kirk.is | last weeks

November 17, 2017

Sam Harris:
The truth is none of us know how much time we have in this life.

And taking that fact to heart brings a kind of moral and emotional clarity and energy to the present. Or at least it can.

And it can bring a resolve to not suffer over stupid things.

I mean take something like "road rage". This is probably the quintessential example of misspent energy. You're behind the wheel of your car, and somebody does something erratic, or they're probably just driving more slowly than you want. And you find yourself getting angry. Now I would submit to you that that kind of thing is impossible if you're being mindful of the shortness of life. If you're aware that you are going to die, and that the other person is going to die, and that you're both going to lose everyone you love and you don't know when... you've got THIS moment of life, this beautiful moment, this moment where your consciousness is bright, it's not dimmed by morphine in the hospital on your last day among the living. And the sun is out, or it's raining- both are beautiful. And your spouse is alive, and your children are alive, and you're driving. And you're not in some failed state where civilians are being rounded up and murdered by the thousands. You're just running an errand. And that person in front of you, who you will never meet, whose hopes and sorrows you know nothing about but which if you COULD know them you would recognize are impressively similar to your own - is just driving slow.

This is your life. The only one you've got. And you will never get this moment back again. And you don't know how many more moments you have. No matter how many times you do something, there will come a day when you do it for the last time. You've had a thousand chances to tell the people closest to you that you love them in a way that they FEEL it, and in a way that YOU feel it. And you've missed most of them. And you don't know how many more you're going to get. You've got this next interaction with another human being to make the world a marginally better place, you've got this one opportunity to fall in love with existence, so why not relax and enjoy your life? REALLY relax. Even in the midst of struggle. Even while doing hard work. Even under uncertainty.

You are in a game right now, and you can't see the clock, so you don't know how much time you have left. And yet you're free to make the game as interesting as possible; you can even change the rules, you can discover new games that no one has thought of yet. You can make games that used to be impossible suddenly possible and get others to play them with you. You can literally build a rocket to go to Mars so that you can start a colony there. I actually know people who will spend some part of today doing that. But whatever you do, however seemingly ordinary, you can feel the preciousness of life. And an awareness of death is the door into that way of being in the world.
--Sam Harris, from the introduction to his podcast discussion with Frank Ostaseski, a Zen Hospice pioneer - to complete the plug "And there are very people more aware of death and the lessons it has to teach us than my guest today. Today I'm speaking to Frank Ostaseski..." - the podcast is a good listen.

U.S. Navy Is Very Sorry That Their Pilot Drew A Dong In The Sky. This is powerful shamanic magic.
I plan to take solace in how when our acrobatic robotic overlords come to take over, their boxes will say "Boston Dynamics" WOOOO BOSTON!!!!

November 16, 2017

Random linguistic watch: 3 times in the past day or so I've seen "roasted" used in a casual jovial insult sort of way. Prior to that, I feel like I mostly just saw it in reference to semi-formal "comedy roast" events. Anyone else feel it is having an uptick?

Also, in trying (unsuccessfully) to confirm and quantify that feeling, I stumbled Google Books Ngram viewer (Not helpful because it just up to 2000, and then just books.) Seeing if it was like one of those baby name popularity graphers, I put in Kirk, and found a big uptick around 1840, and then learned about the Disruption of 1843, where the Church of Scotland split after a decade of strife. (Kirk is the name of the official church of Scotland, as well as for the local branch, so to speak.)

Ya learn something new every day! On good days, two things.
Last night I grabbed "Snipperclips" for the Nintendo Switch, play some of the puzzles with Melissa - cute game!

I feel like I'm out of the loop with Switch, in terms of what might be cool to do with it beyond Mario and Zelda. There is a remake of NES Blaster Master - I tried the free 3DS demo of that but the Switch would be nicer.

Despite having had an Xbox One and a PS3 and a Wii U for a while, I feel like I haven't been into downloadable / indie stuff in any system since the 360 (which still stands as my favorite system for now, at least in terms of having open world sandbox games...)

Any suggestions?

November 15, 2017

"Everyone assumes they are the sperm that made it to the egg. Nobody assumes they were the egg all along."
----/u/DingDongInDaPingPong. Huh. That kind of resonates for me - is that asymmetry true for a lot of people? Is it more true for dudes? Definitely feels like there might be a sexist undercoat there. Also a shade of the old Yin (feminine/passive) Yang (masculine/active), which can be hella problematic when used as a role model for modern society. I get the feeling people feel affiliation for the faster and seemingly more action-packed journey of the young sperm cell, vs the slower travel for the egg that has been there since the mother's time in the womb. A lot of metaphors spring to mind, but again I think trouble arises with the temptation of attributing truth and guidance because of the "it's just nature!" parallels.
"If you don't find farts funny then you're a loser because you're choosing to have less joy in your life but the exact same amount of farts"
--http://twitter.com/MrEmilyHeller. I find you can replace "farts" with many things in your life and it still kind of works!

via

November 14, 2017



new logo tech'd up on my devblog

Stuart: You don't get things by not asking for them.
You don't get things by not wanting them, either.
[...]
Gillian: One of the things I've always tried to teach the girls is that there's nothing particularly good or virtuous about wanting something. I don't put it like that, of course, in fact I frequently don't put it at all. The best lessons children learn are those they learn for themselves.
--Julian Barnes, "Love, etc". He truly is a fine novelist.
CompuServe's forums, which still exist, are finally shutting down Always sad when an old service gets its plug pulled, I'm sure someone's going to miss that particular community.

November 13, 2017

Christopher Mooney answering the Quora "How do people feel in their last minutes of life?":

I had a near death experience once, when I was pretty sure I was 20–30 seconds away from the end. Like, I mean, I was completely sure I was about to die.

I remember my feelings at the time, vividly. How could you forget.

1: I actually felt very calm. People are scared of death. But once you know it's happening, and you can't do anything about it, you find peace. It was actually one of the calmest, most peaceful moments I can recall in my life.

2: I was very very reflective. When you hear the stereotypes of "your life flashing before your eyes", that's exactly how I felt. I reflected on my life, and who I was, and if I could have done anything better.

3: It sounds funny, but I also really had this "well, this is just my luck!" kind of feeling. I actually found it kind of humorous. I was kind of laughing a bit, about how unlucky I was!

This experience, actually helped me find a lot of faith. Because, although I was an atheist at the time, I didn't actually feel like it was the end. I wasn't thinking in terms of my existence being over. I was almost feeling like I was just moving on from one part of my life, to the next.

I, kind of, had no fear, because I didn't think it was that big a deal? I know this sounds crazy, but all I can say is, that when the moment came, my mind was completely prepared for it. My brain kind of changed, and I understood everything, and was prepared for everything. It's almost like the human body/brain is completely prepared for it's demise, but you don't get to access this skill until you really need it?


My big personal growth / philosophical questions right now:
1. How does one recognize personal growth? At what point can an extrinsic improvement in behavior be safely or at least reasonably considered an intrinsic improvement in character? (AA says that even for people who by and large fix their lives, "once an addict always an addict" - given on how many fronts backsliding can happen, that while skills improve hardly anything becomes effortlessly graceful, I wonder if my intuitive skepticism about personal growth has some backing to it, or if everyone recognizes that but still finds these word games helpful)
2. Would more equanimity lead to more apathy? Does the anxiety and irritation and frustration and ego that I'd like to get away from serve critical purposes in guiding my behavior towards better things? Is not feeling anger about things that are out of my control a form of maturity or giving up? Can cheerful reason carry the load of getting me to behave well and pursue worthwhile things that otherwise find their impetus in my discomfort and discomfort? (And if so, has this always been the case? Would I always have been as productive a person, or even more so, if I didn't carry these burdens? Should I try to help young people I might advise to also pursue this equanimity or is there even more of a risk they don't have the moral or intellectual framework to carry that load, and so should rely on good old appeal to authority and anxiety?)
3. I feel that my self is best represented not as a unified thing, but at least as two parts - the intuitive, emotional elephant and the rational, narrative rider at the very least. But, am I best thought of as only that 1-2 split? Or do I, like Whitman, "contain multitudes"? This problem is even more academic than the other two - I'm not sure if it makes a big difference if I have an inner child or inner children, if each neurologically-based impulse-generating can act like a persona or is just a thought thinking itself (or more exactly an emotion er...feeling...er... itself) and if my rational narrator, so quick to claim credit for being the truest me (but full of so many post-facto rationalizations for what I actually do) is a monolithic thing too? But it's something I'd love to know, so I can come up with more effective strategies of guiding the whole lot of them where I'd like to go.

So if anyone has the answers to those, let me know, otherwise I'll just be over here thinking for a while.

November 12, 2017

The Globe had a reverse angle from yesterday's shot, where BABAM! marched with Veterans for Peace

November 11, 2017

Last night Melissa mentioned hearing how shelters tend to round down on kitty's-to-be-adopted ages. Which makes total sense but is a little melancholy on two fronts all the same.


Blender of Love

Happy Armistice / Veterans Day! Today BABAM marched with the Veterans For Peace --

November 10, 2017

Jean Charlot's book of drawings and captions "Dance of Death" was in my parents' library as I was growing up, and left an impression. You can now see it as a PDF on the Artist's website.

Death and Yorrick (Death:"As our great bard says...")


Death and the Pugilist (Death: "When I hit 'em, they stay hit.")


Death and the Artist (Death:"Your prices will skyrocket!")



"It's almost as if Hugh Hefner was projecting a force-field that protected creepy famous men, and with his death they were suddenly exposed."
--/r/Showerthoughts/

November 9, 2017

Sigh.
You know, I would love to read a right-leaning "why do liberals love Obama so much?" article. I suspect there's an asymmetry in this kind of coverage, and that's why I'm glad I lean left the way I do, but there may be bias in my assumption that there isn't such an article, and in the implications if there's not.

November 8, 2017

"your self esteem will skyrocket once you realize that constantly putting yourself down is essentially negging yourself like some ouroboric pick up artist"
--verycooltrash

November 7, 2017

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, 2017

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