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photos of the month march 2024


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A bracing response to right wing critics
from the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
I know I'm a pain in the butt to buy gifts for, since I'm usually a combination of some spare income and poor impulse control. But this year I held off and was able to reply to Leah Ovoian Leach's "I need ideas for birthday gifts for a 50 year old guy!! Any suggestions" and got what you see here on the left: an old school rotary phone off ebay.

It's not wired to anything (it would be fun to raspberry pi up something to play sounds or respond to the dial - I actually thought a game like "Flappy Bird but with a Rotary controller" would be kinda hip) so for now it's just a big fidget spinner that pairs well with my dad's old typewriter.

I think the typewriter (my dad's, but an antique when got it) is an older generation than the phone, but they pair pretty well together, all that black bakelite and metal industrial design.)
I think my friend Tkoa Hill posted a video about some Gen Z'ers or Gen Alpha's trying to figure out how to use the dial (their biggest mistake was keeping the phone on the hook and planning to lift to talk after dialing.)

So now I can make hanging up and being "off the hook!" all too literal.

from "Elite: The Dark Wheel"

In space, everyone can hear you scream . . .
As long, that is, as you're equipped with a RemLok survival mask.
An instant after Alex Ryder hit the hard vacuum, a skin of plasFibre had been shot across his body from nozzles on the face piece, keeping him warm against the cold, tightening and protecting him, securing him against the void. The oxygen flow in his body was cut off to all but his heart and brain. Needle-doses of adrenalin and somnokie were held ready, just within the skin area of his mouth, ready to alert or depress his body functions according to circumstances.
And the RemLok screamed through space for help.

It was a standard survival device, an instantly recognisable distress call indicating that it was being sent out from a small, remotely located, dying body. The alarm screeched out on forty channels, shifting wavelength within each channel four times a second. One hundred and twenty chances to catch attention . . .

A cumbersome Boa class cruiser, loaded down with industrial machinery, slowed its departure run from Leesti and turned to scan space for the source of the signal . . .

Two police vipers came streaking from their patrol sector, near the sun, scanning for the body in trouble . . .

An adapted Moray Starboat, a vast glowing yellow star on its hull--the sign of a hospital ship-- came chugging out of the darkness . . .

Messages from ships to both the planet and its ring of Coriolis stations were abruptly broken as the split second message came screaming through. TV programmes were interrupted, the screen dissolving into a permanently recorded display of the space-grid location of the RemLok. Every advertising space module changed its garish display to flash, in brilliant green, the same information.

In the orbit-space around Leesti, a million heads turned starwards. That split second of panic, that moment's cry of distress, was a sound they knew too well to ignore, and were too frightened of to take for granted.
Robert Holdstock, "Elite: The Dark Wheel".
This was a novella that came packed with the video game "Elite". I think about it every time we get an AMBER alert.

new music playlist march 2024

4 star:
* Miss Cindy (The High Decibels)
Most interesting new song this month. I like the mix of southern gritty guitar and beastie boys style end-of-line-echoing
* Beware of the Boys (Mundian to Bach Ke) [feat. JAY-Z] (Panjabi MC)
Love the India music (and the tiger roar) and I think Jay-Z's flow goes well with it.
* You've Got the Love (Florence + the Machine)
* Flagpole Sitta (Harvey Danger)
* Katebegia (Broken Brothers Brass Band)

3 star:
* Goodbye My Lover (James Blunt)
* Days Like This (Dermot Kennedy)
* C64, More Like C Sixty-BORE (Beeble)
* Bad Breath (Willie Nelson)
* Music! Music! Music! (Teresa Brewer)
* Tired of Being Alone (Al Green)
* Broken Man (St. Vincent)
* Straighten Out the Rug (Maurice Jarre)
* Feel Again (Yarin Primak)
* Big Bottom (Spinal Tap)

As a kid I wondered if you could make a robot trumpet player. The answer is now yes. I wonder how the cyber-embouchure works... (you can google up a robot sax player as well...)
diesel sweeties kiss lips

Taiwan Earthquake dashcam footage wowowowowow -- when the road ahead looks like a video game level, what with all the boulders.
definitely sounds like a very stable genius who is definitely in a good state of mind to be president

April 4, 2024

Some UX humor - ideas from Soren Iverson...my 3 favs:

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April 5, 2024

As an agnostic, I have spent most of my life thinking about the decline of faith in America in mostly positive terms. Organized religion seemed, to me, beset by scandal and entangled in noxious politics. So, I thought, what is there really to mourn? Only in the past few years have I come around to a different view. Maybe religion, for all of its faults, works a bit like a retaining wall to hold back the destabilizing pressure of American hyper-individualism, which threatens to swell and spill over in its absence.
I usually say my HONK! bands are my church. They certainly have many of the same aspects Thompson talks about in terms of the ritual of practice.

April 6, 2024

Civilization and science fight against the natural mistakes of our brains. It's a wonder of our species that we're learning to use our brains to fight our brains. If you feel it, but it isn't right, don't do it and don't believe it. We can be better than natural -- we're human.
Penn Jillette

The Dinosaur Park, Cedar Creek TX

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April 7, 2024

As background to this joke, know that there is a simply enormous number of distinct species of beetle: well over 300,000; and you need to know of the famous quip by J.B.S. Haldane. When asked "What has the study of biology taught you about the Creator, Dr. Haldane?", he replied

"I'm not sure, but He seems to be inordinately fond of beetles."

This inspired the following mediation on Adam naming the animals...

God: And here's the next species, one I'm particularly proud of...
Adam: Beetle.
God: Excellent. Now here's another...
Adam: Beetle.
God: No, you just named the last one "beetle". This one is quite different -- look at the pattern on the wing cases, and the shape of the antennae...
Adam: Beetle.
God: Well, OK, though they certainly look different to Me. Now, the next species is--
Adam: Beetle.
Excerpt from "The *Real* Reason for the Fall" (credits: Ken Cox)

More Austin - Mount Bonnell, the Museum of Illusions, and trying to see some damn bats.

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heart shaped cactus, Mt Bonnell
In the Museum of Illusions...
Unfortunately we saw far more people than bats.

April 8, 2024


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At the Museum of the Weird...
All That Razz at Voodoo Doughnut.
Texas Toy Museum had a bunch of toy collections and games (arcade and console) setup to play - Gen X nostalgia gold.
Dewbacks won me a bet a while back, since that's how I KNEW they were in the original movie and not a 90s CGI addition.
Eclipse Ready...
I feel like the weather made us miss out from the most cosmic aspect. But I did see one Eye of Sauron moment at least through it all...
Wound things down with a ghost tour...

April 9, 2024

Hans Holbein, Danse Macabre

April 10, 2024

Surprise- thought those were JUST eclipse glasses that are now useless? They may be what Douglas Adams described in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe":

"Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses have been specially designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. At the first hint of trouble, they turn totally black and thus prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you."

If yours are still black all the time, watch out...

April 11, 2024


April 12, 2024

RIP Nicole Brown Simpson.
And Ron Goldman.
And Norm McDonald.

Weirdest OJ Simpson cameo is a namedrop in the Buck Rogers episode "Planet of the Slave Girls" (yikes):
Capt. William "Buck" Rogers : Come on, Duke, it's me.

Major Duke Danton : If it's you Rogers, who's the juice?

Dr. Theopolis : The what?

Capt. William "Buck" Rogers : O.J. Simpson. I told you all about him out in the desert. Running back out of USC. He played for the Buffalo Bills.
I mean to be fair canonically Buck got frozen in 1987 which was even before the Naked Gun stuff but still.
Thinking of the U shaped curve where middle age tends to be kind of a low point. 40 for women, 50 for men.

Sort of feeling it. But it feels, like, drive by circumstances rather than existential concerns? Like if I was rich - or even had a job I felt secure and productive in - I think I could get over the other stuff and be my usual chipper self. Which sort of sucks, I'd like to think that my cheerful existential outlook is independent of circumstances but its definitely gotten a boost from tech being a good career for most of the decades of my adult life, but stinking up the joint right now.

April 13, 2024


April 14, 2024

In School of Honk today we did mini-band break outs, each of the 5 subgroups put together an original musical composition. Based on the rhythm our leader/drummer Nan had given us, I was inspired to bring out an old song idea I had - a redone melody for "The Alphabet Song" (which deserves its own melody, not one it has to share with Twinkle Twinkle etc)...

self help singh


hello my name is self help singh
international life coach motivational
speaker and best selling author of the
book do nothing do nothing
there is no purpose or meaning to find
in life
so just exist and do nothing
stop waking up early
life is shit so sleep through as much of
it as possible 5 a.m club bad idea 11
a.m club much better idea stop doing the
things you don't want to do make the
excuses avoid the work commitments the
friend get togethers the family
gatherings if you so wish make the
excuse book and fill it with excuses
keep the excuses ready for the bus for
the wife for the friends
say no to the team's meetings to the
say no to the exercise say no to the
diet eat whatever the fuck you want
soon you will be dead so what difference
is it making stop listening to what
people say about you
stop chasing the perfect summer body
whether you are fat or thin haters will
and soon your haters will also die
hopefully in the most horrific manner
joking not joking oh am i joking
do the least amount of work without
getting fired nike say
just do it
self-help singh say just do nothing
release yourself of obligation and
responsibility and just do nothing
everything you think you need to do
was done before you and will be done
after you
so stop doing
you do it best when you do nothing at
all you are not special you are not
unique creation the world is fucked and
you cannot unfuck it so just do you and
do nothing
stop spending your days searching for
the meaning of life
for that is the most futile exercise
you will die one day just as confused as
you are now so be happy with what and
who you are
as my good friend farooq freddie mercury
once said
nothing really matters
so do

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I wanted to see if ChatGPT could just extend the canvas of the image I use at alienbill.com but it decided to redraw the whole thing. I kind of like it though, and it didn't put in a mouth...

April 16, 2024

humans are a subspecies of elf known for dying really quickly and being stressed the whole time

i really need to start walking around with sets of giant googly eyes.

The Monster Manual but it's blatantly written by the monsters:

mimc Mouth perfec t size for put baby in to n\ap! inside very Soft and Comfort baby sleep soundly put baby in Mimic Mouth. Put Baby In Mimic Mouth. no problems ever in mimmic mouth because good Shape and Support for baby neck weak of big baby head. Amimic Mouth yes a place for a baby put baby in mimic mouth can trust mimic for giveing good love to baby. friend mimic
(a few people online pointed out how that photo looks just like a mimic...)

April 17, 2024

the sounds of the 80s..

you bet

You know, reading about the lifetime ban of an NBA player and noting the rise of legalized sports betting... and my inability to "get" the appeal of betting, at all... my philosophy is all about knowing there has to be absolute truth (in this case, the outcome of a sports event, regarded after the fact) but also accepting your uncertainty of that truth - if I'm not 100% sure of something I feel morally compelled to lay out where the uncertainty is. (So I won't say "your keys are on the kitchen table" even if I recently noticed them there since stuff might have changed or my memory have tricked me - I'll say "I think your keys are on the kitchen table")

But recreational sports betting plays in a very different emotional and maybe epistemological space. Either flexing that you're sure you're smarter or luckier than other folks, or wanting to tie in your fate more closely with a favorite team's, or just thrill seeking spiced by real financial consequences. I just don't get it.

(I remember my mom's views on gambling, when some gambler wanted to share his winnings with the church. I don't remember the outcome, but I do remember my mom pointing out either its losing money, or it's gaining money on the backs of others (I think "on the backs of others" more so than a protestant work ethic stance of wanting to link diligence to financial outcomes.)

I suppose I shouldn't be on too much of a moral high horse about it. There's a chance I'd be better off by taking more chances over all, in different aspects of life, rather than always hunting for sure wins and low hanging fruit.
“Fireflies Captured By Long Exposure – Vitor Schietti”

the underwear that's fun to wear

Content Warning: Men's Undies.

I think there comes a time in most young men's life when they turn from the underwear of their youth (often from their parents just buying smaller versions of whatever their father wears) to whatever is modern at that point. For me in the early 90s that was a critical pivot from tighty-whities to boxers. Preferably, boxers with playful iconography.

The thing is, I'm worried they're going away. Boxer briefs seem to be taking over, and the selection at the Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic triopoly and other places has been notably worse the past few years.
The thing is even though the goofy designs should make these boxers "more" childish than almost any other alternative, to me all snug undies seem... I dunno, weirdly juvenile or vaguely feminine, even though I understand they flatter a lot of guys in a lot of shapes.

And like, if someone sees an amusing pair of boxers peeking over your jeans, it seems more intentional somehow and less embarrassing then other forms of undies.

Anyway. At least these style of boxers never have the manufacturer's name being on the waistband for advertising purposes. It wasn't great when Calvin Klein did it, and do you really want to be a human billboard for Fruit of the Loom or Haines or whoever?
From my devblog - Humane's AI Pin vs the movie Her... also Marques Brownlee with the clapback of the year...

April 20, 2024

the biggest threat facing your team, whether you're a game developer or a tech founder or a CEO, is not what you think

Brilliant article on leadership. It's long and gets into the weeds of the games industry, but there is a lot that is true for the whole corporate world.

It touches on one point that is much on my mind: so much of our corporate leadership is "make number go up" (immediately! but then also forever.) Corporations generally have a legal obligation to "increase shareholder value", and in general that's on a per quarter basis. Sustainability and long term viability are afterthoughts at best.

The article points out there's parallels in that and some USA policy decisions in Vietnam:
But when the McNamara discipline is applied too literally, the first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. The second step is to disregard that which can't easily be measured or given a quantitative value. The third step is to presume that what can't be measured easily really isn't important. The fo[u]rth step is to say that what can't be easily measured really doesn't exist. This is suicide.
But then when you combine that with leaders who view themselves as capable of finessed big picture and aesthetic decisions as, say, Steve Jobs... well, they aren't always looking to the people reporting to them as potential Jony Ives - they want to go on their own guts.

So an organization has to thread the needle between "it only counts if it can be quantified" and "it only counts if it has good 'gut feel' to topmost leadership". I think you do that by building and then trusting the expertise of the people in the middle.

April 21, 2024

scenes from arlington/medford and brattleboro vt

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Conspiracy Theory Rock, the censored SNL TV Funhouse...

April 22, 2024

Gat Out of Hell - , a kind of DLC-ish thing for Saints Row... I played this game for like the third time through this weekend

(heh looking at some notes maybe it was the only game I played all the way through in 2017 as well?) It's like $4 on Steam or PS4 store and is just such a good side story. Light on the "big scenes" but heavy on the generous and fun physics and movement empowerment - and its take on the environment hell is actually pretty funny, a few notches better than GTA 5's sense of parody.

And I love the central image of the player (either Gat in his gang jacket or Kinzie in a tanktop and jeans) with burning angel wings, soaring over and around the metropolitan hellscape...
I'm such a hypocrite - like if I'm "heads down" on something I have a hard time not showing my annoyance when someone else asks for my attention for something.

But when I'm on my own and know I should be barrelling through a task, I welcome ANY little distraction and sidequest.
On my devblog, thinking back to my earliest training in Scrum: the duck calls, "you suck and that makes me sad", roadkill burgers, and the metaphor of "The Chicken and the Pig"

April 23, 2024

Is Stress Contagious? Studies Say Yes Well, fek.

April 24, 2024

Thermonator, the Flame-Throwing Robot Dog, Can Now Be Yours for $9,420. Oh goodie.
This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

April 25, 2024

Dear friend,

We recollect you, which if a frugal phrase, has sumptuous meanings.

E - Dickinson -
Emily Dickinson to Unknown, Late January 1878

I don't build much but on FB I follow some Lego groups (most notably "Lego Showoff")

I've learned some new stuff - like the term MOC (for My Own Creation) and also some new websites - maybe even cooler than when I found out there's a whole used Lego marketplace where you can order specific pieces, I discoved that the Rebrickable Alternate Builds page is brilliant - what can people do with the same single set?

That is much closer to the experience I had as a kid, where there was a lot of piece constraint (and not as many specialty pieces - just enough to make things look a BIT less blocky)

April 26, 2024

No finite human being has ever won a fight against time. We just get the limited time we get, and the limited control over it that we get.
And if you spend your life fighting the truth of this situation, all that happens is that you feel more rushed and overwhelmed and impatient - until one day time decisively wins the fight, as it was always destined to do. (In other words: you die.)

Two shots of Dean from a random iPhone SE I messed with a while back...

April 27, 2024

You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won't tell you that he loves you, but he loves you. And you feel like you've done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you're tired. You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and you're trying not to tell him that you love him, and you're trying to choke down the feeling, and you're trembling, but he reaches over and he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your heart taking root in your body, like you've discovered something you didn't even have a name for.
richard siken

PICO-8 - I'm sort of surprised I never got into the PICO-8. It's a kind of fictional virtual console for 8-bit games... but one that really encouraged homebrew and community, and that "everyone can write a little game" that was a hallmark of the BASIC/magazine type-in days.

I'm particularly taken by this game, 8 Legs to Love -
I don't know what the CPU limitations are on a PICO-8, but the physics behind the dangling parts of web are beautiful

April 28, 2024

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Jack Gilbert

April 29, 2024


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When I was in Bennington VT I bought an old copy of "Amiga World" that had an interview with Andy Warhol in it. (Though famously he doesn't really do interviews, so it's more like him answering some questions while being a little distracted.) He most frequently compares the Amiga to the Xerox, in terms of a new technology for artists to explore - especially interesting given his exploration of what endless reproducibility means for art.

I was considering transcribing it but The Internet Archive has it. (For now... I hope they get past these stupid lawsuits.)

chatgpt as lossy compression

My favorite sci-fi author Ted Chiang wrote ChatGPT is a blurry jpeg of the web:
Imagine what it would look like if ChatGPT were a lossless algorithm. If that were the case, it would always answer questions by providing a verbatim quote from a relevant Web page. We would probably regard the software as only a slight improvement over a conventional search engine, and be less impressed by it. The fact that ChatGPT rephrases material from the Web instead of quoting it word for word makes it seem like a student expressing ideas in her own words, rather than simply regurgitating what she's read; it creates the illusion that ChatGPT understands the material. In human students, rote memorization isn't an indicator of genuine learning, so ChatGPT's inability to produce exact quotes from Web pages is precisely what makes us think that it has learned something. When we're dealing with sequences of words, lossy compression looks smarter than lossless compression.
Admittedly this was written last year but I think he underestimates the usefulness of ChatGPT in applying knowledge to a particular case at hand:
This analogy makes even more sense when we remember that a common technique used by lossy compression algorithms is interpolation--that is, estimating what's missing by looking at what's on either side of the gap. When an image program is displaying a photo and has to reconstruct a pixel that was lost during the compression process, it looks at the nearby pixels and calculates the average. This is what ChatGPT does when it's prompted to describe, say, losing a sock in the dryer using the style of the Declaration of Independence: it is taking two points in "lexical space" and generating the text that would occupy the location between them. ("When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one to separate his garments from their mates, in order to maintain the cleanliness and order thereof. . . .") ChatGPT is so good at this form of interpolation that people find it entertaining: they've discovered a "blur" tool for paragraphs instead of photos, and are having a blast playing with it.
I'm willing to grant that asking ChatGPT to apply its embedded gleaned knowledge to a particular problem is basically that kind of of interpolation, but in practice it is far more useful than making entertaining mashups. In my case, especially for technical tasks - to quote David Winer
ChatGPT is like having a programming partner you can try ideas out on, or ask for alternative approaches, and they're always there, and not too busy to help out. They know everything you don't know and need to know, and rarely hallucinate (you have to check the work, same as with a human btw). It's remarkable how much it is like having an ideal human programming partner. It's the kind of helper I aspire to be.

Jessica Valenti goes hard into the damage Republicans know their actions against a woman's right to choose will be and it's fundamental unspoken premise - "enforcing a worldview that says it's women's job to be pregnant, and to stay pregnant to matter what the cost or consequence."

(I'm not saying there aren't some counterpoints but in it seems like a good rule of thumb)
I really have trouble squaring "Google is poor" (has to conduct layoffs, offshore and outsource jobs, remove staplers) with record revenue and profits, CEO pay so high, stock buybacks and now even dividends. I can't connect the dots -- not charitably.

People are worried about AI becoming a paperclip maximizer. But the thing is, wall street already is a paperclip maximizer.
Michael Rothwell

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