| last weeks

October 1, 2016

I was thinking about doing 24 Hour Comics Day, but decided to divert my gumption elsewhere... to make myself feel better about that I recreated a roughly 10 year old comic I made.

September 30, 2016

--from A Quick Perspective, a really cool series of photos and videos. This is the largest oil tanker ever produced placed in the main lake in Central Park.

September 29, 2016

Lifehack: worried your view of time is getting too quantitative, with nothing but digital clockfaces in your life? And use a Mac? Set the clockface to Analog for a while.

September 28, 2016

Barking Up The Wrong Tree continues to be one of the best weekly newsletters I get. Sunday's entry, with its emphasis on classical Stoicism and its emphasis on identifying what's out of our control is especially timely in this election season - there's lots of other good stuff in that entry too.

The mushy area for Stoicism has always those spaces that are neither under our control nor 100% out of our control. Say with democracy, how our vote matters, but not very much (and even less if you're in a stalwart red or blue state) or our smallish political donations, or activities like volunteering - it's a fine line staying motivated when our contributions are so limited and all you have is the "Categorical Imperative" of saying I should act in a way that I think it would be better if everyone acted that way.

I'm not saying I think Trump isn't dangerous, and that between the economy, the courts, and the military, there's a lot of peril. And I also acknowledge that I can speak from a place of economic and racial privilege, where a large chain of things would have to go wrong for me to be really hosed, and not everyone shares that shielding. But I'm thinking that many of my friends here (and it's funny how FB sometimes becomes a thousand preachers preaching to 998 choir folk, with just those 2 choir folk there keeping things heated) are in similar circumstances. Finding that balance of "this matters" with "this is out of my control and might end up in a way I think is terrible" and "I will probably muddle through anyway"... it's tough.

I'm almost as worried about the emotional health of many of my friends and loved ones than the circumstances of a negative outcome to this election. Some of that is justifiable, and I don't want to completely downplay it, but it's so easy to get wrapped up in this kind of tribalism thinking. I guess I find some cold preemptive comfort with a few friends I have who are fretting the other way, who think Hillary and/or the establishment is bad/bad/bad and that despite the known unknowns of letting a reckless populist egomaniac in the whitehouse, it'll work itself out. I think they're wrong, wrong enough that I'm fighting for Hillary, but I take comfort in how the country has survived lots of gruesome ugly political idiots before, and all of our perspective is distorted through the echo chamber media and the difficulty of know what political life was like in the last two centuries.

September 27, 2016

Blast from the past... (2000)

"Just the image of Mega Man standing [...] there's a sadness to it. Even his sprite has a certain gravity and seriousness to it [...]. When I see a young child playing alone, in a park or in the middle of the street, playing by himself [...] there's something so sad about that sight, it can almost bring me to tears. And there's something similarly lonely about Mega Man [...]. In the backstory I wrote, Mega Man alone is equipped with the functionality to turn himself off. That very fact imbues him with a sadness. The other robot masters were made for some kind of specific job or work, so there's no need for them to have an "off switch" they can control. However, a robot helper like Mega Man can make his own judgments, and therefore can decide whether he's needed or not [...]. The sadness of being a robot is having this inorganic existence."
--Akira Kitamura, original creator of Mega Man, quoted in the most recent issue in "Boss Fight Books", "Mega Man 3" by Salvatore Pane

September 26, 2016

Thoughts about Romeo and Juliet. It's a *lot* more complex than "wait, just two kids whose dumb romance gets everyone killed".
"when you push a pull door and the person behind says 'you need to pull' aye cheers lad sure next plan was to start lifting from the bottom"
-- Why does everything sound better written in UK English?
Pretty darn fine rebuttal to "male privilege doesn't exist" misthink.

September 25, 2016

"Everyone spoke of an information overload, but what there was in fact was a non-information overload."
--Richard Saul Wurman

--W.J. Youden. Though I guess it's a shame it has been applied with too free a hand in stuff like "The Bell Curve"

September 24, 2016

Over the years as I make various improvements in my out look, philosophical and existential ways of trying to be a better and more aware person on a number of fronts, I try to think if I'm doing a lot better than my past self, or if I'm just forgetful of what that past self was up to at the time.

September 23, 2016

"Get it right or let it alone.
The conclusion you jump to may be your own. "
--James Thurber, "Further Fables for Our Time"
"When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded. With a job, it's always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward."
--Danny Izquierdo, in a WaPo piece on Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America:
Most of the blame for the struggle of male, less-educated workers has been attributed to lingering weakness in the economy, particularly in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing. Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men - who don't have college degrees -- are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games. The decision may not even be completely conscious, but surveys suggest that young men are happier for it.
Wow, what a thought. I certainly understand that feeling of liking guaranteed effort to reward links; while my approval/attention seeking nature brings me to activities more likely to be publicly laudable, I've never been a challenge for challenge's sake, or "it's the journey" kind of guy.

(Though come to think of it, salaried jobs tend to have a bit of disconnect between effort put in on a day by day basis and reward, at least in the financial sense.)

But it feels like videogames are getting to the form of a rather concentrated drug! It's odd to be me because I'm still nostalgic for them and like them from time to time but have grown out of playing them regularly - just don't have/make the time for 'em, and many of the popular genres don't seem appealing. (The exception for me being goofy "wide open sandbox" games, ala GTA and Saints Row) In some way video games are a segment of my identity, but I'm pretty much limited to binge play of a new entry in a series once or twice a year. I still like the idea of people MAKING their own games, and I do a bit of that, but compared to these super-powered AAA titles, they're more like fun digital toys.

And man, video games are an astounding technology these days - sure, other technologies have made amazing strides - a communicator / camera / reference to giant chunks of the world's knowledge at any moment / digital map / huge music library in the palm of my hand is astounding - but if you look at the early square, colorful blobs when video games first went mainstream in the late-70s early-80s to a AAA title today; it's astounding. Too often the interaction is limited, but the look and feel and sound of these 3D worlds is nothing short of Holodeckian.

Besides the empowerment-fantasy realism, games have gotten so much smarter about online playing. My idea of multiplayer is still 3 or 4 people sitting on the same couch with a splitscreen, but between the rewarding character build grind of a World of Warcraft (or whatever MMORPG the kids are playing today) or the very smart match making of a shoot 'em up (or the physicsy fun of "Rocket League" (car soccer)) -- I would imagine finding your place in these online legions can be very appealing. (Though maybe that sense of competition goes against the grain of "guaranteed reward" of the leading quote?

September 22, 2016

"Sunspots were examined in detail by telescope in the early 1600s, after some 200 years of repeated viewing by unaided eyes in Athens, China, Japan, and Russia. It was difficult for Europeans to see sunspots at all because Aristotle had said that celestial bodies were perfect and without blemish, a fancy which became official church doctrine in the middle ages."
--Edward Tufte, from "Envisioning Information". Luckily then came Galileo. This is why doctrine is kind of terrible. Any source of information and guidance needs to have a corrective mechanism.

September 21, 2016

"Your name is Kirk? You are a healthy fellow?"
--My Immunizations Doc Monday. Seems either charming down to earth or asking a weird coded question, or both

September 20, 2016

Dead Man Talking: A Dialog with Tom Parmenter. In 2013, Tom Parmenter died. But, he got better. He lived - and is still living - a rich life, with journalism and music and his lovely wife Ann. In 2016 we met over dinner and had lovely conversation. I recorded it and had it transcribed.

Two excerpts, for flavor...

On "Do you keep any kind of bucket list?"

I'm alive, I've been alive a long time. I've done a lot of things. I'm still alive, I'll still do some more but do I really need to go to New York? A bucket list ... The universe in a grain of sand has always been my motto and there's as much interesting going on between your toes - particularly if there's sand there - as anywhere else
On working on the Chicago afternoon papers:
That was the deal, you'd get street sales. It's definitely a more sensational journalistic environment. I worked there and a lot of these guys were legendary journalists. Harry Romanoff, a city editor he had been the night city editor since the 20's or something. A long time. He could talk a tan off a bathing beauty.. just so... You really had to sort of be corrupt to be employed, because poking into people's private business and so forth. I remember one night I was talking to someone who's husband had died and said something about "I'm sorry to disturb you at a time like this" and she said "I wasn't sleeping anyway..."

Andrew Sullivan on How his need to connect to the infosphere almost killed him. I don't have it nearly as bad as this guy, and I feel that the simple pleasures of this world (reading a book, taking in the moment) are still readily accessible to me. Still, I know I turn to this kind of distraction too often as stress relief when a task seems even slightly daunting or less than worthwhile.
"Death would be much more terrifying if it was actually possible to live forever"

September 19, 2016

Thelonious Monk made a list for his fellow musicians 1. Monk’s Advice (1960)., transcribed by soprano sax player Steve Lacy in a spiral-bound notebook.
  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.
  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.
  • Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • Discrimination is important.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • All reet!
  • Always know
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers.
  • Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.
  • What you don’t play can be more important than what you do
  • A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.
  • When you are swinging, swing some more!
  • (What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.
  • Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!
  • You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).
  • Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

September 18, 2016

I started searching Google to diagnose upper back soreness I've had for a week now (below the left shoulder blade.) But, here is the number one image result for "trap muscles"

"When actors can't remember their lines, it's called 'going up,' or 'taking the elevator.'"
--Gene Wilder in "Kiss Me Like A Stranger". That's a really appropriate metaphor for what it feels like...
"I am not enlightened and apart from the occasional fantasy I have no goals to become enlightened because having a goal to become enlightened is like trying to lose weight by jumping up on a scale. You may be lighter for a brief second in the air but in the end you will hit much harder than if you simply stood still and did nothing."
--Chris Niebauer, "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"My six year old once asked my two year old how much two plus two equals, to which he zenfully replied 'the water.'"
--Chris Niebauer, "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"Rid yourself of ego in order to observe the secrets of the universe, but keep the ego in order to observe its manifestations."
--Chris Niebauer paraphrasing the "Tao Te Ching" in "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"The ego has always been the verb that desperately wanted to be an eternal noun."
--Chris Niebauer paraphrasing the "Tao Te Ching" in "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"Consciousness is more like dancing than it is like digestion."
--Alva Noë
"It was-- fun. ...Oh my"
--Captain Kirk's final words