Monday, April 25, 2016

sometimes you can take some of these positions too far

When I was about 18 and started to think for myself, I realized that we are way too far in one direction in this country and I should basically always vote/argue the other way.

Our country and especially our cities are made for cars, and we're seeing that become unsustainable in many ways. Anything that brings us fewer cars and more walkers, bikers, and public transit takers, is a good thing.
We as a country are (to borrow some words) racist as hell, we're only slightly less sexist than we are racist, we've got a lot of generations of both "isms" (and many more) to start undoing.
We flex our military muscle too much and end up creating as many problems as we started with (at huge cost to veterans on our side, and civilians on theirs, and at huge monetary cost to our country).
We really ought to do as much as possible to help the world as a whole, environmentally - and not just save spotted owls, but think about the environment holistically and do things in the direction of helping it.
Inequality's a big issue. Our world would be better with way higher taxes, especially on the rich.
(probably more similar things too.)

And like, I still feel like these views are 95% correct. Just... sometimes they're not. Hearing about an anthropologist who studied with a tribe in the Amazon and wrote some pretty unflattering things, I'd have been inclined to say, yeah, probably the unthinking eye of colonialism talking. But maybe it wasn't! Similarly, sometimes we should do a military thing, or build car infrastructure. Remembering that I'm operating with simplifying rules that are only 95% correct (and that percentage may even shift over time) is maybe one way to avoid being smug.

(Not even getting to things like "gentrification" where it's unclear if we're even looking at the right side of the problem, let alone whether it's gone too far. Digging into zoning laws and city hall and taxes is way harder than writing a snarky thinkpiece about an Apple store.)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Scrubby sponges

I grew up using these "Dobie" sponges:

but in the last couple years, I (like most people I know) have started using these guys:

I mean, they seem way better, because they have one side that's all sponge. You can sop up a spilled water or something. The Dobies don't do that as well. I used to be a firm Dobie defender though. Huh.

Also, what are these called? Sometimes I end up calling them "spongey doobers" and sometimes "spongey fellows." I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

election blues (npi)

After a short bit of googling it looks like my man Bernie is falling behind. I was surprised to find that this made me sad.

I'm disappointed in people on the internet being loud and smug and snippy on both sides of it. I'm disappointed with "Bernie Bros" being dumb guys. To be fair, I haven't even seen a Bernie Bro myself, I've just heard secondhand stories of Bernie Bros being dumb guys. (More than I've seen Hillary Bros being dumb guys.) I'm disappointed with both Bernie fans and Hillary fans yelling about the other subteam as if they're idiots.

I'm disappointed in the same way Astra Taylor is here. Disappointed in a political discussion that leaves me full of awareness-raising, bashing the usual racists and sexists, word-policing, and so on, tolerating everything except the outgroup, but not really doing anything except yelling really loud for 11 months.

I guess I don't know what I expected? Like, I guess this is literally just politics, and presidential races are generally large shouting matches for a long time. So, you know, whatever.

In other news: UN forces caused a cholera outbreak in Haiti, but at least some delightful weirdo's been gluing protractors all around Pittsburgh and this blog The Decolonial Atlas exists so that's something. (Blue Tribers, eat those up)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Is neoliberalism the problem? What does "neoliberalism" mean?

Sounds good to me. Or rather, sounds like "neoliberalism" encompasses all the things that make me pessimistic about modern government, ideology, and the entire world really. Unless... it's like the word "gentrification", where it just represents whatever you personally don't like.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

simple maximizers vs reason-based agents

I guess I'm into this talk. In short (b/c it's 1hr long and a little new-agey):
You can approach decision-making by maximizing some number, conceptually. Food A is taste 2 + healthiness 5 = 7, food B is taste 3 + healthiness 3 = 6, so you eat food A.

But you can instead look at it by looking at the values you have, and compare them to the values that each food helps you fulfill. My values are (taste, healthiness, x, y, z) and food A fulfills x and y, and food B fulfills z and not w. Plus, my values can shift after I see the options.

I think you can see them as the same thing, like I think they're mathematically identical at some level. But as any designer or any computer scientist who's written assembly and javascript knows, looking at it a different way (or at a different level of abstraction) really matters.

Half formed thought and I gotta go write more thesis now. Eh, hitting publish!

politics update a day later

ugh so apparently:
this was not just a random bit I happened to stumble on, this was an unusually bad bernie stumble
some people on the internet are arguing that this was an unfair kinda gotcha interview
bernie releases a statement to do damage control
and the two bernie dudes and the hillary dude and lady who I've allowed to remain in my facebook feed are at it again and sharing all kind of garbage about how the world is unfairly biased against their candidate and blah blah

as someone writing a thesis proposal right now, I know the pain of trying to plan a whole project without knowing the details of how it'll work. let alone something as complicated as running the whole country. I mean, imagine trying to pick a new CEO of Google, and quizzing her on "how would you improve Android market share? and what's your plan for self-driving cars?" I don't know; I hire people to build the self-driving cars. Here's my vision, my goal; you worry about the details.

I guess this is the whole issue of "what's a good leader? and what's a good vision?" As researchers, we've got to do this too: set out a vision. But it's a weird line: not too many or too few details. I've done the too-many-details version; I was an engineer. I've tried the not-enough-details version, and I'm told it's not a good vision, and I don't know why. Working on it.

but enough about me. I like bernie's vision: the combination of money and power in the US stops any systemic change from happening, and so let's do something about it. (more about how race and money and power are intertwined, and a fascinating read, only partially related) and we've got models to follow in this direction, and most of them are in northern europe. (haven't heard him say "basic income", but he'd be way more likely to than hillary.)
oh and global warming etc. (though he's totally against nuclear, even as a stopgap :(

and I mean it's not over - well unless you count the superdelegates - I remember hearing some noise about how the superdelegate system wasn't totally insane but I don't remember why not, so please explain this to me if you know why not.

meta note: I get all this from just reading the internet when I'm bored. I feel like I'd be better off not reading the internet all the time. But it's these info snacks that get me through the day when I'm working on something difficult. welp.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

talkin bout politics, talkin bout bernie and hillary

From the start I've liked Bernie slightly more than Hillary. I'd vote for Bernie and be pretty excited about it, I'd vote for Hillary and think it's fine. I think we ought to move the government towards Northern Europe in a lot of ways. I think they're doing pretty well. I think politics in the US needs some overhauling b/c people have so little say and big nasty corporations can funnel infinite money into whoever they want. I think most republicans are pretty obnoxiously blockading everything they can, most recently the supreme court justice, but there's been a bunch of other stuff. (destroying Pennsylvania's financial situation while they're at it.) Incidentally, the entire republican party is pretty much exactly wrong on every social issue. So, we gotta have a non-republican win this most important office. Oh, and global warming is definitely happening and caused by humans and we should really do something about it.

That's about as far as I know. I don't know what exactly we should do in Israel, but I'm pretty sure that we've been pretty egregiously supporting Israel in pretty egregiously subjugating Palestinians. I don't know what we should do about ISIS, but I'm pretty sure we shouldn't march in and attack them because that's kinda what they want. I don't know what to do about police violence, but I do know that nonwhite people have it way tougher here than white people (sometimes violently so) and we can't ignore that. I don't know how we should change the US economy, and if banking is really the root of all evil here, but I know we've got to do something. I don't even know what we should do about international trade, really, at all.

And here's Bernie sounding just like me. And that's kind of depressing, because someone with my expertise shouldn't be running the country. But, transcripts make anyone sound dumb (though I'll agree this one could have gone better. sounds like obnoxious stump speeching.) And... I guess if you knew in detail what to do about everything you'd be superhuman, so maybe it's ok to be vague (and directionally right) on some things.

But it does sound like I'm searching for ways to uphold my pre-existing positions. Maybe I gotta dig up a crummy interview with Hillary and see how she sounds there. Anyway, color me still-undecided. (and, tbh, excited to have a race with an actual choice.)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

hello friends, would you like this t-shirt?

yes of course you would
it is of course the raddest Rock Star, Jimi Hendrix, known for his amazing guitaring on songs like hey joe, voodoo child (slight return), lucy in the sky with diamonds
if you wear it you will look as super cool as this guy standing all along the watchtower there. people of the gender you are attracted to will want to stand next to your fire. (not that lady though, she's already with that guy (probably because of his cool shirt))
anyway if you want one, if you got to get one into your life, I will screen print you one for the cost of the shirt + postage. send me an Electronic Mail (dan dot tasse at gmail) with:
- your address
- your size
- what color you want
- what kind of shirt you want - I can buy a cheap one for like $7, or a fancy American Apparel one for like $18, or my current favorite, AA shirts in the colors they're trying to get rid of for $9.
- what color ink if you want anything besides black (I have white, red, blue, yellow; black's been working best but I'm happy to try others. sadly, no purple haze.)
offer is open to all friends who don't mind waiting like a couple few weeks for a rad shirt because this is totally in my spare time best-effort-whenever. but just like jimi, I'll work hard to get it to you, eight days a week!