional self is a bit stunted? I don't know. I catch the emotional me rolling his eyes ALL the time - he knows when it's ok to vent a bit.

But the question is, what is the truest me? I mean it's the verbal, narrative part of me writing this of course. And because it has the power of language, it has a hook to construct an image of the self across time. (There's a theory that says the subconscious doesn't have that sense of time, that's why a threat in the past can still create trauma in the present and anxiety about the future.) On the other hand... maybe my emotional self is "more true"? Like it has knowledge slowly impressed into it, and then can make quicker reactions... so I don't know what the relationship between these two parts is, quite! Co-equal? Parent-child or more severely, Owner/Pet? Is my emotional self my truest self, and this part that does all the talking is just the mask? I don't think so on that last one, but still.
One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump's lie while making no comment on its consequences.

Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy.

from historian Timothy Snyder's excellent piece The American Abyss describing "gamers" vs "breakers" among the Republicans.
The piece talks a lot about The Big Lie. Were the big lie true - and it's not - there rioters would be something like heroes (albeit with some dubious, violent methods) But the Big Lie is a lie. Biden did not win the election because of fraud, he just won the election over a mediocre real-estate mogul reality-show star who half the country hates and who proved his own ineptitude all during COVID-19 (got your vaccine yet? 'cause I sure don't) He won handily in Electoral College votes, he won by MILLIONS of actual people votes, and Trump - who famously LOVED to settle things in court - got NOTHING done there, because his cause was false.
"YAY! I made a chain reaction [in Candy Crush]!"
"How'd you do that?"
"Luck, mostly."
"You made one move and it spent ten seconds telling you how great you are. It's like a slot machine that costs time and pays out in self esteem."

January 13, 2021


babam backs extinction rebellion #2050istoolate


Also from Wednesday, in the Boston Globe:

January 15, 2021

Scott told me
he never wrote anything
he wouldn't want
everyone to read.

What a good idea,
and that was way
before there was a web.
David Johnson

That was a quote from his page on the early web - early enough that my coworker David could get his first and last name .net: (via the wayback machine)
Bicycling is cool.

I was thinking of putting
some photos here
of my favorite
bike trails.
Wouldn't it be fun to be a bike cop?

You could ride around
with a badge and a gun,
busting punks and degenerates!

Scott told me
he never wrote anything
he wouldn't want
everyone to read.

What a good idea,
and that was way
before there was a web.

January 16, 2021

Made this with Superniece Cora this morning... turns out her Llamas-in-games comes more from Barbie rather than Jeff Minter...


ai and problem solving

I've been participating in a FB thread about AI starting with the question, is there a definition of human level intelligence - interestingly half the participants started talking about AI and the other half about animals.

I learned about MuZero, the successor to AlphaZero and AlphaGo. I knew they've been using Atari 2600 programs as readily available programs for evolving and evaluating virtual player / learning algorithms, but it does my heart good to see the phrase "a standard suite of Atari games" (here's one example virtual gameplayer including how it stacks up to humans.)

The thread introduced me to the Specification gaming examples in AI Google Doc, where various programs have found solutions that are "technically correct" (the best, or maybe worst, kind of correct) but exploit bugs in the virtual environment or success criteria.

That doc reminded me of this set of humans thinking outside the box with clever solutions to problems... the fitted sheets with labels specifying top/bottom vs sides was good, also the shovel with small holes to avoid suction for digging in mud. Also "wake me for meals / do not disturb" sleep masks for planes...

And I thought of the thread when I saw this quote:
In a way, human's are the only species to have "evolved backwards". By developing such a complex mind, we create our own problems.
u/mkemp2804 on r/showerthoughts
Obviously a little tongue in cheek, but it covered the domains of animal intelligence and humans looking for AI assistance in their own problem solving pretty well.

January 18, 2021

Went for woodsy walks with Jon and Sophie today. Admittedly "Hartwell Town Forest" was less cool than Sandy Pond Trail, but this photo from the former came out well:

TFW you worry you haven't properly appreciated a 3 day weekend because it's Monday evening but it feels like a Sundayless Saturday

leonard richardson's "situation normal"

I just finished reading the sci-fi novel Situation Normal by my friend Leonard Richardson... "The galaxy’s two multi-species superpowers stand on the brink of yet another pointless war, enmeshing ordinary lives in the messy conflict."

This was the first fiction in a while where during the day I was really looking forward to get back to it and see where it goes next. For me the biggest delight is in Leonard's reframing of things I take for granted, either in a character speaking the truth about something or by switching around the context and having the aliens do something parallel to one of our mundane things, letting me the fundamental oddness or arbitrariness of it.
God speaks to con artists because God is a con artist.
"Egenu saying" in Leonard Richardson's "Situation Normal"

Every war in history there's some joker tying it to freedom, and even when it's true, it's a lie.
Leonard Richardson, "Situation Normal"

Providence aligns cause and effect without regard to our feelings.
Leonard Richardson, "Situation Normal"
Leonard sets up several religions in this book, most of which have adherents from across the 20-30 or so types of aliens (including humans)... my conceptual favorite was Hasithenk - the central icon is Merciful Providence shrugging at you, and use cuss phrases like “Oh f***ing coin-flipping Providence”. (Though weirdly, they're one of the more ritual/ceremony heavy groups. I guess that grounds it and makes it less of a "cool and jaded astronaut religion" ala Heinlein...)

Also Leonard is posting author's commentary at his site Crummy.com
trebek: the sound of the front door in your childhood home

the smell of the inside of your father's hat

the part of the roof you could access via the trellis

each family member's distinctive footsteps in the hall

the smell of woodsmoke

contestant: what was lost

Headline whiplash of the moment (via Kaiser Health News)

On Trump's last full day,

:-) :-) :-)

nation records 400,000 COVID deaths

:-O :-O :-O
President Trump's Top 15 Lies. Trump lies about enough small things that it lets him know who will believe him with the big lies.

From Daniel Dale's list:
  1. The most telling lie: It didn't rain on his inauguration
  2. The most dangerous lie: The coronavirus was under control
  3. The most alarming lie saga: Sharpiegate
  4. The most ridiculous subject of a lie: The Boy Scouts
  5. The ugliest smear lie: Rep. Ilhan Omar supports al Qaeda
  6. The most boring serial lie: The trade deficit with China used to be $500 billion
  7. The most entertaining lie shtick: The burly crying men who had never cried before
  8. The most traditional big lie: Trump didn't know about the payment to Stormy Daniels
  9. The biggest lie by omission: Trump ended family separation
  10. The most shameless campaign lie: Biden will destroy protections for pre-existing conditions
  11. The lie he fled: He got Veterans Choice
  12. The Crazy Uncle lie award: Windmill noise causes cancer
  13. The most hucksterish lie: That plan was coming in two weeks
  14. My personal favorite lie: Trump was once named Michigan's Man of the Year
  15. The most depressing lie: Trump won the election

January 20, 2021

Madam Vice-President!
Somehow we weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn't broken
but simply unfinished
There is always light
if only we're brave enough to see it
if only we're brave enough to be it.
Amanda Gorman (via @AyannaPressley)

This is a wake-up call for Republicans. America elected Joe Biden by over 7 million votes, and you're confused because you didn't see us flock to his rallies and cheer his smackdowns like we were at a pro wrestling event during a global pandemic. We don't wear matching hats or have "no more malarkey" flags waving from the backs of our trucks. Do you know why? Because Biden is not our tribal warlord. We believe the job of a U.S. President is to represent more than one interest group. That's why 81 million of us turned out to stop a narcissistic personality cult that embodies all seven of the deadly sins -- most of all pride, which you've taken to levels of blasphemy, claiming your political leaders are handpicked by Jesus Christ.

Review the troops? "Man, these troops are way out of date!"

#1 Google hit for Donald Trump at the moment:

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Teacher hit me with a ruler!
Met her at the bank
With a loaded army tank
And she ain't no teacher no more...
Dumbest song from summer camp that I remember - definitely a relic of a pre-Columbine time (More Info)

January 21, 2021


but damn, back in the day it was so amazing they had ARCADE GAMES and so many of them

January 22, 2021

RIP Hank Aaron
More favourite tropes:

"Unfortunately, [thing that would ordinarily be described in much stronger terms than 'unfortunate']."

"Fortunately, [thing that is in no way fortunate]."

"Unfortunately, [thing that would be fortunate in nearly any circumstance except the particular circumstance at hand]."

"Fortunately, [very minor benefit that absolutely does not offset the considerable drawbacks of whatever just happened]."

"Unfortunately, [the exact, word-for-word thing that somebody just expressed that they hope won't happen]."

"Fortunately, [complete non sequitur]."

Here's a similar post of his that links to a lot of other minilists. I find this kind of higher level theme identifying really compelling!

How did Melissa and I get through 4 years of the previous administration without noticing the First Lady totally sounds like Nadja from "What We Do in the Shadows"??

January 23, 2021

For my current Atari 2600 project I may try making a digital clock using big, clunky playfield pixels. Luckily, for an old site I LOVED called Pixel Time (RIP, here's my loving fan page) I made a font that could make words even on its absurdly limited 45x45 canvas:

(I think Nick had made an All-Caps version that I cribbed from a bit.)

Heh. I think I got my start with hyper-minimal fonts on the old Etcha-a-Sketch Animator, an early digital toy that let you make animations of 12 frames of 40x30 pixels (arranged in longer sequences)
It makes you nice and clean!
It's made with gasoline!
It makes you vomit!
So let's all vomit
With Comet
Right Now!
Another inane childhood song, more info here.

January 24, 2021

RIP Larry King

January 25, 2021

Generally enjoying "Pretend It's a City", Martin Scorsese's take on Fran Lebowitz... I admit though I'm alarmed at how many mannerisms she and Trump share, some of the hand gestures, and the staged reactions, and the certainty. Also Ginia Bellafante in the is a little more critical in the NY Times, saying "That she advances her dubious self-certainty over curiosity every time is not an issue for the director", and she has a point. In the second episode (the latest we've watched so far) she mounts a defense of criticism and evaluation in general, which of course is not how I naturally roll - but it's a lot of fun to watch others judge!
The name is a little much but wow. Trombone Section Suicide Routine
also I wish I knew were to find audio recordings of funky drum cadences... so many drum squads seem focused on technical finesse, it seems hard to find ones as funky as Euclid High School circa 1991...

being less of a tightwad as a harbinger of personal growth

In general I don't have a positive intuition about the probability - or maybe even the existence of - personal growth. To me, people seem basically the same over the years, and while people can change their behaviors, it almost always seems to require a persistent application of will. That health instructor line about "once you get into the regular routine of exercise, it will become a HABIT that's hard to break! It'll be tougher NOT to exercise!" seems like a good example of the big lies of personal growth.

But... the other day I mentioned to Melissa that I used to be a lot more tight with money. And now I'm pretty loose about it. So maybe that's personal change, or even growth?

Part of me resists the idea. I mean I can point to external factors; I've had many more years of making a good salary (a lot of techies are so blessed it's probably unjust) and so have rainy day money in a few places - easier to be relaxed knowing that's there. And I started working with a financial advisor on my retirement stuff, and she seems to have a pretty good shape of a plan for me in mind - easier to relax with that established.

Or I think about some events - I once had a big windfall from selling a house, and I lost most of that windfall the fourth or fifth year of making a loan to a friend's business. So maybe that instilled a sense of easy come, easy go - or maybe it's the years of observing how money seems to kind fit the shape of its container, like there's a set point of savings I have that (knock wood) is weirdly stable even when expenses rise or when I get some kind of raise. Or that while it's weird how big a credit card bill can pile up from $10 here, $20 there over a month (ties into how we don't have a good sense of how much time is crammed in a month!) by far and away the biggest expenses are the steady drain of housing and possibly car - so don't oversweat the small purchases.

I acknowledge a lot of privilege and just plain good luck in a lot of this. And some ok perseverance and skillbuilding, but yeah. Little did college age me know that switching to a computer science class to dodge repeating calculus would put a financial setting path in motion.
Alright, Cicadas aren't "Locusts" but it's that time of the 17 years again, it figures.
Really nice piece Why iPhone is today's Kodak Brownie Camera - a great tool for making photography in and of everyday life. Photos were again about capturing a moment and a vibe more than technical excellence.

The article especially talks about selfies - which brings up an interesting point, a smartphone is TWO cameras - and the front-facing, selfie camera will almost always lag the lenses you get using it more like a regular point-and-shoot.

(Wouldn't it be interesting if they could make a little "selfie drone" that would take off from the phone and take the lens assembly with it? Just a thought.)

While I've only dabbled at more technical photography, I do take a lot of photos, and think a lot about composition. From 2000 to 2012 or so, I really felt special carrying around a tiny Canon point and shoot, always having it in my pocket. (I was the "go to" guy for whiteboard snapshots at work.) But now nearly everyone has a great camera in their pocket, and all I have is a semi-annual excuse to upgrade my phone, always seeking that incremental upgrade in camera...


My new original philosophical game for the Atari 2600!

Play online at alienbill.com/2600/sisyphus

The gods have decreed: You, Sisyphus, must roll the the monumental rock to the top of the mountain.

When you fail, the rock is awarded a point.

you may experience the emptiness with me if you wish

"I am using the time to catch up on my study of poetry."

"Data, there's nothing on the screen."

"That is not entirely correct. While it is true the display is currently blank, this... emptiness has a poetic meaning. Therefore, it cannot be considered 'nothing' as such."

"Says who?"

"The ancient Doosodarians. Much of their poetry contains such lacunae or empty spaces. Often, these pauses measured several days in length, during which poet and audience were encouraged to fully acknowledge the emptiness of the experience."
"This particular poem has a lacuna of 47 minutes. You may experience the emptiness with me if you wish."

La Forge and Data, ST:TNG "Interface"
Grabbed it from this tumblr entry, one of the comments was
“you may experience the emptiness with me if you wish” is all at once 1) a very cool thing to say and 2) unbearably romantic

how the atari 2600 merges time and space

"Man, you must have a deep understanding of TIA. I think for a lot of casual atari devs (funny that that's not a contradiction in terms, quite), everything is just there and kind of arbitrary, but you must have some idea of like... how the player 'tripler' flag change circuits."

"As a matter of fact, all sprites on the VCS are represented as counters that increment with the pixel clock (and wrap at 160). These go into a decode matrix that triggers drawing when certain trip points are reached. Changing the number of copies activates different parts of the decode matrix --- if you have three copies, drawing is triggered for tree different counter values."
Me and Christian Speckner, author of the excellent Stellerator Atari 2600 emulator
We're having a cordial conversation about programming (both Atari and modern web) on the Atari Age forums, a spin off of my recent Sisyphus project.

His point blew my mind a little bit... (especially interesting since he gives props to my early 2600 tutorials helping him when he first started out) I've dabbled a bit in Atari and read "Racing the Beam", but never thought about this particular merge of Time and Space: everything that puts a graphic in the right place is fundamentally based on these timers! (The amazingness of this point probably has a pretty small audience, but still...)

January 30, 2021

Celebrating updating my minimalist shared whiteboard kirk.is/drawing with a bug fix for dropping characters, plus the previously undocumented typing feature now supports backspace and returns (I know, super-fancy)

This was my test page for the backspace and returns...

January 31, 2021

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.
Paulo Coelho
(But people are still really concerned that everyone have the correct opinions on everything! Or rather, have an opinion on everything, that can let everyone else know if you're on our team or their team...)
Follow up to that, from a FB discussion it spurred:

Vonnegut said: "Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative." and I think it's even worse with Social Media.

And here's the thing: that's not even both sideser-ism. I'm a liberal, and I'm even liberal enough to think "my" side - while flawed on some issues - has its heart more in the right place of empathy than the "other" side, and that is an important moral and ethical difference. But it's like - you can't even give the other side the benefit of the doubt, any inch of that you grant to the other side is viewed as deeply suspicious by your peers, that maybe you're secretly one of them on the inside - as if the idea of "these are basically moral and not entirely irrational people who are living out some incorrect conclusions because of faulty starting premises and bad choices on what they choose to elevate in importance" is pure capitulation.

ALL human motion comes from emotion; the intellect itself is NEVER what gets the ball moving in any field, it just explains the actions, what the embodied-smarts of emotional thinking and muscle memory has decided to do. And so both sides are engaged in a war of riling up feelings, making sure those big momentum laden rolling spheres of emotion get going the right way. It's exhausting.

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