February 22, 2024

how to confuse a horse

quotes from "The Good Life"

For the Science and Spirituality reading and discussion group I help lead we read "The Good Life" about The Harvard Study of Adult Development, where they studied one cohort of Harvard young men and another of Boston disadvantaged male teens. You can get a good feel for the book from Bob Waldingers TED talk

Here are some tidbits from the book, mostly stuff the book itself quoted...
There isn't time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.
Mark Twain

The best ideas aren't hidden in shadowy recesses. They're right in front of us, hidden in plain sight.
Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes

[Western Culture gives us] extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
David Foster Wallace

Love by its very nature is unworldly.
Hannah Arendt

When asked to describe his philosophy for getting through hard times, [study participant Sterling Ainsley] said, "You try not to let life get to you. You remember your victories and take a positive attitude."
Bob Waldinger and Marc Schulz in "The Good Life" on The Harvard Study of Adult Development

Attention is the most basic form of love.
John Tarrant

There are two pillars of happiness revealed by the [Study].... One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.
George Vaillant, former direct of the Harvard Study of Adult Development

You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf.
Jon Kabat-Zinn

There's an old adage in psychiatry: Don't just do something, sit there.
Waldinger + Schulz, "The Good Life"

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
Henry David Thoreau

Bob thinks of a moment when, as a young man, he was going through a time in which he was incredibly angry at his parents, and an uncle took him aside. *I know you're mad*, his uncle said. *But just remember: nobody is ever going to care about you this much ever again.*
Bob Waldinger in "The Good Life"

ultimate twosday

Happy Two Two-Two Two-Two Tuesday! The two-siest day of our lives! (Even 2/22/2222 will be a damn Friday.)

Do everything twice today! And say "deuces" when heading out.

But.. wait... why have I never noticed that the word "two" is like, spelled or pronounced completely wrong? It's the February (or maybe even the Wednesday) of the numbers under ten...


February 22, 2021

I've been reading AI researcher Janelle Shane's "You Look Like a Thing and I Love You" - she runs the AI weirdness blog and has a lot of fun seeing what oddities algorithms can come up with, like if you had a robot trying to figure out what ice cream flavors sounded good to a human.

Shane's view of the current state of AI seems more in line with what I thought I knew of where things were, vs my former coworker Slater (who is probably significantly smarter and more versed and practice in the field than I am but OH WELL.) Shane puts a modern AI's brain about the level of a worm, I don't want to paraphrase badly but I think Slater uses the term "human level" more freely. And that's certainly true for some tasks. (In trying to understand Slater's perspective, I do noticed how unfair the question is in reverse... from the CPU's point of view typical human level for calculation isn't even at the pocket calculator level.) Slater has expressed that it's a bit daft to try and get a computer to be smart in just the same way a human is smart, that we already have humans to be smart in that way, and they can work together to much greater effect. (Again, apologies for oversimplifying his views.)

One problem with AI can lurk in edge cases you didn't think of. Like, they will happily exploit any glitches in your physics to maximize the result you tell it to look for - happily evolve a tiny, fast critter that can glitch behind a wall and then get shot back out at tremendous speed in order to maximize velocity, say. One quote:
Sometimes I think the surest sign that we're not living in a simulation is that if we were, some organism would have learned to exploit its glitches.
My first thought was...huh, that might be the kind of thing a warp drive maker would be hunting for. Then I realized, in a way, nuclear weapons are kind of exploiting a glitch like that, or at least using the same kind of logic as a game glitch exploiter. (Oh, what happens if we put ENOUGH of this one kind of material all in one space at once? BOOOM!)

The book goes over some examples of AI's exploiting deficiencies in the win conditions, same stuff as in Specification gaming examples in AI. (Like a robot meant to travel far with minimum energy expenditure might build itself very very tall, so that it can just fall over and end up with a center of gravity far from its starting position without using any energy. Weirdly, this might not be as fake-y a solution as it sounds- prairie grasses and Walking palms might use the same trick!)

So to a layreader like myself, the solution seems to be a "who watches the watchmen" kind of thing, like making an evaluation-function-evaluator, that would spot violations of real world physics (or human morality) that would make a found solution untenable.

But suddenly I combined this idea with another recent reading interest of mine, lateralization of human brains - trying to crack the mystery out why the brain - a machine designed for connections - has found it expedient to divide into two quasi-independent halves. My new "just so" story hypothesis is... maybe that's partially for one part to be able to monitor the other part for this kind of exploitation. You can still have one part optimizing for simpler things ("I like cookies! I'm going to grab this one!") but another that contextualize and evaluate the likely results in a wider context ("that cookie belongs to my friend and they will be mad at me if I steal it"). Given that so many of the connections between the hemispheres seem inhibitory, this idea - while grossly incomplete - might not be totally offbase.
Asked to describe what happened during the assault on the Capitol, 58% of Trump voters call it 'mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters.' That's more than double the 28% who call it 'a rally of Trump supporters, some of whom attacked the Capitol.'

USA Today + Suffolk University, via
Damn. What are these people smoking? What lies are they listening to?
Interesting piece on 5/4 time. I didn't realize that the "long long, short short" of the Mission Impossible theme also spells out "M I" in morse code...

February 22, 2020

Someone on the left, in the atheist movement, has a mission; has a 'this is my pet thing'. And anybody who doesn't fall completely in line with that gets labeled as if they're an enemy, rather then they're just not as pure an ally as they might be.

How do we start - or do we start, do we just allow the divisions to continue - or do we start building bridges, and talking about this issue - "What's important to you, is important to me too, but it may not be as important to me because I'm dealing with this.
I know some of the problem is - and maybe this is more acute for liberals - that the "pet thing" may be some of desperate importance, that if not attended to will cause harm to come to some vulnerable group... but that "labeled as if they're an enemy, rather then they're just not as pure an ally as they might be" aspect happens all too often.
Oh, I so love the "see how it's made" DIY vibe of this

(also: Tik Tok wants to be the new Vine?)

February 22, 2019

We'd like to conduct a FAX ORGY
Man, life was a little strange before the Internet. (Also: "come at me like a panther / 'cause you know yes is my answer" is one of my favorite sexy lines.)
...should each human being's vote register alike, as the law books pretend and as some say the founders desired? Or should a vote be weighed according to the wisdom, the power, and the influence--that is, the money of--the voter?
from "The Space Merchants", Pohl / Kornbluth.
My friend Merrilyn reminded me of this quote, from a novel about a future dystopia where almost all power lies with multinational advertising agencies. It's interesting how they assumed advertising would get more and more intrusive and widely targeted, while in real life that's a smaller part of the story compared to privacy concerns and tracking.

February 22, 2018

Pretty good Quora critique of Ayn Rand's philosophy. Hadn't thought about it as "individuals are basically good but corrupted by government and organizations" vs I guess the countering liberal view that government and organizations ideally distill our best selves and intentions, and have some powers (force, social pressure, etc) to get individuals to behave in ways that are better. (Though, ways that are better for the institution in question, which might not always be the general objective preference and is certainly not the Objectivism preference...)
New "Solo" move ala Sabotage:

Damn that is a good song.
High school kids are 'crisis actors', but our reality show president has to read 'I hear you' off a cue card.

2:22 2/22

February 22, 2017


--photos by Andrew Huang
Trump to say transgender protection is a "state's rights issue"

Huh, I didn't realize states had genders.
I just read the book Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences. I took the "Left/Right 20 Questions" quiz from the appendix and put the 20 Questions online with automated scoring. I score reasonably liberal, a 5 or 6 spots over.

February 22, 2016

Perspective assures me that everything will be ok. Good friends assure me that I don't have to be.

February 22, 2015

Notes from my well-meaning but not entirely helpful past self: "for un-assembling: do 5 dowels, avoid hope w/ 2 sides--that's for hex thing then 2 screws on front"

flapping redux


click to play
For the Flappy Jam, in honor and support of the lamented game Flappy Bird I redid a (one player) version of my original Atari 2600 title JoustPong / FlapPing. You can play it online.

Has a tuba version of the original theme song and everything! At first I did a version with the walls of the "Poorlords" variation, but I think I prefer the simplicity with the original, though with Pterodactyl of the 2600 version replaced with an annoying crow.
it's funny how stress builds in layers, and in the end I snap at dumb stuff-- probably there's that baseline of new
job in the back of my head, not getting as much done on my comic as I hoped... it means that ridiculously awful Nintendo Wii U UI and friends accidentally ordering off the menu is irritation amplified beyond what is reasonable.

February 22, 2013


via thembtaruinedmylife


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--I'd just like to say that I'm moderately proud of the setup I got together for Amber and I to play Centipede (her favorite game)I can get into the 20 Ks and the 30s once; her high score is like 45K.
Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.
Robert Heinlein

Would you rather A. learn a new technique for something you already can do B. do something new with techniques you already know well? Me? Totally B. I hate learning new things just for the sake of it, but I love learning new things that empower me to do new stuff.

What about you? I think this a fundamental divide in geekdom and elsewhere.

henson, creator


My Todo app is blocked with some dumb old tasks I really need to get around to. I call this condition "procrastipation".
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/feb/22/information-overload-probabilistic - sensible advice - if it's great, it'll show up again
Seeing Democrats scattering to avoid forming quorums makes me wish the US Senate treated filibusters the same way - FLEE, REPUBLICANS, RUN!
I see I have 2020 songs on my iPhone. (Get it? SEE? Har har!)


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--Kjersten sent along this - pretty amazing, I've never seen such a good use of projected image and projected-upon surface...(you should probably go to the youtube page and see it at a larger size...)

Don't know much about New Zealand's web conference Webstock but somehow this reminds me of the old Mondo 2000 cyberpunk 'zine days of the early 90s, before the web really hit, but smart drugs and computers seemed to hold boundless potential...
I always liked this bit from Buckaroo Banzai: "The principles by which B. Banzai lives are known as the Five Stresses, the Four Beauties and the Three Loves. Things to be stresses are decorum, courtesy, public health, discipline and morals. The Four Beauties are the beauties of mind, language, behavior and environment. The Three Loves are love of others, love of justice and love of freedom." But I just realized it was cribbed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Jiang_4_Mei_3_Reai
I wonder why Apple doesn't just put in some kind of Adult Content rating/advisory system, rather than yanking apps. Given how much control they have, it should be pretty easy to "think of the children" - do they think boobies would hurt the brand more than the money they could get?



click to play

heatseeker - built with processing
source: heatseeker chaser explosion player rotater

A 2- (cough) 3- (cough) 4-hour result of GloriousTrainwreck.com's KotMK 20. I had the basic toy working in just over 2 1/2 hours, than this morning I made it into more or less a proper game, thanks to Cossix and Dessgeega digging what I had put there.

I've wanted to make a version of this game for a long time, the original (page 1 page 2) is brutally hard and not much of a game, but still, the joy of its looping mechanic and trying to get missiles to crash into the ground stuck with me all these years.

The Job interview lose/lose/lose: bad feeling about job, maybe wouldn't want to take offer, wouldn't want bad karma of turning it down, don't want to NOT get offer.
@harveyjames I hated "Eyes Wide Shut"'s message of "if someone tells you not be curious and to stay away, STAY AWAY". Kidman is hot, though.
http://forums.selectbutton.net/viewtopic.php?t=19260 - a study determines that "empowerment" is more of a crucial factor than "violence" in violent games. I think this is what half of video games appeal is for me, the other half being "novel interaction".
Academy Awards: Is it a failure that I can't see "Hugh Jackman"'s name without thinking "Huge Ass Man"? Also, Sarah Jessica Parker boobies.
Academy Awards. I love the beautiful women in lovely dresses who act as the celebrity herders.

big ten inch

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Big Ten Inch Snowstorm to Give Boston the Blues!

Animation of the Moment
--So this would be from HappyToast (alas they've taken their animations down.) The link was from Felisdemens' post what's in your clipboard survey, an idea brilliant in its balance of simplicity and utter randomness.

One-Sentence Horror Story of the Moment
All those spiders - they weren't running UP her leg.
Nice to have such clever and creative and pithy friends.

alas, poor coconut

Florida Photos of the Moment
This Florida trip included my first ever visit to a ren-fair, where people get dressed up all Old-Tymey. (Tangential link: Chaucer's Pickup lines: "Art thou a disastrous poll tax? Bycause I feele a risynge comynge on.")

Quote of the Moment
The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it.
HG Wells. (Yes, I know it's lame to be cribbing from qotd...)

a timeless quality

Factoid of the Moment
"January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period."
(I was double checking the spelling in Google.) Man, that idea creeps me out...a monthless period, just a...count of days I guess? It's so...non-geekish, I guess I'd say. Ad hoc. Here's more on the Roman calendar.

Radio of the Moment
--Ksenia was after me to get a radio for the kitchen, and was very happy with this cheap one I got from Best Buy... I didin't notice what a smile it has 'til she mentioned... kind of a big happy bug.

Sacrifice of the Moment
A very moving description of the funeral and rites for Corporal Brett Lundstrom, the first member of the Oglala Sioux to die in Iraq. Captivating reading, not emotionally easy to get through.

an ice guy

Curling Quote of the Moment
"It's forty-two pounds of polished granite, bevelled on the belly and a handle a human being can hold. And it may have no practical purpose in itself but it is a repository of human possibility and if it's handled just right, it will exact a kind of poetry...
...For ten years, I've drilled for oil in 93 countries, five different continents, and not once have I done anything to equal the grace of a well thrown rock sliding down a sheet. Not once."
...the movie shows that curling (you know, that sport with guys furiously sweeping the ice in front of a big heavy sliding stone) is a cooler sport that I would have guessed. This line was a part of that...I think there's something about the phrasing of "a handle a human being can hold"...also, I didn't realize how heavy those things were. I wouldn't mind trying it once.

Gadgets of the Moment
Cool, mobilpc brings you the top 100 gadgets of all time. (Currently slashdotted, though...)

canst thou play the lute?

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Dang, what happened to my two beacons of sidebar pointlessness? It was looking so good there for a while...I guess I'll have to work extra hard on the pointlessness of the main section...

Link of the Moment
--A quick chuckle, it's the rediscovered tapestry art of Qveere Eye for thye Medieval Man.

News of the Moment
So Ralph Nader is running for president. Sorry Ralph, but I think your lie about there not being a dime's worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats might hamper your chances, you putz.

Online Toy of the Moment
This site beleives that true greek online social networks should definately be about sharing the Mandelbrot Set. A pretty decent version of that classic Geek mathism.

social conservative, fiscal abso-frickin-nuts

So, CNN has designated the recent Rhode Island tragedy "Nightclub Inferno"...I wonder how many nightclubs out there are actually called "Inferno"?

Another random thought: the whole Arab world finds the Palestinean cause to be a rallying point. And I'm not saying the situations are identical, but they also don't want to see a seperate state for the Kurds...Hrmm.

Political Rants of the Moment
The president has laid out his agenda. Call it bold, brilliant, audacious or outrageous. But don't call it 'conservative.' [...] Fiscal prudence? The keystone of today's 'conservative' agenda is a dedication to tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, even though doing so will increase the deficit. That's short-term thinking at its worst. Because of those tax breaks, the faltering economy and the war on terrorism, some economists estimate we'll have deficits of $300 billion a year for the foreseeable future. The next generation of Americans will bear the burden of that debt.
"Suppose you had a friend who was grossly overweight for years but lately had been looking very trim. Suddenly, though, he puts on 30 or 40 pounds and is waddling around like his old porcine self. He explains that he's found a marvelous new diet: 'You eat like a pig and stop exercising until you get so fat that you just have to lose weight.' Would you say that your friend is kidding himself?"
I think the problem is that for so long we've assumed that conservatives were Machiavellian, that we get some real Machiavellians in there, we assume they're conservative.

News Link of the Moment
When greed, gullibility, and rage collide: Nigerian Diplomat Slain Over "419" Scam, in Prague.

Quote of the Moment
I'm mad about being old and I'm mad about being American. Apart from that, OK.
Kurt Vonnegut when asked how he's doing.
Currently, I understand that "mad about being American" part.

big. purple. different.

I added a link to that WTC photo with Mo to the "features" section. It shows up on the second page of a Google images search for "WTC", and it's about the first pre-destruction non-distance shots in the result set. It's also one of the biggest links to my front page, so I thought people could use a bit of follow-up information.

Mystery of the Moment
So last night Brooke came over and asked the age old question, "What the hell is Grimace?" Well the Straight Dope answer was a good start. But according to the alt.mcdonalds faq, he was originally the Evil Grimace, and he was associated with the McDonalds Shakes (heh, sounds like a withdrawal symptom.) But now he's so happy and dumb. I thought maybe he was busted by Mayor McCheese and that cop Big Mac, incarcerated and lobotomized, but Mo suggested maybe it was the result of brain freeze from drinking those shakes. (I had another theory that the name "Grimace" might be a subtle joke about the face people make when trying to drink a too thick shake through a straw.)

MonkeyCube points out that McDonald's is downplaying the overweight Grimace from its current campaigns. And I'm trying to figure out when they rewrote Hamburglar as this little evil guy into this cabbage patch lookin' jerk who says "rubble rubble" clearly and cutely rather than kind of grumbling

I was hoping to find something clever on the possible connection between Grimace and Barney, but this old Space Moose Cartoon was all I could find.

Jeez, I hope I find a job soon.

Link to Avoid of the Moment
It's all the Internet themed cartoons from the little known South Asian country Unfunnystan! Truly awful, but you gotta give 'em points for tryi...well, maybe you don't. (via Portal of Evil)

go court go

Rant of the Moment
The Supreme Court is going nuts. It wasn't enough the undid the presidential election, now they're trying to overturn what the Civil War said about states' rights. Hey geniuses, the Eleventh Amendment stops people from suing other states, not their own. I hate the way Congress uses Federal funds to exert control over states, but that's the only option they're going to have to back up the ADA. What the heck. State legislatures can be such yahoos, this feels like the inmates being given run of the asylum.

Sheesh. Way to make new law court.

And this is before Bush makes any new Supreme Court appointments! Maybe Congress will be so ticked off at its power being cut that they'll be less likely to approve a hyperconservative state's righter.

Game of the Moment
My online pal and role-model Ranjit was on a team that just got another game published at the shockwave site: It's called Loop and it's really beautiful in its simplicity. Draw lines around butterflies, that's it. Plus nicely stylized graphics (Think the Hungry Caterpillar) and good music. Its play mechanic is a bit like the old Vector game Quantum, but Ranjit says they independently came up with the line drawing idea. Not that it matters so much, it's still a good and innovative game.

Art Quote of the Moment
Sorry Rob. I don't think 'Being a Dork' qualifies as being a performance piece. And bringing in your laundry hoping someone will do it for you is not a multimedia installation.

Banta's Employee Handbook seems a lot less "history rich" than IDD's.  So I wonder if here maybe it IS ok to manufacture drugs on the premises...
I found out that the art deco ocean liner poster I have is "Normandie" by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre.
"Yuppie Food Coupons"- those crisp 20s dispensed by ATMs
Walking around Tufts' campus with Mo.

Have to copy the transcription on the gravity stone someday.

R. Still holds some poetic memory here, especially uphill.

Tuft's Planar Mountain 1971 awful public art in front of Carmichael at Tufts