2 weeks ago

November 7, 2017ramble

More slow progress in refining my understanding of myself and maybe the human condition.

I find for almost everything I don't like about myself, and even some of the things I do, there's a cynical explanation (usually along the lines of doing things for external approval) and a more sympathetic one (that I do things for more moral reasons - and so that approval from my social group is just validation, a sign post that I'm on the righteous path.)

A few weeks ago I was talking about the metaphor of the elephant (our intuitive knowledge and motive force) and the rider (our narrative rational self that takes credit for guiding us but is mostly just hanging on for dear life and making up after-the-fact explanations for what the elephant does) and how my elephant is weirdly self-referential; that what drives me emotionally is a desire to to be correct rationally.

Cynical explanation for that: I just can't stand being wrong, or I fear being called out. Sympathetic explanation: This kind of striving for truth is what righteousness IS for me.

Maybe my need to not be wrong is something parallel to OCD, or even a form of it... if a person with OCD doesn't do their counting, or get whatever ritual right, what will happen? Rationally they often understand things would probably be ok, but at the emotional level, things would be Wrong. "R, O, N, G, WRONG!" as my beloved high school math teacher Mr. Pawlowski would say. For folks with clinical OCD and for my (hopefully subclinical) need for truth: even if we know in our heart there may not be external consequences for being Capital-R Wrong there are absolutely real internal and emotional ones - integrity-challenging ones, in fact. There might not be a God of Correctness looking for me to slip up or hoards of peers waiting for me to have an incorrect view, but there might as well be.

Cynical explanation for the comparison with OCD: It's a self-coddling, excuse-making, half-assed self-diagnosis. Sympathetic explanation: it's a useful metaphor that might provide insight in to my own processing, and even empathy for people who suffer from the real deal.

When pontificating on a topic that I know has different sides, I often feel compelled to start with the counterargument, which makes my train of thought rather hard to follow at best, and at worst gives my debating opponent more ammo.

Cynical explanation: I am showing off how smart I am, and how I've considered every angle, or possibly trying to pre-empt counterarguments by showing how they've already been considered and found wanting. Sympathetic explanation: accepting that there will always be subjective disagreements on the higher level of judgement (vs the low level of plain fact, objective reality) is critical to me and this is how I go about describing it. Also, it reflects the non-linear way my mind works.

I had a (possibly final, or at least last for a while) walking discussion/debate with my estranged college buddy and erstwhile debate companion EB. He used the conservative labeling of some liberal behaviors as mere "virtue signaling" - this cynical view discounts the motivations of liberals as just showing off how they're in accordance with the values of their tribe, their echo chamber, that "political correctness" isn't just using language considerate of the feeling of other groups but a tool for reinforcing a power structure.

I guess I don't understand why "virtue signaling" would have to be mere posturing - even if it has an important social aspect, why it can't be doing two jobs at once, and so also reflecting intrinsic belief and motivations? In evolution they talk about signals, messages animals are effectively sending to each other (The bright colors of a poisonous butterfly serving as a warning to leave me alone, it'll be better for both of us, or the antelope stotting when the lions about, leaping up and down in the presence of a predator to show off how hard to catch it is) But the entire enterprise is founded on the fact that signals often mean something. They can be faked, sure, and a good faked message provides real value for its user, but there's an entire arms race of signals that are hard to fake.

Cynical explanation for this whole damn essay, and other ones like it: I'm a self-absorbed navel gazer and out to show how smart I am. Sympathetic explanation: this is just stuff I'm working through as I try to piece together a satisfying moral path against the existential backdrop of the universe, and by posting it I hope to get insights from my fellow travellers, or maybe help them coalesce their own thoughts. Sure I'm contemplating my own navel, but there are darn few other navels that I have permission to gaze into - or at least thoughtscapes that are accessible to me as my own interior.

Unrelatedly, I'm listening to the self-help book "F*ck Feelings" (more out of curiosity and not finding much appealing on Hoopla). In general I like its message of getting through self-delusion and working with what you got, but I've never liked a message it echoes of "At least you can know you've done your best". Life is a ceaseless plethora of demands on our limited resources and energy and focus and time, so there are always compromises we could probably make in terms of those, but that we probably shouldn't under normal circumstances. It seems wise to usually leave something in the tank in case something comes up, you know?

I feel like I would be a bad football coach-ish peptalk giver.

November 6, 2017

FB greetedme with a "Happy 10 Years on Facebook!" (The accompanying video was much less compelling than FB's usual photo-harvesters) - I have to take their word for it, it wasn't enough for me to note on my website or private journal.

I have very mixed feelings about FB. I'm less sensitive than some to the privacy concerns it generates, because I've always intuitively fallen on the side of more information, less judgement. I appreciate that it keeps me in touch with a wide swath of people. I sort of hate how it (and twitter and tumbler and instagram and anything that lets users assemble a feed from people they find interesting) sucked the air out of the independent web and "blogosphere" - I miss the small batch of friends who were regulars on kisrael.com - both in the comments (that later got swamped by spammers) and then on "@Dylan's Sidebar" that I later opened up to be the Sidebar of the People - https://kirk.is/sidebar/

And of course now that FB has parlayed gossip into a source of "news", and exposed fracture points for various crowbars to reach into and separate us...

I still double post everything on https://kirk.is/ , my "statement of record" for what it's worth. But for a looong time FB is the only place I expect to get any response. (Although some of my friends prefer I'm sort of glad Google Plus isn't much of a thing, because triple posting felt g*****n ridiculous.)

I miss my 1996 Honda Civic Candy Apple Green Hatchback sometimes - seeing this car still kicking makes me regret the extravagance of my 2004 Scion xA.
"ExtJS was a mistake. One we, as a society, may never recover from." Slater posted about ExtJS and I scavanged our dialog for my devblog.
Rand Paul was physically attacked? That's awful and bizarre. Even if there's a political aspect to it I'm sort of glad it wasn't a random nutjob. But like the Republican softball practice shooting, this is giving too much fodder to anti-leftists.
horse_ebooks was just a warning shot. Parents, curate stuff for your kids because things have gotten really really weird

November 5, 2017videogames

Played through the main story mode of Super Mario Odyssey yesterday- I muscled through that in pretty much a day, but there's a lot more to explore in it. Yeah the plot is the same lame old Damsel in Distress (made a bit worse by the "and Bowser is plundering all these themed lands for wedding gifts", and a big wedding scene at the end, though tempered by Peach saying forget both of you, I'm not your damn trophy and am going off on my own adventure) but its capture mechanic ("Remember kids! Keep on a hat lest you get possessed by Mario!") really delivered in one of the main things I play video games for: engaging physics and alternate controls. Taking over a Tropical Wiggler to stretch around a bend (with subtle squeezebox sound effects) or using a Poki's beak to sproing up a wall are visceral delights.

I'm impressed too by the Switch, I was thinking that the ability to play away from the TV like a tablet or Gameboy wouldn't be that useful since I don't have a commute, but it really adds some nice options , playing in bed, or in the living room when something else is on television, etc.

November 4, 2017

Thinking about this more, and at the risk of sounding a bit facile - I think there's a lesson for both Conservatives and LIberals:
Conservatives, Superman is right. The USA is not just a nation of whiteness. Even taking into account the UK roots of of governance and our deep roots in Western traditions, it is our multicultural aspect that makes us what we are. E pluribus unum.
Liberals: the subtext of the footer is right. "American" is a special concept - we are a unique experiment in the world, and a special blend, and we need to foster a kind of patriotism. We need to be clear about our unifying concepts of liberty and freedom and justice and opportunities and concepts that unite us as a nation. E pluribus unum.
Guns -n- Prayers will be the Right Wingnuts "Lisa Simpson Anti-Tiger rock" for the Nov 4 "Antifa Revolution Day" or whatever the hell it is. Did it work? See any tigers around here? Welcome to the Right's "Facts Don't Matter" World.
Two random thoughts:
1. I am appalled at how bad my brain can be at lateral thinking. For months I knew about a level in the new Mario game called "New Donk City" but it wasn't until I played it and caught a few visual references that I realized the Donk comes from Donkey Kong, and not some weird onomatopoeia.
2. Saw Dresden Dolls last night and realize now I probably saw Amanda Palmer's "Eight Foot Bride" living statue around Harvard Square back in the day. Who knew? Not me!
RIP Laika

october 2017 new music playlist

November 3, 2017
Decent month for music, a lot of HONK!fest and tunes from "Baby Driver"... 4 and 5 star stuff in red, listed in descending order of "you gotta hear this"

November 2, 2017

"One of the most bittersweet feelings has to be when you realise how much you're going to miss a moment, while you're still living it."
On FB my friend Josh wrote "I brought in a big bag of assorted minis to work last week. This remainder says something..."

My response was "I can't believe they got rid of the other 2 flavors but kept the name. THIS IS MORE LIKE ONE MUSKETEER PEOPLE".

His friend Frederick wrote "'Flavors'?!? 3 Musketeers? Talk sense, man!"

Originally, it had three pieces in one package, flavored chocolate, strawberry and vanilla;[1] hence the name, which was derived from the novel The Three Musketeers. Rising costs and wartime restrictions on sugar saw the phasing out of the vanilla and strawberry pieces to leave only the more popular chocolate.[2]

November 1, 2017

Slate:The iPhone X Takes Hand Gestures Too Far

I've never been a fan of gesture interfaces, and life with an iPhone X requires a whole new slew of them. (Conversely, I've always been a big fan of the home button; an easy to access "lets take it from the top" escape hatch can be enormously centering, like how when I click on a website's name in their header on any page I go to the site homepage.)

That's one of problems with the designer's dream of being such world-beater designers they they can stop having to actually, you know, design- having achieved the zen of "a piece of featureless glass"... the phone then just consists of an OS and apps - but having to designate certain finger moves as "ok, now you're communicating with the OS" makes a less known reliable channel, and one prone to accidental invocations, and takes away from the language of gestures that apps are allowed to use.
"America lacks that common sense. It has extraordinary sense instead, which is why, even now, even in the middle of its great darkness, artists and entrepreneurs still love America, still need it, still want to move there. America is the place where you can come up with your own meaning."
--Stephen Marche in the New Yorker on Why is the U.S. So Susceptible to Social-Media Distortion. But, you're entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts. This is why Scott Adam's "Where Facts Don't Matter" stance is absolute anathema to me, one of the most immoral ways someone can be.