2021-05-30 01:24:15: the river
We are passengers on a large ship called civilization, sailing ever downstream on an uncharted river, surrounded by fog, the depths beneath us unknown.
We can't know where to turn until we see the bank; we can't know of the hidden obstacles until they grind along the hull.
We know from all the twists and turns documented behind us, that every direction we could take would eventually have us run aground.
All we can do is react. It is to those who come after us to make further corrections; the future directions are out of our hands.
But we can react. We can try to rudder the ship away from the shore, away from whatever hazard we're heading towards right now.
So don't overthink it. Don't try to make a perfect plan... a perfect order that will last... just try to keep us off the rocks, because that's all that is possible for anyone to do.
2020-08-13 12:45:49: infinite complexity
In the movie "The Fifth Element," a scientist explains Lilu's complexity, overlaying an image of her much more complicated DNA on top of normal DNA.
The more I'm here, the more the feelings steep in that the fabric of the society I grew up in was rather simple.
I knew that before arriving in Asia, but it's something else to really start to soak in that reality. In that sense of inferiority. Like I'm a remote Amazon tribesman who somehow blundered into an advanced software job, still wearing a loincloth and toting a sharpened stick.
Japan. Korea. Taiwan. Singapore. China. Hong Kong. These are the world's true cultural giants. They are not simply masses of single-celled organisms writhing against each other within a vague economic substrate. They are coherent, living creatures.
2020-08-03 00:48:05: relative
You can generally raise someone to love working.
You can generally raise someone to love the law.
You can raise people in so many different ways, and they'll never quite understand each other, because it's not so much a matter of logic, as it is a matter of temperament, conditioning, and early life brain calibration.
The conditions for law-loving, work-loving citizens are not favorable at present. Such people are seen as antiquated and naive by many, if they actually think much about them at all.
The conditions for creating thinking citizens are also not favorable in general lately, world-wide, but there are corner cases here and there...
Is it stupid to want to work hard at work? Only if you don't enjoy it, I suppose.
Is it naive to indulge in your desire to work hard at work? Sometimes it is, because it can be dangerous to attract too much attention, particularly if you are ill-equipped to handle social situations, and it sometimes doesn't benefit the organization, anyways.
Should it be stupid to work hard at work? Absolutely not. I think such a state is a hallmark of a civilization in decline.
Should civilization be in decline? Only if your people can't meet the current standards, and you are willing to accept a lower global status which will eventually lead to plunder and displacement by other nations.
Really, the whole reason we can't just sit around chatting, drinking tea and weaving baskets is to keep other tribes from killing us and taking our stuff.
In any case, it's best not to assume anyone is simply stupid or naive, right off the bat, but first assume they are motivated by different underlying emotional structures.
2020-07-27 22:50:11: childhood's curve
Initially, we make no decisions.
As we are taught various things, we are permitted to start making decisions.
In a simple society with limited technology, the conventional age of independence is roughly adequate for making decisions affecting one's own life. There are consequences for limiting freedom for too long, just as there are consequences for allowing it too soon.
Things have gotten rather complicated, however.
Yet, when I was young, I had not connected the majority of the dots I have now managed to connect, and things seemed simple, and easy to fix.
I believe I was, metaphorically, subtly complicit in tearing down walls in a building that provided structural support.
I fled that building, and now it is collapsing. Not because of the event of the day, but because the mindset of the people, and the structure of society, prevents it from properly handling the event of the day; today, tomorrow, and until it all comes apart.
Perhaps it would have been better if we had not been allowed to tear down walls before we knew a little more about how buildings worked. And how cities worked. And how human life works.
Perhaps childhood's curve needs a bit of elongation.
2020-07-23 00:21:15: all or nothing
Culture is a system; a very, very complicated system.
To the extent that any individual or shared-interest group can manipulate culture, it can do so only in a very crude fashion.
Tweaking culture without unintended consequences... is likely impossible. This is because humans are so profoundly terrible at understanding their own behavior, regulation, and capacities.
They are bad at it for both direct and indirect reasons. Directly, because it's hard to understand, and indirectly, because there are political consequences for investigating and sharing that sort of knowledge.
So, when we deal with a culture, we can effectively either embrace it entirely, or reject it entirely.
Culture is not a buffet; every part is connected to every other part.
The parts you like are connected to the parts you don't like. They are inseparable.
And, in any case, culture always changes of its own accord, and in a predictable fashion, and at a predictable pace: it drifts, inexorably, in the direction of chaos, at a pace governed by human life span and current technology.
Order is only added as a last resort by humans facing death, deep misery, or hopelessness, and effectively creates new culture.
2020-07-22 22:18:26: regret
You will never regret trying hard and failing.
You will always regret giving up.
I was deprived of the experience of failure in my early academic career, and insulated by my early career from the consequences of failing socially.
Is it too late to change?
I don't know. It's an interesting experiment.
And, in any case, I will not give up.
I am failing lately to be who I want to be, but I will not give up.
Really, what's there to do when you give up? Chew on your regrets while waiting to die?
The only direction to go is forward. Forget last year. Forget yesterday. Forget 5 minutes ago.
Right now is all you have. Never give up.
2020-07-04 23:51:10: America really is all about freedom
America is fading, and sinking somewhat into chaos.
It makes mistakes almost constantly, because it has absolutely no regard for the past, or for wisdom.
But if there's one thing that is pretty cool about it, and that will not change, it's the American commitment to global freedom.
Americans will always get fired up over freedom, and want to go flying in like Superman to save the day, when some nation steps on some other nation.
You can be cynical about the exact circumstances in which America intervenes, and the manner in which it performs, but the fact of the matter is, the American people are into freedom, and will always be willing to fight for freedom around the world.
That sounds hokey, but I believe it 100%. As much as I can't stand Americans in general, and as much as the American polity has changed in my lifetime, I solidly believe that much will remain constant.
2020-07-03 23:36:25: humankind
A species that is extraordinary for its periodic bursts of civilization.
Since civilized people are more successful, they tend to become dominant, but few cultures seem to be able to keep it up for very long.
For as long as humans are around, though, they'll keep trying, because civilization is so much more powerful than running around like wild animals.
Maybe its a tragedy of sorts that we can't run around like wild animals.
Why can't we run around like wild animals?
Because then we'd be displaced, marginalized, or destroyed by civilized humans, like all the other higher mammals, or domesticated to some particular use.
Probably better to wash up and put on some clothes, brush up on your studies, and go to work.
2020-06-18 01:10:33: digital undertow
Bridges are apparently cracking in the US with greater frequency lately; today, in Florida.
Every new thing you add must be maintained. Everything you do to alter the world requires ongoing maintenance.
The digital world is no different.
Internet creatures are living things, like any other, and the more complex they are, the more they need to "breathe", to stay alive, much like higher animals must breathe far more quickly than lower animals and plants.
Internet creatures breath "human mental focus".
In order of increased respiration rates(relative rate in parenthesis):
2020-06-07 09:24:08: the thin blue line
I would like everyone to contemplate how difficult it is to subdue an individual who may or may not be armed, who may or may not suddenly attack you, and who may or may not be a better fighter than you are, reliably, without getting killed, on a daily basis.
When you factor in the fact that people seem to hate you, except when you are risking your life to save theirs, you kind of have to wonder who would want the job. Crazy people?
Well, to some degree, maybe so...
Maybe some people become police because they enjoy wielding power. Considering how dangerous, underpaid, and thankless of a job it is, if I were recruiting for it, I wouldn't dismiss someone like that out of hand, as long as they roughly followed the rules.
A police force does not exist in a vacuum; it occupies a particular slot in society, and it is shaped by the people who must be policed.
If you don't like the form of the police force, you must first consider the conditions in which it must operate, and the people available to operate it, and then come up with a logical counter-proposal.
You must understand the psychological environment that police must operate in, understand that they are human, and understand the effects of adrenaline and testosterone on the average human in a fight-or-flight situation.
You must understand that the feelings you express towards the police directly affect who joins the force, and who quits the force.
Police are drawn from, and can only be drawn from, the society they protect. They are human, and these humans are all you can chose from.
My best guess is that great disparities will arise in law enforcement, with wealthy areas protected by private, and/or well-funded and politically-protected police forces, while poor areas will have no law enforcement to speak of.
Presently, jurisdictions in cities generally cover both rich and poor areas, and I don't think that's economically sustainable.
Given economic trends in America, in any case, simply entombing the large numbers of economically non-viable individuals in cordoned-off lawless zones may in fact be the easiest way to proceed.
2020-06-05 00:49:28: transgender
I've never been very good at being transgender, but that was never really the point for me.
It can't be proven empirically, but my instincts have always been a mottled mix of what a male and female creature would logically exhibit. An incoherent jumble of the two.
I spent half my life nominally male, so I figured I would spend the rest somewhat female, primarily by altering my hormone levels to roughly match female parameters.
On so many levels, I had no idea what I was getting in to(having no real social awareness), and I was really not in a healthy state of mind to handle it(having been depressed for a decade, completely isolated, and prescribed stimulant medication for years that was quite interesting).
To summarize the lessons:
2020-05-13 03:17:22: communication
One difference between American and Japanese education is that, if you get a piece of information from your teacher in Japan, it is always critically important, and it will not be repeated.
All of it. Seemingly unrelated things written on the back of other things are critically important. There will be no reminders.
In America, there's a huge volume of stuff that is sent that neither the sender nor the recipient really care about, so you learn to filter it. You expect important things to be covered in blazing yellow and red, with "important!" plastered all over it, and you apply varying levels of attention to the rest.
I think here, it's kind of an insult to remind someone of something, as it implies the recipient is not responsible enough to follow through on information, or that the sender doesn't trust, or does not respect the recipient's ability to schedule/remember things.
And, they just don't want to bother you.
In America, people are used to treating each other like idiots, and have no qualms about disturbing one another, so communication is more of a fire hydrant that you sort of have to filter.
Anyways, 気をつけてね。 Buy a calendar book(lots of stationery stores here). Use software with Gantt charting ability. Absolutely do not put off examining every piece of paper, front and back, that you receive, until you have accounted for when its relevant/due.
I've been a little sloppy this term; I'll do better next term.
2020-05-08 04:16:12: good and evil
It's important to note that social pragmatism is antithetical to advanced societal order.
Criminal cultures run on primitive social pragmatism. They view morality as naive at best, and idiotic at worst.
If you look at the nice places to live in the world, you'll find they run on mostly on public order, rather than the loose, shadowy, shifting alliances that typify the criminal world.
I think this is primarily because national wealth/strength depends on public order and specialization of labor to sustain complex logistics, production, military, and research efforts.
In a chaotic world, everyone must be generalists, and technology requires order and specialization, above all else.
2020-05-01 10:28:23: too weird to die
My life decisions are generally made by normalizing and averaging the typical vector for someone in my position, generating the plane orthogonal to that vector, and then choosing a random vector lying on that plane.
When you do that enough times, you become so strange that people no longer know what you are and aren't capable of. You can no longer relate to anyone, and they can no longer relate to you.
Now, being hopelessly strange is freedom, and it's kind of safe, assuming you can find the right job in the right place(which, I suppose, is 90% of safety, anyways).
But it's lonely.
Of course, when you stay lonely long enough, the pain goes away, and then you become even stranger, because then you can no longer deal with random social situations at all.
Still, I like working.
In Idaho, I always dreamed of having a place where people could just work, and talk about work, and work all the time, and work together on projects. No one really seemed to quite understand.
Fortunately, I don't have to implement such a place myself, as I discovered later that it already exists, and it is called "Japan".
I just hope I can find a way to stay here.
2020-04-25 06:15:40: The Internet
The commercial Internet was so cute when it was a baby.
If it would have stayed the way it was in 1998, perhaps we would have all been better off.
It became a monster, and consumed us in ways we could not have imagined.
We kind of implicitly assumed that Internet power would mostly be used by people for distribution of information and shopping, but really didn't foresee what would happen when it became a truly mass medium, when it became accessible in smart phones.
The echo chambers, the wholesale destruction of various creative industries, the information flows governed by the most charismatic, rather than the most informed...
I still kind of compare it to the post 50's glut of food technology... trans-fat preserved snacks... the mass consumption of high calorie foods we no longer needed.
Eventually, we learned food discipline, once we understood all the limits that were simply never encountered by the masses before, since food had never been so unlimited before.
Eventually we will learn Internet discipline.
Not merely in the sense of, "don't play mobile games for more than an hour," but in a more all-encompassing way, since the Internet is certainly all encompassing.
Rather, we need to understand that the instant gratification... the ability to evade even the shortest moment of boredom with something, is like weightlessness in space. It's easy, but it robs you of your strength rapidly.
I think we'll find that boredom and creativity are more inextricably linked than we realize now.
We learned not to eat things just because they taste good, and instead focus on calories and nutrition. Likewise, I hope we are somehow able to stop consuming Internet things just because they are fun or gratifying in some way, and focus on the effect it's having on our minds.
Even things like Wikipedia are perhaps informational junk food. When I go back to books for similar information, it is kind of disturbing how much better a source of information they are.
Difficult vs. Easy. Cheap vs. Expensive.
Being a successful streamer requires a very particular set of people skills, at a level certainly far beyond my grasp, but not much in the way of hard skills. I'm not sure how valuable it is for people to watch Twitch streams.
I think a lot about what life was like when we bought and listened to whole CD's, and bought books from stores, and watched movies, and, as importantly, spent a lot of time not doing any of those things because we couldn't.
I think a lot about how different people are now who never experienced a world without the Internet, and further, people who never lived without the mobile Internet, and how different their minds work.
But never without the thought, in the back of my mind, that I must avoid senseless nostalgia and stereotypical resistance to change that one begins to experience around my age.
What are the limits? What is the future like, and what kind of minds do we need to have for it? How to we prune our mental environment to give us back what we've lost, if that's even possible?
Is it even possible to do so and still remain functional in the modern world?
2020-04-18 22:39:08: before, as now
Long ago, nature killed the weak.
Then humans found ways of fighting nature to stay alive longer, far past the prime of life.
But it seems nature is finally catching up with us again, at least for now.
Coronavirus is not the end of the world. It is only a return to the past.
2020-04-18 05:13:51: god mode butter
I am a connoisseur of butter.
Pancakes have been the cornerstone of my diet for years now, and thus, so has butter.
I've tried all USA brands commonly available, and a few imports.
But Hokkaido butter, oh Lord... oh... dear sweet virgin Mary is it good...
I will visit Hokkaido some day, when the weather is nice, and gaze respectfully upon the glorious cows from whose udders issue forth this creamy goodness...
2020-04-09 09:45:58: protect
The globalists are alarmed at the inevitable rise of protectionism in the wake of this present crisis, having been raised on, and largely being dependent on, a globalist doctrine.
But I've always found "protectionism" to be a rather strange criticism: if it is not the purpose of a national government to protect the interests of a nation, just what exactly is it for?
Beyond a certain degree, making things cheaper is utterly pointless. If people can afford to buy n things, they will want n + 1 things, regardless of the value of n.
And if in the process of cheapening those things, some sectors of the economy disappear from a nation, leaving a subset of people financially without purpose, that is a big problem for everyone in the nation.
Protectionism is not a sin. It's not a regression. It's a sign of life.
Make your nation strong and healthy. Make trade agreements to further your alliances and economic well-being.
The global macroeconomic religion we've lived under since Breton Woods is the aberration here, and I think that is one of the few things that both the left and the right can agree on.
That regime is perhaps unbreakable in nations which have forsaken long-term national strategy and thinking, and/or no longer care about their fellow countryman.
But not every nation is like that. Some still play the long game. Some still plan for tomorrow, at the expense of today.
2020-04-09 01:56:10: rules of life
The top two rules for me, that I wish I had learned earlier:
2020-03-27 06:05:33: globalism
While globalization is great for wringing every last drop of profit out of your resources, it's also very vulnerable and risky.
Present day events make me happy, because I am optimistic that the trend of backing off of globalization will accelerate a bit, and there will be a greater variety of jobs available for people in any given region.
Over the last 15 years, nothing has unnerved me more about living in the United States than growing income inequality. I'm quite sensitive to the feelings of everyone around me... people know when you have much more money than they do, or even more earning potential, and they don't like it.
Quite a few of them actually hate you for it.
And there's lots and lots of people who make very little money in the United States, and never have, and never will, and they know it.
If you look at OECD nations where various metrics suggest greater income equality, you will tend to find places where people are content, and are nice places to live.
I don't think there's an easy or absolute way of achieving the goal of greater income equality, particularly in places suffering heavily from incompatible multiculturalism.
I simply believe it's something that puts stress on the social stability of a nation, and it's best to not let it go too far.
2020-03-25 06:38:14: derivatives
In accessing society, the crisis of the day is only relevant tactically.
We live a very long time, however, so it's important to think strategically as well.
In the long run, it's not the absolute displacement of society that's relevant, but the derivative with respect to time, as well as the second derivative, with the dependent variable being "civilized behavior."
The crisis of the day will come and go, but the information it gives you about the health of society is worth hanging on to.
2020-03-18 14:49:18: Gottgleich
It is said that cleanliness is next to godliness, and this is easily illustrated.
To wash you hands after you touch a public object, is cleanliness.
To do so before you touch, is godliness.
2020-03-13 11:37:26: wheels in motion
Any time you categorically, mercilessly, and aggressively attack an idea, a belief, an ideology, a natural behavior... things of that nature... you are setting wheels in motion, which are likely to result in unanticipated and severe consequences in the long term.
In all corners of American society, an inability to see the consequences of acting primitively... an inability to understand that we all have to live with each other... an inability to see one another as equally human(and equally dangerous) is what has been most concerning for me over the past 25 years, as I've learned from observation, contemplation, and from the many and varied mistakes I've made.
2020-03-10 20:49:23: the journey
2020-03-07 23:41:24: Canada Goose
I was running along the greenbelt in Columbus yesterday, and encountered a small gaggle of Canada Geese munching on grass beside the river, so I decided to get their take on the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Honestly, we're not too concerned about it, " acknowledged the watch goose, looking around nervously as his fellows continued munching.
"If humans get too distressed, perhaps they may stop tending this turf. It's quite tasty grass; a bit of a chemical aftertaste to it, but clean, filling, and delicious in general."
The Goose nodded and added, "Mmm, you really can... yeah, you can fill up on grass here during your seasonal commute quick, much faster than rooting around here and there for wild grasses and plants that taste good. So, I guess it would be kind of a drag..."
The Goose stared off into the river for a bit, then suddenly continued.
"But we wouldn't get shot at, or seduced by decoys, so maybe it's okay if humans die off..."
The guard goose paused and greedily munched down some nearby grass.
"Still, the turf they grow is pretty tasty... I guess it'd be a bit of a wash, all told..."
2020-02-06 20:37:26: cantilever
We tend to think of technology as a line of continuous advancement, up and to the right.
I think of it as a series of beams stacked upon one another, cantilevering up and to the right. It is not self-supporting; it is dependent on a base of prior art, all of which must be maintained and preserved.
The greater the level of complexity, the more difficult it is to maintain and preserve its craft and science. For much of the 20th century, this was trivial, but it is becoming more difficult at an ever accelerating pace.
Additionally, for humans, technology has an odd way of empowering our present, while weakening our future.
There are significant benchmarks which serve to show just how strong a nation is, both culturally and materially, such as aerospace production, space programs, and nuclear power, which require powerful cultures to initiate and maintain.
When a culture begins to fail, the signs are not obvious, because it's far easier to maintain a system than to create one. The first sign is repeated failures to create new complex systems, masked likely behind a reduced impetus to try.
Do not let your country rely on technology past the point you can culturally sustain, internally. Use it, with the understanding that it may become inaccessible, but do not build on it. You must understand your foundation, and you must understand how to maintain your foundation into the future.
2020-02-01 19:58:47: automatic
Increasing automation poses various problems to a capitalist economy, but is not really much of a problem for a communist economy.
For capitalists, factory automation increases profits, but, at some point, if there are no jobs, no one can pay for goods made at automated factories, or services provided by computers. No matter how much productive capital one has, it cannot produce anything for profit.
In a communist world, however, one simply distributes the factory outputs. There is no problem whatsoever.
The people can work on higher level pursuits, or watch movies, or whatever.
While 20th century technological progress seemed quite suited for capitalism, perhaps we will find that the 21st century is much better suited to communism.
No wars, or subterfuge, or propaganda are really necessary at all for communism to defeat capitalism.
Communism merely had to wait a while, and, perhaps, have time to grow and develop in the culture best suited for it.
2020-01-18 21:04:51: る
I feel like the R sound in the Japanese syllabary is less closely related to the English R(which is voiced), and is more like what an unvoiced "D" would be like, if we had it.
As little actual practice as I have with the Japanese language, I find, after studying it, I avoid saying the English "R" if at all possible. Not just because it isn't Japanese, but because it's actually kind of a pain to voice. It's a relief not having to say it.
Again, my knowledge of linguistics in general is exceedingly poor, but it seems like the hard English R doesn't seem to have much presence in many other languages, either. Though, oddly enough, English speakers lack smoothly rolled "R" present in many other languages.
I wonder if it's related? Also, "syllabary" is perhaps the most difficult word to spell I've come across since tripping through the various "I before E, except..." abominations in my school days...
2020-01-18 05:26:23: temperature
Happiness is a warm bathroom and a cold bedroom :)
2020-01-17 20:21:13: carts and horses
It is economically efficient to force society to adapt to the economy. The question is, how far can you bend society before it breaks down, and economic efficiency becomes a moot point?
The main counterpoint is, how far can you compromise the efficiency of your nation's economy for the well-being of your society, before inefficiencies begin to hurt your global influence and power?
"Global" is the problem concept here, and it's the thorn in the side of every nation that seeks to maintain a healthy society.
Taking the hypothetical case of an isolated nation, which does not depend on trade or defense, and the problems of economic inefficiency largely go away, if society is healthy(people cooperate with and mostly like each other, and have cohesive, contented life paths that the vast majority of people can enjoy).
Keeping society healthy in rapidly changing times is a monumental task in and of itself, and requires, in human planners, a way of thinking that is both caring and ruthless.
2020-01-08 20:49:52: God
God is a feeling.
Everyone has a God vector; it points to different abstractions.
Am I God?
Are the people around me, God?
Is God up in the skies? Or in the Earth, and air, and trees, and all around and through me? Does a book describe God? Or is the writing in the book itself(along a continuum between a literal and figurative interpretation) a God?
Maybe the God feeling is our way of creating a conceptual abstraction of raw, primitive positive emotion, devoid of it's primal triggers(food, love, safety, belonging, etc).
The net average God vector of a given culture, or an individual, along with its present state, determines its future.
2019-12-20 08:52:59: qwiki-pedia
The thing you realize when you discipline yourself and look for other sources of information on random topics, rather than taking the easy way out and following the Wikipedia link, is that Wikipedia, while quick and easy, has a rather profound, maybe even dispiriting lack of depth.
You generally don't even have to go to page 2 of the search results to find something better. You can add "site:*.edu" to the search string to make the process a little faster(and get results with no begging or advertisements).
I have been inspired and gotten really excited about various subjects every time I've passed on Wikipedia and gone to look for something better.
2019-12-14 23:05:05: order and reliability
In the schools, and in the workplace, if you do not impose an order, people will spontaneously do it themselves, along rather atavistic lines.
In the short term, this certainly benefits the loud, the strong, the pretty, and the bold.
In the long term... well, the fortunes of nations do not depend on brawn, or beauty.
The global economy is changing in ways we've yet to even conceptualize, but a few things are probably reliable for the foreseeable future.
While people are increasingly satisfied with mediocre goods and services, there are some things which absolutely must be engineered properly, such as medical equipment, and aircraft.
Looking out into the world, at the companies and nations that are now known for their ability to deliver reliability, and realizing that reliability can only be the product of a particular kind of society, which itself, can only be the product of a particular way of thinking and feeling...
The highest and most critical works of technology can only be accomplished by the most disciplined and ordered societies.
Unfortunately for all of mankind, they tend to not be the most fecund, but... well, hopefully we will come up with a long-term solution for that at some point as well. I'm guessing robots and AI will somehow be heavily involved in that solution.
2019-12-06 02:09:54: a chance
When you sacrifice everything, for years, for a chance at something you really want, that's something you should probably stick with.
I wrote a few years ago that one's heart was insane, and i think that's a point go back to. We get lost in reason sometimes, and lost in our feelings at other times, and we don't often dwell upon the interconnect.
Life is not reasonable, yet I'm alive and thinking. What to do?
Let your rational mind be married to your crazy heart... figure out how to do what it wants, and don't ask too many questions, because there are no answers anyways, and you'll be happy together.
2019-12-03 15:49:40: open office daze
Expecting a programmer to come into an office, sit in front of a computer, and productively work for a total of 8 hours, is utterly and completely unrealistic, in the typical case where the work is not interesting.
And since the interesting work is typically done for free(open source), the only way to get paid to work on software is to work on either really difficult, or really uninteresting problems(often both).
Yet, there they sit, all day long.
In individual offices, or in full-height cubes, they can feel free to take breaks, but in the modern open office jungle... continuous development, continuous integration, and with everyone waiting on someone for something, the collective eye bears down continuously on everyone's screens.
If you look around, most people are just blankly staring at their screens, because that can be sustained for long periods of time. But, actually, they'd probably be more productive overall if they could spend half or more of their time playing.
Of course, their machines and networks are locked and monitored, so that's an additional impediment.
So there they sit, or stand, staring blankly, quietly, at work they've lost focus on hours ago, because it's the only safe thing they can do.
2019-11-25 22:11:27: null wisdom
Not everyone, smart or dull, reaches the particular guide-post of enlightenment whereupon one deeply, and wholeheartedly, embraces the realization that they don't know anything.
In the meantime, they make lots and lots of horrible mistakes and judgments that they will likely later regret.
This awareness I speak of, would not necessarily have prevented mistakes, but it would certainly have encouraged a greater degree of caution, exploration of backup plans, listening to others more, and so forth.
I feel fortunate that my most egregious errors impacted mostly just me, though there was certainly some significant collateral damage. I would hate to have been in a position of leadership back then(not that I'm crazy about the notion now).
But I assume I'm becoming wiser, because the absolute magnitude of my idiotic failures seems to be diminishing over time.
Yet, perhaps this is a local minimum. Or maybe my failure analysis is flawed.
You never know...
2019-11-24 15:51:31: object vs process analysis
Our thinking apparatus was developed for fairly simple situations, though we leverage various tactics to manipulate more complex concepts via various forms of abstraction.
Still, this basis shines through in the way people try to understand things in general.
I am standing in the woods, and there is some fruit, and there is a bear. I want to eat the fruit, but the bear may have a cub. What do I do?
The bear is a bear for the duration of the problem, as is the fruit, though we could always come back later and hope the problem has gone away.
We seem to try to understand people and society the same way, and it generally fails, because these are complex, dynamic, ever-changing systems that more closely resemble fire than earth... they are a flow, a process... a reaction... not an object.
In terms of people tasked with the practical side of mental health, we have a faction that thinks of everything in terms of emotion, a faction that thinks only of neurochemistry, a faction that thinks of everything in terms of pure thought and the relations between mental objects... they all make the mistake of trying to understand a system by understanding a single subsystem as if it were more or less unchanging and independent.
But this is forgivable, because this seems to be a collective human hardware limitation, at least with respect to organized fields of study and practice.
A human is an irreversible reaction, early paths taken having a larger impact than later paths, but always subject to deviation.
2019-11-21 19:04:09: order
Without active intervention, the employees who care about your organization will get mauled by the ones that don't.
Good jobs require thought. If you are thinking about how to improve things, and keep things going well, you incur the opportunity cost of not thinking about, positioning for, and defending yourself from political machinations that add no value to the organization.
It's incredibly easy in thought-work to do enough to not get fired. This leaves schemers plenty of free time to do what they do best, which is to scheme. That is their nature. We all want to do what we do best; that gives us the best reward on our time.
So it is not so much that I am condemning them as such, only pointing out that they do not benefit an organization unless their external scheming provides a greater return than the internal scheming they do. They should thus be kept very busy at external scheming, if that is part of your business model, which I don't recommend or endorse.
2019-11-18 19:18:56: dictionary
Dictionaries are wonderful tools, but they can sometimes delude us into thinking words are more atomic than they really are.
Specific nouns are fairly self-contained and independent, and many general purpose verbs are as well.
What I will call here "modifiers" (for example, adjectives and adverbs in English) are where things start to get tricky, though, because they start webbing out into the forest of a language's mental associations that cannot be easily cross-referenced.
Synonyms for "pretty", for example, are loaded with nuance, and many would seem strange outside of various specific contexts.
This webs out into idioms, and in fact, in a language, there's really no hard mental boundary between a word and an idiomatic phrase. Nor, really, a hard boundary between idiomatic and non-idiomatic phrases; just a continuum.
Natural languages are a reflection of our minds.
2019-11-05 04:32:18: low pressure sodium vapor
The night can be a sea of stars, or a mosaic of yellow-tinged concrete and asphalt.
Either way, I love the night the best, because it still feels like magic.
2019-10-26 16:04:31: vegetarian
At this point in time, I do not need to eat meat.
I am not opposed to the practice of eating meat, in principle.
If there comes a time when I am hungry enough to kill and eat a chicken, and I come across a chicken whom I may legitimately kill and eat, then I may do so, but... hopefully, that time will never come.
There's no sense in pretending I'm not indirectly killing something I don't need to kill by eating it in pre-packaged form.
I do consume milk and egg products in vast quantities, however; I'd happily milk a cow or a goat, and I'd collect chicken eggs.
2019-10-19 22:23:03: 愛
only puppy-love is true love.
2019-10-16 14:59:49: Red Star Rising
China is, in reality, as relevant economically as the United States of America, and China is still rising.
The only thing that makes the USA special is that, for all its political insanity, it's still the world's most trusted currency, for now.
Barbarianism is in our blood; I suspect that, seeing as how our military capability is still pretty good, at some point we may regress to said way of life, since civilization does not appear to be our strong point.
2019-10-08 21:19:18: sub-Saharan
I've been reading about various African nations lately.
As is perhaps stereotypical, it makes me wonder why I was born here, and others were born in places like the DRC, and of course, this leads to ruminations about what could make life less hellish in such places.
I suspect the developed nations haven't been able to achieve much in terms of helping the region because it requires one to be both caring, and coldly calculating.
While it really does seem the case that nations can only really fix themselves, I also have to wonder if the present world economic environment, for which developed nations are indirectly responsible for, does not actually prevent the emergence of civil society in underdeveloped parts of Africa.
People are very much a raw material. With active intervention, they can change rapidly in only a few generations, for better or for worse.
Something worth thinking about is: is there a way to make a buck more efficiently than existing resource exploitation in the darker parts of Africa, in such a way as to make life there gradually and sustainably less hellish?
Because simply lobbing aid is not any better than feeding geese by the river. If you actually want to help people who lack civil society, you must start by engineering one, and that seems like it would require lots and lots of time and money.
Because nature alone might not be able to fix a problem not of natural origins.
2019-10-05 11:51:17: children's hospital
Children's hospitals are great for raising money, so, as long as the entire health system benefits, I guess they're okay.
Still, I think it's only fair we also have adults-only hospitals as well: 18+.
What would an adults-only hospital be like? It's a surprisingly odd notion that I will leave you, gentle reader, to ponder.
2019-09-21 15:34:56: detangle
A strong ability to be meta-cognitive is perhaps a byproduct of the mind being initialized in a way such that the self, as a construct, was not supported.
Self is always an artificial construct, but most believe in it, because they have been taught to believe in it. And, of all the beliefs we are inculcated with that we stubbornly resist questioning, self is generally the strongest.
Full internal deconstruction of self leads one to a precarious position as a living creature, so it is perhaps unsurprising that this feature is not enabled by default. It is painful, and it becomes impossible to hide from the darkness.
That being said, i don't think there is a clearer platform for thought than a mind devoid of the illusion of self.
Like a telescope outside of the obscuring and comforting effects of the atmosphere.
2019-08-31 15:50:04: life
You are not a machine.
If you were, then it would be fine if you constrained yourself to strictly logical thoughts.
But, being a living creature programmed to not self-terminate, you're stuck here for awhile, and you really can make the best of things by carefully choosing what you do and don't think about.
Even taking into account things we should think about, for ourselves and for society, we still have a lot of remaining items for which thinking is optional.
Don't think in ways that will make you unhappy, if you have a choice, and, in particular, avoid cynicism.
Attitude is everything. You can choose to have a great life, or a terrible life, because, in most cases, if you have the basics of life(food, shelter, safety, love) it's not an objective calculation; it's entirely how you view it.
2019-08-24 10:47:34: denial
When a culture forbids one to discuss an important aspect of civilization, it sets up a weakness.
That weakness may be made up for in other ways, but it seems to become more problematic over time, as generations pass, and the problems that cannot be understood and/or addressed become more severe and numerous.
Where such matters are discussed, it is then by people deemed outside of mainstream society, and here, things get really unpredictable and hard to call. Fringe groups can be hyper-intellectual, or extremely anti-intellectual, though lately conditions don't appear to be right for the former.
You really need something to be in the light, and to be talked about by moderate people, to keep it from becoming distorted and radicalized.
Denying reality only delays and intensifies an inevitable process of natural correction; putting out every forest fire will eventually lead to a firestorm.
2019-08-18 01:13:59: on the lighter side of the news...
Far left and far right groups slated to kill one another in protests.
This is, far and away, the best news I've heard all year.
Really, can we schedule more of these things? Can we get more of these events on the calendar?
I don't normally write about news events, but it sounds like we're finally going to make some progress, so I'm kind of excited...
2019-08-17 11:43:44: the flow
I've often wondered how people can live a normal life, working at the same place for many years, living in the same place their whole lives...
I suspect little things are exciting to them, like a new coffee machine in the break room, or gossip, or Instagram, or whatever, and that's enough to keep them enthused.
They are probably also stimulated by their friends and family and such, and likely emotionally attached to them, as well, so they don't want to leave them all.
I feel like different places in the US all have their own culture, and a culture is a system, and it's hard to really understand a system without being in it.
Really, there's no point to understanding and learning about 99% of what I'm interested in, and I seem to not be interested in about half of what I should be learning about.
Probably a good 20% of what I know, I wish I did not.
Still, figuring things out is what I do. Learning, is what I do.
I'm a child, after all, and I would not want to live any other way.
2019-08-15 22:08:30: the core
Strict mothers are the backbone of civilization.
2019-08-13 11:34:16: mirror, mirror...
Never trust a mirror.
It's perhaps one's natural inclination to believe that others see us the way we see ourselves in a mirror, both literally and figuratively, but both are far from the truth.
Mirror me is always making eye contact. Mirror me is quite familiar with me, is in a safe place, and is not afraid of me.
Mirror me knows my strengths and weaknesses, my virtues, and my evil.
I trust mirror me, and mirror me trusts me.
What we know about a person shapes our perception of their outward appearance.
The mirror is a case-study in self-deception, on many levels.
2019-08-11 23:19:00: some days...
some days, all of my cognition is meta-cognition...
loneliness is my constant companion (?!)
In any case, I've decided to get a job being lonely. Getting paid to feel lonely should take all the joy out of it, so I won't want to do it any more.
I think it's my best plan yet...
2019-08-10 17:03:46: "caught a bolt of lightning..."
There's never, ever, any guarantee of success.
But if life hands you a stroke of luck, you must match it with your own tenacity.
Taking the strange path in life, intentionally or not, means a very, very hard and dangerous road.
I think about the Autistic people I knew, and the severely socially anxious people I knew, and I think about their lives, and wonder what it would have been like, if I could have been protected from the world like them, and lived within my own tiny little world, like they do.
A few years ago, I would have advised them to take on the world, but now I'm not so sure. They should definitely find ways of having friends, but the workplace is just... hard. It's hard for anyone, but it's particularly hard for really sensitive people, and people who aren't socially skilled, and there just doesn't seem to be any way around that.
In any case, if you do pull the lucky card, and you catch the bolt of lighting, don't let it go, until it takes you where you want to go, no matter how much it hurts, because you might not get another one, and every other option just hurts more, and the agile part of your life is very short.
Though, I suppose to caveat that, do have an exit strategy... you want to be going somewhere, not just frying in place...
(The title quote is from a song by Pearl Jam, called "Nothingman." It has inspired me a lot lately.)
2019-08-06 10:57:39: when you're a stranger...
Intelligent and strange people can fail to conform while simultaneously understanding where others are coming from. It hurts them as much as anyone, but they don't blame anyone in particular. Like anyone under constant pain, they can be jumpy and irritable(often, much to their own dismay), but they don't try to take it out on others.
They take responsibility for their position in society.
Unintelligent and strange people are where things really get problematic, because it mostly depends on who's influencing them. They are under intense stress, but have no way of understanding it, or understanding the active role they play in it.
They blame others.
The nicest people, and the worst people, are strange.
2019-07-12 13:22:37: life
Well, in hindsight, if this is all that it's about, then I guess it's no big deal.
Still, it's kind of annoying, and, rather than doing it again, I hope there are other options available to choose from when the time comes.
Sentient space probe capable of arbitrary-distance warp travel, infinite memory and lifetime, and extremely accurate sensors in every band of the electromagnetic spectrum, might be an ideal choice.
I would like to go around beholding things.
2019-07-11 13:09:07: dark journey
Once you peer into the other side of gender, depending on your nature, a transition to a little-explored state-of-being can become inescapable.
This is because, while you can forget facts and details, you cannot erase an understanding.
And if you are generally empathetic, then once you experience something, you cannot help but remain empathetic to those experiencing the same things.
A medically transgender individual(manually hormone-swapped) is not like a cis-male, or a cis-female, or even like an intersex individual(who can be like almost anything).
We more or less understand what cis-males and cis-females are generally like, and intersex people will, unfortunately, never be quite understood, as there is so much possible variance.
But we will eventually understand what trans-male and trans-female people are generally like: what are their strengths and weaknesses vs. other varieties of humans.
Gender, like genetics, is not everything. But it is not nothing, either.
We should neither refuse to draw conclusions based on direct observation, nor rely only on pre-existing notions, when thinking about individuals or groups of people.
2019-07-05 15:44:35: god?
Child abuse is proof that there is no God, but there certainly is Hell.
I can't really explain why... but, once you see it in action, and extrapolate out to all the times and people and places you don't see, and fast forward mentally to what these children will likely become... or rewind to what these adults likely went through as children... it becomes fairly obvious.
Child abuse/neglect is less about an action and more about intent(or lack of intent). Punishment delivered in a fair manner as a direct and understood consequence is not necessarily abuse. However, actions are a rather complex and contentious subject, in and of themselves...
Abuse is punishment for which there is no reason, and from which there is no escape. It's intent is not to educate, but, generally, as an outlet for frustration, and to achieve a sense of power.
I think we tend to love the most, those who punish and praise in fair and rational measures that are clearly understood. Such a thing seems to flow from someone's intent to teach us something about the world... to work with us... to make us more capable... to prepare us for life... and because of that, I think we're instinctively drawn to such individuals.
As young children, we really have no idea of who we are, who are parents or siblings are, or the length of time we have to deal with things. Young children live in an eternal present, and when you live in a reality of unpredictable, indefinite torture from which there is no escape and no protection, I think it's safe to call that Hell.
The law provides, effectively, very little protection from physical and sexual abuse, and essentially no protection from verbal or emotional abuse.
This is one reason why law is not enough to maintain a civilization; civilization requires culture.
2019-07-02 17:05:02: crazy dreams
If a crazy dream inspires you to do the right things in life, just roll with it.
Lasting inspiration is priceless.
2019-06-29 13:36:36: intercultural criticism
Intercultural criticisms, on matters which do not impact other cultures, are utterly pointless.
Every culture is a system. If you alter any one part of it in isolation, the whole rest of the system will need to be adjusted, or it may fall out of balance.
Criticizing one aspect of another people's culture is really only useful as a political stunt. Feel free to make suggestions, but you'll probably find that other cultures really aren't interested in unsolicited advice.
Nature will sort it all out, like she always does. If a culture is ineffective, it will cease to be.
So, for example, I like Russia. I wouldn't necessarily have a good time there, but if I was born and raised there, I wouldn't be much like I turned out here.
Conversely, within our own culture, we can criticize aspects, because we can and should be familiar with its operation as a whole. Though, in practice, it does tend to fall along the lines of simple conservatism/liberalism, or conformity/nonconformity.
That is to say, people(particularly those outside of East Asia) almost never think of the system as a whole, just whatever part bugs them at the moment.
2019-06-29 03:26:54: playtime
Work cuts into playtime a lot, but without work, there's no play time at all. In fact, things are really, really, really awful without work.
If you have a job, you can take care of other overhead: food, clothing, and shelter(for you and your toys).
If you have typical adult male levels of testosterone, you will have an additional kind of overhead you must deal with, which requires you to perform an activity that, if you think about it, really isn't very interesting at all.
Actually, it's extremely silly.
But there are ways of eliminating that overhead.
Even so, and even with all mandatory self-maintenance optimized, there's still not nearly enough play time.
The crux of the matter is this: I don't know how people can waste time socializing, for non-work purposes, when there are so many neat things to play with... when there are so many neat things to learn... when there is Japan.
Japan is God.
2019-06-27 02:39:16: my everything
You were my everything, but I watched you fade, over the years, into someone I hardly recognized.
Yet still I stayed with you, for years after we should have parted ways, because you were the only one I ever really felt connected to.
It took years before my warm, radiant, happy memories of you finally faded beneath the darkness of what you'd become, and I finally moved on.
I thought you were gone forever, but I hear you're coming back, and you'll be just like you were in the beginning.
I've missed you so much.
It's a cliche phrase, but, really, words cannot describe how much I've missed you.
If you could see the tears filling my eyes at the thought of all those early years of wonder, followed by what seemed like decades of sadness, of light fading into darkness, you might know the depths of my feelings.
But in any case... 27 August, 2019, you return. And so shall I.
(For The Horde)
2019-06-19 12:01:16: the average person
On a tree, ripe apples will have an average size.
In a given society, we have a notion of the average person.
These two concepts are not as closely related as one might think, because humans have rather profound volition about the kind of person they want to be, whether or not they think about it in those terms(or at all).
Given the consequences of nonconformity, I suspect there's an artificially steep bell-curve in the middle; people on the fringes of various attributes, who can, will generally pull themselves towards the center to better match those around them.
And of course, the notion of normal varies tremendously over time and place, so the kind of person who fits effortlessly into the local cultural norm is not necessarily very "normal" at all, compared to whatever genotypical norm humans in an area express.
So if we're in the business of thinking about people and society, we should not get too wrapped up in the notion that the average person is, in any way, the sort of pure average you think of in non-sentient entities.
If, further, we actually want civilization to succeed, and we believe that division of labor is an important part of that, we should really, really try not to interpret and execute on data in such a way that we build a society expressly for only one kind of person: the kind of person who happens to be, or who can accurately mimic, the local norm.
2019-06-12 12:16:42: houses and lives
When I owned a house, I did a lot of work on it.
I realized after a while that, while I could figure everything out eventually by myself, the first time I did a particular repair or install, I generally made a mess of it.
So, either I had to buy enough materials to do it multiple times, which I couldn't afford, or I had to live with the mess I made.
I have found that life is exactly like that, except that do-overs are not an option. You simply must live with the messes you make, in the process of figuring out how to live.
Most of what you learn is no longer applicable. Not for you, because your situation changes, and not even for anyone else, because the world changes so fast these days.
The takeaway lesson is this: don't get born, and don't force anyone else to get born ;)
2019-06-01 20:43:06: problems
I've traveled a lot lately, and I see the same looks of puzzlement on the faces of many quiet, thoughtful looking people, looking around at the teeming masses of humanity around us in airports and hotels: "How did we fall so far, so fast?"
I have my theories as to the cause, but sharing them would only get me in trouble, and I don't think the problems are solvable, other than through the natural rise and fall of civilizations, so, to cut to the chase... what can we do about it right now?
We have to keep in mind that, despite outward appearances, thoughtful, empathetic people are still being born all the time, even in places like the United States, and the key difficulty is gathering them, and protecting them from everyone else.
While the real gems of people are probably increasingly hard to find, we should not overestimate the difficulty of finding subtle ways of filtering for people with at least basic intelligence and empathy. Some examples:
2019-05-26 16:06:35: do anything
The old exercise in determining what you really want to do is, "If you could do anything, what would you do?"
That has never worked too well for me, but with one proviso, it seems to work better:
"If you died and remained as an immortal ghost, which could still touch things and be touched if you desire, then what would you do?"
Particularly as the awareness of the limitations of our lifespan begins to intrude on our consciousness... and as we come to realize how long our previous endeavors actually took to come into fruition, we begin to discard things that take too long.
But time really isn't that precious. It can't be.
How can we worry about what comes after death, while remaining unconcerned about what things were like before conception?
Other than work, nothing needs to get done. None of this will remain. Everything is temporary, and everyone and everything is always changing.
Living is okay while it's okay, and the desire to start fresh is balanced by the enjoyment and peace that comes with our hard-won understanding of life.
There is plenty of time, in the calm waters out past the tumultuous breaking waves of youth.
Probably best to do lots of things, and not think too much about life itself. Life will take care of wrapping things up, all by itself.
In the meantime... just keep playing...
2019-05-07 22:12:25: social vs. actual reality
Actual reality is always there, if you think for yourself.
Social reality tends to veer off in a predictable vector from actual reality, within a given social space.
Only nature forces corrections. Capitalism has been so effective not because it's so wonderful at managing production, but because it's very good at continuously allowing nature to correct the system, though it still lags at times.
Social reality tends to stagnate, and entrench itself in predictable patterns, while actual reality tracks about in a smooth fashion.
This is not to say that social reality is irrelevant; it is merely one aspect of the overall framework of human life. Much like a heat engine derives work from a thermal gradient, one can derive many things by interposing one's machinations between social and actual reality.
Or, having abandoned personal ambition, and being weak and vulnerable in social situations, it is simply necessary to know where the herd is going before it decides to go there, lest one be trampled, without the slightest care or concern, beneath its weighty hooves.
2019-05-05 16:04:45: people and clouds
When I was trying to figure out where stratospheric balloons would fly, I learned that the atmosphere was an incredibly complex system, even though it was driven by just a few basic components: air, water, and heat.
Rising, expanding parcels of air cool off. Water vapor condenses when it gets cold, and precipitates. The sun heating the earth stirs up the atmosphere like water in a cooking pan, from surface temperature, down to about -60F. Heating, cooling, rising, falling, evaporating, condensing, expanding, contracting... churning, chaotically, seemingly forever.
People are like that, too. They have only a few basic emotional prime movers, but from those, all manner of human drama plays out around us; loving and hating, seeking and avoiding, fighting and mating, testosterone and estrogen... we're not so complicated, at our core.
At some point, I realized that understanding people, in a scientific manner, is probably the worst thing a person can possibly do to itself. It's quite maddening, in fact, when you realize you're merely and inescapably a puppet; a pile of flesh and bone which serves only to propagate the code stored in the nucleus of every squishy cell of its body, which can neither escape the fundamental temperament of that code, or the nature of the environment used for calibration during its boot-up sequence.
Perhaps that's why so many thinkers rebel against the very notion of being human, and aspire to become pure spirits; thought devoid of the base interference of mammalian emotion.
Maybe because it seems base. Or maybe because it hurts too much to feel when you understand how ridiculous your feelings are, and you understand nature's true intent behind those feelings.
Maybe that's one fundamental difference between the sky and life: the clouds never have an agenda, but life always does, though it's a very simple one:
2019-04-20 21:29:19: casual conversation
I have a test for you!
I will start with a statement, which you must come up with an appropriate response for in less than a second, otherwise you fail.
The statement will not lend itself to any particular response, and may or may not be a question. If the statement is a question, there's only a slim chance that the correct response is to actually answer the question.
For any statement I give you, there's a particular set of acceptable responses, but you don't know what they are. If you choose outside of that set of responses, you fail.
Should you answer correctly, I'll give you another statement, and you must again respond correctly, within the 1 second time limit, or you fail.
The test ends once you fail. You can't pass, because I'll keep giving you questions until you fail.
If anything, you'll lose more points the further you get before you fail, because, if you answered all the preceding questions correctly, then failing a statement further on means you deliberately chose to be obstreperous, and are not merely incompetent(the only two possibilities).
Really, the best outcome for you is to pretend you didn't hear my statement, in which case you may escape a bad grade on a technicality, though, the incident will probably come back to haunt you, anyways.
2019-04-09 12:54:48: hate
Hating categorically on a group of people is an emotional indulgence that denotes a lack of emotional and mental discipline and maturity.
To survive life comfortably, one should understand people as thoroughly as time permits. Emotions cloud that understanding. Emotions cause you to waste mental and physical effort better spent on more rational things.
Do not waste time; particularly in the present age, there is no time to waste.
I'm not sure there's a knowledge-based route to understanding hate: the best lesson is to actually be hated, for non-personal reasons. It's tempting to hate back, but that would just be succumbing to human weakness.
You have to deeply empathize with the people that hate you for no particular reason, in order to understand the pointlessness of hate so deeply that you abandon it yourself.
It hurts. It hurts so much that, after awhile, you may notice your tolerance for physical pain becomes surprisingly high.
But pain in the best teacher.
2019-03-26 06:11:26: voice
Sometimes, she spoke to those around her, and they said various things in response, but they didn't quite seem to get what she was saying.
Then, one day, she realized that when she thought she was talking, she was actually barking.
While this revelation was somewhat startling in and of itself, what it implied was far more problematic: if she'd missed something so basic as the difference between barking and talking, then the task of communicating with humans was as out of reach to her as abstract algebra was to a donkey.
Perhaps it was a missing library of common psycho-linguistic symbols, or perhaps communication was happening on side-bands. Perhaps it was some bit of magic she'd lost, or some bits of magic she'd never had.
The wading pool she stood in still looked like just a little wading pool. She felt the hard plastic on her feet, and saw the brightly colored designs around the edges.
But sometimes, while she gazes at it, just before her eyes close to blink, she sees the ocean.
Not an awareness of the distance. Only a frightening awareness that her perception of the distance was completely unreliable, and that important bits of the universe were actually unfolding in a manner totally beyond her senses.
Certainly, should one find that one has sleepwalked onto a battlefield between advanced alien species wielding weaponry of unimaginable complexity, perhaps it's best, then, to cede the ground to the aliens, and attempt to find a quiet hole to hide in, for the remainder of your earthly existence.
2019-03-17 03:11:16: humans
I don't like to meddle in the affairs of humans.
I've discovered that even being friendly can turn them against you. For example, if you start to make friends with someone, their existing friends may be dismayed.
So it's probably best to befriend people who either have no other friends, have only acquaintances, or who do not presently have someone providing the particular functionality you may provide them with(at least, in the amount they require).
2019-03-09 22:43:14: solitary mind
2019-03-08 00:12:58: excessive intellect
Reproduction always wins, in the long-run, over non-reproduction, regardless of the unsavory other traits which may be associated with particular bands of fecund individuals.
When your people become too smart and sophisticated for having children, you die off.
Meanwhile, less sophisticated people are reproducing rapidly. And there probably will come a time in their future when many of them will be killed off. But that's okay, because there will be a lot of smart ones surviving, and their survival prowess will then be evident to their potential mates.
The people who found children too tedious, as a whole, will have been marginalized by then.
I wish nature had better taste, but nature really, really doesn't care.
2019-02-27 07:35:23: appearances
I dress strange, and my overall appearance is certainly peculiar.
But it's not exactly that I don't care; I would certainly like an aesthetically-pleasing, confidence-inspiring appearance, that would put the hearts and minds of those around me(during those unfortunate moments I have no choice but to subject them to me) at ease.
Though I'd prefer to simply be invisible.
However, my time is already heavily over-committed with other things either more important to me, or more interesting. So I dress for maximal functionality and minimal upkeep.
I have to work as a programmer. It really doesn't matter what I look like for that, as long as I'm not either an HR or a safety hazard. That takes a lot of time and focus.
I am also slowly learning Japanese. That takes a huge amount of time, and I enjoy it quite a bit more than trying to maintain a wardrobe.
I am also maintaining and adding various computer-related skills that are not even in the same category as what I program for work, so that takes additional time and attention.
So I am a little embarrassing to myself. But once I've crossed over into "extremely embarrassed", I dissociate and feel no anxiety whatsoever, so it's actually more comfortable to be really weird than a little weird.
So, I go for it.
Apologies, in advance...
2019-02-25 23:26:16: The Nintendo Generation
The mid-1970's have proven to be quite an interesting moment to be born.
I grew up with books and computers, but without Internet, and certainly without mobile. Yet I landed in college precisely as the commercial Internet was being born.
I think my generation, being quite narrowly defined within perhaps 3 to 4 years of my birth(due to rapid technological change), has, in recent years, often wondered where it belongs.
Being highly technically competent in computer and Internet technology, steeped in the fantasy worlds written in long novels, but lacking the connection with either the preceding non-digital culture, or the following Internet or mobile cultures.
Particularly the nerds among us are truly, as proclaimed by one of the drill sergeants who greeted my flight in 1994, "The Nintendo Generation." (In reference to the first generation NES).
Probably the most isolated generation in the history of globalized humanity, and probably the most isolated that will ever be.
2019-02-01 20:46:16: the future
It's really deeply unclear to me how the model we've been living in since the industrial revolution will work now.
If I were to recommend a strategy for the nations of the world, it would be to continue to preserve international strength, but to de-tune the domestic economy in ways that make the entire course of life more human.
While humans are remarkably adaptable, I think adapting to a world where nothing needs to be done is a bit of a stretch.
I would heavily pursue de-centralization of all matter of production to keep people involved and busy. It seems this is somewhat the case already, as YouTube follower count seems to be emerging as a fundamental social status symbol.
Perhaps the cultures that will thrive in this century, are ones that understand how to mitigate the corrosive impact of Internet culture, and how to impose an alternative rule-set, to keep people functional, and buy us time to evolve our cultures and ourselves, to handle this new reality.
2019-01-30 06:41:44: please let the devs in
H1-B system is all rogered up. Silicon Valley is imploding.
Local companies are trying crazy things, like offices in the mid-west.
Because they can't outspend Google on hiring, and leased office space here is so expensive, we're sitting on each other's laps.
In a way though, that's how America works. That's how America stays in business: by mindlessly creating disaster after disaster, we continuously generate economic activity. We have enough space to write off entire cities due to planning mistakes, and everyone who can move, just goes somewhere else.
The poor people stay until the place becomes enough of a gang-infested hell-hole that it becomes trendy to move back in. Then they have to move somewhere else, because they can't afford the rent any more.
But... seriously though, please let the people in that want to program.
2019-01-25 08:44:16: This just in...
Given up on humanity.
It's not you, it's me.
Still, I love the Japanese. They're okay in my book. I give them all my money, because they make the best things, and can still think, and dream, and cooperate with each other, and work hard.
I am so very stressed out.
2019-01-22 00:15:13: dirt
My favorite game lately is "Spintires: Mudrunner."
No time limits, no competitors. Just a bunch of really cool trucks, mostly Russian military tractors, with the goal of moving logs from somewhere to somewhere else.
It's the first time I've played a game where the physics engine really made the game. It helps that it's almost always overcast in the game world, often dark, deep in muddy forests. I don't like direct sunlight, even in games.
My anime is 100% escapist.
I have a lot of worries, lately. I really like open space. This place has been slowly driving me insane. I pace a lot in my apartment. I have felt trapped since I got here, with frustrated, and angry humanity impinging upon me from all directions.
In order to take a vacation to try to relieve some stress, I booked air travel, before I heard about the government shutdown. So now even my vacation plans are just more stress. Will ATC still be alive then? How much pizza can Canada spare?
I've fought myself constantly to keep me here. I'm not a city girl. In fact, I'm only slightly non-feral.
Leaving would bring an end to one kind of stress, and the resumption of another. But that's how it goes. It just depends on what kind of stress you prefer.
2019-01-06 20:25:06: the apple and the cookie
You walk into room with a table. On that table, on a silver plate set out for you, are a cookie and an apple.
You will probably eat the cookie first.
The cookie is far easier to eat, and sweeter.
In fact, if you walk into the room and there's only an apple, you may not bother eating it at all, unless you are particularly hungry.
As long as there are cookies around, Apples don't seem so great.
But there's something important lurking here: cookies don't make you any happier. If anything, in the long run, they cause problems vs. apples. Despite knowing this, you'll preferentially eat them, anyways.
If cookies disappeared from the face of the earth, it really wouldn't affect your long term happiness.
Now... suppose you walk into a room, and on the table is an interesting book... and a game console...
Technology is a jealous god. An invisible force that controls our lives. A global tyrant.
Technology destroys our societies from within. Yet, without it, we are weak and defenseless, and would be destroyed from the outside.
If you are interested in the long-term outcome of a society, that is the situation you must face.
2018-12-30 19:26:07: elitism
2018-10-29 09:59:41: the seed
I think that if you:
2018-10-21 12:13:07: Unexpected Consequences
"Would you leave your child alone with your pit bull?"
In addition to being the verbal equivalent of an incendiary grenade, such a question is a great starting point for exploring a whole host of problems stemming from living in a society that is willfully and proudly ignorant.
It turns out that, in this day and age, they're probably better off with a mild-mannered pitbull they've grown up with, than cute, but increasingly-sketchy retrievers. Things were better when wealthy individuals made a hobby of perfecting dog breeds for various purposes.
Tame creatures are kind of messed up to begin with, for reasons too complex to go into here.
This, however, begs the question: "Why are we leaving small children alone with animals?"
I used to watch Animal Planet a lot, and you'd often see the only child, or the distantly youngest child in a family, lounging about with the family dog. Their companion since they were born. Maybe their only companion. Maybe the only thing that touches them, or interacts with them.
And I smiled, because I love strange things. And if there's anything stranger than animals who've imprinted on humans, it's humans imprinted on animals:
Of all creatures wild and wonderful, it's intelligent furries that I love the most.
2018-10-15 02:57:58: the weather is always perfect
The weather is so boring here, the National Weather Service is celebrating the anniversary of that time it got smoky from a fire up north.
(I'm only happy when it rains...)
2018-08-18 14:10:26: Mobile Hand Platform
Look at your hands in front of a mirror. That's some amazing hardware.
Fundamentally, we are a mobile hand platform, with a sophisticated sensor package mounted above and between the hand positioners.
How would you even go about programming a robot hand to reach into a pocket and grab your keys, while not grabbing or dislodging your wallet, and not scratching or spilling your smartphone? You can do that without even thinking about it.
I think our hands are as amazing and wondrous as anything in the world.
2018-08-10 14:02:36: one thing well
Focus is the only way to do something well.
If you can't rely on society, you must be passably good at everything, and you will excel at nothing.
Law is a very poor, extremely expensive, and extremely inefficient substitute for trust.
2018-08-05 03:49:48: good things...
Good things only come as a side effect of doing the right things.
2018-07-29 16:42:53: startups and power structures
In this context, a power structure is a constraint through which work must flow, that is visible to management, that provides an objective measure of work completeness and/or quality. It frequently, but not always, occurs at the boundaries of group responsibility.
It's only when the work becomes both tedious and stressful, the power structures come in to play.
You won't notice if your power structures are proper until it's too late.
If you do not actively manage power structures, they will be managed by primal social forces, which are generally inimical, in the west in particular, to business interests. Those primary social forces become more intense the more people are placed within a social domain.
2018-07-28 04:34:34: the delusions of reason
Thinkers tend to spend their lives tripped up and confused, unable to understand that what others really like about them probably has nothing to do with what they seek in others.
They trust only reason, and that's fine, except that something very unreasonable is guiding the operation all along... in themselves, and in others.
Love is not so far away as you think it might be, particularly if you are one prone to consider the question of your lovability.
And, in fact, even if you trust only reason, the world is awash in the fantasy worlds of the people you seek; you've only to look deeply into those worlds to understand.
Yet it still takes a leap of faith, that the mind of another, equal in reasoning ability, can seem to operate so differently from our own.
Or that all those years of introspective thinking still leaves so much uncorrected and confused, even of ourselves.
That you can go away from home in the morning feeling completely robotic, with a heart of concrete and steel, and return with a heart full of painful little butterflies, because you looked into someone's eyes a few too many times, and the carefully restrained human in you breaks loose and shoves your intellect aside.
But maybe in a way it's reassuring, when you're so full of self-doubt, and you've run around in your mind so many times that your original track is hopelessly obscured, to know something certain about yourself.
Reason is always uncertain, otherwise it would be faith, and faith is uncomfortable.
But you can know what you feel with absolute certainty. You can watch all the humanity in yourself come alive, in a way that's so natural, and so obvious, when it's around something it feels very strongly about.
No matter how unreasonable it may be, or hopeless it may seem.
Maybe it's not so hopeless.
And you are definitely not yours to control, because you are reason, and your heart is insane.
2018-07-14 21:24:13: logically fair
Particularly in a privately held startup with the original founders, all things stem from the founders.
A million decisions made with a million conflicting insights resulted in the present state of things. Few can get very far.
Respect those that can. Respect those that can even make a good effort.
Without them, I would have no money. They do not take spending money lightly, or they would not exist. They implicitly trust me. I therefore implicitly must trust their higher-order preferences. Those preferences take precedence over all.
I exist within a local system, however. I push the boundaries of that system in the direction I believe the origin(the founders) would like to go. But I cannot push it so far that the overall system degrades, because that would be detrimental to the overall mission.
No one really has very much power. Even a CEO of a private company must live within the confines of the human systems they generate(not to mention the board of directors). These systems have strengths and weaknesses, visible and invisible, that change over time, and can be evolved, subject to certain rate limits, and are subject to opportunity.
My limits are all too apparent to me lately, but still, I push. I am a knight(or mercenary, perhaps), and I have a king, and generals, and they give me the means to a comfortable life, and so I fight on their behalf... to strive to give back what i receive, is logically fair. Is honorable.
Victory can always be taken from you, but honor is yours forever, if you choose; a glowing little ember, of your ideals... of your creator... of all that is sacred, and most of all, all that is pure, keeping your ragged soul warm through the coldest of nights.
2018-07-08 16:25:36: Kanji Cards
I've been using Genki's apps for vocab and kanji since I started, but since going to intermediate("Tobira" highly recommend) I started using physical kanji cards(White Rabbit) for initial learning.
Unlike apps, I seem to get emotionally attached to the physical cards. Not sure how much it helps, but I think emotions are always helpful in memorizing things.
2018-07-07 21:12:24: complexity limits
One lesson of rapid software development seems to be, that once you head down that road, you're committed to it. You must develop and redevelop at a certain pace, because the stack underneath you, composed of myriad open source projects maintained by a constantly changing group of individuals with constantly changing interests, is inherently unstable.
Your initial time to market is extremely fast, but your ongoing maintenance is higher. If you simply stop working on it, it will rapidly cease to function, and cannot be resurrected, because so many things will simultaneously become outdated that it will be impossible to figure out how to fix it.
Continuous integration not only permits, but demands continuous work.
Even adding no new features, a rapidly developed system demands a large amount of continuous developer effort to maintain. More features added to such a system make this effort requirement increase faster.
All the while, people are losing interest in your application stack, and maybe there's another key observation to be found here:
If the fashion of your software stack was instrumental in attracting developers to it, it will similarly eventually drive them away, because a live system on a startup budget generally cannot evolve much beyond its roots.
In America, with people in America, it generally takes at least four years to establish an Internet tech business from the ground up, and if it takes longer than eight years to get acquired or IPO, it will start to fail.
There are no exceptions, because its not simply about code, or developers; its about people, living within a certain culture. Even if you are far beyond the ability of the average person... even if your entire management team is stellar, you are still limited by the culture that surrounds you; the culture of the people you depend on.
Taking a big step back, we're simply stuck in a way of thinking that dates to the industrial revolution. Those problems are solved, and we only find ourselves in these races because so little of that ground has yet to be exploited.
We have things. We have information. We have entertainment. We are still pretty unhappy; probably more unhappy than ever, because we are not rational economic entities; we are humans.
Efficiency has nothing to do with happiness.
2018-07-04 18:02:24: human evolution
Arranged marriages are probably far more ideal for civilization-era human evolution than otherwise.
Consider that, at our best age for reproduction, we have a very poor understanding of the world in general, and default to instinct.
In admittedly broad brushstrokes, women prefer bolder and more assertive mates, where men just want something pretty and cute. One can easily imagine what lies down that evolutionary path by thinking about what it leaves out.
By forcing mate selection to a broader context of success(a family successful in an economic, military, technical, or some other civilization-related context), we broaden the traits selected for.
It is probably also the case that humans are more content when given fewer options, and are more willing to make a situation work when they have a very strong impetus to avoid giving up on it.
More tentatively, I kind of suspect humans more optimized for advanced civilization are actually less adept at inter-gender relationships. Civilized life requires analytical thought, but it's so far beyond the norm for someone to understand the gender perspective divide, that someone who simply accepts things at face value is better suited for such a relationship.
For example, "This seems to make this person mad. I don't know why, but, whatever, I won't do it." Vs. "This makes this person mad. I don't understand why, and therefore, I find their behavior irritating, and refuse to change my behavior, because they are the ones being irrational."
2018-06-26 13:19:23: altruism
I'll leave it to the philosophers to debate the purity and existence of altruism; all that really matters to me is the end result.
Do your actions add to, or detract from, the social capital of the group you exist in?
Whether you sacrifice for the good of the group because you identify closely with other members, or because you feel a complex sense of indebtedness, or because you secretly want others to admire you, or because you realize being selfish is inherently pointless, or you realize that pleasure-seeking is actually a losing game, or all of these things, or other reasons... as long as you strive principally to rise above your own nature, I don't think you need to beat yourself up over your underlying motivations.
Never give up. Never stop questioning yourself. Never stop trying to be better.
Never stop viewing yourself from the outside, and wondering how you would feel about you. "Am I beautiful on the inside?"
Do I embody the things I hold sacred?
Am I pure? What about me is tainted?
How can I burn away the corruption?
2018-06-18 16:40:55: ideographic
Encoding English into text is simple, and has always been simple. Correct spelling is a difficult, but even with that in mind, if you can speak English, you can pick up reading English fairly easily.
Ideographic text, while really neat and fun to learn, does take a long time and a lot of effort to learn. The barrier to entry is much higher. And you may wonder, maybe it would be better to use that precious early classroom time learning something else, and have a simpler writing system.
But who can read, who can write, to what level they can do so, and what other learning has necessarily accompanied that process, is central to how a civilization progresses over time.
With many factors in mind... yes, ideographic writing systems are just fine. In fact, they might just be essential for a long lasting civilization.
2018-06-17 18:12:23: bark machine
It's basically impossible to live in this country without a good chance you get one of these next door, or next apartment over. You can't help but learn to hate these things, even if it isn't their fault, and you know they're just really unhappy because they don't have anything to do or smell or see or listen to.
Dog ownership in urban or suburban settings, for most dogs, is life-long torture. For the dogs, and the neighbors.
2018-06-09 04:48:12: fracture
Some of us enter adulthood with a major psychological design defect.
It doesn't become apparent until we really get put to the test, and we take some abuse. Some combination of our inherent traits, and our early lives, left some component that was doomed to fail, after trying to get through life with it.
There's no going back. There's no ordering parts. And in order to fix it, you first must break catastrophically, because only then is your mind willing to concede defeat, and accept change, and, in some cases, accept a loss of the safety of the pretense of normality.
You put yourself back together, with your newfound awareness of how you are made, and it feels much better. The inner stresses that shattered you are gone, and you have only to content with a world that sees your weakness... sees the cracks where you glued and puttied yourself back together. The empty holes from the screws you lost in the process.
If age has any benefit at all, it's peace. A resolution of the dissonance between who you're trying to be, and who you are.
People still hurt. Life still hurts. But it makes sense, and it's not frustrating, and it's not shocking, and you don't blame anyone, because you can relate to ignorance, and you can relate to misunderstanding, and free will isn't all that likely.
And maybe you'd prefer this tried and tested you to a brand new you, and having to figure it out all over again right away, and instead want some time to relax before the next incarnation, between the time when you have the worst parts figured out, and the time when you can no longer serve any useful purpose.
Time really doesn't go by quickly, if you keep an eye on it, and you keep learning.
A string of little pearls, life... this moment you're in right now, if you can read this, and if you can still wonder about big and small things in the universe, and what great philosophers were like in person, and why electric blue feels the way it does, or why pancakes taste so good.
2018-06-04 16:51:51: strange transformation
One theme I tend to repeat:
There are no problems in the universe. Nature has no conception of such a thing.
Problems are a matter of human perception, and as such, you can solve them either directly, or by changing your perception that they are a problem.
My transformation began in a rather naive fashion, and a few of the original goals succeeded. But also, my perception changed entirely. My mind is a bit more adaptable than most, it seems, when it comes to personality, so perhaps this is not a common outcome for the things I've undertaken.
In that change of perception, I saw into an entirely new world. And if your prime mover is curiosity like me, you'll realize that's something you could never turn back from... like suddenly seeing in a normally invisible wavelength, or going from one eyes to two...
Of course, I also became even stranger than before, which poses many practical problems.
But the really painful problems went away, because my perception of them as such went away.
I am immersed in strangeness. I radiate it. I live to trip and fall down every rabbit hole I can find, and every time, I emerge a bit stranger.
It's not a bad way to pass the time. Difficult, yes, in a practical sense... very very difficult to keep yourself provisioned and safe, living in such a fashion. Recently, only luck saved me from a fate worse than death. But still... very, very interesting.
2018-06-03 17:32:04: playtime
People normally go through two stages in life: learning(childhood) and doing(adulthood).
We don't really have the option, as modern people, and particularly as programmers, to stop learning and simply apply previously obtained knowledge. We spend much more time learning(languages, techniques, how particular code works, why something isn't working) than doing.
Therefore, in order to continue to learn as effortlessly as possible, for as long as possible, we must remain children, because the mode of operation cannot be detached from fundamental state of mind.
Now, doing so is made much more complicated by the fact that child-like behavior, in people who should be capable of adult-like behavior, is viewed as a sign of disability.
This is because another key aspect of adult behavior is instrumentality. From the perspective of individualistic, self-interested animals in the business of doing things(especially those of the west), lacking the utility of adult behavior(ensuring one's position in a social hierarchy, maintaining various complex relationships, etc) could only be construed as a defect.
And this is compounded by the fear of the unknown(and related dislike of anything which differs from the norm), which drives the need in people to conform to a particular pattern of complex behavior, not merely for whatever direct instrumentality it provides, but to simply avoid appearing strange.
It also seems to be the case that most adults are unable to perceive the behavior of others as being anything other than primarily instrumental. Or more generally, lack the realization that others may have differing motivations than their own(and thus, their behavior may have a different impetus).
This awareness perhaps just takes time to develop. It certainly took a long time for me to figure out.
In any case, therefore, the path to playtime is fraught with peril, but worthwhile, as adulthood just seems to me to be some sort of pre-death stasis hell.
2018-05-29 18:46:54: The Point
"What's the point?"
We have everything we need, and we realize that everything we still want is mostly just for the sake of having something to want.
We're not on top, but we're comfortable and stable and cozy. We realize that there's something unfulfilling about this lifestyle, but there seems to be no reasonable way out of an existential neurosis that was brought about by reason.
Enemies and rivals help, but you can only leverage those so much before it becomes quite obvious that your enemies just want to eat, sleep, and be merry just like you. Never mind the curse of actually losing all your rivals, should you become dependent on their existence for your cultural solidarity...
There are stresses in the world, old enemies, the nettlesome annoyance of various occupations, border squabbles, etc., but as long as no one backs anyone else into a corner(and no one has any logical reason to do so), it seems civilization is destined to keep cooling off until a powerful nation becomes stupid enough to get really fired up over something ridiculous, or perhaps some actual critical material shortage surfaces?
So, maybe instead of trying to preserve your culture en-masse, you concentrate on maintaining a little island of it, amidst the sprawl and decay, as a pilot light, for when the time comes that people get desperate, and hungry, and perhaps even angry enough, to get the point.
2018-05-19 18:44:53: them
If we realize that what's easy for us may be difficult for others, and if, more profoundly, we start to understand just how many different kinds of skills a human possesses... well, there's a great deal we have to learn about ourselves and one another, before we can free ourselves of unhelpful emotions.
Emotion is only useful when it is pro-social. Otherwise, accept it for what it is... the grunts and whines of our inner beasts that can no more navigate a technological world than a dog can fly a plane.
But what of that very notion that we even can override our emotions? Not everyone can, for whatever reason. And of course, it's not as simple as can or can't, either.
If I know why you hate me, it doesn't bother me as much.
2018-05-09 16:05:25: Cultural Locus of Feeling
If I have a feeling, is it relevant information?
If you have a feeling that I perceive, is that my feeling, or yours? Do your feelings map into my own feelings, and if so, what is the mapping?
It seems in psychology, the only really useful thing to do is ask questions, because anything you can possibly state is so fraught with preconditions and uncertainty, it feels egotistical to even try.
Perhaps its also the case that wanting to understand things can, in certain circumstances, become a prime motivation, and not simply a tool for other goals.
We realize, over and over, that things are not as simple as we once believed, but still we burn with desire to understand. Not to know everything, but to at least know the heart of everything. Within a given system, what are the axioms? What are the essential elements from which all other things are formed?
Of civilization, perhaps the most unsettling thing of all is how uncontrolled and unpremeditated it is. Because at the heart of any civilization, no matter how complex, lies the first relationship a human has. This relationship is almost never managed with the long-term prospects of civilization in mind. When it does align, it is wonderful, but also circumstantial.
Would that this alignment could be deliberate? If we were intensely conditioned, consistently, and at the right moments, through pain, and through pleasure, and through whatever mechanisms, name-able and otherwise, we begin with, and we develop over time?
What a brilliant machine we could become...
2018-05-07 19:32:50: resurrection
The years post-HRT have been rather... insane. But have stabilized lately.
I've been in Silicon Valley for the past year, and have gotten caught up on a lot of things, and have learned a lot about the current culture of programming.
It's not much fun to play outside here. I spend my free time studying the language of a culture I rather admire, and contemplating various things relating to societies, consumption, and the future.
I think I will post here more, since it can be part of my language learning routine. Though my grammar will be terrible, since I don't actually get any practice.
2015-07-19 19:04:58: still love my CR-Z
I regularly go to a particular grocery store, and the checkers do a strange thing in the mornings, when there aren't many customers yet.
After they ring up someone's order, they immediately switch to an adjacent checkstand, to ring up the next person's order. They're constantly shifting registers.
I finally asked why, and the manager wants them to do it. Because otherwise, if everyone just checks out at the one counter, the software used to analyze checkouts will make it appear that customers were piling up at one checkstand. So instead, customers are constantly and confusingly redirected, and hours are wasted logging into and out of cash registers.
Numbers are not the full story. A naive interpretation of stats is the hobgoblin of simple minds.
In every posted article with responses, there's the usual litany of charges brought against the CR-Z:
2014-01-15 06:03:47: I love my CR-Z
Once I discovered the CR-Z, I couldn't get it out of my mind.
You can read the reviews and the specs elsewhere; I just want to talk about why it's my beloved.
It is a series hybrid with a manual transmission(manual was my number one priority). But this is somewhat odd for a hybrid, because it takes some control away from the car in respect to how it generates power. So you need to spend some time learning how to work with the car. When you get control via the 6-speed manual, to get the most out of the car, you have to learn to work with it. Don't worry, it has lots of ways of telling you how it's doing, and it's very fun to learn.
You can get one with a CVT, but to me, that seems kind of wrong in a CR-Z.
If you drive it like a gas-only car, you aren't doing it right. Just approach it with an open mind, note all that electric torque in the low RPM range, and just play and play and play with it.
The hybrid system is a power transmutation system. The CR-Z is not a race car that can go hard all day long. It accelerates quickly, but only for short periods of time. Which, it turns out, is what most of us actually need for merging/passing/manuevering.
On really long, steep hills in the mountains, remember you have to downshift. If you completely dump the battery, you'll have to either do so, or you'll slow down and have to fight your way back up into the proper RPM range, so better to beat it to the punch and still have some charge left on top. How much you decide to use of the battery depends on how much you can get back from regenerative braking on the other side. The gauge will tell you how much the electric part is doing. Just another thing to keep you entertained.
Okay, so it gets great gas mileage, the EPA loves it, and it's pretty quick despite that. But then more intangibles come in.
It is a very well-built car, with a well-proven engine, and over a decade of hybrid engineering refinement.
And the car just seems to know what to do for you, and when to do it. I'm easily annoyed, but there is simply nothing annoying about the CR-Z driver interface. It makes only the noises at you it needs to, and they are pleasant, sensible noises. The dashboard is... well, it defies description. It's utterly beautiful and functional, and mildly trippy, to boot.
And, yes, I think it is, overall, a beautiful, sensuously curvy little car. It's a sexy, high-quality hybrid that's fun to drive, gets great gas mileage, and doesn't cost too much. And I love mine very much indeed.
2013-08-31 17:29:14: On hummingbird feeder design
It's not as simple as it may seem at first.
The goal is to give hummingbirds, and only hummingbirds, of all sizes, a steady supply of clean nectar to lap up, in a manner safe and convenient for them.
There are tradeoffs for every design I've tried.
Like most, I started off with the standard four-flower Perky-Pet hummingbird feeders found almost everywhere. Pluses are, it seems to be convenient for all hummingbirds to drink from. It holds up fairly steady in wind, perhaps due to it's hyperboloid glass bottle. It's very easy to see how full it is. A contrasting shade other than yellow might be better for the insect screen, as yellow more quickly attracts wasps. Minuses are, it's very awkward to clean. You develop a routine, and it's not that bad, but the bottle is very hard to clean. It's probably also the drippiest feeder when shaken by wind or hummer landings/takeoffs. Held steady, it's fine.
I never let nectar sit in a feeder for more than 48 hours, and it cools off nicely here in the mountains at night. That certainly keeps any feeder easy to clean, but you'll still get some stuff building up no matter what, which is why it's essential you can easily get to every part of the feeder.
I was getting way too many wasps, so I tried out the bowl-type Hummzinger. It is undoubtedly the easiest to clean. It does not drip, period. Hummers with larger beaks have no trouble drinking from it. It's main downfall is the inconsistent nectar distance. It may be the case that, eventually, most hummers can eventually completely drain the thing, but it becomes sub-optimal.
Hummers sort of lap/wick up the nectar with their tongues into their mouths, so the greater the amount of tongue they can get into the nectar, the faster they can drink. You might not think speed is an issue, but for less-dominant hummers, or where wasps still skulk petulantly about your feeder(even if they can't get to the nectar), they'd prefer to eat as quickly as possible.
Smaller hummers just seem kind of annoyed by the 12oz Hummzinger when it gets below about 6-8oz. I think they still can, but they prefer the bottle ones. When I have tons of hummers out in mid-summer, I'll often see the largest-beaked hummers perching triumphantly on the Hummzinger, like they're thinking, "yeah... may be too difficult for lesser hummers, but it's no match for my awesomeness."
Then recently at Zamzow's I discovered Dr. JB's hummingbird feeder. It's about the best compromise I've met so far. Very easy to clean, except for one narrow spot in the base between the baffle and the bottle tube. Doesn't drip once in place. No yellow parts. Perch is a little too high; perhaps a limitation of their injection molding process. An add-on perch ring that goes lower would be a nice addition.
The trick with Dr JB's is getting it flipped over after filling it, without nectar splashing out. Rotate quickly(not too quickly) and smoothly usually works. If you have issues with bugs, I recommend flipping it inside over the sink in case you need to clean it up a bit before hanging it outside. The baffle does a pretty good job of stopping this initial dribble, but it isn't perfect. Still, better to have one initial leak than to have it dribble in operation. Also, is a little tricky to tell when it's almost empty, but it's a minor issue. You don't want your feeders to run out, ever.
So that seems to be the state of hummingbird feeder affairs. Not perfect, but getting better.
And just in case you're new to hummers, 1 part cane sugar to 4 parts water is the way to go. Hummers don't give a crap what color the nectar is as long as the feeder's red, food coloring and preservatives probably aren't good for them, and all they need or want from nectar is the sucrose and water(maybe the trace minerals in the water too). They get their other nutrients from bugs.
2013-08-01 04:46:22: private cloud?
Well ok, lets assume you have a CD called "AWS on a platter". Great! Now you just need to buy a few hundred servers, a massive storage array, a data center with redundant power, cooling, and network connections, and add in a staff of top-notch network, storage, and server experts, and, somehow, manage them all...
At some point, people may get over it and realize the real magic of AWS is Amazon. Building a large, innovative, technically competent company... well, I have no idea how one does that. I not only wouldn't know where to begin, but I'm not entirely sure it's not a mass hallucination, or AWS is really a layer on top of alien technology.
Secondarily, the reason public cloud works is *because* every aspect of computing resources is billed for. This is the only thing that keeps developers in check. Offer people the illusion of unlimited resources, and that illusion will dissipate very rapidly.
This is not to say public cloud is the answer to everything. It's just another tool in the box. But do match the solution to the scale. I think for most, server and some light network virtualization is good enough. Give your developers a rack of used servers to play on; if they break, that's just better testing. If it doesn't work on a slightly different Linux flavor of the same kernel vintage, then either the code is overblown and in dependency-hell, or you lack systems programmers. Or probably both.
I'm not sure at what scale private cloud makes sense. But I'm pretty sure it's "the big boys".
2013-06-21 07:47:58: free will
The decisions we make as humans, come from our brains. Our brains are influenced by genetics, and by various environmental factors.
In light of this, where does "free will" come in to play? Separate for a moment, if you can, the consequences of free will, or lack thereof, and focus purely on... what is it? Where does it come from?
It seems to be a matter of convenience, for religious, legal, and emotional purposes.
If someone believes in a biblical heaven and hell, it kind of forces them to believe also in free will. To believe otherwise, is to believe that God is some kind of sadistic madman, constructing humanity as some kind of deranged puppet show, where some fraction are automatically doomed to an eternity of punishment, based on circumstances beyond their control.The legal convenience of free will is easily enough understood; breaking the law must be punished, and there's no reasonable way, in general, of doling out blame to whomever(or whatever) influenced the person into breaking the law in question. Genetics and environment influence behavior, and the laws and punishments of the land are a huge part of the environment.
Emotionally, we like to believe our good characteristics are all us, and our failures are just external influences.
But truly, in terms of our actions, there is no "I". Unless we resort to arbitrary, irrational beliefs, our actions here on Earth are beyond our control. We have only the illusion of control. We are only running a program written by the universe.
This isn't merely an academic concern for philosophers and men of leisure to while the time away discussing. Like many irrational beliefs, belief in free will stops us from fully taking in a problem. It halts the thinking process via an emotional interrupt.
But an even more compelling reason to abandon the notion of free will, is that we get to abandon the emotional attachment to "self" along with it.
Everything we've achieved, every talent we have, everything we are, everything we will ever be, does not belong to us. Thus, we cannot believe ourselves superior for our achievements, our talents, or our ambitions.
Once the false distinction of self falls away, we become one with the universe.
We may still be human, and raked over by the same emotional storms as everyone else.
But we can no longer take ourselves so bloody seriously, and what a wonderfully calming and peaceful gift that is!
2013-06-24 02:04:59: government secrets
When you sign up for a government security clearance, you are making a promise that you will not violate the trust put in you, by leaking secrets.
There is really nothing worse than an oath-breaker. Any kind of law-breaker you can kind of work with, except a liar, and particularly an oath-breaker. A man is truly only as good as his word.
Now I really don't think anyone's going to die over a revelation that a spy agency is spying on people. Still, leaking secrets is an act of treason, and should be punished accordingly.
I blame a lot of this leak stuff that's been going on lately, on the endless barrage of movies/books/TV of solitary heroes squaring off against oppressive governments.
In the US military, we were told in basic training that you are not required to follow an unlawful order. But you better be real good and god-damned sure it's an unlawful order, and you must bring it up your chain of command.
I would advise a similar approach to any potential self-styled heroes, contemplating a blatant violation of something they've sworn to do. It better be really important, because no one in their right mind is ever going to trust you, ever again. And if you believe you are in the right, don't run. Take it like a man. At least that is worthy of a little respect.
2013-06-03 04:59:37: Epic Fantasy
Why would you read Epic Fantasy, and complain that it's not realistic enough? It's like eating cake and complaining it's low in fiber. This is typical "adult" behavior.
Adults like to read gritty, miserable books filled with deeply flawed, greedy, banal, and above all, mediocre characters they can relate to. This is the life they chose for themselves in exchange for entry into adult society.
Within them all, lies the corpse of the child they once were, who dreamed of magic, and heroes, and talking animals, and innocent beauty.
A hard heart certainly makes survival easier in this world, but is such an existence really worth living? I believe its better to endure the abuse, than to let society wring the delicate magic from your soul.
2013-01-06 18:47:59: Assemblage 23
I've been obsessed with the music of Assemblage 23 for years now. It is far and away my favorite, and have purchased all the major releases.
I love them all, but if I could only listen to one, it would probably be Compass.
The deluxe editions of Compass and Bruise feature many remixes of A23 tracks, but they just don't work for me. Perhaps if Assemblage 23 tracks were simpler, something could be added to them. But every A23 track is sleek, refined, intricate, beautiful perfection. Someone other than Tom Shear remixing an A23 track is like welding extra body panels onto a Ferrari.
Though I will admit I could have done without "The Last Mistake"; it's just a little too lyrically disturbing.
I was just listening to "Greed" on Compass; the part at the end is so beautiful it makes me cry. That... doesn't happen very often.
2013-06-03 02:16:58: "It's a *dream*, Alex... you can do anything you want!"
Don't know if I screwed up that quote, but it's from the wonderful 1984 film Dreamscape.
It has obvious parallels with writing. We are tragically limited in what we can code into games, even in the best programming teams ever formed. We are slightly less limited in film, but at great expense, at the loss of interaction, and only for 90 minutes or so.
But in writing, we are completely free.
In terms of the writing market, perhaps there is decidedly less freedom, as books need a genre for marketing purposes, and most readers use genre as an heuristic to find the kinds of books they're likely to enjoy. Many are rather intolerant of deviation from expectations.
And yet, it always seems to me, to be a waste of the opportunity that writing affords, that so many authors stick so closely to reality.
I can go to town and experience reality. While the machinations of the world are interesting in their own way, I can get my fill of that on documentaries and online encyclopedias, in vivid color, pictures, video, and sound.
A plain work of fiction generally has none of these things, but neither does it have conceptual limits. Perhaps this sort of tradeoff is why I never bother to read anything set in mundane reality. Well, that and my predisposition that reality is mundane, I suppose...
2011-09-29 05:23:41: guilt
I frequently see an interesting reaction in people who feel guilty. They get mad at whoever is making them feel guilty. The fact that it's a rapid emotional response puts up a big warning sign that it's probably not the correct or ideal response.
One of two things is happening. Either the guilt is justified, or it isn't. That's a cognitive decision to make, and, being in an emotional state, it's not always an easy one.
People want to feel good about themselves, and, to oversummarize, we'll just say that's a multivariable problem.
But in particular, people who derive significant pride from a belief in their own intellect, hate being wrong more than the average human. This is a severe handicap for a human endeavoring to make hard decisions, because the world is hard to understand, and we often fail at hard things by definition.
The path to understanding then is to truly embrace one's own ignorance. There is no greater intellectual freedom than to be comfortable with being wrong. Not that it's ever going to be easy.
It's hard enough to face being wrong when confronted with a simple mechanical or mathematical problem, but ethics is an especially contentious idea-space. And we have a certain genetic predisposition to be somewhat devious, to get away with as much benefit from the group with as little cost to us as possible.
I suspect it's almost impossible to convince someone, even ourselves, of a particular ethical framework; life experiences impress that upon us, or fail to. Mine comes mostly from a fusion of religious and military ideals, which I simply absorbed through living in religious and military worlds, mixed in with a healthy portion of what I know of far-eastern philosophies that just intrinsically make so much sense to me.
I often fail to meet my ideals. At these times, I feel guilty, and I feel ashamed. So I do whatever is within my ability to not do those things again, and if I honestly can say to myself that I've done that, then I feel better.
I accept that I will likely continue to make mistakes until my last breath. The higher you set your personal bar, the more you will trip over it.
But there is an intrinsic joy to it as well.
I don't need to make a lot of money. I don't need to be famous. I don't need to be the best at anything. I don't need to get the girl or the boy(although it is lonely). I don't need to win(though honestly I never really wanted to). I may have missed many opportunities in life, and ruined many others, but the opportunity to be closer to my virtues happens every day.
Guilt is just the messenger. It isn't always right(some are skilled at manipulating people this way), but it usually is, and it's almost always worth at least hearing out. Guilt, fundamentally, is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a beautiful and wondrous thing.
2011-09-14 10:10:10: die nacht
While the world sleeps, watching server logs, surrounded by monitors, waiting for the time when the air conditioners will fall silent, and I can welcome back the cold, dark winter like the long lost friend he is.
I stare at the xterms, and ponder if perhaps it would have been better if this were only a living. Something just to make money to do... whatever it is normal people do with other normal people.
But it is my life, or at least the center of it. It is green or amber text on a black background. A login and a shell. A simple, yet obscenely configurable(via config file) window manager that doesn't need a bloated desktop framework to operate.
Days of programming, nights of systems work, and a limitless, sparkling sea of possibilities.