August 1, 2023
New (to me- or sometimes old to me, uncovering originals of remakes I previously liked) music from last month - kind of a weak month overall, maybe it's the summer break effect...
Amen Brother (The Winstons)
(The source of the famous "Amen Break" but the song itself is a banger - I like how even without hearing a vocal you know the lyrics are "Aaamen / Aaaaaamen")
One Tree Hill (U2)
(I actually fell for this song on a "Tufts Amalgamates" a cappella CD that was weirdly important to me in my college years...)
To Turn You On (Roxy Music)
(I prefer the Nataly Dawn cover but there the haunting roots of this song are laid out here.)
Rock Around the Clock (Bill Haley and His Comets)
(I think I had this on that McDonald's "Shake Burger and Fries" mix tapes...)
Get Down (feat. Genesis Lynea) (SIX)
Yuppies In The Sky (Tom Paxton)
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Buddy Rich)
Bob ("Weird Al" Yankovic)
vampire (Olivia Rodrigo)
Kiss Me (Sixpence None the Richer)
Harlem Shuffle (Bob & Earl)
This lil guy was hopping around foraging in the lawn as I mowed the other day.
He was either hurt or fearless, because I could get right up to him. Couldn't think of much to do to protect him from predators without inhibiting his freedom, so I left out some water and let it be.
4 decades before MTV, we had music videos ("Soundies") on visual jukeboxes called Panorams - fascinating culture things going on
Pool day! But first we had to get a Froggo out of the water...
One share equals a thousand likes.
A great summary of where we are with LLMs and how we got here.
August 7, 2023
(I love deconstructed power point presentations like this, so much more skimmable than the full on video)
I think the most interesting sentence is:
The fascinating thing is that capabilities of these models emerge at certain sizes and nobody knows why.I help lead a "Science + Spirituality" group at a local UU church, and one term people who are looking for meaning in our physical world (that isn't bestowed from "outside the system") is "emergence". As systems connect, new behaviors show up that you couldn't have predicted by just looking at the lower levels; atomic physics becomes chemistry becomes biochemistry becomes neurochemistry becomes psychology, but you can't really do much psychology in terms of atoms. But we can find meaning in the emerged and shared experiences all humans go through.
And it's funny; I think one of the most important dichotomies in human understanding is holism vs reductionism. The psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist thinks that's rooted in the two-hemisphere model of the brain but is a split in approach that scales all the way up to the societal level; Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" sees it as "classical" vs "romantic" thinking (and finds the resolution of where they meet in Taoism). And as a programmer, I think reductionism had been on the rise for the past few decades (for example - a focus on low level unit-level testing vs functional and integration) but that will be challenged as the industry integrates LLMs more and more into its workflow.
This also all reminds me of "A-Life", which was really big a while back - artificial life simulations, often where small rules were established and then allowed to run rampant and in parallel (Conway's "Game of Life" being the Ur- example of this) I took a class at Tufts' Experimental College in it. One thing my instructor Jeffrey Ventrella (his website ventrella.com has lots of cool stuff) said was that in the future, programming would look less like regular engineering and more like gardening. At the time I could only see that in terms of having a human be the selective, weeding force in evolutionary processes, but now it seems like a pretty good metaphor for the kind of "as much art as science" intuitive skill prompt engineering is right now, like the like I started with talks about; you sort of know how to get the results you want and have a basic idea of how to get there, but it's still full of surprises and you never know where an ugly weed of a hallucination is going to show up.
"That's the thing you realize when you're a little bit more of an adult: people just want someone to make a decision, and they don't want it to be them."Damn. I tend to lack that decisiveness - my need to not be confidently incorrect leads me to pursue consensus-driven models.
"People who are characterized as 'leaders' really are just decisive, good or bad. They're just like, well that person decided what we're gonna have for lunch, so we're just follow their lead."
"Nick: you're going to eat a hot dog for lunch."
"Man... way ahead of you."
BABAM at Today's SAG-AFTRA rally at Parkman Bandstand - Sophie, Ken, Courtney, Reebee.
Super random (probably means I'm procrastinating)...do you ever feel weirdly empowered by your use of a technology? Like a combination of the "coolness" of what you're using and your proficiency in using it, just a weird bit of only semi-justifiable frisson. Like way back in the day I would get that with my Palm Pilot, it just seemed like such a cool compact way of getting my schedule and then todos and misc. notes in order. or sometimes I get the same thing doing random hacking or even just get correspondence on my laptop... like somehow the act of briskly typing itself feels like a harbinger of great potential.
August 11, 2023
Hey guy with hydration pack, 2 hiking sticks & North Face vest; my 5 yr old walked the same trail in Crocs carrying a naked Barbie. Relax.
photo by my friend Liz...
scenes from PPLM weekend... 3 seconds from my One Second Everyday montage (that was the time with the indoor pool and the mysterious troll like co-ocupants of the rental) - but for the other years I've made a new pplm tag
August 13, 2023
While driving yesterday, I thought about the idea that the atmosphere is very thin relative to the size of the planet, akin to a coat of lacquer on a billiard ball.
And while heights for what people reckon as saying "this is the atmosphere" very wildly, 99.99997% of its mass is below 62 miles (the "Kármán line"). Conversely: the earth's diameter is nearly 8000 miles, over 100 times as far.
It weirds me out a little. There is SO much more beneath you than above you! And those beautiful clouds so high up (like, 12 miles, tops) are just clumps of air stuff floating around the thin puddle of air that surrounds our planet.
There are approximately 10 million viruses in every drop of surface seawater, but very few are infectious agents to larger animals like fish, whales, or humans. That's because almost all of the marine viruses are "phages"--viruses that specifically attack marine bacteria. Marine phages cannot carry out cellular metabolism and must therefore rely on the metabolic machinery of their bacterioplankton hosts to replicate.You learn something new every day! though "each drop of sea water has 10 million viruses" is not one of those things I wish I knew, tbh.
I accidentally told my friend the
sweetest pick up line ever. i started
talking about solipsism (the belief
that everything around you was
created by your mind) and I went "If
everything around me is all my
imagination, then you're the best
thing I've come up with" she was
speechless for a solid five minutes.
August 15, 2023
As a person, he told me, your biggest problem is other people. You are vulnerable to people, and reliant upon them. But imagine instead that you are a twenty-first-century river, or desert, or polar bear. Your biggest problem *is still people*. You are still vulnerable to them, and reliant upon them.
For anyone trying to discern what to do w/ their life: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO. That's pretty much all the info u need.... John Green talks about her a lot. I'm glad I got to meet her and correspond a little before she died. Am always surprised when I re-learn she went to Tufts.
At the end of his life, the great picture book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak said on the NPR show Fresh Air, "I cry a lot because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die, and I can't stop them. They leave me, and I love them more."
He said, "I'm finding out as I'm aging that I'm in love with the world."
It has taken me all my life up to now to fall in love with the world, but I've started to feel it the last couple of years. To fall in love with the world isn't to ignore or overlook suffering, both human and otherwise. For me anyway, to fall in love with the world is to look up at the night sky and feel your mind swim before the beauty and the distance of the stars. It is to hold your children while they cry, to watch as the sycamore trees leaf out in June. When my breastbone starts to hurt, and my throat tightens, and tears well in my eyes, I want to look away from feeling. I want to deflect with irony, or anything else that will keep me from feeling directly. We all know how loving ends. But I want to fall in love with the world anyway, to let it crack me open. I want to feel what there is to feel while I am here.
Sendak ended that interview with the last words he ever said in public: "Live your life. Live your life. Live your life."
Here is my attempt to do so.
Never predict the end of the world. You're almost certain to be wrong, and if you're right, no one will be around to congratulate you.
Diet Dr Pepper is god's perfect softdrinkJohn Green has a similar feeling for the drink.
[Home is] not a place, but a moment.
But I think it is also hard for us to confront human-caused climate change because the most privileged among us, the people who consume the most energy, can separate ourselves from the weather. I am certainly one such person. I am insulated from the weather by my house and its conditioned air. I eat strawberries in January. When it is raining, I can go inside. When it is dark, I can turn on lights. It is easy for me to feel like climate is mostly an outside phenomenon, whereas I am mostly an inside phenomenon.
I remember as a child hearing phrases like "Only the strong survive" and "survival of the fittest" and feeling terrified, because I knew I was neither strong nor fit. I didn't yet understand that when humanity protects the frail among us, and works to ensure their survival, the human project as a whole gets stronger.
A few years ago, I ran into an old friend, who said of our high school, "It saved my life. But it also did a lot of other things." So, too, with the internet.
who are you,little i
(five or six years old)
peering from some high
window;at the gold
of november sunset
(and feeling:that if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way)
But I want to be earnest, even if it's embarrassing. The photographer Alec Soth has said, "To me, the most beautiful thing is vulnerability." I would go a step further and argue that you cannot see the beauty which is enough unless you make yourself vulnerable to it.That's a thing that still gets me. A lot of people conflate openness and vulnerability. But that vulnerability mostly comes from attachment, hitching our wagons to what we want to be rather than what is.
When we are young, we drink our coffee with milk and sugar. And as we age, we drink it with milk only, then we drink it black, then we drink it decaf, then we die. Our next eater is at decaf.
Depression is melancholy minus its charms.
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say . . . 'In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.
[Courage is] when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway.For me "licked" isn't always being defeated per se, but at risk for having my delicate ego ending up a bruised mess.
Don't just do something. Stand there.
a photograph can't help taming what it shows
After the death of the poet Jane Kenyon, her husband Donald Hall wrote, "We did not spend our days gazing into each other's eyes. We did that gazing when we made love or when one of us was in trouble, but most of the time our gazes met and entwined as they looked at a third thing. Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment. Each member of a couple is separate; the two come together in double attention." Hall goes on to note that third things might be John Keats or the Boston Symphony Orchestra or Dutch interiors or children.
The pleasure isn't owning the person. The pleasure is this. Having another contender in the room with you.
Looking up toward the looming mountain ranges in the distance, I was reminded of what nature is always telling me: Humans are not the protagonists of this planet's story. If there is a main character, it is life itself, which makes of earth and starlight something more than earth and starlight.
A 2009 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that people given license to doodle recalled more information than non-doodlers, perhaps because doodling requires just enough brainpower to keep the mind from wandering.
When people say, 'we have made it through worse before' / all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones / of those who did not make it.
Driving alone at night is heartbreak without the agony.
You're going to be okay, you know. Not in the short run . . . And also not in the long run, I guess. But in the medium run.
~1919: global pandemic2024, keep your eyes open for a (ghostwritten) "Art of the Kampf"
~2019: global pandemic
~1920: Dr Thomas Tuttle's life is threatened for mask mandates
~2020: Dr Anthony Fauci's life is threatened for mask mandates
~1922: roaring 20s
~2022: we are so back!
~1923: Beer Putsch - attempted coup by fashy Germans
~2021: Jan 6 - attempted coup by fashy Americans
~1920s work on Autobahn begins. Fash hate the infra projects
~2020s Biden's infrastructure bill starts. Fash hate the infra projects
~1924: Hitler indicted
~2023: Trump indicted
Right now if you search for "country in Africa that starts with the letter K":Confirmed:
- DuckDuckGo will link to an alphabetical list of countries in Africa which includes Kenya.
- Google, as the first hit, links to a ChatGPT transcript where it claims that there are none, and summarizes to say the same.
This is because ChatGPT at some point ingested this popular joke:
"There are no countries in Africa that start with K."
"What about Kenya?"
"Kenya suck deez nuts?"
Google Search is over.
well not sure if the joke is the reason per se
Two by Yuval Robichek
The City was low-key, but literally, magical. At some point a wish granting aspect seemed to have been woven into its fabric. A scorching hot August might herald the unexpected appearance of an ice cream truck, or even a hitherto neglected corner ice cream shop. The number of middle tier lottery wins was suspiciously high.
We suspected there was a retro-temporal aspect to it as well. One day people just began to notice The Pirate Quarter, a somewhat Disney-fied set of streets on the north side, on the inlet to the sea that no-one would swear had always been there but no-one could deny having always been part of the City either.
The residents of the Quarter were nice enough, like Jamie McGrew, the old guy with the eyepatch over one clouded eye and his perpetual scruff, who worked on the tourist galleon forever moored to the main pier. Off duty he would happily answer questions about his own personal past, but no matter how much we probed we could never detect a paradox, just a life story deftly woven in and around aspects of our own histories we had clearer and more concrete recollections of. A few of us the Bat started calling him "Jamais", as in "jamais vu", but he took our suspicions in good cheer, and soon enough we couldn't remember when we thought we hadn't always known him.
Melissa sometimes gets annoyed by me not properly straightening up after myself - like leaving a cereal box out, or a cupboard door hanging open, or grocery sacks out on the counter after I put the groceries away.
I know she sees it as "leaving it for someone else to deal with" but it's more a crime of omission than comission. Usually with those things my attention has pivoted - the task at hand has finished, and then maybe later there can be another task to straighten things up. And often I WILL come back to it, but it can take a bit. I guess over time I'll try to include the straighten-up as part of the main task, but it's not always easy to remember, the cues aren't there for me.
And I just realized that I pull the same trick on myself with browser tabs. It's way too easy to hit cmd-n or cmd-t and start up a new page to help work on the main task, and then there's that little hint of "maybe this will be useful in the future" that's stronger than "it's better to always have a less distracting desktop workspace".
I guess not everyone works that way? Which is why "open up all the old windows" when a browser app reopen is a welcome feature for many, but for me is jut a horror show of zombie tangents.
So maybe I can grow my way through some of this, but it's never easy to change a habit - most existing habits are there for a reason, or at least have an ongoing history. Maybe the phrase "the job's not finished 'til the paperworks done" (a bit of toilet humor in the form of commentary and bureacracy) could help as a mantra.
I guess with this there's a vibe for decluttering in general, trying to stay ever-vigilant...
I added Tom Petty's "Into The Great Wide Open" to my music set, and for some reason two lines have got stuck in my head: the cheerful alliteration of "he met a girl out there with a tattoo too", and then the crushing aspect "Their A&R man said, 'I don't hear a single'" (which is the final verse before the repeated chorus, though I'd say the video implies a higher rise and greater fall.)
Last night (well, the wee hours of today, actually) BABAM added musical energy for the Back Bay Midnight Pedalers' 35th annual "Boston by Bike at Night" midnight-to-dawn bike ride - around 3am the bikers claimed the side route of the Zakim bridge and BABAM jammed as some of the bike folks unpacked a ramp and did bike stunts...
Melissa and I had to say goodbye to our dear kitty Dean today - (given his medicine regimen over the past few years we weren't taken unawares but the speed of decline this past week and then this last day were a shock.)
August 21, 2023
He was such a sweet and snuggly cat. Melissa was thinking of a younger female cat when she first went to the shelter but Dean The Love Machine's (the shelter's nickname for him) head boop was irresistible.
And he was brave! Fellow cat people were impressed by how out and about he was when we had folks over for my birthday...
So here are some photos. I think the biggest compliment we had as his Humans was when someone pointed how relaxed a cat he must be, showing his belly to the world like that in this one photo...
(title is a little riff on a "hello friend" greeting Melissa often used for Dean)
So with just a smidge more distance in time, here are 3 kitty health and end takeaways:
1. Unfortunately the end of life procedure is such that there's a good chance the cat knows something is up. (over the past few years, I had assumed we would try an at home end visit, but I think in practice, it's rare to not give a cat at least one more try at the vet, and when that confirms that a rebound isn't in the cards, it seems like a better path to deal with it there. But I'm having a twinge of second guessing. Though who knows, quite likely the at home vet would have wigged him out as well. And also, even though the penultimate part of the final part - ie before we asked for a bit more sedative- was more stress on him than I had hoped, and it wasn't the calmness of the familiar hangout on my chest as I reclined that we tried to recreate, I need to recognize that that brief time doesn't recolor the past good week he had before, or the good years of happy life cuddling we got before then through dutiful medical intervention, or the years before that. But still it bums me out a little.)
2. But the kindest thing any of the vet people said during the whole rough morning was the reminder that most critical part of the decision of the timing had been made not by us but by Dean's body.
3. Get the cat health insurance shelters offer, like trupanion. It helped with the meds and opened that gave us more years with Dean.
Melissa points out even at home he was mostly in a escape and hide out mode (albeit at a spot he liked under the bed), so after being poked and prodded it's not surprising he wanted to maybe get under stuff in the that room, and it's not a more specific worry he had than that.
bun bun look out behind you
Melissa pointed out that with 2 years with her, 4 years on our third floor walkup in Somerville, and 2 years here, most of Dean's time with us was there on Prichard. Which seems so weird, but says more about my sense of time than about Dean.
Our state seal (which is also the state flag) is HORRIBLE and must change. Just to be clear on what you're looking at below: it's a white hand holding a sword over the head of an Indigenous person, above a Latin motto that says "She Seeks by the Sword a Quiet Peace under Liberty."
MA residents, please take a few minutes to do this:
"The Special Commission Relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth is interested in hearing from you.
The Special Commission is conducting a survey that asks about your familiarity with the current seal and motto of the Commonwealth and your input on the new design.
Here is the link to the survey: https://bit.ly/StateSealSurvey
This survey is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Khmer, Haitian Creole, and Russian. It should take less than 10 minutes of your time.
By answering this survey, you will contribute to the creation of a more inclusive state symbol.
Your answers will be confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside the research team. All answers will be combined into a general report that will make recommendations for the new design of the seal and motto.
Please feel free to share the survey with your communities.
Trump's Mug Shot.
He's trying to look like that one shot of Churchill right after the photographer snatched his cigar. But definitely trying to get that "I will get revenge" vibe on.
Melissa recommends Kimberly Quinlan's podcast on 14 Things You Should Say to a Loved One with Anxiety
- I am here for you.
- How can I support you?
- You are not bad for experiencing this.
- Things will get better... this will not last forever.
- You have gotten through this before.
- I am proud of how hard you are trying.
- Let's listen to stories of other people who have gotten through this.
- I will do the dishes tonight.
- You are allowed to take this time and this space.
- You do not need to solve everything right now. You can pace yourself through this.
- What's important to you right now?
- I believe you.
- You are stronger than you think and you have got this.
- I know you can resist these compulsions.
- Bonus: it's a beautiful day to do hard things.
I was who I was, I did what I did, It was fine
So, after losing Dean, it made sense for Melissa and me to get out of dodge for a bit, and we went to visit my Mom and Aunt on the Jersey shore for a few days. (A small silver lining to the grey cloud of Dean being gone is that it's easier to make these kind of trips together without having to arrange for a cat sitter.)
We had a great day on the beach - I grew up jumping through can-knock-you-over-waves and it's nice to go back to them. That night we went into the city to The Comedy Cellar - we had a table right at the front row corner and got a ton of interaction with the comedians - including getting Comedy Married by emcee Ardie Fuqua. But besides seeing one of Melissa's favorites Ari Shaffir the highlight was probably a surprise set by Aziz Ansari (of "Parks and Rec" fame), and the front row interaction with him was really fun, Melissa was over the moon.
The next day we went to Point Pleasant where there's a lot of attractions on the boardwalk there. We went through 2 different halls of mirrors and a crazy vertigo inducing rotating room...
Open Photo Gallery
Tonight the group formerly known as The Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band became the Good Trouble Brass Band...
The spinning Ames Window is so compelling -
Is it better to say illusions are made or discovered?
Still twinges over the loss of Dean - weirdly focused on the dumb but consistent parts of life with a cat... him coming over on his own schedule to get skritches and make biscuits was probably the most emotionally important parts of our connection, and I miss that, but sometimes the absence is more keenly felt in the ridiculously pragmatic - "oops, don't leave that rubber band out, Dean mi- oh never mind." Or the loneliness lurking behind how now *no one cares when I head to the fridge for a chicken sausage or bit of string cheese*.
And it all gets mixed up with the general challenges of this season - like how it's been a crap time to look for work, and there's an underlying low key anxiety there, not to mention having to whether a series of attacks on confidence and self-image, and a sense of futility emanating from my last gig. So sometimes leaning into the kitty sadness when it pops up seems self-indulgent, or like an excuse. But still, the house Melissa and I share has lost an important piece of its lively soul, a kind of spark of animism that's no longer there.
Long Haul Paul's song It Comes In Waves is hitting for me right now: "It comes in waves / It comes in waves / But I'll be alright / But I'll be alright" Like maybe I'm overdoing it - that song is about a person - a son and father - lost to an overdose, which is orders of magnitude more of a loss, but sadness does know from that kind of math, or recognize the need to keep a sense of perspective.
Ah well. It's nice to enjoy a rainy morning on the porch (albeit a porch badly in need of some expensive restructuring - another little sling and/or arrow of semi-outrageous fortune) Drinking homemade iced coffee, condensation on the glass and the pot, and enjoying a weird breakfast of some cheap chicken Cup Noodles with just a kick of sriracha.
I'll be alright, I'll be alright.
Pretty interesting Slate article on procrastionation.
"Some believe it's caused by a lack of confidence--that procrastinators fear, deep down, that they'll screw things up, so their ego prevents them from beginning. (This was Sigmund Freud's theory.)"
I get that - but for me it tends to come up before subtasks inside of a larger task.
But I think the article is also right to point out that "rational actor" analysis only works at the way zoomed out level. I think that's because we're not a single monolithic actor - each of our psyches is made up of multiple actors, with their own agendas - ego protection, sensual pleasures, etc etc.