Sunday, August 17, 2014

Avoid finite games; robots taking your jobs; gentrification

Avoid Finite Games
Daniel Lemire is a blogger who's vaguely related to computer things and I'm not sure why I still read him, but occasionally he comes up with posts like this: A Culture of Envy. His basic point: stop playing finite games (games where someone else has to lose for you to win), and play more infinite games (games where everyone can win).

Over the last say 7 years, this has, without me even knowing it, become kind of a guiding principle of my life.

Simply and obviously: I like games like Pandemic, Betrayal at the house on the hill, Dominion, Ticket to Ride, over games like Settlers or Risk. In Pandemic and Betrayal, most obviously, you're all on one team. (mostly.) Dominion and Ticket to Ride are basically solitaire - you're building up your thing, other people are building theirs, and eventually someone wins but it doesn't really matter. Also chess and Magic, because it feels more like you're figuring out something elegant together instead of competing against each other.
(and word games, because they feel more like sports; whatever.)

Also obviously: I don't like striving for money or, to an extent, fame. And it's not a moral thing; it's just less fun to win something that forces other people to be losing.

Robots Taking Your Jobs
Humans Need Not Apply- Robots are coming for your jobs - all of them - and unemployment might be high forever. Huh! Well, that could be good. (some jobs are super mechanized and dehumanizing; remember the data points in your system are humans, remember they are humans, remember they are humans, etc) Permanent unemployment could be fine - if our basic standard of unemployed life were high enough. Imagine if we had a guaranteed minimum income, and you could get the equivalent of, I dunno, $25k (and health coverage) without working. We talk about empowering artists and stuff - what if you really could?
A friend who was in India for a while: You see super-dire poverty in Calcutta, and we mostly don't have that kind of poverty here. We've decided as a society that the minimum bar is somewhat above that. But the minimum bar is still pretty low here! You can be stuck without the possibility of sleep! God, what kind of a hazy half-existence would permanent sleep deprivation be!
A friend who just got back from Germany: It's depressing, because the infrastructure and standard of living are so much higher there. We could have that! We have enough money! But we choose not to, because "people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps" or something.

just sort of interesting: poor neighborhoods with >40% black people don't gentrify
- but, I mean, maybe gentrification is good overall?
- but read that closer: it's good for homeowners. Well, sure. I'm not real worried about the net worths of homeowners.
- but seriously, it's good for people. I guess they're saying, "it would be good if San Francisco had built more housing." No wait, overall, it's good; rich yuppie invaders don't drive out long-time residents. Huh. But on the ground, people are getting evicted. Aren't they? (or is it a sacrifice for a disproportionately small number of people to make a neighborhood that's better for everyone else, including the majority of poorer folks who stay?)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dang, so long, San Francisco!

I'm gone already. How did that happen?

- my friends who live there. It feels like (surprise) a city of transplants, but the nice thing is, I'm a transplant, and I know a lot of those transplants. It was great reconnecting with some old friends, and staying connected with others.
- my roommates at Vegetable House. (I've named it that to distinguish from Pretzel House, where I live in Pittsburgh.) I still like having roommates. It's a good way to make deep connections when you're all transplants at some level or another.
- okay okay the coffee, look, it's absurd how good the coffee scene is there. There are at least 4 world-class roasters, so I get to decide that I dig Ritual and Four Barrel a little more than Blue Bottle and Sightglass. Also I've got my little rolodex of small roasters, and I can decide I don't like a coffee shop for no reason other than that it's not awesome enough. Short list includes Haus, Linea, Philz, Sextant, Papa November, Saint Frank, Matching Half, Workshop, Coffee Bar, Grand, and Wrecking Ball, but that's only the top tier. Honestly, I've got to make a map of these.
- and burritos, it must be said, I will put a Taqueria Cancun up against anyone but really anywhere you go it's quite nice.
- bikes, yes, a lot of people bike and it's pretty easy to get around, and more than that, it's a lot of fun and very pretty.
- nearby mountains and forests and other pretty places
- Caltrain. Not as nice as sitting at home or even in the office for those 45 min each way, but surprisingly not terrible. The ability to put a bike on it makes it all possible.
- occasional... things? that happen? that are just generally interesting? hat tips to the Long Now talks, Maker FaireMacroCity, and a handful of other things that I couldn't even go to. It's the center of some world. I appreciate that.
Scoot. Zipcar for electric scooters. So good.
- the ability for Tati and I to both get internships out there. I mean, I put it down here at the bottom, but I want to make sure I don't take for granted how wonderful it was that we were together out there.

- feeling bad about being a gentrifier all the time. Okay, so one solution is to just stop feeling bad. But then you're just ignoring a problem. (also, it's hard when there are flyers all around your neighborhood that say "EVICTED" with a picture of a Google bus. Or, you know, when this graffiti shows up literally on my house. arguably this is a good thing; better to confront our problems than ignore them. but it does put me in an uncomfortable spot.)
- um, commuting so long does get old. (gotta get a job with some Google buses! ... ideally without evicting anyone.)
- working three jobs is hard. (internship, preparing for teaching a class, and keeping up with my main line of research in a little way.)
- uh, it's crowded? I started looking for bars or parks or just places that had no other real qualifications besides being quiet. I mean, I don't like wanting the same things that a lot of other people want, and there, there are definitely a lot of people that want a lot of things. Some friends and I made a reservation for brunch a month in advance! A month!
- and, you know, the rent is too damn high, etc, see #1

but overall it was a super rocking summer. Hope to be back soon. Yes. Thank you San Francisco, it's been (ahem) hella sweet.