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July 2, 2021

For 300,000 years, Hunter-Gather tribes worked 15 hours a week. In the middle of the Great Depression Keynes looked ahead 100 years, wildly underestimated the productivity gains we'd get, and assumed we'd be back to 15-hour weeks. Good podcast/transcript on why we work so damn much - fascinating to hear how modern day hunter-gatherers are socially structured, this kind of "demand" economy.

Sometimes it feels like we're on the last spins of a crazy whirling washing machine before it tips over. But, even if that pessimistic view is true, that "human intelligence" was just another of mother nature's experiments that didn't quite work out, the process is long and slow compared to a human lifespan.

Like, humanity might survive civilization crashing. Go back to some of the roots, with old folks talking about a golden age when metal tubes full of people could fly in the sky and many people could have a cart that could magically go faster than a deer could run. Sometimes that end result doesn't sound so awful! But then we've lost our only chance to get through the asteroid strikes that took out the dinosaurs.
best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].
Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.
Notes from one of Donald Rumsfeld aides right after 9/11 and the WTC.
Via How Rumsfeld Deserves to Be Remembered:
America’s worst secretary of defense never expressed a quiver of regret.

On my blog and social media I often observe deaths of famous figures with an RIP, whether I like them or not. But not Rumsfeld. Fuck this guy. Rarely has someone with so much power been wrong about so much and cost so many lives. We spit on his grave.
Oh and while we're at it: apparently we're not done with racist dumbass puritan shitbaggery about weed.

june 2021 new music playlist

Shelter from the Storm
Bob Dylan
Classic folk.
via the movie "St. Vincent", though I also read a Harper's article about a guy who might be Bob Dylan's secret son, his mom is clearly referenced in a verse.

Call Me By Your Name (Montero Cover)
A beautiful layer of guitar added to the song.
maybe via this reddit but mostly from tumblr maybe?
Worried Blues
Gladys Bentley
Blues. I adore the trumpet singing she does, it's so rich and detailed.
Via this cracked article.
Mind Your Own Business
Delta 5
New Wave Girlz.
via the recent Apple Ad about privacy

Chug Jug With You
Rok Nardin
This sweet fan song about the game Fortnight redone with a huge how to make a blockbuster movie trailer vibe.
via tumblr.
Traffic Cone Traffic Jam
Moon Hooch
Funk band stuck in traffic.
Johnny the drummer mentioned this crew to me.
good 4 u
Olivia Rodrigo
sk8r boi / early 2000s energy here.
Introduced via her exposure as artist and reference on SNL.

Fine Azz
Dig the percussion in this strong woman hiphop.
Title to HBO's "A Black Lady Sketch Show"
Riches and Wonders (Remastered)
The Mountain Goats
The lowfi aesthetic is amazing, like I just love how you hear the recording machine itself.
I forget how I stumbled into this song but I always think about how much author John Green adores this group.
Courtney Love (Lois Maffeo + Pat Maley band)
I think this band's name is kind of hilarious. Like the song's Goofus and Gallant reference.
Idiosyncratic backing music for this Simon Biles slow motion video.
I'd rather have a bottle in front of me (than a frontal lobotomy)
Randy Hanzlick
A Dr. Demento Classic...probably kind of insensitive now.
Got It Boomin
Oren Major & The Grand Mess
I like the big blatt horns of this hiphop.
from a "Love Death and Robots" episode.
Prove It On Me
Ma Rainey
Interesting early gay anthem.
Trumpeteer Annie of "Annie and the Fur Trappers" mentioned this song after I mentioned Gladys Bentley's "Worried Blues"
Yard Sale, No. 1
The Exploding Voids
Indie pop.
I ran into The Exploding Voids when they used what became one of my Top 5 ever songs As It Comes. And they just released a new album which I am adding to my collection a song at a time.
Watermelon Man
Maynard Ferguson
Jazz and Mayo on the high trumpet.
A staple of some of my honk bands, ken from "New Magnolia" mentioned this version when I suggested he had it to his band's set.
Lean (Quickie Mart Remix)
A bit too repetitive but some nice sounds.
from "Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens"
How Come My Dog Don't Bark (When You Come Around)
Dr. John
Great storytelling in song form.
My friend Sophie asked if "I ain't got nobody" was well known, and my other friend Dave mentioned the line referencing it in this song.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Cheesy fun faux folksy romance.
From songs you hate more than anything.
The Exploding Voids
I do like the soft voice of the Voids.

Black Betty
Ram Jam
Dig the drums and general rollicking nature.
From songs you hate more than anything. Guess I'm a contrarian. Though even after looking on the wikipeida page I'm not sure if there's a weird racial portion of this.

July 4, 2021

July 4th Fun in Worcester...

I think beating off is the best part of having hands.
Comedian (didn't catch her name) at the Boston "Don't Tell" Comedy Popup Event last Friday.
Interesting seeing live comedy again!

July 5, 2021

Melissa and I joined Ariana on a trip to check out Maudslay State Park...
RIP Louis Armstrong who died 50 years ago today! Here's his final recording "April in Paris"

July 6, 2021

Yeah. Republicans are so "pro-free-market" that they insist trains pay toll road owners for their lost revenue because of people preferring to take the train, yet its the democratic-socialists that are considered the problem.
Huh, Luigi had it right, humans can double jump

July 7, 2021

For even rationality cannot get by without imagination, but neither can imagination without rationality. The marriage of the two is, however, of such a peculiar kind, that they carry on a life and death struggle, and yet it is only together that they are able to accomplish their greatest feats, such as the higher form of conceptualising that we are accustomed to call reason.
H. A. Korff
(translation by Iain McGilchrist) Still muddling through McGilchrist's "The Master and His Emissary" I'm still stuck on the paradox of assigning imagination and being able to transcend personal experience to the right hemisphere, when learning of other people's experiences, gaining value from happenings without having to experience them ourselves and seeing points of view we didn't come across ourselves, comes to us via written and spoken language, the tool of the left hemisphere.
It's easy to think of mosquitos and say "look, if we could get rid of them all we should! No redeeming qualities. If humans are responsible for the extinction of so many other species why not them?" here's why not... they are a food source for other creatures, because they breed with very little water and can get protein via non-lethal means.

via Mitra Farmand, my table-neighbor at the MICE comic convention way back when
Man, those "zero gravity" patio chairs are great, aren't they? A long time ago I had one on in my living room. Over the years I've scoffed at that as a wacky bachelor boy indulgence, but now... in lounging comfort and back support roles I think they have hammocks beat by a mile.
More people got laid via mixed drinks than mixtapes.
/u/trippknightly, /r/showerthoughts

July 8, 2021

On my devblog, the potential trauma of 'on this day' features, and the general weirdness of taking memory in that kind of seasonal cross-section.
Sophie pointed me to Pitch Meetings - like CinemaSins but funnier. Definitely wouldn't need to binge too too many at once, but each one really points out the weirdness and plot holes of the film it's focused on in a funny way. Mocking film plot holes is tight!
My friend Sophie made WaPo's current-event song parody of the week!

I helped with a few of the lyrics and some of the shooting (I tossed vacation props to her Dr. Fauci) and a few other misc things, like the layout of the hypodermics on the title.
It has been determined that Humans are no longer an endangered species. Earth is no longer a restricted zone and open hunting may begin.

July 9, 2021

That night he dreamed of Hettie, and like he often did in the evenings when she was alive, he told her the titles of sermons he planned to preach one day, which usually amused her, since he always had the titles but never the content: "God Bless the Cow," and "I Thank Him for the Corn," and "'Boo!' Said the Chicken."

James McBride, "Deacon King Kong"
Read in my Antiracism Reading Group. Very Damon Runyon-like energy in the first part: lots of action but told in a third hand kind of way, among a broadly painted community with brilliant nicknames.

At one particularly fraught point there's another bit where the main character, a Black man, talks about how the white man sought to crush minds and assert power over other's minds as well as bodies, but then says “But then again, I can’t rightly say that if a colored man was in a position of power, he wouldn’t be the same.” Now, that alternate universe isn't one we actually live in, and we can't stop fighting racism just because we suspect things might also be bad were the "Guns, Germs, & Steel" type-tables turned.

Boston Pride is disbanding itself.

Pride For The People has been after them with rallying a boycott for a while, a note from them from this past February to a band I help manage that have marched with them said:

"A growing coalition of LGBTQ+ groups, including Trans Resistance, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Urban Pride, the Center for Black Equity, Boston Black Pride, Boston Dyke March, and Pride for the People are calling for a boycott of Boston Pride 2021. We are asking that LGBTQ+ organizations who are committed to taking concrete action to end structural racism and white-centeredness stand in solidarity with us during this historic moment."

Torn as usual. My concerns for representation for all is balanced by a fear of Liberal Circular Firing Squads, where a potential ally becomes an enemy because it's not as strong of an ally on a particular theme as other groups think it could/should be.

It's easier to kick a barn down than to build one up. (not to disparage the thoughtfulness and organization that applied pressure in this case) But we should also celebrate when an entrenched structure is razed. I hope something good rises from it.

Scottish distillery tour guide doesn't give a fuck pic.twitter.com/WpxiuaywBz

— Eleanor Morton (@EleanorMorton) July 6, 2021

July 10, 2021

School of Honk back at Davis Square

July 11, 2021

"You're really complicated, aren't you."
"I try not to be."
"Bottle Rocket" (Wes Anderson's first film.)

July 12, 2021

A few weeks ago a friend described me as "mild-mannered". (I mean, presumably not in the Clark Kent sense.) And the other day, playing "Joking Hazard" (a card game about assembling 3 panel comics, a bit taboo stretching but not as prone to punching down as "Cards Against Humanity", say) another friend knew the card I was about to play had to be a good one because it made even me laugh - with the implication that I'm a bit less laugh-y than some (though I remembered making plenty of audible chuckles at other folk's plays throughout the game).

It makes me wonder how I come across to people, and how I really am. I once asked my then long-term therapist what he would diagnose me with and he said mild anhedonia ("an inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable"). But that evaluation never felt quite on... I feel like I'm enjoying life a lot, and taking pleasure in things.

Maybe I do have a more curated sense of emotion than some folks? I guess I want to be thinking more instead of feeling - or rather to feel, but to have the option to chart my own course over calm waters, accounting for the prevailing winds and currents, and not to have my craft forever at the mercy of big waves of strong emotion. (And in general, distrusting emotions not to be arbitrary, to be too sure of their own reasonableness.)

Like compared to other (stereo)types of possibly too-controlled, too-disciplined, too-uptight people... I dunno. I have less of a "personal code" to everyday life than that I guess? I do have some nearly unbreakable rules for myself: to be reliable, and to weigh my personal preferences only as part of the aggregate sense of what the group wants; I don't want to be a martyr for a group but I don't think I should favor my own preference JUST because it's *my* preference.

Anyway. Would love to hear how I come across to people who know me and interact with me a lot, or, less self-centered-sounding, I would also love to hear how people cope with their own emotional management and outward expression.
Pondering (yet) more: there seems to be so much magical thinking in so much of our emotional landscape. Like this idea that if I REALLY root for the home team, or really REALLY resent the other side in politics, that alone will somehow "help".

(I mean, Japan is hosting the olympics, and will probably have to do it without live spectators. Should I have an emotional view of that? How I feel isn't going to change what they do about it (and the more I see about certain kinda racist aspects and corporate-serving bits of the olympics, the easier it seems to support mixed feelings anyway...))

I guess what emotional snowball thinking DOES accomplish is to promote group cohesion. Demonstrating the strength of your faith and commitment to your side having the right idea...
Cuttlefish are weirdly smart.
On Facebook, some friends graciously gave me feedback to my first post, and I found it so flattering I wanted to post it here for safekeeping.
You are mild mannered cool calm collect and polite
Chris D
You overthink a lot. You are always helping others. You do too much. You are very smart. I also agree with your therapist but I often wonder if it's something you've curated - like you're afraid to be emotional
Liz O
I think you express emotion. I have seen you laugh repeatedly and yell at your computer--both very strong emotional activities! I don't think you're mild-mannered necessarily. Nonviolent, nonaggressive, and nontoxic, yes. You overthink in a precocious only child sort of way (I can say this because I am one 😂). Not everyone has energy to overthink with you, but I think most realize it comes from an earnest, well-intentioned place. I would say you're possibly neurodivergent, like many engineers are, but an expert would know better. If people think you miss jokes sometimes, it's probably because you take them literally, or skip over the simple meaning and mistakenly believe there's a deeper meaning. Half my family does this you're not alone 😂 They're all very bright as well, but have to work a little to connect with other people sometimes.
Off the top of my head, I see you as having a heightened sense of responsibility for others' feelings, so maybe you automatically hold your own emotions back a bit? But I view you as generally happy and balanced with the way you exist in the world. You do ponder a lot, but I think you enjoy pondering, and I definitely enjoy reading about your pondering, it's thought-provoking and interesting. From the outside, I see you as happy and fulfilled in a very specific Kirk way
I think this post clearly illustrates how I think about you. Your brain is always on–you're both thinking through scenarios and also being pragmatic in terms of feedback etc. I think the difference here is that, unlike the majority of people, you *really* listen to what's being said around you or to you and then you process it and store it. Most people operate at such a surface level, especially when it comes to conversation, and I always found you to be particularly thoughtful–used less as an adjective here and more as a state-of-mind. I always felt like you had this intelligence layer/sieve that you let information permeate in *before* you reach the emotion. I think it's a wonderful trait–sometimes it feels like there aren't many humans left that actually listen to words and feelings vs just thinking about what they're going to say next. You're less reactive and your brain is patient.
***but also echoing Hannah and saying that I've seen lots of emotion from you in both laughter AND computer anger 😂😂😂
Lauren G
I guess in some ways I'm doing an ok job of being the kind of person I want to be!
I sort of can't believe we moved just 3 months ago! (and, uh, still haven't gotten around to any kind of housewarming :-D ) Still, it seems like we've been here in Arlington a long time already! I think in a good way.

truth is _____

Just harvesting some musings on religion on FB, in response to a Karen Knickerbocker Pennington post "Fill in the blank, Truth is ____". It was mostly geared at fellow Christians I think.

My main answer was "Truth is only-guessable", asked to explicate I said:
well, frankly, for people who are blessed with faith, it's probably not a sentiment they will agree with 😃 but as a teen I looked at the huge variety of beliefs across the world about what The Truth is, and realized my own belief was suspiciously similar to that of those around me - I believed things as a sweet talking son of a preacher man (and woman!) that I wouldn't believe had I been the sweet taking son of an Imam, say, and vice versa. So, I guess I'm suspicious of any way of knowing the truth that relies on special revelation. To that extent the universal + egalitarian message of Salvationism has stuck with me... and also the idea that there must by definition be the most accurate view of The Truth - but no one should be certain they've reached it, hence the guessability aspect.

(FWIW, this is about The Truth, as in a set of principles and values we should hold, vs the more mundane truth which is a description of the world as it is. To which I hold to science, with its built-in doubt and refusal to forever embrace any particular belief as forever true - just the most likely until another theory comes along that seems to be more likely. But "you can't get ought from is", i.e. you can't necessarily get to what the material world ought to be even with a very accurate view of what the material world is, and so science is not the same as a moral faith. Philosophy gets closer, but the uncertainty remains. And as people are tempted to argue for one faith vs another by some shared universal principles, I find it more expedient to look to those shared universal principles which to my mind are a more likely guess about The Truth. But I live with the uncertainty in a way that people of faith don't.)

But also my view is different from folks who go "well, everyone can have their own Truth, then". Sometimes I jokingly say I have an unshakable belief in the Point of View from God's Throne- a view to which humans can only aspire to and never fully claim - and/but am much less certain if there is a divine posterior in that chair.

I believe that by definition there IS an absolute truth, but I also believe that we cannot be certain that our belief is the most accurate view of it.
To get a little less high falutin', the question I asked as a teen is "well why doesn't EVERYONE believe the same thing?" In a God with omnipotence, omniscience, and omnilove-ance (whatever the word is), why would he let some people be so deluded? If it's the work of the devil and/or human free will, but God knew all that was going down ahead of time, why did He still let it happen? The whole "theodicy" issue (oops, so much for not getting high-falutin' sounding)
But you know, God claims His ways could be above ours in a way we can't fathom (Isaiah 55:8-9) but we'd still be relying on this for our human sense of justice and instruction. And the problem I had as a teen might not be as much of a problem if you accept a kind of multiple paths interpretation - if you're more liberally John 14:2 (many mansions) and less strictly John 14:6 (no way to the Father except through Me)
So it is at risk at second guessing God... as a human, I can't say it's NOT Truth based justice to let so many millions of well meaning muslims, say, or hindus - be so deluded, but as a punk teen I had to say, it didn't seem *likely* that a singular yet universally applied truth would be given to one group but withheld from the others
And asked if I believe there are any absolute truths we can count on:
So one thing about me is, because of a near-pathology of "I can't risk be a bearer of false witness", I am weirdly squirrely even about basic facts sometimes. I might have just seen the keys on the table, and if a friend asks me "where are the keys?" I will say "I think they are on the table" - not that they are, because maybe I'm remembering wrong, or maybe something else moved them... but I CAN confidently say I THINK they are on the table
But even basic mathematical truths, say, are context-dependent. Up above I jokingly pointed out that 2 + 2 = 11 in Base 3. (I mean 2 + 2 is still 4, but sometimes math nerds like that might use a different symbol for it) or the angles of a triangle add up to 180, right? True - but ONLY if you're on a flat plane. For geometry on a sphere, the math is different, and even a fundamental truth like triangle angles = 180 is contingent, not universal in every circumstance.
So to the extent we are probably arguing about cosmic and religious truths - more deeply than any particular description of what was going, I drank the idea that it should be universally true for everyone. The number of people believing something else entirely really demands some kind of explanation. I mean even if 180 degree triangles is true for me and everyone around me, all these people - presumably of good will? who are telling me, no, the numbers add up to something else... yet both sides insisting "no, this is UNIVERSALLY true, the truest true that ever trued"... well that ended up accidentally making my faith kind of brittle. And when combined with a few other adolescent observations of teenage behaviors (the slightly clockwork way that the first sunday altar call at Star Lake Musicamp was a bit of a dud, but the closing sunday was always vibrant small ministry stuff... and the way some of my peers were less nerdy, sunday-school straight and narrowers than I was despite my doubts) I leaned away from religion in general. Maybe I'm the poorer for it, but like I mentioned above, I take Truth maybe a bit too seriously - I would rather live with measured uncertainty and a sense of "best guess" than to be confidently at risk of being Wrong.
Another thread:
I do hang a little bit with the Unitarian Universalists - and they lean heavily into respecting the multi-path view of the Divine and the various traditions that try to get people there (at least with the new England flavor, I've heard elsewhere in the country they're more just like conventional Episcopalians)
But of course, that radical acceptance of superficially incompatible beliefs goes well beyond what I think is considered acceptable in mainstream Evangelical Christianity. In my understanding of that point of view, Muslims and Hindus, say, are completely out to lunch Truth-wise - woefully deceived and needing to reject their religion/upbringing if they are going to find Salvation. That's a big ask!
(And similar to having to explain why a God with perfect and total love, power, and foresight (including how humanity would use its freewill) let so many other religions spread, He would seem to have gone out of his way to deceive well-meaning scientists, or permit the devil to plant a lot of fakely-aged fossils and set up a lot of old-looking light for astronomers to observe, etc.)
Of course, a less literal reading of Christianity could accept things more poetically, and even accept some all-too-human arbitrariness and contingency in the Bible! But I grew up with people who leaned heavily into the inerrancy (and often the literalness) of the Bible. My take is it's an issue of "where to draw the line", that if you start to loosen that sense of being uniquely True and protected by God, it's the camel's nose in the tent for willy-nilly belief, since even before that mainstream Christianity has rejected the legitimacy of normal human standards for evaluating religious factual and moral Truth. (Abraham was good and noble for taking Isaac up and being willing to ritualistically sacrifice him, for example)
The richest book I read on the subject was Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God" - highly recommended. One eye-opener was her outlining how many traditions Christianity has drawn from and engulfed. (This would include mythological types like sons of god, and even diving sacrifice for human redemption, things that many Christians seem to assume would be unique to their belief system, though I guess the charitable view would be less "Christianity cribbed from this older belief" and more the older belief had a very blurry idea of the Truth that would later be seen through cleaner glasses.) It also explained how in the 1600s-1700s Christianity kind of hitched its wagon to science; at a time before Newton explaining gravity and Darwin seeing how speciation was likely occurring, a Divine Watchmaker was actually a pretty solid theory, and that led rise to a form of belief of all things Biblical simply, factually true - but modern believers (like my youthful self) don't realize that before that, maybe scripture wasn't expected to be simply literally true (in fact reducing God to something a specific factually true account might be a form of idolatry, and you end up worshipping the story, and not God proper). But anyway, as science began to come up with more likely true explanations about how planets formed, and when, and how species split off, a strong form of mainline Protestantism doubled down, and started rejecting facts science was saying were most likely true in favor of other facts more compatible with a literal reading of the Bible. (e.g. young earth Creationism)
Anyway, my mom Betty Israel mentioned she has been appreciating this thread. She's a retired major in The Salvation Army. For at least a decade I was too nervous about offending her, and afeared of her judgement of my non-church-going to broach these topics. And I mean we have since then discussed things a bit, but this thread has been a particularly rich chance to explain where I've landed, which while seemingly pretty far afield from where she's at, at least she respects my process and appreciates some of the thoughtfulness, so thanks for that.
In response to "Truth is Immutable"...
So adopting a Christian perspective... don't you find God has presented himself very differently? Even within the OT, he has aspects of a God who walks among us like in the Garden of Eden, to someone who despite being cosmically all powerful can't defeat folks with chariots of iron (Judges 1:19), and then of course in the coming and sacrifice of Jesus, there is a big change before and after! So even if you believe that represents that eternal Truth, I would say a lot of mutability in how it is presented to humans! ( this article puts things pretty well)
I know believers, especially conservative ones, are wary of people being too free in what they believe God to be, especially suspicious of people who might wish to lower the barriers of "probably sanctioned by God" to include that which traditional belief has regarded as Sin. But I think to see it all as immutable is a tragic diminishing of what God is.

(or even better, Genesis 18:16-33 which presents a God that can be reasoned with! Though the Book of Job has some things to say on that i guess 😃 )

July 14, 2021


July 15, 2021

Americans are, of course, the most thoroughly and passively indoctrinated people on earth. They know next to nothing as a rule about their own history, or the histories of other nations, or the histories of the various social movements that have risen and fallen in the past, and they certainly know little or nothing of the complexities and contradictions comprised within words like "socialism" and "capitalism." Chiefly, what they have been trained not to know or even suspect is that, in many ways, they enjoy far fewer freedoms, and suffer under a more intrusive centralized state, than do the citizens of countries with more vigorous social-democratic institutions. This is at once the most comic and most tragic aspect of the excitable alarm that talk of social democracy or democratic socialism can elicit on these shores. An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax (when one figures in federal, state, local, and sales taxes, and then compounds those by all the expenditures that in this country, as almost nowhere else, their taxes do not cover). One might think that a people who once rebelled against the mightiest empire on earth on the principle of no taxation without representation would not meekly accept taxation without adequate government services. But we accept what we have become used to, I suppose. Even so, one has to ask, what state apparatus in the "free" world could be more powerful and tyrannical than the one that taxes its citizens while providing no substantial civic benefits in return, solely in order to enrich a piratically overinflated military-industrial complex and to ease the tax burdens of the immensely wealthy?

July 16, 2021

Watching the movie "Tenet". I know its reputation as a confusing movie, but a minute in and I'm already confused... are those weirdly angled Sousaphones? In like a Symphony Orchestra? Maybe a Russian thing?

July 17, 2021

Kayaking on the Mystic River with Cora...

July 18, 2021

John Hodgman's animated detective series "Dicktown" features thinly veiled versions of him and co-creator David Rees.

Honestly I feel a little called out by the hoodie/cargo shorts representation, though a parody of me would always be in sandals, not those socks and sneakers.

It does make me wonder, what non-athletic shorts for men carry any dignity. I think about how James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano got flack in the real world because a Mafia figure of his stature wouldn't wear shorts. They lack gravitas! But man, they're just so much more comfortable in the summer.

I mean, part of my privilege (at work and around town) is that no one really cares how I look. And I'm not sure if John Hodgman's character's outfit including khakis and even a jacket is much better, really. But still.
I get the autobiography reference of "I, Robot" but "Mind and Iron" would have been a great name too.

You see how oppressed Americans are by the drab bland colors of our cars and houses.
if it helps to know, you are loved by the earth who asked you to be here with it for just a very little while

I really like the line work on my new tattoos...

July 19, 2021

Yesterday I spent too much time fiddling with the "game setup" in my office.

For my first 3 months here I've been living a lie: there's a TV in the webcam shot behind me, and an Atari 2600, but the two weren't actually plugged in.

But finally I dug up the wire I was missing, decided to switch to an Atari 7800 (actually fit better in the shelf), and then started going about trying to set up everything that has been languishing in my basement: SNES, Dreamcast, N64, and then a Wii U and Xbox 360 in the living room, along with the Switch and PS4 that are my actual current systems.

I got about 2/3 (maybe less) of the setup... and I realized it wasn't making me happy. Kind of the opposite!

There's a lot to unpack (figuratively and literally) with these games:

1. To be honest, I know I wouldn't play these games that much, and that makes me a little sad. (And even if I ever get to my quarterly "retrogame afternoons" with friends, this layout wouldn't even be that great for it.)

2. The condo is great but a games tower would be eating up more than its share of my limited shelf space.

3. It's still hit or miss to know which specific games might not actually work. I got each system up and humming, but there's enough flakiness that it's sort of a bad reminder of the hopeless war against entropy.

So I guess by taking up feelings, space, and time... this game tower as is ain't pulling its weight. I think I might leave up the Atari and maybe one more system. I guess if I'm honest it's more the emotional space than the physical space that is the cost, which has been a surprise.

I guess I've identified as "a retrogamer" (this was before "gamer as cultural identity" was as much of a thing) - mostly by having an Atari 2600 for long after everyone else had been moving on. But a lot of it is just being slow to give up systems that I like.

Video Games are special as an art form. They are interactive narrative in a way few non-game forms are, and even humble early-80s systems can run the numbers and make a physics-y virtual world in a way other game types can't. So most games make up a microcosm, and I like the idea of being able to go back to those worlds sometimes, even if I don't very often.

I guess I will move most of my systems into the basement archives. Actually, it's been interesting to review which systems I really long for: the Atari 2600 is the purest bit of nostalgia (and then later geek pride as I make original games for it). Xbox 360 has the largest number of games that blew me away. GameCube a close second. Dreamcast also is in the mix a bit - though maybe mostly for Bangai-O. I'm surprised there's not more Nintendo in what I am tempted to keep... maybe it's that Nintendo does such a good job interating on its series that SNES, N64, and Wii all have better versions of their highlights available. (I think Wii is most noticeable for that. Even though it plays GameCube games, I think the irritation of having to navigate its "pointer" menu to get them, and its relative lack of must-play games for me, means I'd rather have a cute lunch box GameCube up, even if it takes up more shelfspace.) Oh and PS2 - not much there for me, though i keep around copies of "Magic Pengel"

What's mistake but a kind of take?
What's nausea but a kind of -ausea?
Sober, drunk, -unk , astonishment. . . .
Emotion--motion!!! . . .
Reconciliation of opposites; sober, drunk, all the same!
Good and evil reconciled in a laugh!
It escapes, it escapes!
What escapes, WHAT escapes?
William James on Nitrous Oxide (literally)

Fun fact, an Atari 7800 fits in a (13"-wide) IKEA Kallax cubby, but a 6-switch Atari 2600 does not :-D

Ah, a nation of under-vaccinated know-nothings who will leave pockets for the virus to keep around and evolve into something even worse. Great!

Perhaps they feel that under a Biden administration, helping the Delta variant make the Dow stumble is an act of political protest.

July 20, 2021

FB "this day" (7 years ago, 2014) came up with this shot.

I have other shots with a similar bell decoration, but usually with blue tape. (Tape-on-bell is more classic than my current use of covers, but of course hard to change between bands.)

July 21, 2021

something I don't think occurs to settlers is that Indigenous people already are living in a post-apocalyptic world

So when YOU sew a bunch of unmatched parts together, it is "a quilt" and "a beautiful gift" and "will assuredly become a family heirloom" but when I sew a bunch of unmatched parts together it is "A MONSTER" and "AN ABOMINATION, AN AFFRONT TO THE GODS" and goes on "A MURDEROUS KILLING SPREE."

Link to spread: Doctors having to tell patients coming down begging for a vaccine as they are coming down with COVID: I'm Sorry, But It's Too Late.

Heh, put like that it reminds me of the end of the world vision some Fundamentalists Christians paint for the end of the world, with repentant sinners pleading for mercy it is too late for.
"I try to be very non-judgmental when I'm getting a new COVID patient that's unvaccinated, but I really just started asking them, 'Why haven't you gotten the vaccine?' And I'll just ask it point blank, in the least judgmental way possible," she said. "And most of them, they're very honest, they give me answers. 'I talked to this person, I saw this thing on Facebook, I got this email, I saw this on the news,' you know, these are all the reasons that I didn't get vaccinated.

"And the one question that I always ask them is, did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine? And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question."

Arabic has words for many modes of camelness though looking at it, it feels like German, where compound words are doing a lot of the work that other languages might use a few words for.
When I think about like, "Yeah I did this." You know, "I'm so great. I had 30, I had 25-10-10," or whatever the case might be. Because you're going to think about that ... Usually the next day you're going to suck. Simple as that. Like, the next few days you're going to be terrible. And I figured out a mindset to have that, when you focus on the past, that's your ego: "I did this in the past. I won that in the past."

And when I focus on the future, it's my pride. "Yeah, the next game, Game 5, I'll do this and this and this. I'm going to dominate." That's your pride talking. Like, it doesn't happen. You're right here. I try and focus in the moment. In the present. And that's humility. That's being humble. That's not setting no expectations. That's going out there and enjoying the game. Competing at a high level. I've had people throughout my life who have helped me with that. But that's a skill that I've tried to, like, how do you say? Perfect it. Yeah, master it. It's been working so far, so I'm not going to stop.
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Congratulations to Antetokounmpo and the Bucks! By all accounts an amazing player and person (if a little too fond of Chick-fil-A for liberals' liking) And he's right, it's great when anchoring the hometown team instead of going to join a superstar squad is great.

July 22, 2021

The common shorthand in psychology circles for the tension between emotion and cognition--between what we feel and what we think--is to use the Star Trek characters of Captain Kirk and Officer Spock. Kirk is all heart, a man of intense and compelling emotions. He's fire. By contrast, Spock, that lovable, pointy-eared half human half Vulcan, is all head; he's a cerebral problem solver unencumbered by the distractions of feelings. He's ice.

The key to avoid rumination is to combine the two Starship Enterprise crew members. When supporting others, we need to offer the comfort of Kirk and the intellect of Spock.
Ethan Kross, Chatter.
This book on our internal voices was more self-help than philosophical, but still pretty decent. I think I was most interested in his advice on advising others. He goes into say how listening to others but ONLY empathizing with their negative feelings can reinforce their own negative chatter. Learning to subtly reframe and contextualize a negative experience, without denying the validity of what they're saying, is a delicate operation!

I probably need some less heavy-handed ramp up to "well, it's all the heat death at the end of the universe anyway, and this problem clearly doesn't rise to that level, so why worry about it?"

I would say, I think the more interesting analysis of old Star Trek is not a duality but tripartite: Spock as Brain, McCoy as Heart, Kirk as mediating Guts and Spirit.
Lego GBC - beautiful engineering just to shove tiny Lego basketballs and soccer balls around.



July 24, 2021

For an anti-racism reading group I'm reading Sonya Renee Taylor's "The Body is Not An Apology". I've just started it but one related idea I've heard recently is trying to replace "body positivity" with "body neutrality". You don't have to foster adoration for stretch mark or your height or whatever, you just have to understand that these kind of aspects don't have to define someone as a person.

It's too bad "It is what it is" has become such a trite cliché of the reality television set, because I think its calm refusal to sort into emotionally engaged wonderful/awful (with its tacit "yeah, this situation probably isn't my first choice" living in its meta-level) is a useful tool. As far as trite pop catchphrases go it's probably better than "It's all good!" which requires a bit more self-deception or spin to be consistently true.)

Thinking on the subject reminded me of a quip I made years ago - I've been trying to note when I remember early, nascent forms of my current philosophical stances - and I looked it up in my blog:

One of my favorite tags on my blog is /tag/aim, (mostly) bits from the old AOL Instant Messenger days. For a while I assumed it was mostly nostalgia that made me think "damn, we were funnier then" (or maybe just being a bit younger and more quick-witted after all!) but you know? The modern "equivalents" of AIM - SMS/WhatsApp etc... most of them are phone based. And it's much more challenging to get banter going between people tapping into their screens than with two competent typists!
Cleveland Indians dropping the name and switching to "Guardians". Didn't realize it was on the short list. I like this logo:

It's kind of a deep cut, but the name comes from (and the art deco-ish style reflects) the statues (either "Guardians of Traffic" or "Guardians of Commerce"?) on the Hope Memorial Bridge:

I was kind of hoping for a return of the Cleveland Spiders but I guess that was too creepy a name to have legs (so to speak).

July 25, 2021

Friday we had Cora hangout with Melissa's nieces at their place... I think they had a pretty good time. Unrelated shot over Hickory Hills Lake:

There should be a universal friendly return wave meaning "happy to see you too but I don't recognize you quite yet"
(Like when someone is driving by in a car and waves but you can't quite see who it is)

July 26, 2021

At the risk of sounding a little too much like a Bezos-enthusiast:
I had another feeling, that the earth is like a vibrant living thing. The vessels we've clearly seen on it looked like the blood and veins of human beings. I said to myself: this is the place we live, it's really magical.
Yang Liu (astronaut in Chinese Space Program)
During a space flight, the psyche of each astronaut is re-shaped; having seen the sun, the stars and our planet, you become more full of life, softer. You begin to look at all living things with greater trepidation and you begin to be more kind and patient with the people around you.
Cosmonaut Boris Volynov
From the Barking Up The Wrong Tree blog, stressing the importance of "Awe".

I think I have a strong but lowkey sense of that; my unshakeable certainty that, almost by definition, an absolute or at least most accurate sense of Truth has to exist, which is matched by an equal sense of the impossibility of certainty of knowing what it is. This sense of over-archingness and mystery has its roots in Christian traditions, but the big divergence is in faith - for me the trope of "A Certain Faith" is almost an oxymoron. (And usually comes down to questioning the hubris of how your group has got the special revelation or hard-won external justification that has for some reason been denied others, who probably feel the same about their own, possibly incompatible beliefs.)

July 27, 2021

🙃 If sales @Boston-area Bertucci's rise they have the wildfires out west to thank - it all smells like their oven restaurants 🙃

from "The Master and His Emissary"

So, since late February I've been reading Iain McGilchrist's "The Master and His Emissary" - 600+ pages (and while admittedly a large fraction of those are the endnotes, it's a very dense read). I've been reading about a section a day, generally after a chapter of something else.

The book takes on the difference between the Hemispheres - first from a physiological point of view (and trying to get much more firmly planted than the 80s/90s pop-psychology left brain/right brain stuff) and then the cultural ramifications, with different periods of history featuring different levels of balance. (And different cultures; near the end of the book he muses on how many Asian cultures seem to have less predominance of the left hemisphere, see things less in isolation and more in context.)

Even if you're skeptical about the physiology of the split, I think there is much to the concepts of holism vs reductionism, whatever the cerebral substrate!

But he definitely makes a pitch for the physicality of it - I think what most stuck with me was the idea of bird brains during feeding, the research showing the right side of the brain keeping track of the whole environment, ever watchful for predators, while the left side focused in on the task at hand. In this model, the Right Hemisphere is holistic, takes things in context. the Left Hemisphere categorizes and isolates. I would put it as, the right hemisphere accepts the world as it is, the left hemisphere focuses on how the world as it can be manipulated.

Anyway, here are the quotes I scraped, with some further thoughts.
The right hemisphere deals preferentially with actually existing things, as they are encountered in the real world. Because its language roots things in the context of the world, it is concerned with the *relations between* things
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
My interest in this book coincides with trying to understand the difference between me and another class of computer programmer, a theme I'll get back to. Here is an early thing - I have alway been more concerned with how parts interact rather than what they are. But, from the rise of Object Oriented programming on forward, this view has been a bit on the downslope.
The separated hemispheres in split-brain patients each have a distinct personality, with characteristic tastes and preferences, according to one of those most closely involved with the study of such patients. The unconscious, while not identical with, is certainly more strongly associated with, the right hemisphere.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
Such a striking idea! This goes along with "parts" thinking in psychology, like "Internal Family Systems"- IFS is much finer grained and dynamic than the two hemisphere way of thinking about things, but still. I often feel there is a singular other - my inner child or what not and I've often thought less of that other - maybe even more like an "inner unruly pet" having me grab snacks than even a child - but now I have to understand that my linguistic, Left Hemisphere side maybe takes too much credit.

Strikingly, I realized that probably my flare ups of temper- rare, but loud - aren't my silent, sullent Right Hemisphere, but the fury of my smart but emotionally stunted Left Hemisphere rebelling against the world that's defying its categories of how Things Are Categorized, how they should be.
At the 'bottom' end, I am talking about the fact that every word, in and of itself, eventually has to lead us out of the web of language, to the lived world, ultimately to something that can only be pointed to, something that relates to our embodied existence. Even words such as 'virtual' or 'immaterial' take us back in their Latin derivation – sometimes by a very circuitous path – to the earthy realities of a man's strength (*virtus*), or the feel of a piece of wood (*materia*). Everything has to be expressed in terms of something else, and those something elses eventually have to come back to the body.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
I do wonder about this. Can all cognition be traced back to being an embodied actor?
Before there can be harmony, there must be difference.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
Lovely line.
Attention is a moral act: it creates, brings aspects of things into being, but in doing so makes others recede.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
Another good pithy observation.
According to the latter vision, that of the right hemisphere, truth is only ever provisional, but that does not mean that one must 'give up the quest or hope of truth itself'.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
And here I see a tie-in with my spirituality, such as it is. That I feel the by-definition necessity of "best description of what should be" - that Truth is ultimately subjective, a shareable reality, not just an objective personal experience - but that we can NEVER be certain that our own view is the most accurate one. but it's important to keep striving.
For Heidegger, truth was such an unconcealing, but it was also a concealing, since opening one horizon inevitably involves the closing of others. There is no single privileged viewpoint from which every aspect can be seen.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
I think of this in comparison to my metaphor of "the view from God's Throne, but the impossibility of reaching it" - in fact the very real likelihood that there can never be a divine End in that chair.
[In the 20th century] themes emerged from philosophical debate which, unknowingly, corroborate the right hemisphere's understanding of the world. These include: empathy and intersubjectivity as the ground of consciousness; the importance of an open, patient attention to the world, as opposed to a wilful, grasping attention; the implicit or hidden nature of truth; the emphasis on process rather than stasis, the journey being more important than the arrival; the primacy of perception; the importance of the body in constituting reality; an emphasis on uniqueness; the objectifying nature of vision; the irreducibility of all value to utility; and creativity as an unveiling (no-saying) process rather than a wilfully constructive process.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
Good general overview of the concepts.
This is what I have expressed as the left hemisphere's way of building up a picture slowly but surely, piece by piece, brick on brick. One thing is established as (apparently) certain; that forms a platform for adding the next little bit of (apparent) certainty. And so on. The right hemisphere meanwhile tries to take in all the various aspects of what it approaches at once. No part in itself precedes any other: it is more like the way a picture comes into focus – there is an "aha!' moment when the whole suddenly breaks free and comes to life before us.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary."
Boy O Boy do I see this in programming. Unit tests, strong typing, functional programming - they are all very Left Hemisphere, reductionist ways of trying to achieve better and better control. So I'm thinking my view must be more Right Hemisphere - I see these others as looking to 1,000 trees and thinking less about the forest.

Like with unit testing... I see bugs as an emergent property! Very few units don't do what you think they do - in isolation - but as you connect more and more of them up, problems and misunderstandings and misassumptions occur. (The counter argument is that focusing locally better defines the units, makes misunderstandings less likely, and that without something like functional programming, you just get an untraceable mess of context sensitive side effects. But one of the points of the book is that the best answers come when the two sides are balanced.)
Although language is the only way we can scientifically bridge the chasm between mind and brain, we should always remember that we humans are creatures that can be deceived as easily by logical rigour as by blind faith ... It is possible that some of the fuzzier concepts of folk-psychology may lead us to a more fruitful understanding of the integrative functions of the brain than the rigorous, but constrained, languages of visually observable behavioural acts.
Panksepp the neuroscientist
I think this is a good line for agnostic/atheist types to keep in mind as they look to the power of other ways of knowing - even if you distrust the appeal of the supernatural, sometimes these systems have a lot of built-in wisdon.
For even rationality cannot get by without imagination, but neither can imagination without rationality. The marriage of the two is, however, of such a peculiar kind, that they carry on a life and death struggle, and yet it is only together that they are able to accomplish their greatest feats, such as the higher form of conceptualising that we are accustomed to call reason.
Nietzsche, writing on Apollo and Dionysus.
Man, sometimes I feel bad for liking parts of Nietzsche... (and even crediting his description of Amor Fati, the love and embrace, not just getting-along-with, the world as it is to inspiring my secondary tattoo, "This Fate"... as being the thing I want to love so much I will have it inscribed on my skin.)
Reasonableness would be replaced by rationality, and perhaps the very concept of reasonableness might become unintelligible.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary", on what might happen were the left hemisphere to continue the cultural dominance he argues it now enjoys.
I find myself.... I dunno, still loyal to rationality! It seems so important to be open to ideas outside of one's lived experience, and one way you do that is through words and rational thought. But I'm willing to accept some of his ideas that it's the hemispheres in unison that work best.
The only certainty, it seems to me, is that those who believe they are certainly right are certainly wrong.
Iain McGilchrist, "The Master and His Emissary"
My view of epistemology in a nutshell.
The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to what lies behind the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found. Possession makes one passive, indolent, vain – If God held enclosed in his right hand all truth, and in his left hand the ever-living striving for truth, although with the qualification that I must for ever err, and said to me 'choose', I should humbly choose the left hand and say 'Father, give! pure truth is for thee alone.'
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
I'm not sure I quite buy the "striving is what makes it worthwhile" - I really would like a guaranteed view of The Truth, but still. I see a parallel to me trying to grow to like challenges more. I gravitate to ego-pleasing low hanging fruit in life, and if it's not a game I can win I don't always see the point in playing. But life is full of challenges it would be useful to be willing to take on, and I think accept challenges is a muscle that can be built up.

So yeah, I think I took a lot from this book! I think it rates with Dennett's"Consciousness Explained", Hawkins' "On Intelligence", Hofstadter's "Goedel Escher Bach" and Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" in terms of books deeply impacting what I think I know about thinking I know myself.

July 29, 2021

Growing up, I mostly used sleeping bags (and I still prefer a straight blanket or comforter to topsheets that always seem to be getting lost) I was once filled with delight by receiving the Pac-Man sleeping bag shown here (and on the Two Decades of Sleeping Bag Evolution page)

Out of the package it smelled really weird, but it got better, and I just loved it in general.
If you don't believe me, try making a map of your office. See what you remember. Where do people go when they are rewarded, punished? Where is power concentrated, and where do you sit? What paths do people take to accomplish their goals? Are some emotions possible in one space and not another? (Take a picture and send it to me. I want to see.)

Now make a map of your "digital office." It will be a bunch of squares and a screenshot of a web browser.
Boy, ain't this the truth? There is such a there-ness to offices. My current team assembled online, has barely met in person. But I still can detect sense-memories about my previous employer's space...
Football players will risk life long injury, brain and otherwise, but are too scared by the "uncertainty" of vax jabs. Ok.

July 30, 2021

Now I'm old, I'm 30, and I started to realise that all those people who say they know, they actually don't know. Many of them don't know, and especially those who say that they know, don't know, because those who do know say that they don't know.
Anna Kiesenhofer (the Austrian mathematician specializing in partial differential equations and symplectic geometry who stunned world cycling by winning the gold in the Olympic road race on Sunday.)
The Slate Article says this is a good principle for who to believe about COVID-y things.

Admitting to uncertainty and acknowledging things are just your best estimation are crucial. "Certain Faiths" are not trustworthy. (And the 4.7 star place or product is probably better than place with nothing but 5 star reviews.)

July 31, 2021

Sometimes I miss the flourishing of DIY animation we got in the Flash era!
I wasn't deep in the Homestar Runner fandom, but lately I've been thinking about "A Jorb Well Done" where Coach Z (with his midwestern accent) struggles mightily to say the word "Job" without stretching it into "Jorb"...

I quote "Good Jaerrrrb!" a lot - so it's a bummer that it's probably a pretty obscure reference.

Also a bummer is *why* I use that quote - it's a bit of ironic distancing varnish because I have a problem giving sincere small complements (at least to grownups) to the extent that I can inadvertently come across as withholding of praise, which really isn't inline with the vague positivity I try to project.

Like if I'm legit impressed by something, no problem, I can be effusive and specific when I think the fruits of some labor objectively stand out. The trouble is when more modest achievements encounter my sense of truth being objective and shared. Like, my instinctual feeling is that if something is objectively "pretty good!", the person who made that is aware of the goodness or badness of it just as well as I am! To then praise it either A. disparages their ability to judge it, B. feels like me overstating my importance as a judge (maybe in a mainsplaining kind of way) or C. feels like I'm trying to be manipulative. (All of these kind of apply to me receiving praise as well!)

(Like with a kid I don't have the same problem, because "A" might be weaker anyway, and "B" I am a grownup, and so possibly rightfully more important as a judge in their eyes. I'm less worried about seeming condescending or manipulative.)

The real problem with this comes up acknowledging real successes that are great not because of their outcome per se, but because of the challenging environment they were made in. Like, if you have a friend with depression, getting up, showering, having breakfast might be a praiseworthy success. And to top it off, their inner critic may be WAY too harsh, and positive praise for "minor" but still good things might be a good for a just as irrational negativity.

So I sometimes say "Good Jaaerrrrb!" as a way of getting through my hangups.

I think there also might be a gender coding thing in all this? I've witnessed the more bubbling praise and support some women offer each other, very non-analytical, absolutely free of both-sidserism in conflicts. And at a meta-level, I recognize this is - objectively - probably a better mode than where I operate, but at ground-level, the conflict between the usefulness of (over-)generous praise and my critical need to be reliably forthright keeps me more tightlipped than I want to be.

And no tuba player should be that tightlipped, tbh.

My preferred brand of sun screen is a house.

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