This year I began the processes of being adopted- in the next couple of weeks, this ought to be finalized and I’ll have a mommy. Any other year, and that would be enough- dianu. This year I made a commitment to share the rest of my life with another human being. This year we bought a house. This year marked the end of the world as I knew it, and I feel fine.
Now I just need a new job. You know, a real job with benefits and vacation days.
Assuming we don’t kill ourselves with pollution- and that we find renewable, constantly growing, sources of energy- we humans are on the cusp of ending scarcity. I recognize the enormity of every clause of that previous sentence.
Constantly improving information technology has made it trivial to design new… things. Washers, driers, cars, desks, etc. Moore’s law is putting “computer assisted” into “computer assisted design” tools. And 3D printers are becoming a cheaper, better, more powerful.
3D printers allow a person to feed a block of wood into a machine, hit a button, and get a new table. Some day soon, we might be able to build car parts on demand, TVs built to spec in a store. Every book will be print on demand– and you’ll only have created a physical copy of that book because you love it so much you wanted it in your house forever.
We are very close to breakthroughs in biology which will allow us to grow steaks without cows. Chicken breasts minus the chickens. We will soon be able to feed the world in the style Americans are accustomed to eating- without the negative side effects of factory farms.
If we can find the energy, we will soon have replicators like in Star Trek. What will we do with it?
Given unlimited supply of the basics of food, shelter, (and hand-waving our energy requirements away), we could end hunger and privation. Given the course of American public policy, I fear we won’t.
I’m not sure that the EFF is on the right track, but I am sure that we need to think about how to create and nurture a world of plenty. That’s the note I’ll end 2012 on. That’s the song we’ll sing in 2013.
In China this week, 22 school children were attacked by a madman wielding a knife. Those 22 children will live, though several of them will have serious injuries for the rest of their lives. 20 American school children were shot and killed this week- on the very same day. Guns it turns out do kill people.
Other arguments I no longer want to hear: The need for access to mental health instead of gun control laws. I’ve got ADD, I really do want this country to talk about mental health problems! But those kids were shot with weapons purchased by someone with no mental health issues. They were- in effect- stolen. As were the weapons used in the other gun-related massacre this week.
Maybe if we convince ourselves that these shootings are a part of a massive Al Quaeda plot to sew terror, we’ll start taking serious steps against guns.
I think most of us are like this: we simply do not care about the constitutionality of laws. What we care about is outcomes. That’s why no one is upset about violating the 1st Amendment right of advertisers to scream into your home.
I, um, I have this fantasy that the internet will start caroling. I think it would be awesome if people just uploaded videos of themselves singing. Maybe off key and off time. It’s the holiday season! I’m celebrating Christmas, Solstice, and Chanukah this year. What’s your excuse for singing?
I have said repeatedly that if people and institutions keep doing the same wrong things, we need to change procedures. Roughly 1 in 7 people on death row is innocent. The fact that there is not a national outcry trying to change this shameful fact is preposterous.
In the alternate cartoon where one of these guys is less douchey, he marries her. I can say that with confidence, Sorako is basically the girl in the cartoon with cooler hair.
The problem is that dude gamers don’t take lady gamers seriously. The problem is that our (gamer, nerd) culture tells dudes that they ought not take lady gamers/nerds seriously. Protip: don’t question her bone fides- nerd the hell out with her! Or him! Just… you know. Enjoy being nerds together.
This week I started paying World of Warcraft with my fiancee. She’s had a lot of experience with the game, knows the language and key concepts. Me? Not so much. So I do anticipate more than one situation where I let her die, though I plan on doing everything I can to keep her alive.
There is something awesome in knowing that a quarter of Americans have an opinion on a congressional plan which does not exist. Snark aside, this gets to the heart of some of the deeper issues I’ve been pointing at today. People are so afraid of being discovered as ignorant that they will pretend to know things that are literally impossible to know. It’s one of the reasons that- when I train people- I hit them over the head with the many times I’ve screwed up, and how I learned to fix whatever specific problem I’m teaching them to avoid.
Most kids, I think- studies have shown, my experience suggest- can separate out violence in movies and games as “unreal”, while understanding that violence in real life ought to be avoided. Indeed, since the rise of video games, we’ve seen a major (and probably unrelated) drop in crime rates. some games really aren’t for kids, though.
Yesterday, I had a set of guests leave me 50 cents on a 50 dollar check. I had all kinds of fantasies about running into them afterwards and explaining exactly what terrible human beings they were. When I actually did see on of them later, I… kept my damned mouth shut and drove away.
When I’ve undergone periods of depression, it has been long stretches of not feeling anything punctuated by intense anger. I’m not sure people who haven’t experienced depression can really understand what it feels like, or what the brain is doing to itself. The words we use to describe it are normal, everyday words. The feelings are normal, everyday feelings. When taken together, though, they add up to a giant pit of ugly that (in many cases- in my case) require chemicals and doctors to overcome.
Insourcing: it turns out that when you hire people you can trust, let them use their brains, and treat them well, they will do amazing things for your company’s bottom line.
You know how San Francisco is supposed to be the evil socialist left wing city? Yeah… when San Francisco does stadium deals, the only land the City is willing to give away is land that costs the City more than the City is making from owning it. If someone wants to come along and take a money-loser off San Francisco’s hands, the taxpayers are happy for that to happen. Other cities are less attuned to getting good value for their citizens. It’s possible that “socialist” means “doesn’t give corporations whatever they want”. Maybe.
One of the weirder aspects of being a straight white cis American male is that we’re the default point of view in most of the media we consume. It is very difficult to even learn of our own blind spots, and even when we do learn we have them, it can be difficult to learn what is in those blind spots. That’s why it’s important to include a multiplicity of voices when creating culture- to see the things that an individual cannot.
Farmers don’t starve. Nor do restaurant workers. Barbers aren’t accidentally hirsute. Painters do not have bare walls. Wall Street Bankers are rich. In each of these cases, lack of hunger, hair, or poverty owes less to the skill of the worker, and more to the closeness of the raw material. I’m not sure why American society has ascribed the wealth of bankers to a moral superiority of those bankers- we certainly don’t think that a baker has dough because they are good human beings.
Two “if you click just one link”s this time. Because why not?
The 2012 Elections are over. The side of goodness and light- or at least less-badness and more-brightness- won. There has been a weird contradiction in the core of American social thought- and this election was a strong blow against that contradiction. America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. America has been the land of slavery, and a home for those too scared to confront privilege. We have an entire party which likes to remind people that “We’re a ‘republic’, not a ‘democracy'”. yet this election saw a stunning blow in favor of democracy.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
The establishment- those who cowardly revel in unfreedom- knew that in a straight-up contest, they would lose. They understood that the the composition of America had changed, and sought to ensure that the composition of the voting public would be what it had been in previous generations. They lost anyway.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
The real irony of the 2012 election is how conservative it was, how much the political philosophy was fairly banal in the annals of American social thought. There wasn’t a revolution in terms of things done or undone, but rather in terms of those who will be allowed to participate- in terms of who gets to be America.
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
The American Right has been screaming about “voter fraud” for the last several election cycles. They have used this idea that certain Americans have been voting more than once to create the laws which would have kept themselves in power. Two Americans attempted to empirically test this assumption that it was easy to vote more than once. they went to jail.
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
Until I read this, I had no idea that anyone took Donald Trump seriously. He’s an old man who gets his kicks by firing people. I suppose that the Republican nominee had also expressed his eagerness to fire people, and so it makes sense that two such similar personalities would appeal to the same groups of people- and would clash mightily.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
After 108 years, this lady is Free at Last. Thank god almighty.
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
It may look like shameful joy to watch Karl Rove scramble to prove his own worth to the right wing. Yet this is a man described as Bush’s Brain. He helped launch two wars, run up a huge debt, and allow Katrina to destroy New Orleans. There is a large degree of satisfaction in seeing the rest of the world realize that he has never been clothed at all.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
It has been interesting to see the GOP turn away from anti- immigration sentiment over the past few days. That isn’t the whole problem, but it’s certainly part of the problem. Latinos- like Blacks, Jews, Asians, Gays, and Geeks- want inside more than just America’s borders. They want inside American civil society. That’s a harder thing to do.
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
Voter suppression has been basically invisible to those who neither planned it nor were targeted by it. The first stage of the American dream might well be being allowed to vote in a short line with a working machine. The “yes we can” battle cry of 2008 was in many ways a scream of defiance against those who tried to stop the vote.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
This may seem unrelated, but it isn’t. The same week that saw the election also saw the release of a game my father refers to as “ninjas fighting the American Revolution”. He’s not wrong (except that he’s wrong. ), but it’s worth noting that North American society has evolved to the point that Native American history and society is understood to be worth taking seriously. Who fought the revolution? In 2012, our pop culture has evolved to retroactively include a native American kid.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
Hour by hour, inch by inch, they waited in line and voted. They voted for a man who proclaimed that gay marriage was acceptable. They voted for a man who changed the way healthcare is delivered- so that everyone would be allowed to have it. And they voted to give themselves another chance to change their mind in several years.
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Earlier, I made a comment about geeks being part of the disenfranchised class. That feeling of being bullied, picked on, and otherwise Otherized is a huge part of the geek identity. Being a geek isn’t merely about being smart, but of having a sort of brain that just processes information differently. Over the past several decades, geeks have been finding a niche within the ecology of American society. Comments about “pointed headed academics” have been tossed around by the right for just as long. The intellectual infrastructure was therefore a preexisting condition when the election rolled around- and Nate Silver became the poster child for everything the American Right could convince themselves wasn’t true. He was right, and we geeks have also cracked the door to American acceptance.
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
If you click just one link:
An uninterrupted poem from this week’s co-author Langston Hughes
It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for returning to work after a couple days of being sick. Sundays are for playing video games and contemplating the future. Sundays are for snuggling into bed and reading links.
I do understand that there are some thoughts which are better off banned, and some speech which society ought to deem unutterable. The problem is enforcement. At some point, someone has to have the power to say which speech and thoughts cannot be shared. I do not trust anyone to wield this power in a way that doesn’t perpetuate their own control. And so: the first amendment.
For instance: try to imagine a US with no first Amendment where this post was allowed. It isn’t simply a matter of drawing lines, but rather who draws the lines, and who enforces them. Perhaps an “fuck you, Mitt” post would be allowed, but not a similar one about a sitting president.
Speaking of middle fingers to Mitt: It’s good to be the King. Turns out that not having control over your day to day life is rather more stressful than knowing you have a golden parachute. There is all the difference in the world between unwillingness to take “personal responsibility”, and inability to control every factor which might cause you pain. Or putting it differently: It is much nicer to be in a position to lay off others after making a mistake that causes profits to shrink, than to be on the receiving end of layoffs.
I think this helps answer the question of why people keep trying to earn more money: they’re trying to buy security. Being safe from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Personal wealth cannot buy this security, though a broad distribution of wealth across social strata does help protect the upper classes from revolt.
When people are poor, they make a lot of [this] or [that] decisions. Food -or- rent. Shoes -or- electricity. That’s why, back when people were talking about stimulating the economy- many of us understood that increasing food stamp payments would be a good thing. Guaranteeing a livable caloric minimum to everyone would prevent people from putting “food” in front of that “or” statement. It would be “food” -and- shelter. Increasing the food stamp budget would have other benefits as well. Less tangible, but no less real. Being on food stamps- I’m told- is a bit like that 11:30am hunger. Except instead of lunch being a mere half hour away, lunch may not come.
Petrochemical energy has been an enormous boon to human society. No longer have we needed to break the human back to get work done. Unfortunately, we’ve been choking ourselves on the wasted energy. Pollution in the form of fumes, and greenhouse gasses are causing a massive amount of harm to our species. Fortunately, there may soon be another way.
In American criminal law, we have a presumption of innocence. People are not considered guilty until a jury finds them so, in accordance with rules of evidence and precedence a judge has has set down. The copyright system is mainly maintained by private companies. Instead of a presumption of innocence, they operate from a presumption of guilt.
It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for getting the holes in your head examined- an eye check joke that will never get old, I swear.
The Death Star was probably a bad idea. Certainly, it was poorly executed. The fact that the Death Star was rebuilt seemingly without care for it’s major flaws points out the bad decision making at the heart of the Empire. America has the same potential for that level of bad thinking, but our institutions are well-positioned to point out that level of idiocy.
We tend to think of non-defense government expenditure as transfer payments. That’s a bad way to think about it. Much government spending is on things like OSHA (keeps workers alive), EPA, (keeps lead out of your body), restaurant health inspections (keeps you from getting poisoned on fancy dates) and intellectual property protection. The more we reduce the amount of money we pay the government, the fewer of those nice things we get to have.
I’m not going to lie- the only thing I know about Austrian Economic Theory is that it is generally espoused by the sort of people I dismiss as cranks in other fields of thought. If it truly is as immune to science as this article suggests, I wonder how anyone can take it seriously? Perhaps it’s like Marxism in that it provides a great critique of capitalism while not offering any good alternatives.
Ok, so your phone is basically like the communicator from Star Trek. And your iPad is much like the PADD on Star Trek. And the warp drive NASA is road mapping? Just like the one on Star Trek. For Serious. They’re talking about needing a century of development.
This reasoning is why I describe Satanism as the most obnoxious sect of Christianity.
While trying to buy a house in the Bay Area, I’ve come to understand why people have the erroneous impression that $250 thousand a year is “middle class”. $250 thousand is roughly the income someone needs to buy a house in the Bay Area, and home ownership is generally considered the mark of the middle class. Instead of mentally redefining our idea who can buy a home (now it’s pretty much the rich), we’ve redefined middle class as meaning the top 90%.
The day after Healthcare passed the House, I took Nancy Pelosi some cookies. It was the least I could do. Maybe apples would have been more appropriate. The building where she has an office has the catchy name: “The New Federal Building”. The building is imposing, uninviting, and bombproof. The building’s architecture shouts that the US is terrified, in all the wrong ways.
The New York Times admits that it does not deserve your time or readership. The New York Times has confused themselves with stenographers. They are priding themselves on this. To be clear: if one side is saying that we all need to buy umbrellas because the sky is falling, and the other side says that the sky is not falling, it is the job of a newspaper to discover whether the sky is, indeed, falling.
It’s Sunday morning. Sundays are for getting up early and planning a boardgame night. Sundays are for wedding planning. Sundays are for house hunting. Sundays are for snuggling into bed and reading things.
I had to work my way through college, because the money my father gave me wasn’t quite enough to cover rent, let alone food or gas. (BTW, Dad? Thank you!) The fact that I graduated basically debt free puts me into a very privileged position, one I share with Mitt Romney. Does Mitt not realize how privileged he was to not have to take out huge loans to afford that tiny place? Does he understand that not all of us can borrow money from our incredibly rich parents? If he knows and understands, he is doing a good job of not acting like it. Our current president was only able to get out of debt by using his presidential run to sell copies of his book.
Back when I was doing the online dating thing (where I met my fiance!), my profile had “the sandwich problem”. Simply put: humanity has had all the ingredients for sandwiches- bread and cooked meat- for tens of thousands of years. Why did it take until the mid 1700s to put meat between two slices of bread? Shwarma, Falafel, and tacos aren’t the same.
One of the goals of school is to teach you how to investigate the nature of reality. Every game ever made has to teach you how to play the game. Game designers have gotten very good at teach rules. So why not turn math into a game? Why not make it so that students understand the rules of grammar and orders of operation, rather than just parrot memorized answers for a test.
Along those lines- and this is important- why are we still teaching kids how to calculate? Calculating is the least important part of math, and the most frustrating. If we collectively decide that the goal of English class is teaching writing skills sufficient to compose this sentence, and the goal of math class is teaching logical skills sufficient to read this sentence, then we can stop annoying children with handwriting and calculator lessons. Instead, we can make them smarter and happier.
One of the reasons for the feminist movement is that in similar circumstances, men have it easier than women. Not 100% true, but by and large, there are options open to men that don’t exist for women. Anti-feminism has been working to first deny that women should have the same opportunities that men have, and then to deny that this lack of opportunity is actually a problem.
It may be true that the Republican nominee for president lies all the damned time. What’s bizarre is that, despite these lies, prevarications, and half-truths, I still know what he stands for. That’s one of the beauties of the 2 party system we have- I know what to expect from executives from whichever party I’m listening to. Mitt Romney will do the same thing Governor Schwarzenegger did and President Bush did: rob from the poor to give to the rich.
Before I agree to work for a politician, I interview them. I want to make sure that their worldview and mine match up. A couple years back I was talking to a potential supervisor from SF’s predominantly African American neighborhood. She talked about wanting to make the place better. I agreed that such a thing would be good. I asked her how she planned to help make the neighborhood better without chasing away current residents. She blinked a lot and got very glib. I don’t blame her- that’s one of the hardest policy questions to answer.
Every now and then I see a 2000 calorie item on a menu and say “Thank you, Uncle Harold”. See, in California, it was my Uncle Harold who lobbied the calorie count law through the legislature. So when I learned that he is trying to get some anti-fast-food tv commercials filmed and aired, I hesitate quite a bit to say that he’s doing something wrong. I do think that people quite misunderstand the appeal of fast food. For most of us, most of the time cooking is a chore. Fast Food is a way of eliminating a chore from our lives. Moral arguments in favor of doing chores aren’t going to do much good. Getting healthier food on Mc’menus will do a lot better.
Did you know that drinking too much water can kill you? It’s true. Hydration is a good thing, but the human body can only absorb it so quickly. Similarly, inflation. A lot of it can destroy a country. But not having enough can also destroy a country. This is one of the fundamental misunderstandings of modern economics, though it was well known to the farmers of earlier eras.
If it were wartime, and the F-22 were the best fighter in our arsenal, then we should continue pressing people into flying it despite the known risks. They’re soldiers, they signed up for this, and it’s an unfortunate but necessary thing. This is not wartime. The F-22 is not the best fighter. We don’t have to make people continue to take those risks. Let’s defend our soldiers as they defend us.
It takes about 30 generations for any one person to become the ancestor of everyone. Race, therefore, cannot exist. Bloodline-based-rule is, therefore, absurd. Also: my direct ancestors invented fire. I’m claiming that one.
I’m not entirely sure why someone would prefer to wear a dress to wearing pants. Honestly, it’s not really my business. But if your son wants to wear a dress, you let that child be the person they are, and spit in the eye of anyone who says they shouldn’t.
Last Sunday’s post was an ode to my beloved Sorako. I had written it a few weeks before it went live, and my plan was to propose to her sometime after we woke up on Sunday morning. I couldn’t wait that long. Saturday afternoon- at least 12 to 18hrs ahead of schedule, I asked her to be my wife. She said “are you serious? What’s going on? Is this happening?” Before saying “yes”. here’s our engagement photo.
In my world, it is impossible to understand Jesus as anything other than Jewish. And Jewish people are most definitely middle eastern- especially ones living before the diaspora. The idea that Jesus could possible look like an American white dude is as foreign to me as not being able to get a good burrito. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that believing in a white Jesus might actually be the “spirit of antichrist as described in 1 John 4:3.
School and I very definitely did not get along. I wanted to learn things, and school got in the way of that. Unfortunately, school and I wildly misunderstood one another. I thought I was there to learn what was in the books; lessons I was perfectly capable of figuring out on my own. School is about more than that, however. It is about learning how to fit into society, how to subsume your own id into something that fits into the expectations of those around you. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about that fact, but I see the effects of having to learn those lessons outside the relatively safe confines of an institution of learning. Stay in school, kids.
I do live in one of the worst neighborhoods in San Francisco. The violence is by and large confined to those who perpetuate it and engage with it; I am more-or-less safe. Even if I weren’t, a plan to let police demand the papers of any suspicious looking youth in my neighborhood would ramp up the tension, and possibly cause me more danger. The City’s new plan, to send cops around to the homes of parolees and tuck them into bed at night? Actually seems like it might work.
You have by now, I’m sure, heard about the woman who tried to restore an ancient painting to it’s former glory, and botched the job. It is well understood that asking amateurs to restore a paining is begging for trouble; that it would be a stroke of pure luck for said amateur to get it right. Why, then, is amateur status considered a good thing for a politician? I can assure you that budgetary analysis is a learned skill. Understanding the impact of a law and balancing the competing needs of various legitimate interests is not something that people are born knowing how to do. For the past 30 year or more, we’ve been denigrating professional politicians and turning the Public Thing over to the self-confessed amateurs. Our public policy has come to resemble that painting.
An interesting aspect to some of the psychological research I’ve been reading is the way people will subconsciously change their behavior to match whichever role they’re currently operating within. An easy example of this is the way someone will re-assume a childhood accent when speaking to family still in that region. Less good is when people begin thinking of themselves as agents of an amoral corporation, rather than as adult humans responsible for a child.
And again: Progressive Insurance. This is morally shocking, but utterly inevitable. Progressive Insurance has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to pay as few claims as it can get away with. If that means defending manslaughter, then that’s the price of business. If we want to see an end to this behavior, we ought to change the nature of corporations. Hate the player, sure. But lets not leave the game itself harmless.
This SMBC cartoon is all kinds of cute, but doesn’t begin to understand the difficulties of explaining real history to people who’s only understanding of history comes from Hollywood movies. Try putting the horrors of slavery against Gone with the Wind. You end up with a situation pretty much like the one mocked as impossible in the cartoon.
Your TV is working very hard to make your favorite movies and TV shows look very bad. Fix it.
“Wearable computing” sounds very science fiction. It isn’t. Two of the smartest companies in the world are demonstrating products today that might well be the harbinger of tomorrow. It sounds like the question isn’t “can they make this work?”, but rather “is this something that will actually enhance the lives of people?” In about 5 years, we may know the answer.