Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cross posting my programming blog whoa yeah

Promise I won't do it often, but I'm really proud of these cartoons I made at work today.  They will make sense if you've ever used git.  If you haven't, well, the joke is that the title of each cartoon is a line that I type into a computer just about every day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Music post music post

Here are some record albums that I have opinions about:

Calvin Harris- Ready for the Weekend- Great bouncy easily digestible borderline sweet/euro-cheesy.  I like this a lot!  Until it gets stuck in my head for four more days.
The Clash- London Calling- I don't yet get it.  And there weren't enough reasons for me to keep trying to like it.  I think if I had gotten into this when I liked ska in high school, the transition would have been easier.
Bjork- Vespertine- Reminds me of "The Secret of Mana."  And ice, and caves, but not real ice and caves, more like movie-set pretty ice and caves or something.  Oh, and elves!  Elves for sure.  No, for serious, I'm not trying to mock.
Midnight Juggernauts- Dystopia- see Calvin Harris- Ready for the Weekend.  But more darker.
The Thermals- Now We Can See- meh.  I know they're from Seattle, but they kinda yell a lot and every song is in the first person plural.  Why so many "we"s?
Broken Bells- Broken Bells- At this point, in my book, Danger Mouse is a plus, and James Mercer is a minus.  This is Shinsey enough that I am bored.
The Knife- The Knife- So everything they do is gold, but this is a little less shiny gold than their more recent gold.  It's got a similar feel, just not as polished.
Metric- Fantasies- Does everyone in the world have a crush on Emily Haines?  Is that why we let her get away with lyrics that sound so awkward?  Like on "Help I'm Alive" and "Gimme Sympathy".  Or is everyone else also so entranced by her voice that she could be singing the Rent is Too Damn High Rap and we'd all swoon anyway?  Anyway, this is wonderful.  And, syntactic parsing joke with a line from "Satellite Mind", my favorite track: "heard you fuck through the walls", which can mean:
- you were fucking, and I heard you through the walls
- you were fucking through the walls (ouch!), and I heard you
- hey, folks were saying that you tend to fuck through walls.  quite a superpower!
Broken Social Scene- Forgiveness Rock Record- More of the same, which is a good thing, especially on the token Emily Haines track- "Sentimental X's".  Although my favorite is "All to all."
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim- Here Lies Love- a concept double album about Imelda Marcos, and while it suffers a bit from Double Album Syndrome (you shouldn't make a double album), it's pretty consistent, and feels like the 1970's or something.  I guess some people like to widen their minds by listening to NPR; I like to widen my mind by listening to the collected works of David Byrne.
Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca- Is "Stillness is the Move" the best song ever?  Or is "No Intentions" the best song ever?  (the other seven are, by comparison, unremarkable.)
LCD Soundsystem- This is Happening- I increasingly like this guy, James Murphy.  Speaking of David Byrne, I feel like Murphy is the next Byrne, with his sometimes-sorta-commentary talk-songs that are actually really catchy.  And also a little awkward.
Fever Ray- Fever Ray- SO GOOD.  She (Karin Dreijer Andersson, of The Knife) made this solo album after having a child.  Some worried that the kid would make her sappy and terrible, as it happens with every other band ever.  Nope: this is pure creepy dark electronic wonder.  Watch this.
Wax Tailor- In the Mood for Life- Also so good!  Samples and DJ magic, a few good singers, and some rap.  Reminded me of Kid Koala and the Roots.  Sounds like summer.
Lady Gaga- The Fame Monster and/or the Fame or something, I just got all her music.  Where has she been all my life?  I am very happy about her topping the charts.  She is a breath of fresh air in pop music.  If you disagree, listen to this.  Those drums!  How good are those drums!
Weezer- Raditude- after hearing "If you're wondering if I want you to (I want you to)", a really pretty good song, I was wondering if this might eventually be their return to form.  No.
Arcade Fire- The Suburbs- okay it is great, let's move on.
Chromeo- Fancy Footwork and She's in Control- I love these guys!  Talk about A. being champs, and B. not taking yourselves too seriously, but still C. not being a novelty act.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There are no bastards.

As it's getting past Sandals Weather, and getting into It's Dark Before You Leave Work Weather (frowns), I'll present two pick-me-ups.
Number 1.  Tomorrow is likely best day of music in Seattle since forever: Belle and Sebastian, Gogol Bordello, Blue Scholars, and Gaslamp Killer/Daedelus are playing four separate shows.  (I'll be at the last.)
Number 2. well, this'll take a couple paragraphs.

Backstory: my grandpa, or Gramp if you will, had a saying.  Many people probably had this same saying, but he sure had it.  "Don't let the bastards get you down."  (it got censored to "turkeys" in family contexts.)

Part one: I am continually amazed at how ideal a work situation Google is.  I keep thinking I'll run into someone who'll say "nah don't do it the right way, do it the way that makes some money" or "nope, budget reasons, gotta ship it" or "who cares?", and POOF the spell will be blown, the carriage will turn into a pumpkin, and I'll go back to, y'know, writing websites for evil stepsisters somewhere or something.  But nobody ever does!

Part two: in this philanthropy project I was in over the summer, this Next Generation Giving Project with the Social Justice Fund NW, we 18 shlubs who'd never done philanthropy before allocated a whole boatload of money to 11 out of 63 applicant groups.  We gave based on leadership development, cross-class cross-race cross-gender work, community organizing, and ultimately social justice.  People had issues with doing this, even though it was their own money; and often the monetarily wealthier among us had more issues.  I kept waiting for someone to say "geez, you bunch of weenies, quit going on about how hard it is to give away your money" or "class?  whatever.  why don't you go back to your liberal arts college and blather on about Derrida" or "how the hell do you think you're qualified to decide which of these groups to fund?"  But again, nobody ever did!  And by the end I realized, it'd be impossible.  Nobody would even want to.

The main point: I guess if 24 year old Dan had a motto about optimism or turkeys or whatever, it'd be: there are no bastards.  There just aren't.  We're adults, we don't act like petty kids on the schoolyard.  You don't have to go through life cringing because someone's going to beat you down, because nobody will.  Everyone is on your team; sometimes things go wrong but really everyone means well.  It's remarkably freeing to live like this.  I've felt almost absurdly naive recently, like I was sure someone was screwing me over but I resolved to act as if it were all a misunderstanding, and I began to feel like it was, and then I really felt better about the whole thing.  It's like Hanlon's razor: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.  Or anything else!

Corollary: Even when there are bastards, it's in your best interest to live as if there aren't.  If someone acts like a jerk to you, avoid them.

Disclaimer: okay, duh, don't go around flashing your bling bling in shady areas at night, etc.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I cannot get started today

It's cold.  So although this won't solve anything, I'll spend even more time in front of this computer, toss out a few thoughts and see what happens:

1. Hipsters.
Point: Aww man they're terrible, they hate on everything.
Counterpoint: "There are two things that make the hipster subculture unique. One: They’re better than their predecessors. Two: Everyone says they’re worse."
Conclusion we can all agree with: "hipster" as a fashion movement/subculture is fine, it brought us some sweet indie rock, even if their jeans and bikes are silly.  Maybe they're even better than previous scenes like punks, hippies, greasers, etc.  "Hipsters" who just hate everything are the problem, but really, everyone who just hates everything is the problem.
The interesting point I like to draw from this: "We like to pretend things are getting worse and our entire civilization is on the verge of collapse, but the opposite is true."

2. "Finding your passion".
Point: In deciding what work you're going to do, you've gotta, you know, try things until you find your true passion, then you'll be happy and successful and "never work a day in your life."
Counterpoint: The last 40 years, in which we've gotten less satisfied and happy, have proven: That is such nonsense.
Personal note: I generally think Study Hacks is always right, but I am currently in the process of "finding my passion." D'oh!
Conclusion we can all agree with: it depends from person to person, nobody really knows, but being lazy and just hoping your "passion" will fall out of the sky into your lap is not going to work.
Personal reason I'm not worried: You could call what I'm doing "finding my passion", or you could say I'm building an obsession which I'm excited about pursuing relentlessly.  Or, y'know, that I'm doing what I want to do.

3. Hunting and meat-eating.
Point: If you're going to eat meat, you should kill and eat an animal yourself, to connect yourself to the food chain.  Otherwise you're using some messed-up logic and are a bad meat eater.  Or something?
Counterpoint: Why?  I like to walk on paved roads, too, but I'm not going to spend a day as a street paver.  Not because I'm uncomfortable with the process that goes into road paving, but because it wouldn't be fun.  Or even, I like having a computer.  I'm uncomfortable with sweatshops that make it happen, and I'd buy a sweatshop-free computer if I could (at least, I'd like to think that I would), but you can't do everything right.
Counter-counterpoint: I mean, I'm all in favor of eating less meat.
Counter-counter-counterpoint: but this argument seems like a macho manly way to argue that "I am a good meat eater, and you are a bad meat eater."
Conclusion we can all agree with: eat meat if you want, try to eat less meat, but I'm not going to fight you about it; buy the most sustainable humane meat you can, kill an animal respectfully if you want, value all life, and don't stress minutiae.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interesting thoughts on the way to work:

So dreams are weird, right, you remember some of them and you don't remember others.  Sometimes you even remember them when you just wake up, but don't remember them even 5 minutes later.  And if you don't remember it, it's almost like it didn't happen.

What if real life was like that: stuff happened every day that you just never remembered?  What if you met Will Smith and the Men in Black every single day and they just used the flashy blinky thing on you afterwards?  What if there were 25 hours in the day, and at 12 Noon every day you had a sudden impulse to, I dunno, go to the nearest pinball arcade and play pinball for an hour until 13:00, after which you would return to work or whatever and eat a magic cookie that would wipe the last hour from your memory?

Interesting corollary: I remember reading about a drug that some women (used to?) take during childbirth, which doesn't kill the pain, but makes them not remember it at all.  So you don't remember being in horrendous pain, but then you have a baby.  It's like the pain never happened.

If you don't remember something at all, did it happen?  I mean, yeah, but effectively no.  What does it even mean for something to have happened?  Those dreams that you don't remember from last night: did they happen?  Are they even worth discussing?  Another interesting point: I wonder how much your dreams-that-you-don't-remember affect your next day.

All interesting things, or perhaps psychobabble, I can't tell, and I don't want to spend time to make it clearer, because I'm at work.  I'll ponder these things during my 13:00 pinball break.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Phone anti-phone ads

Microsoft just launched an ad implying you should stop using their phones.

DTAC (a Thai phone service provider) apparently launched one too.

My first instinct is that these ads will fail horribly, because they're all about how much their products hurt your lives and that you should use them less.  Haha!

My second instinct is that this sort of doublespeak will sink deep into our consciousnesses, generating a burst of good feelings whenever we think about DTAC or Microsoft without actually making us use phones less.  Hey, it works for food companies. Eep!

No, seriously.  This is sinister.  "It's time for a phone to save us from our phones"?  To quote the MS commercial, "really?"  To quote Goebbels: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it".

There is nothing about their phone that will save you from your phone.  It is exactly the same as selling you a carton of factory-farmed eggs with pictures of free-roaming happy chickens on it.  Gragh!  Cheeses me off.  Well, here's hoping my first instinct is correct, and we'll be able to have a laugh about how silly these commercials were.

(incidentally, remember The New Busy?  Microsoft ad folks: critical miss times two.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let me be the first

To wish you a happy 10:10:10 10/10/10 boo yah hoo hah whoop zilla blatz shabazz!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Excerpts from the Dream Journal, or, Mining my subconscious for our mutual amusement.

Back in 2004 I started recording my dreams by typing them into the computer.  I left off in about 2007, and have sporadically entered a few here and there since then.  This was nice, because now they're in a text file.  However, it also meant that anything I forgot between my bed and my desk wouldn't get entered.  Since July of this year, I've been writing them down in a notepad next to my bed.  This yields slightly zanier results.

The primary purpose of this is to get my conscious mind a little closer to my subconscious mind, let me explore the dream space a little more, and perhaps enable lucid dreaming.  (it's probably step 2 on the road to lucid dreaming; step 1 is get enough sleep, and step 3 is wake-check yourself (ask, "am I dreaming?") every so often while you're awake; I'm doing all of these.)  An awesome secondary purpose, though, is to wake up, say "what the hell did I dream last night?", and have a good answer because I scrawled it in here at 3 AM.  And then I have a good laugh, because dreams are pretty goofy.

Here are some good recent ones (only minimally edited for legibility):

I'm in Entropy at CMU, and I'm buying a ruler to do some research, and I notice that all my papers call a ruler a "great measurer" and refer to the other researchers as "dear researcher" and by the rulers at Entropy there's a little paper explaining why that is dumb.

I was at my cousin's house I think.  I was going to take a quick nap before going out, and she was explaining her writing process (she was a student): once a yearish, she'd drink a bunch of chocolate milkshakes and stay up all night, she'd feel terrible but then feel better and be able to write more, or something.  I was going to take a nap.  Somehow I ended up at Denny's or something, but I needed some food.  I ordered some kind of standard breakfast.  The server brought out first some white toast and pancakes, which I didn't touch, then some kind of pastry, and an omelet?  I took a couple bites of the pastry.  I noticed a review of the place on the table.  It said something like "the omelet was okay but the standard breakfast was a terrible monstrosity."  I wondered why they posted that.

I was doing an interview at Google, not sure why but I guess it was for a different job?  Anyway, one of my friends and another guy were interviewing me.  The other guy warned me that this question was really hard, but I got it pretty straightforwardly.  It was: you have a row of numbers, and you can take any 10 of them in a row- how do you maximize your winnings?  (I said, basically, linear search.)

I was in the army or something, and I had to report to drills every morning.  (but they were in my front yard.)  One morning I was late, and the officer made me run to/from this one place that was a long way away.  But he said if I did it in under 1/2 hour, I could take the rest of the day off.  It was hard- I didn't know if I'd make it.  Also I had a saxophone.  (in its case.)

Monday, October 04, 2010

While I was grouching about things you can't talk about

I came across this.  (disclaimer: I find her comics generally quite disagreeable, in the same way as Venture Bros., because I feel like I'm getting hit with a hammer the whole time.  except the one about the alot is good.  I told you I'm grouching!)

Ending conversations: it's a mess!  Conversations are generally a mess!  And yet, talking about it makes it worse.  Now every time you're in a conversation you might be thinking, in addition to all your other neurotic thoughts, "I hope I'm not doing one of the four levels of conversational entrapment."

I'm torn.  On the one hand, I don't like talking about the weather.  Or about where you're from or what you do, because that's the three-line conversation you have with any old person.  I want to get to the point, to maybe connect on some other level besides the weather, so I can build the maximally meaningful relationship with a person that I can have in the short time I have to talk with him/her.  And so that he/she finds me interesting.

But then I ask, What would Wayne Coyne do? (it's usually a pretty good heuristic.)  And then I think, SIDETRACK, I meant to mention another thing: talking about dancing and cheering.  See, the Flaming Lips show last Monday was nice, but Wayne spent the whole goddamn time yelling at everyone to cheer more and go crazy.  That's not how you make people cheer more and go crazy.  In addition, sort of relatedly, if you're complaining about why more people don't dance, you're doing it wrong.  I don't want to hear about how everyone is too much of a hipster to dance anymore.  (see last post.)  But that's neither here nor there.  Grouch grouch!

Anyway, so I ask myself, "What would Wayne Coyne do?"  And then I also ask, "What would HH do?" by which I really mean "what would the Buddha do?" because I don't know the Dalai Lama from a postman, and maybe "What would Thich Nhat Hanh or Shinzen Young or Matthieu Ricard do?", and the answer is generally: they would talk about the weather.  They would be totally fine with it.  Because having a conversation about the weather is fine; having four conversations about the weather in a grocery store is fine; getting barged in on by a pseudo friend is fine (and it's your responsibility to end it if it's not).  Shoot.

(writing on blogs forever instead of filling out grad school apps is not so awesome.  so it goes.)

Wooo, someone else is standing up for the hipsters:


"The term "hipster" can be dashed off without a second thought and is accepted by most as a reasonable critique, even if those same people would bristle at the use of "dumb jock" or "geeky weirdo"."

"... it doesn't really mean anything. It's just bad rhetoric. At most, calling someone a hipster means that the target of your ire does something you don't prefer."

At least I wish we had another term for the fashion movement that includes fixed gear bikes and mustaches and skinny jeans, to separate the hipster-as-fixie-rider from the hipster-as-dismisser-of-things.  (at most, I'd like if we could just stop hating.  honestly, not like "har har don't be a hater".)

Things you can't blog sometimes

I just posted a thing about the question "are you having fun?" and it made me realize it was a perfect opportunity to post it, because nobody had just asked me "are you having fun?"  If someone had, he/she would think that I was posting particularly in response to him/her, passive-aggressively, on my blog.  I am glad that I remembered to post this now!

I wonder what other thoughts I have that you can't blog sometimes.  Oh, I know!

The binary "love/not love" thing.  I don't understand it.  Apparently there is a point when two people are dating that they "fall in love."  Before that you cannot say the word "love"; after that, you'd better.

I have always been baffled by this.  It seems like a gradual thing, no?  Is it really so ungradual and I've always done it wrong?  Or is it truly very gradual but everyone knows the threshold is 70 relationship points?  And why do we have exactly two words, "like" and "love", and you just have to hope you both cross that arbitrary threshold at about the same time?

Proposal 1. Only one word.  Let's say "like."  Nope: romantic types would not appreciate me ditching the word "love."  Okay, let's keep the word "love."  And you can use it every day, with everyone.  Nope again: then your boy/girlfriend is linguistically the same as everyone else.  Okay, how about this, you say "love" to everyone but the longer you say it, the more intense it is.  So you love your friends but you loooove that special someone, and I mean by the time you get married you loooooooooooooooooove him/her.  (this has the added bonus of making a declaration of love into a new bizarre alpen-yodeling ritual.)

Proposal 2. A whole bunch of words!  You catch someone's eye: "I am intrigued by you."  You go on a few dates and they're the best: "I'm infatuated with you."  You get to know them: "I admire you."  We could make up some more for the many stages of feelings in between.  "I glipf you," "I frimble you", "I prandolate you", etc.  Keep this up for maybe 30 stages.  By the time you get to "love", you've both probably awkwarded each other out 12 times anyway by skipping a stage too early, so you're not too fussed.  (the bonus here is making up goofy new words.  and y'know perhaps added emotional introspection as people have to understand what they're feeling better.  But yeah, new Seussian words.)

At any rate, I am glad I remembered to post this while I'm single, because now I don't have to have an awkward conversation like: "Dan, you blogged that thing about love and words!  Ha ha!  ... but are WE in love???"


A couple of thoughts about fun:

1. If you have to ask "are you having fun?" the answer is probably no.  Furthermore, you're probably making things worse by calling out the fact that there is fun to be had, and someone is not having it.

2. For some reason we keep up this charade that now we're at a fun thing, now we're not; while you're at a fun thing you should be having fun, and while you're not you shouldn't.  (it's okay if you do.  it's just unexpected.)

3. It seems very rationalist or logical or objectivist or WASPy or Cartesian or something (someone fill in the right word please) to treat fun in this way.  We treat fun like an object that you can buy with a certain amount of time and money.  When I put it like that, it's obviously nonsense.  And yet, we patronize so many Disneylands that pretend they can give us exactly this trade.

4. An analogy: if life is food, fun is sweetness.  A well-made meal will offer you sometimes a good deal of sweetness.  But if you go looking for sweetness, you'll just be eating spoonfuls of sugar, and that makes you sick.  (and doesn't really taste that good.)  I guess what I'm saying is, if you have to try to have fun, maybe you should rethink your approach.