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This post is set up to float to the top. I'm getting a bunch of new readers lately, so I figured a welcome/orientation post is appropriate.

Welcome to my journal! (Yeah, yeah, I know, the cool kids call it a blog these days.)

I post intermittently, sometimes at length, usually about personal topics, sometimes about controversial ones. I love thoughtful comments, even (sometimes especially) when they disagree with me. Anonymous comments or private messages are OK, too.

I expect politeness, though -- especially to my other commenters. If you can't be civil, be silent. If I start getting a wave of hostile anonymous commenters, I will likely change my policy.

Some links I keep here for convenience:
I have become accustomed to a model where I basically put off projects until the last possible minute, and I then pull rabbits out of hats under deadline pressure to get the project done. I earlier said about this: I really do seem to need to see the oncoming train before I start moving.

This perspective depends on modeling the system aspects that put off the project, and the system aspects that implement the project, as indistinguishable parts of the same "me."

If I instead model them as two separate subsystems ("voles" in local parlance, though I am feeling very distant from the voles of late) we've instead got a situation where Vole (or perhaps more correctly Class of Voles) A keeps making Vole (ibid) B do A's work under some pretty awful conditions.

This... is not actually OK.

I mean, I do get the whole thing about the importance of compassionate understanding of aspects of myself that are really just doing the best they can under trying circumstances, and all that, but... well, with that said... um... the thing of it is that A is just kind of being a dick here.

And has been for quite some time.

So, um.

There's that.

Convenient scandals

So, about a week ago I was ranting about pizza, and muttering about how once the rhetorical point is scored we'll move on to the next "scandal," be it emails or coin-tosses or haircuts or vocal pitch or FBI investigations or flag pins or birth certificates or posture during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance or whatever we're told to care about next.

Turns out the next scandal, right on schedule, is the existence of superdelegates.

And somehow both the "superdelegates matter a lot!" and "superdelegates don't matter at all!" memes seem to end up in the same place.

That is, if the superdelegates don't matter, then Clinton's campaign is bad for engaging in propaganda to despirit Sanders' supporters by calling everyone's attention to the pledged superdelegates, who won't actually support her anyway.

If they do matter, her campaign is bad for engaging in establishment politicking by getting all those superdelegates to pledge their support, because they'll absolutely support her, which subverts the democratic process.

Either way, it leads to the conclusion that Clinton is engaging in some kind of chicanery. Like the coin flips in Iowa... heads I lose, tails you win. Like the putative FBI investigations. Like Benghazi. Just like whatever the next thing turns out to be. And there will be a next thing. And a next thing. And a next thing.

Will we ever get tired of it? Probably not.

And as I said before: people will go "Well, gee, there are all these scandals! Where there's smoke, there's fire, right?"

Right. Which is why so many sound stages burned down while filming "Backdraft."



(Posted to Facebook last week; reposting here so it's easier to link to.)

How much did each candidate spend on pizza?

Just you wait.

Now that we know that Clinton far outspent the other candidates on pizza, we will suddenly "discover" that pizza expenditures exceeding $4K are horrible horrible things that we can never tolerate in a Presidential candidate, certainly not in a supposedly liberal Democrat.

Why, the next highest expenditures -- BOTH OF THEM! - were Republicans! Clinton might as well switch parties right now, amirite?

Of course, then someone will look into it and discover that in inflation-adjusted dollars, Obama in 2008 actually spent more than Clinton did in 2016.

But it won't matter... the rhetorical point will have been scored, and we'll move on to the next "scandal," be it emails or coin-tosses or haircuts or vocal pitch or FBI investigations or flag pins or birth certificates or posture during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance or whatever we're told to care about next.

And people will go "Well, gee, there are all these scandals! Where there's smoke, there's fire, right?"

Right. Which is why so many sound stages burned down while filming "Backdraft."


Jesse Jones and Me

"He was down near this old bar staring at this black-haired girl.
Jesse Jones strikes up a conversation with this fashion-challenged wanker,
Ends Reva when this Killgrave tells her to,
She's awfully powerful.
We all want to be powerful.
I wish I was powerful.

So come binge-watch the show down through the morning;
Wake up, Jesse! Show me some of them super-powers!
Suck on that bottle, Jesse Jones...
Believe in me...
Help me believe in anything...
I want to be someone who believes.

Jesse Jones and me tell each other fairy tales
About all the powerful people:
"She's just like you."
"Ah, no, no, she's just like me."

Smiling in the face of danger
Only when she's told to.
No matter who loves her she can always be lonely.
She'll rebuild a future:
No more red and yellow, and no more purple,
All the beautiful colors are very very meaningful.
Black is her favorite color,
It was so symbolic yesterday.
If I knew Brian Bendis...
He had so much to answer for that day.

Jesse Jones and me talkin' bout Season Two,
"He's coming for you."
"I don't think so. He's dead as can be."

Counting down the street signs
She bought herself another bottle.
No matter who loves her she can always be lonely.

I want to be a hero.
Everybody wants to join the pack.
We all want to be Defenders but we got different reasons for that.

Believe in me, because I don't believe in anything,
and I want to be someone to believe...

Jesse Jones and me..."


better... stronger... faster.

So, a FB friend shared this article about ableism. And the comment I started writing rapidly grew both long and derailing, so it's here instead of there.

Relevant pull-quote for my purposes:
"Ableism is also the belief that people with disabilities "need to be fixed or cannot function as full members of society" and that having a disability is "a defect rather than a dimension of difference,"

I'll admit, I struggle with this one.
I have for years.

I mean, I acknowledge that my own feelings on the matter don't count for much, as I have no experience in the area.

The closest I come to experiencing life with physical or cognitive disabilities is the period after my stroke, and while my experience of that was absolutely of my disabilities being defects that I wanted fixed, I acknowledge that not only is this not representative of disabled life in general, it's in particular non-representative in ways that strongly biased me towards that "fix the defect!" framework.

And I acknowledge that if, for example, a blind person tells me that they consider the prospect of making them into a sighted person far less supportive or more oppressive than the prospect of transforming their environment (and/or our shared environment) into one where their blindness does not constrain their ability to function, that the decent thing for me to do is listen to that and take it seriously and take it into consideration when making decisions about policy and etc. (But also, if a blind person endorses the prospect of making them into a sighted person, that's important too.)

And I acknowledge that in the actual world, many people with various disabilities do in fact seem to be saying something like the former to me. And goddamn the temptation to push back on that, or pathologize it, or otherwise pretty much do anything but the decent thing is enormous!

And while I understand the appeal of the contrary "But it's irrational to choose to be unnecessarily constrained given the environment you're actually in!" framework, I acknowledge that I myself reject that framework all the time in various ways, and it's at best inconsistent for me to pretend otherwise when it comes to disability. I grew up in a time where same-sex attractions were highly constraining, for example, but I would not willingly have chosen to be transformed into someone free of those constraint... certainly not by comparison to the alternative of transforming our shared environment into one where those attractions aren't so constraining. The general principle seems to be that actually, humans routinely choose not to reconfigure ourselves to operate optimally within our current environment, and all in all that's probably a good thing.

Similarly, while I understand the appeal of the contrary "But devoting resources to maintaining an environment that doesn't differentially constrain people of different ability levels is inefficient!" framework, well, frankly I mostly think the right response to that is "fuck you." Somewhat less crankily: "Yes, it's more efficient to optimize our environments for something less needy than people. I choose not to do that, and I'll oppose you if you try."

But and well yes also... I'm all for people improving ourselves. Especially when it's easy to do. And I'm all for creating tools that make such self-improvement easy. And while I acknowledge that we don't all agree on what counts as an improvement, I'm not sure that prevents me from coherent endorsing people improving ourselves by our own standard. That said, I'm pretty sure I'll regret that endorsement as soon as someone markets sociopathic narcissism in a pill. Which will probably happen in my lifetime. So I dunno.

So... well, that's where I am.

Getting things done, 1-10

So, here are some things I know about (me) getting things done.

1. Getting things done won't make me happier. Avoiding doing things won't make me happier, either. But letting things go undone makes me anxious, and getting them done relieves that anxiety, if only temporarily.

2. My working memory can't hold the list of things I want/need to get done. If I try to use it for that, I'll both forget things, and be so distracted by the attempt that I won't have the attention available to get anything done. (Oh, and I'll stress out about it.)

3. When I am productive, I am focusing my attention on "what will I do with the next chunk of time," over and over. Which is not to say that focusing my attention on "what will I do with the next chunk of time," over and over, makes me productive. Though it might.

4. "Chunk of time" is not an arbitrary unit, nor is it a fixed one. Sometimes I'm in flow and a chunk is hours long. Sometimes a chunk is fifteen minutes. Sometimes it's ninety seconds. How distracting my environment is has something to do with this, but doesn't determine it... not even close, really.

5. When I'm fantasizing about being judged or evaluated on my output, I'm not productive. Again, it's unclear which direction causality runs. This is true whether I'm fantasizing negative judgment or positive, though negative judgments also associate with anxiety.

6. Anxiety is a form of suffering. This isn't actually about getting things done, but anxiety seems to keep coming up, so I figured I'd mention that. Anxiety bad. Alleviating anxiety is not necessarily good, but it sure is rewarding. Anxiety not arising in the first place is not necessarily rewarding, but it sure is good.

7. A list that's too long is both distracting and anxiety-provoking. "Too long" is not well-defined, but seems to be about five items at my most attention-constrained, and maybe fifteen items at my least.

8. "Item on a list" is not an arbitrary unit, nor is it a fixed one. Sometimes an item can be large and complex and that's OK... sometimes it can't. Internal branchpoints make a big difference: a large complex task that has an obvious starting point and an obvious *next pointer is relatively simple; a task that involves lots of decisions to be made and internal state to be saved is relatively difficult. "Read and summarize this 50-page document" can be a digestible chunk even when "Decide where to have lunch" is not.

9. Indigestible chunks can be broken down into sub-lists. Sometimes this is mere yak-shaving, though.

10. Questions are EXPENSIVE. Putting questions on a list is demoralizing. Being asked questions while I'm trying to do things is hugely distracting.

There's much more, but this list got too long.

What do you know about (you) getting things done? (Please don't point me to books and websites and etc... that's not what I'm looking for here.)

What's in a name?

So this is a thing: https://map.what3words.com

For those of you who want to visit, my front door is "list arrive spits."

Which admittedly isn't too hospitable. My home also includes "stop bother wanted" and "nodded going fled." There may be a lesson here.

"Garage common twist" is on the property line with my neighbor, but it doesn't have a common garage on it. (Please don't say it.) "Dogs types shall" is nearby, as is "king snaps manliness."

Our northernmost point (ish) is "bossy worm mixer," which is my new band name.

I just had lunch near "fuzzy items cafe." I went to high school at "spent teach mixed" while living at "urgent gasp baked."

This could be a kind of fun way of picking meeting spots. "Random meeting spot" is not too far from Charing Cross Station on the London Underground. The app couldn't find "secret meeting place," but "secret meeting location" is in some appropriately deserted mountaintops near the Falkland Islands.

"Avoid this spot" is near Deming Park in Terre Haute, IN, in case you were wondering. "Really really lost" is in Port Phillip, just off the coast of Point Cook in Australia. "Rather quiet neighbors" doesn't exist, but "rather quiet pets" is near St.Anthony's Cemetery.

OK, OK, I'll stop now.

I want some way of getting all the names within N meters of a given point, just to search for entertaining ones.

I was initially surprised that they don't have most and least significant bits. That is... if there are N words in their dictionary, it seems they could have broken the world up into N squares and assigned a word, then broken each such square into N squares and assigned a word (maybe even using the same distribution) and then broken each such square into N 3x3 squares (ibid).

But I suspect that if this takes off, they'll start selling/renting out memorable labels.

I want there to be a video game with a teleport mechanic in which teleportation is far cheaper between points that share one or two words in their address.

Star Wars (SPOILERS)

I don't remember whether the Star Wars prequels ever really explain what "bringing balance to the Force" was supposed to mean.

Are we still worrying about spoilers?Collapse )


Being puzzled about moral foundations theory.

One thing I've never quite understood about the way people talk about moral foundations theory (which unsurprisingly gets trotted out a lot in its liberals-vs-conservatives formulation around election time, which is why I'm writing about it here now) is why it's supposed to be a bad thing to not treat one of its six axes as a grounding of one's morality.

I mean... OK, let's say Haidt is correct that liberal moral reasoning attempts to optimize along three axes (harm vs care, fairness vs cheating, and liberty vs oppression) while conservative moral reasoning additionally attempts to optimize for loyalty-to-ingroup, obeying tradition and legitimate authority, and abhorring disgusting things ("purity").

Now, that's certainly interesting to know, supposing it's true.

If I know that, I can predict that if an option minimizes harm, injustice and oppression but involves siding with outsiders in violation of tradition to do disgusting things, liberals are more likely to support that option and conservatives are more likely to oppose it.

I can predict that liberals stressing that the option minimizes harm, injustice and oppression won't convince conservatives... conservatives, on this model, already know that, they just think other things are more important.

Similarly, I can predict that conservatives stressing that the option breaks with tradition, sides with the outgroup over the ingroup, and is disgusting won't convince liberals... liberals, on this model, don't care about any of that.

With this model I can also predict that if liberals want conservatives to support marriage equality, for example, it's not enough to show that it's unjust to deprive queer families of the same opportunities to form socially and legally recognized bonds that straight people have, that being deprived of those opportunities causes real harm, and that it constitutes supporting the powerful against the powerless. In addition to that, liberals also have to show that marriage equality makes things better for straight people, show that tradition and authority actually endorse marriage equality, and show that queer families are just as pure as anybody else. Otherwise conservatives won't buy it.

(Of course, all of this presumes that words like "harm", "justice", "power", "tradition", "authority", and "purity" are being used in mutually intelligible ways. Maybe when Sam says "authority" they mean the Bible, while Pat means the Constitution and Chris means their father or their priest or their neighbors. Maybe they all mean some combination of the above, or something else. Maybe Sam thinks anal sex is impure, and Pat thinks wearing socially unacceptable clothing is, or something else, or all of the above. Maybe Sam thinks having a lower chance of being hired for a job is harm, and Pat doesn't. But that's beside my point right now.)

Similarly, using this model conservatives can predict that liberals will consider those last few requirements to have nothing whatsoever to do with whether something is right or wrong, and care only about the first three.

So, OK. I have no idea if this is remotely true, but this seems plausible enough to me as far as it goes. Certainly, to the extent that I identify as a liberal I endorse supporting the outgroup even at the expense of the ingroup, supporting the powerless at the expense of the powerful, discarding tradition and authority, and doing things that disgust me when doing so will reliably minimize harm, injustice and oppression. That's not to say I always do those things, but that I consider them the right things to do.

Someone whose moral reasoning goes the other way... who considers compliance with tradition, obedience to authority, supporting the ingroup, and avoidance of disgusting things to be just as morally significant as minimizing harm, injustice and oppression... well, they have a different moral structure than I do, and that's really all there is to say about that. We disagree on what the right thing to do is. If I violate authority or break with tradition in order to alleviate harm to outsiders, they will consider my act immoral, and I will disagree with them about that, and we're never going to convince each other because we really do have conflicting moral values.

This is unfortunate, if true, since it eliminates many ways of moving forward together that might otherwise be available to us. But well, it won't be the first time that happens, and it won't be the last. There exist other ways of moving forward together that don't depend on shared values. They're messier and less efficient and more unpleasant, but they're good enough for government work.

Value differences exist in the world. And no matter how smart or well-informed a system gets, I ought not expect it to suddenly start sharing my values.

All well and good. Again, I have no idea if this model actually has any predictive power. If it does, so... welll, I wish it were otherwise, but if that's the way it is, then that's the way it is, and we can move forward from there.

The place where I get bewildered, though, is the way this whole framework is spun when I see it referenced. It's something like "conservatives have a superior moral framework, because they use all six bases in their moral reasoning, rather than just three."

And, well, to the extent that I understand this claim as backwards reasoning by conservatives... basically "ok, now that we've established that our way is better, let's look for arguments that conclude that!"... it makes perfect sense. "More is better, therefore a moral framework with six bases is better than one with three!" sounds plausible enough if we don't think about it too hard. Similarly, a liberal reasoning backwards might embrace an argument like "fewer bases is more efficient, therefore a moral framework with six bases is better than one with three!"

Both arguments are ridiculous, of course, and fall apart when run forward. No conservative would agree that adding a seventh arbitrary moral basis... say, "right action must also rhyme"... would make their framework still better, just because it's even more. Similarly, no liberal would agree that giving up concern over harm would make their framework better, just because it's less. Quite the contrary, this would properly be seen as absurd by everyone involved.

But that's OK. Backwards reasoning is frequently absurd when run forward, the trick to using it is to not run it forward in the first place. If that's what's going on here, I get it, and I am as contemptuous of it as it deserves.

But if there's anything else going on here, I really don't get it.

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