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Porcupineal Gland

A suggested comprimise for people whose eyes don't simply slide over grey/gray spelling - græy. I *think* I normally spell it grey, but I've seen both of them (and written both of them) enough that my eyes glide over the difference (unlike the -or/-our suffix distinction where the latter is far superiour, or judgement where all other spellings are poor judgement.. :P). I imagine on a computer, græy would stand out as off because in most fonts it looks utterly alien, although in writing my eyes glide over it just like gray/grey.

Read the news today and CS-addled brain suggested "Sometimes I think America needs to have a serious conversation about Race conditions and d(r)eadlocks". Oh goodness.

Logged into facebook for the first time in months to suspend my account - irritating to see all the distant acquaintances pop up with a message "so-and-so will miss you" - errant nonsense and impersonal emotional manipulation. Haha. Perhaps that's a growth industry. Moods have been insensely bad and stormy recently, maybe things have been a bit self-destructive. I seem to be proficient at driving people away for my own neurotic reasons. In theory, there are social events to go to tonight and tomorrow, in practice I will likely panic and hide.


  • The right shift key on my laptop is doing odd things. According to "xev" (a great first tool to use when debugging keyboard oddness), the key is probably not stuck, but the translations from keypresses to typing is slightly borked. Specifically, if I tap the shift key while tapping "i", I usually get the lower-case letter unless I hold shift for a bit longer than I'm used to. xev gives the sequence of events "keypress shift", "I", "keyrelease shift", "i", and text fields into which I'm typing just see "i". Not cool. Typing on a laptop (even this huge beast with a full keyboard) is always less pleasant than using a good (or the one true) keyboard; being forced to change how I type or to always look at the text to catch accidental capitalisation failures is bad enough that I might start carrying around a one-true-keyboard (or reasonable fascimile) in my huge laptop bag. I'm not sure if this malfunction is the result of a stupid software update (xev is not very conclusive) or if my cats have slyly inserted cat fur under the key somehow. The most irritating actual results of this prove to be lowercase "i"s and 8s instead of *
  • At work had to track down a problem that turned out to be somebody doing something COMPLETELY UNORTHODOX, adding new methods to a (reasonably common albeit depreciated) class by requiring people to patch it rather than using inheritance. For good measure, they broke the destructor so it may hang (or warn, or misbehave) unless used in their code that calls it. This took me quite some time (over a day) to track down (it being a common module, I thought I could research and debug on other systems that had the needed software). Principle of least surprise, people!
  • My old office was a cave deep inside the womb of mother Wean. My new office is a nook in the top level of the glass mountain of GHC. Both are fine in that with door shut and reasonable precautions I can lie down and weather migraines for however many hours they last. My old office was right next to a room with MacMinis attached to scanners. Post-move, the department no longer has proper scanners, meaning no more convenient scanning of sketches. Sigh.
  • Apple's iPad is kind of appealing, but it's part of the same "lock it down" mentality that a lot of modern devices are designed around, as we collectively slip away from the relatively open APIs and user-tweakability the PCs brought us. If an OS vendor can decide to make your reasonable application a second-class citizen or ban it (because it does something they do, because it is indecent, because it competes with someone they like, etc), it's not a good platform. Windows hardly was the ideal of how OSs should be designed, but at least until recent versions (where unsigned apps have a really irritating warning on every launch) if one wanted to write an app, one could fire up a compiler and go and write something that'd run just as well as any other app on the system. Disappointing. We should probably be very suspicious of app stores that act too differently from, say, the way firefox has a (nonexclusive and very very friendly to opensource) addon repository.
  • Cold makes pain. My attempts at snowboarding in SqHill haven't been very successful. In theory I should go out to Seven Springs, but there's nobody to do it with. It's also goofy navigating the narrow paths between the 8-foot tall snowpiles the plows are making in my neighbourhood. This feels like Pittsburgh geography, really - nobody from around here should have trouble understanding the ideas of 「local maxima」 and 「local minima」 - it's like the local lay of the land was designed to teach the concept.
  • Been trying to get used to having practically no sensation from my fingers..
  • I don't like the Democratic party much (but we don't seem to have any socialist parties in the US that meet either of the important criteria of being sane or sizable, let alone both). I am amazed at how a party with a supermajority and the presidency failed to get any of its agenda done. Seriously. Is the only reason to vote for the they-care-about-the-public-good-slightly-more party and hope for them to have everything that they'll just sit on their hands in any area where they disagree with the villain-who-now-looks-to-be-going-a-bit-mad party? Is party discipline really that bad? Isn't a majority enough? Are you not even going to make the other side fillibuster when you have a majority? You were not elected to make friends with Republicans or pretend you're the indecisive centre of American politics, and insistence on having everyone on the boat means the only thing voters will remember is that you got none of your agenda done and you enabled the lunatic fringe portion of the other side to make an ass of you and swallow their own moderates. Take off the gloves and start the brawl, and stop dragging your feet and trying to be everyone's friend. If the other side wants to contribute, be fair, but let them come to you. Be a fair competitor, but compete. Watching the DP sit on its thumbs while in the majority is really really irritating. I do think Dems have principles of their own, but ... at times like this I start to think that the orthodox marxists might have a point that the Dems are just-and-only another front for big business and that they intentionally play to lose to capture and defuse the energies for progressive change. It's a tempting hypothesis after seeing enough of this BS.
  • Not happy to hear schmucks like ReputationDefender talking at events held by organisations I care about.

Other ponderings and stuff:

  • CWE's top 25 programming errors list is good bathroom reading - nothing deep, just a nice reminder. I'm kind of happy to have thought of CSRF dangers in my blog software and having worked around them without having heard about the possibility from elsewhere - independent discovery of things like this is a nice pat on the back.
  • Peoples faces have crazy variety in how they're shaped (relevant to sketches). Going too far from whatever ethnic mix/norm one fits into is irredeemably ugly (extreme example: Sloth Fratelli from Goonies), but there's wide variety in where the eyes and nose are on the skull, as well as its basic shape. A slight shift in topic: I find our instinct to find the deformed hideous really interesting, both from an evolutionary psychology perspective and from a "where are the borders" one. Maybe it's interesting from a "how does it interact with our notions of how we should be" perspective too..
  • If you're in the mood to see some very entertaining propoganda (that's fair and balanced in the same way FoxNews is) for Austrian economics (which is the libertarian-inspired school with very little penetration in academia), or if you're in the mood to argue with libertarians (or for them, if that's your thing) in the comments section, enjoy the "rap battle" between Hayek and Keynes.
  • I've been thinking a bit about the last time the air felt possibly right to kiss someone. It was a few years back, with a gal I'd liked for some time, and we'd hung out for the first time in a long time and talked about difficulties in life and geek things. I'd known her for years, but never really felt a consistent interest back nor did we really hang out much despite my interest (general pattern in my life). When we were going to part ways, she gave me a hug and for a moment things felt right for a kiss.. maybe? I gave a back massage instead to continue the ambiguity to see if things would become clearer, and a kiss didn't happen. I'm still not sure how I should've judged it, and now she's gone and there hasn't been a chance since with her or anyone else. I wonder if maybe real clarity is impossible in such situations because "what was appropriate" can only be judged by the result.. maybe we project what we wanted, expected, or what was kosher into what resulted, which might be why confident people take risks and they pay off. Risk aversion and low feelings of self worth might force things to resolve in the negative when they otherwise might not've (although I imagine there's always some risk). Upbeat, awesome people could probably dance through these kinds of situations, offering an apology for or shrugging off the mistakes, while the real me is so afraid of driving people away with a wrong move that I never make for the possibility for love (and friendships wither). I'm not really sure about this one, but I think this gets shoved onto my teeming regrets pile - I don't get attracted to people very often, and it sucks watching them fall through my fingers. It's been a long time since I've even had a hug apart from from my cats.. sigh. I sometimes wonder what happened to the people I failed to interest, and if they ever thought about me as a maybe..
  • Also been reviewing some conversations I had with an anti-intellectual fellow at Inner Vagabond (and later at the Beehive) a few months ago, connecting it with the way people live their lives. If I were still doing my gloomy webcomic thing, I'd probably make a comic out of the basic idea of "Loss of a strong narrative in life leads to a loss of identity", maybe do an analogy of someone on a railroad stumbling as the train itself fades away. (Oh yes I've had lots of ideas and a few sketches of such things) Instead in words, people tend to use narrative thinking to help them understand events. Canonical example: presidental debate of BushJr versus Gore on taxes, Gore had numbers to back up his proposals (see transcript, search for 「got great numbers」), but BushJr is said to have won the debate based on narratives and broad intuitions. How does one bring people towards better reasoning? In my discussion with this particular guy (and others), I've found that they're quite amenable to discussion (they are "talk people" rather than "think people" after all), but like any conversation things have to be tailored. This isn't just about politics either, it's about how people think. A few notes on what one would ideally do:
    • If they ever say anything to the equivalent of "Gosh you're so much smarter/more educated than I am", by all means DEFLECT THAT. It is not a compliment, it's the beginning of a disqualification argument. It's a common tactic to close an argument that's not going well by attempting to disqualify the person one's discussing with from having the discussion - in some cases this is appropriate when someone lacks the needed background by a large degree (and one lacks the time to educate them on salient points), when someone is trolling (Godwin's law) or otherwise misbehaving, or with persistent goalpost moving (that the person refuses to acknowledge/clarify). A lot of the time it's inappropriate, from the person who won't listen to non-jews (or non-arabs) on Israeli topics to the person who won't listen to men on women's rights. The "you are an intellectual and are being intellectual" is particularly easy to deflect (unlike the others, where one either needs to call them out on disqualification, lie, or shift the topic until they forget that they're trying to disqualify) - one just needs to play down or refuse to accept the compliment, point out that empirical thinking and education is available to them (point out resources), and point out that the experts on which one is relying are far more qualified than one is (if applicable) and that one values their judgement. One can actually directly push the value of empiricism and experts in this setting, so do that.
    • Do not bring up things they have hard conclusions about unless you have no other option - you want to get the momentum of injecting new styles of thought into their head without immediately bumping against things they're hanging onto (their conclusions). Avoid politics and religion if you can, or deal gently with these topics. If you can get them thinking empirically and valuing science, unless you're hopes are set someplace they probably shouldn't be (e.g. you're trying to make them an atheist - the arguments for atheism are sound but nuanced), their most objectionable ideas will probably dissolve over time in the patterns of thought you're planting, if you're successful.
    • You're not trying to win points, you're trying to plant doubts. Don't try to do more than adequately fend off thrusts against your position and plant these. Debates and tense discussions are not usually where changing of minds occur for the participants, it's the pondering afterwards (and perhaps in the undecided listeners, if any) where this happens.
    • Use an analogy of gambling and luck. This is apolitical and it's pretty easy to have an argument map for it in your head that covers all possibilities. It's also something they have experience with and there's a lot of commonsense arguments against belief in luck.
    • Break good-v-evil mentality if you spot it, starting with notions of misguidedness and later drop hints of what a framework of value relativism means (fortune tellers are a good topic for this).
    • Use examples they can easily remember, both to make it easier for them to review things on their own and to have ammo to use to defend their new ideas if they have to defend it to their community/friends.
    • For goodness sakes don't lie and be wary of unadmitted oversimplifications that look like lies. If they rely (as some communities and circles of friends do) on someone else to handle challenges to their shared set of ideas, that person will likely spot it and tear an argument on shoddy footing to shreds. They might do it anyhow by lying, but either way you'll end up ahead by not doing that kind of thing, particularly if you're ever invited to discuss or debate the matter with them (this occasionally used to happen to me when I was more socially active and did this kind of thing often)

Overall, this feels a lot like the end to the anime 「Lain」.. the temptation and path of disappearing is not really avoidable.

For now, however, I seek crêpes.