the imp vs wheaton's law

I've been thinking of Poe's "The Imp of the Perverse". Like its even darker cousin " L'appel du Vide" (the appeal of the void) which is about impulsive thoughts of self-destruction, I see the Imp as a more generalized momentary recognition of an opportunity to do something bad or harmful.

As a kid, my dad would take me to a lot of antique-y stores and craftsman saleshops, and I got a reasonable stern rebuke once for asking "Wouldn't it be cool to go to one with a baseball bat and just start swinging around." No, it would not.

Yesterday, taking a solitary night walk to the beach (I'm staying briefly with my folks on the Jersey coast on my way back from a family reunion) I saw a few pairs of sandals and shoes left at the beach entrance, and just marveled at how trusting those folks were, how easy it would be to run off with the shoes and make their lives a bit more miserable.

But I'm pretty well-regulated, so it was just a stupid and cruel (two adjectives that so often travel together) fleeting thought. (And I think most people are similarly built, so that leaving your shoes like that is a reasonable thing to do.) The most elegant remedy I have for such thoughts is recalling "Wheaton's Law 'Don't Be a Dick'". It really does provide a simple mantra to counter the Imp.

Wheaton's Law's eloquence (boosted by its vulgarity) makes it compare favorably to Rabbi Hillel's famous summary of the Torah: "That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary."

And a large part of society depends on folks refuting the Imp. Societies where everything is as locked down as it possibly can be, and/or dependent on the threat of discovery with accompanying retribution and punishment are much less pleasant.

(The one that gets me is litter. So full of scorn for the ass I saw throwing a half full coffee cup from the passenger seat of a pickup I was driving behind. Or, worse, some of the fellow people at the bootleg swimming lake where I live who just throw wrappers and anything else down on the ground. Like what the hell? Who do they expect to clean up after them, how are they so incapable of basic empathy with people doing the same thing at the same place after them? Of course at some point it becomes a self-sustaining cycle; they might feel more free to be lazy careless assholes because they had to tolerate the garbage that was already there from earlier arriving assholes. But still, we're already in a gray zone of (moderately risky!) prohibited behavior, enjoying wading and swimming away from lifeguarded areas - why give ammo to those who would call for tougher enforcement by being childish pigs?)

I think there's implications for broad stroke (or even somewhat sloppy) thinking about what's behind conservative vs liberal values; conservatives and the impulse to favor a circle of trust shrunk so that empathy comes easier because the people in it are more clearly like yourself, and with harsher penalties for people who violate the social contracts, vs the sometimes naive liberal impulse to expand the circle so that you have more shared benefits and drawbacks. It's not always easy progressives such as me to think past the refutations of other folks goodness and trustworthiness, but it's still a goal worth pursuing to get to a world worth living in.

Open Photo Gallery

June 17, 2023


June 17, 2022

I'm so bad at shoplifting it's technically looting. is a weird and wonderful porn/high fantasy comic.

June 17, 2021

For a brief time in the early 90s I was the "webmaster" for Tufts University's Comp Sci department. I hand drew some icons for the homepage - strong Keith Haring energy.

Plus of the new place? Melissa using the big ol' grill!

June 17, 2020

And just to think, all of these billions of stars...
...have no use to us. They're rubbish, there's nothing on them. It makes you think how great we are. That's... whenever I look into the sky, I think how much bigger we are than all of this nonsense.
Richard Ayoade in Iceland, waiting to see the Northern Lights, on the show "Travel Man"
Super funny show! I think good too if you want some sour grapes about travel, but also vicariously enjoy seeing things - the cinematography is weirdly good, like things really "pop" (I think Liz suggested it so thanks!)

He also had a good line about how collecting anecdotes... that's the point of travel really...

head-like a-hole

A recent Netflix "Black Mirror" has what many Gen X/Millennial types will find blasphemous: "Ashely O" (Miley Cyrus) doing a retooled, relyricked bubble-gum pop cover of "Head Like a Hole":

I was delighted they released the MP3 for this (as with other NIN covers that lighten things up, it reveals that Reznor is a crazy good tunesmith.) I also delighted in planning to subject Melissa to it in the car...

She was frustrated because she couldn't think of a good revenge song for me. And I admit it's a tough road! I like many things musically (anything that I don't find boring in terms of bass and rhythm floors) and I don't hold much sacred... even, say, a country western version of my most sacred song "Groove Is In The Heart" might be kind of fun!

"NIN" was definitely a teenage expression/rebellion piece for many folk. I guess the nearest thing I had to that was Beastie Boys "License to Ill". (I remember my mom asking if something was wrong when she saw I destroyed the tape during a bout of spiritual repentance.)

Anyway, did you have a "teen rebellion" song or album or genre? What was it?
I also loved that they released this shirt:

Anyone else seeing an extra amount of spam slipping through Gmail's filters today? (And being labeled 'important', is the goading thing for me)

June 17, 2018

With the caveats that IQ tests are problematic, I made a potentially reusable tool to put state data on a USA map, seeding it with Inc.'s We Compared the Average IQ Scores in All 50 States, and the Results Are Eye-Opening.

Because I am a partisan jerk, I was curious if it would reflect the political divisions of our nation. Nope, though there is a maybe even more problematic latitude correlation.

June 17, 2017


June 17, 2016

TIL: The Japanese word "Ikari" means either "anchor" or "anger" depending on how it's written.

That seems kind of symbolic.

(And yes, I was looking for what the term in the arcade title "Ikari Warriors" meant.)
His code is 'write only'. It might work, but you have no chance of understanding or modifying it, you might as well burn it to CD.
Kirk Israel, circa 2001. I was thinking about how my quote journaling has changed over the years, and remembered when I made it onto someone else's webpage of quotes.

On my devblog: doing the thing right vs doing the right thing Latest round of me trying to figure out the appeal and mojo of TDD...
Sleep is like a 33% tax on life.

Y'know, as much as we like to figure out how to prevent awfulness like Pulse in Orlando, the reality is we might some day be living in a world where there's been a major dirty bomb or minor nuke-nuke in one or more major cities. Unlike cold war M.A.D. scenarios, life will pretty much go on after that, but it will put the current arguments in perspective, and will warp our culture even more than 9/11 did.

atlantic city

Went with my Aunt and her friend to Atlantic City. I don't really get gaming, so I puttered off on my own.
I have yet to come across anyone who admires virtue as much as sexual attractiveness.

Just found out about "Preterism", the idea that the stuff in Revelation happened along with the destruction of the Temple in 70CE.

It's kind of a weird idea, and possibly a twist of a plain reading of the books, but I've heard weirder and twistier.

June 17, 2014

2014.06.17 Early CGI, robodrummer vs robofly. Primitive-looking now, but I remember seeing "Beat Dedication" at the old Boston Computer Museum, and it was awesome, and the "VW Bug" was influential to my doodling. I have a haunting suspicion that it was also an influence for the extremely unfortunate gold cross (magnetic) earring I had for a brief time in high school.

even more amazing rainbow over boston

(1 comment)

click for fullsize

It has been making the rounds but this "across the decades" cover of Get Lucky (a song I like more in theory than in practice) is terrific:

Clicking around looking (fruitlessly) for end of Bruins game-- it's kind of hard to believe that the show "Hogans Heroes" happened.



Most of my arts and crafts tend to be virtual, but encouraged by zefrank's episode on finishing stamps and the followup project, I made my own physical rubber stamp! A process not unlike printmaking. (I've since cut down the rear fist so it looks like Alien Bill is bowling...) -- It's Your Thing (The Isley Brothers) In my top three. A little too blase lyrically, but man-- ideal blend of bass, piano, drum + horns.

time and place


The caption was "I drained 3s all day!"-- the site is Dear Photograph where people overlay an old photograph over the current scene.

I'm kind of sad about how relatively few options I have for this, in terms of places I've lived at least.

The idea reminds me of my old ghost of a snowman, though that was a product of a digital age. I think I found out what I want for Christmas...
Saying someone has too much time on his hands is another way of saying you think he doesn't watch enough TV.

PROTIP: ctrl-shift-del opens up history clearing dialog in the big 3 browsers. (Though IE might need restarting to REALLY clear, sigh.)


My friend Kjersten wrote
RSA Animate is a cool company that takes talks from intellectuals and animates them. It's a great way to consume content for those of us who are more visually oriented.
Daniel Pink talks about what really motivates us:

Which time zone do you live in?

Captivating stuff! I usually hate having to sit through a spoken lecture, rather than being able to skim and skip, but the artist's skills kept my eyes glued.
"An elephant, or maybe flowers." --Three-year-old Toph's response to: "What's your favorite color?"

Dieting, I like repetition-ie the same Wendy's taco salad most days. If lunch is going to be tasty but not "interesting", I can wait for it, and knowing what to expect generally helps with discipline.
"Bluetooth Photoshare" seems to solve my problem of getting doodles off the iPad and onto my website even with no WiFi, via my iPhone.

NEAR... far.... NEAR... far... NEAR... far.... HADOKEN!

(1 comment)

--Sesame Street Fighter, seems like an awesome T-shirt to have.
Lena claims that growing up in Russia in the 80s, in general the only ice cream flavors available were vanilla, chocolate (rare), creme brulee, and "fruit" (tutti-frutti).

so much beauty in the world

So I'm still thinking about school.

I'm such crap at life decisions! I'm feeling my usual urge to conduct Q+A with tons of people I respect: the best (and techie) friend who stayed at our University for his Masters, a beloved professor from that same school, my first manager out of college, my Aunt who put this round of the idea in my head, a friend of a friend who is going for her PhD in that same New Media course I noted yesterday, presumably to teach...

Would I enjoy teaching if it were at a low level? (And would I have the credentials to teach anything but that unless I focus on hard core stuff?) Could a New Media program open a door to a more interesting, well-rounded job, or should I stick with the tried and true server stuff and just try to be interesting on the weekends, as it were?

And most importantly, how the hell do I figure this stuff out? I'm sure some of those friends and supporters I mentioned up above might get sick of acting as de facto career counselors, but I don't know what other resources I have. Is there a career counselor type who really knows this kind of field and could study my background and make recommendations accordingly?

Art and Toys of the Moment
Dave Bollinger Works page has some fun stuff that I need to explore at a more leisurely pace. The generative art of pixelrobots and pixelspaceships is not to be missed, and stuff like scrawl is super pretty. (via crummy)

Bollinger references Paul Schmidinger's page which also has some nifty stuff.

Between programmer/artists like these, and some of the folks at Indy Games, it can be frustrating, like when you see an idea of yours already implemented, or just in general more grace and cleverness than you can easily provide.

In some ways, I'd love to figure out how to merge my thoughts about more schooling and my desire to make more stuff like this. But I'm not sure if the latter has much to do with making money. (Though sometimes I think what is really lacking is the artistic pretension... I'm not sure if blogging and geeking is totally compatible with "le artiste" type respect.)

Speechifying of the Moment
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
JK Rowling at the Harvard Commencement.
BoingBoing's summary missed the big section on Amnesty International that the full transcript reveals.
Tight pinstripe slacks on women form a bit much of a topological map.


So this is going to start off as a token entry...

I've been reading Ben Franklin's Autobiography, a slim book but dense, though readable overall. One concept I like is his use of the word "agreeable". In an age of superlatives and gushing enthusiasm, its positive understatement is like a nice cool glass of water.

i was just following orders!

Instructions from Lean Cuisine chicken teriyaki stir fry:
Carefully remove tray from microwave and enjoy!
For some reason that final command gives me pause. It reminds me a bit of how my car GPS/navigator system ends its route instructions with something like "Arrive at Destination on Left"... the "arrive" being an order. But with Lean Cuisine, it seems like it's so their customer service people can say something like "You're unhappy with our product and want your money back? Well, sir, it doesn't sound like you were following instructions. The last step for both the microwave and conventional oven is clearly to enjoy. We can't be responsible for your failure to follow clearly written instructions, sir."

Month of the Moment
While throwing together a small calendar demo for work, I came across this Java reference link for UNDECIMBER:
Value of the MONTH field indicating the thirteenth month of the year.
It then goes on to explain how lunar calendars use it. Here's wikipedia on it. But what a wonderful definition to come across during a humdrum workday!

encumbered with your old nonsense

Quote of the Moment
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, fwd'd to me by my mom this morning...
I'm not usually a big fan of the transcendentalists, but it's a good quote. Actually it reminds me of that old philosophical idea of sleep being a small death, and morning being a new birth...

Laffy Taffy of the Moment
"What is the beginning of eternity and the end of time and space?"
"The letter e"
Ooh, I like the apocalyptic bent of that one. It's like Sesame Street meets Billy Graham.

microsoftly, so softly

Geek Article of the Moment
I don't know how hard core techie you have to to appreciate How Microsoft Lost the API War, but it's great. "Joel on Software" always makes so much sense...talking about how Microsoft had two competing ideas, backwards compatability at any price vs. charging headlong into the future...and now that the second camp has won, it's going to reinforce the move of a lot of stuff to the web.

Article of the Moment
This is also the kind of country where the president meets with the members of a radical, far-right millennialist Christian sect three weeks before he counteracts all known international law and opinion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. That sect, known as the Apostolic Congress, opposes any deal with the Palestinians because it believes that Christ won't return to Earth until all of Israel belongs to the Jews and Solomon's temple is rebuilt. To those of us who like a dose of sanity in our morning coffee, such ideas are anathema, but to President Bush, they're a daily briefing.
The amazing, bizarre fact is that a Christian Apocalyptic cult has control of the highest levels of our government sect has an alarmingly strong influence on the highest levels of our government. (Revision springs from dialog with LAN3 in comments section...but I'd also add I don't think that type of thinking leads to good long term or even short term best-interest planning.)

I think about movies that deal with the end of the world. You know what I notice? Most of the time, the good guys are trying to STOP the end of the World, not clear the damn path for it. It's a simple rule: life, good. Everything going boom and taking billions of people with it, bad. But that rule doesn't apply here, because our administration is on the Jesus Happy Train.

The ARROGANCE of these people...MAN. Back when I was a believer in traditional protestant doctrine, I was kind of worried, because I wasn't quite positive that I hadn't fallen back into sin...I did the whole Jesus into my heart/reborn thing, but I was kind of hoping that "Revelation" wouldn't happen for a bit, just so I'd have more time to establish my self as a good guy more firmly and stop all this dang backsliding. But these PRICKS are SO CONVINCED they're on the Good Side of all yi yi.

You know, I would be willing to bet cash money that someone in the administration has written up some plans about what to do when the president and his entire staff is taken up into heaven, along with all those other True Believers across the land and across the world...these guys read "Left Behind" like other people read Nostradamus.

merry quips

(1 comment)
Dialog of the Moment
"I asked the chief predator where to find you and he said, 'Our Mrs Peel's in ladies' underwear.' I rattled up the stairs three at a time."
"Merry quips department on the fifth floor, sir."
John Steed and Emma Peel, the Avengers

Ramble of the Moment
I've been thinking a lot about food lately. Mo's getting into some nutrition stuff. I the common wisdom about foods as wrong as some of these books say it is? Is so much of the stuff we take for granted about nutrition just totally off base? And is there a chance that the people making the decisions about what stocks our grocery shelves and restaurants don't have our best interests at heart?

One of Mo's books claims that diet soda has a surprising negative effect because the sweetner is uses triggers an insulin effect, even though there's no sugar for it to counteract. (And so this might lead to inadvertant weightgain.) That kind of bummed me out.

I dunno. Ever since I've found that peanuts aren't a health food (when I was like 10 or so) I haven't trusted my intuition about food at all anyway. Luckily, I'm not too fussy of an eater, more concerned with convenience than anything else, so if I can make it convenient to eat well I probably will.

Quote of the Moment
Time goes, you say? Ah no! Time stays, we go.
Austin Dobson, via slashdot

happy watergate!

Thirty years ago today the Watergate scandal was set it motion. From then on it wasn't just the hippies that distrusted the government, and we had that convenient "-gate" suffix for all our scandal needs. (And despite the buildup, John Dean still isn't sure who deep throat was.)

Quote of the Moment
It would be simplifying things, but not by much, to conclude that it was paperwork that brought the South Tower down.
The article is an unblinking view of the positive and negative aspects of the cleanup effort. He explains that not only did the towers withstand the impact of the airplanes, but they might have survived the jet fuel fires were it not for the supply of flammable paper in the offices.

What an odd reinforcement for the old goal of the "paperless office"! Also, I find a little hope in how not only did the towers not instantly topple as the terrorists had likely expected, but the plan was almost not much more successful than the 1993 bombing.

Small Gif Cinema of the Moment


--tying into the landmarks idea, the famous Boston sign


(Almost every link is to a different java braintoy...) I've written about my ex-ex-college instructor Jeffery Ventrella and his site in a previous entry There's one idea that I think I more or less came up with, but he put into code... there's this classic Game called 'Life', where there's a checkerboard of 'cells', where on each click of the clock, a cell lives, die, or is burn based on some simple rules about how many neighbors it has. The general name for this kind of thing is Cellular Automata... a simulation of a machine made of cells.

There's this other idea called Genetic Algorithms... you describe potential solutions to your problem in terms of parameters, which act as "genes", then you use an evolutionary process to breed new solutions and seperate the winning ideas from the losing ones, and eventually the solutions start looking better and better. One famous example of a GA is Richard Dawkin's biomorphs... it's a set of parameters that draw little tree- or creature- looking patterns, and generally the user selects which one he or she likes out of 10 or so variations, acting as the hand of Darwin for aesthetic purposes, since the one selected is used as the parent for the next generation. You can breed some neat looking stuff. (Or you can let the computer run through various bouncin' baby biomorphs itself.)

So, my idea, or at least partially my idea, was to combine these two schemes. Figure out how to describe different CAs with gene settings, then breed them, allowing the user to pick which ones seem interesting. Ventrella put this idea into code, and invited me over to see it running on his empoyers SGI box. By clicking high or low, the user decided how 'fit' that CA was. Well, he's made a cool version of this for windows. He wrapped it around a theme of trying to breed GAs that have 'Gliders', little cell collections that shuffle along the screen (many GAs tend to churn in place, while ones with Gliders tend to look a bit cooler anyway.) So check it out, it's a very cool program to play with. You'll be seeing some Cellular Automatas that no one has seen before, and probably no one will see again!

Quote of the Moment
Well, I believe in the soul. The cock. The pussy. The small of a woman's back. The hanging curve ball. High fiber. Good scotch. That the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent over rated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there oughta be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas eve. And I believe in long slow deep soft wet kisses that last three days.
Crash Davis, "Bull Durham". (A little much, but hey.)

To keep silent and act wise
Still not as good as drinking sake
Getting drunk and weeping.
--Otomo no Tobito (665-731 CE)
"Why does "philosophy of consciousness/nature of reality" seem to interest you so much?"
"Take away consciousness and reality and there's not much left."
--Greg Egan Eidolon interview
"I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture."
--Carrie Fischer's Journal, when she had a crush on Harrison Ford
The Mundane Diary might be tapping off the KHftCEA a bit. I do miss the old minifiction I use to write in here.
1)   Ahhh...I see the fuck-up fairy has visited us again...  
3)   I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
9)   I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
13)  No, my powers can only be used for good.
14)  How about never? Is never good for you?  
16)  You sound reasonable...Time to up my medication.
22) It might look like I'm doing nothing, but at the cellular level I'm really quite busy.     
26)  Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.
--Smart Comments (rec.humor.funny)
Leibowitz's Rule:
When hammering a nail, you will never hit your finger if you hold the hammer with both hands.
Well, my diet is (slowly) working after a lapse during the past few weekends.  I started around 205ish, probably more?  And am down to 197ish.  It's a long road.  It makes me obsess about food.  Wonder about Lena's diet where Chai energy let her fast for two weeks.
Q: You're also involved in the Humanitarian Reform Movement.
A: I see you scanned my website.  You worked really hard.  Did you
listen to the record too?
Q: Yeah. And I watched the short film you made to accompany Ophelia, in
which you speak, like, four languages.
A: Five. Six, if you include English.
Q: Six languages?  Are you showing off?
A: *Oy vay!*
Q: That's, like, a seventh language.
A: You're annoying me.  It's like being interviewed by the biggest snotty bullyboy in the world.
Q: It's just that you seem kind of serious.  What do you do for fun?
A: I don't really have wacky moments.  It's more of finding the humor
in people and situations.  I don't wake up in the morning and say, I'll
be wacky today. What do you do to be wacky, Joel?
A: Ask annoying questions of female vocalists.
        --Joel Stein interviews Natalie Merchant
"I am a thing of beauty."
        --Frank Sinatra
My favorite is The Invisible Man, because in great scene Invisible Man
eats large bowl of cookies.  All you see are cookies.  No distractions.
Me like that.
        --Cookie Monster, asked by Time to name Favorite Movie Monster.
"I'm a good influence on everyone I meet-- but they don't realize it until decades later.  That's what I keep telling myself."
          --David Johnson
"What kind of a loser comes in at 12 and leaves at 2?"
          "The other name for that is executive."
          --Dave + Bob