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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
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19th-May-2016 12:40 am - Inflammation Update
intense aztec drummer DNC 2008
As previously mentioned, I started the year with an autoimmune attack on my eye. This occurred after a month of over-extension: after a long day at work, I'd come home and spend a bunch of energy planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand, then not get a lot of sleep before doing it all again. The first sign of autoimmune inflammation, though I didn't realize it at the time, was soreness in the arch of my right foot. I chalked it up to old orthotics and added new boot inserts to the trip shopping list. I'd also been using a standing desk at work for two months in an attempt to reduce sitting-induced back pain and see if reduced slouching helped my esophagus's acid problem.

My eye recovered fully and my vision is back to 20/15; the only sign of the attack is a small "battle scar" blip on the iris. The only autoimmune blood test that came back positive was HLA-B27. This wasn't too surprising, since it's linked to ankylosing spondylitis, a condition which led to my uncle's fused spine. This antigen marker led to a referral from the eye surgeon to a rheumatologist.

After getting help from my parents to figure out all the causes of death in my family history, the first rheumatology appointment resulted in a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis (a relative of ankylosing spondylitis), a prescription for meloxicam as needed, an NSAID (similar family ibuprofen, but with longer duration and more powerful per milligram), and instruction to get x-rays of my spine and pelvis. The x-rays showed signs of calcification of my spine and SI joint, so I had another rheumatologist appointment to talk about chronic disease management and treatment options. Basically, my immune system works too well, so it attacks various parts of my body like joints, skin around my scalp, and occasionally my eye. Biologics are the big-gun drugs for autoimmune diseases, which are expensive and increase the likelihood of serious infection. They sound pretty scary, so I decided to focus on "diet and lifestyle" and NSAIDs for a while to see how far I can get with adjusting my environment and routine.

So yeah, that was January. I averaged a health-care office visit every other day, but by the end of the month I wasn't feeling too bad. In February we spent two weeks in Maui, where I was able to do low-impact activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, mini golfing, and hanging out on the beach. Eating was still a bit of a challenge: the acid reflux and esophageal challenges in swallowing that were my main health problem in 2015 persisted, so there were a lot of rather slow meals. Then, half way through the trip and the day after a hike on the wet side of the island, I started to feel a bit sick, maybe a mild viral or bacterial infection. That night I had a crazy intense acid reflux experience, preventing me from sleeping all night. Around 3:30 I took a famotidine (Pepcid) pill that I'd been prescribed but hadn't really used. Two and a half hours later, we got on the ferry to Moloka'i. With only a few thousand residents, no stoplights, and a laid-back culture, Moloka'i is a great place to feel crappy. I started feeling better, and acid issues started to fade. Remarkably, I've had hardly any acid reflux in the three months since returning, though I've still got some swallowing challenges.

My mom gave me a copy of The Anti-Inflammation Zone by Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone diet. The book explained, to a moderate degree of satisfaction, how pro- and anti-inflammatory responses work (arachidonic acid versus eicosanoids and other long Latin names). Sears's primary recommendations, repeated over and over, are the Zone diet and high-dose, high-purity fish oil for EPA and DHA. I found his discussions of the diet kind of annoying, particularly since his extensive biography wasn't footnoted from the text, so I couldn't tell what was part of the diet plan because of sound science and what was present arbitrarily. The fish oil recommendation, on the other hand, seems to have solid science behind it. I've been taking fish oil for a couple months, currently around 2 teaspoons per day (~3 grams of ω-3 fats), and eating salmon and herring whenever I get the chance. The EPA doesn't seem to have done much for my foot/ankle/SI joint inflammation, but my psoriasis symptoms seem to have improved, perhaps from the DHA. During the winter I was drinking a lot of homemade chai, with the goal of increased intake of the anti-inflammatory ginger and turmeric. I even brewed a tamarind turmeric galangal brown ale. Keeping a crock pot of warm chai has been less appealing as the weather has gotten warmer.

I've been back and forth on the meloxicam. The side effects so far haven't been too bad&endash;mostly mild dehydration from my kidneys working hard–but stomach issues and intestinal bleeding are possible. When I take it for several days, my ankle/foot pain is a lot less, and I think it may help my esophageal troubles. After taking it all last week and experiencing very few choking incidents, I stopped taking it over the weekend. The last two days have featured moderately increased foot pain and some distressingly intense swallowing problems (leading to unpleasant regurgitation), so I'm taking the drug again in the hope that my eating challenge can be addressed by reducing inflammation.

Emotionally and intellectually, I've been adjusting to a lifestyle focused on eliminating stress, reducing voluntary commitments, and enhancing physical health. My natural tendency is to overcommit and prioritize tasks over sleep, exercise, and hygiene. That's a good recipe for accumulating inflammation, so I'm learning to say "no" and prioritize my own health over being helpful all the time. I've also been riding my bike (yay springtime!) and more regular about stretching on the floor and not sitting still for hours, though I've been in basically the same position in my hammock for the last two and a half hours of blogging. The nice thing about chronic illness is that if I don't do things right today, I can get back on target tomorrow.
McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons
Today's Conference on World Affairs Howard Higman Memorial Plenary was by former South Carolina congressman Robert Inglis, who is now the executive director of republicEn.org, a site and nonprofit organization run by conservatives concerned about climate change focused on swaying other conservatives about the issue. The talk was entitled "How Free Enterprise Can Solve Climate Change" (video here) but it wasn't so much an economics presentation as a discussion about what it would take to convince conservatives (and particularly conservative U.S. politicians) to implement a carbon tax. In particular, he argued that for the right wing to buy in, it needs to be a revenue-neutral, border-adjusted carbon tax.

Revenue-neutral means the money earned by the tax needs to be offset by cutting taxes somewhere else. The plan needs to be revenue-neutral because you can't get the Republican party to agree to a carbon tax which will also increase the size of government.

Border-adjusted means that an import tax on carbon would be imposed if the goods came from a country which didn't tax carbon at the source of production. The border adjustment is important because it would let individual countries set up taxes on their own (without requiring worldwide coordinated government action), but would make American-made goods which paid the carbon tax (or were developed with cleaner technology) competitive with foreign-made goods from countries which use cheap but dirty production methods.

The focus wasn't so much on the mechanics of how such a scheme might be implemented, but rather on how climate change believers might effect action on the issue through a congress whose position over the last two decades has ranged from skeptical to hostile. Speaking to a Boulder audience dominated by folks on the left, Inglis talked about how to frame the conversation in terms that a conservative (like your uncle Charlie at the holidays) can support. Inglis's own history went from opposing climate change legislation based on no knowledge except that Al Gore supported it (mid-90s) to introducing a bill which would tax carbon and cut payroll tax (2009). The bill died, and he was thanked for his efforts by being defeated by the Tea Party in the 2010 primaries.

Inglis's biggest topic of framing was on tax. A plan that sets out to make things like manufacturing and driving more expensive is on shaky ground with Republicans already; if it sends more money to Washington, they'll stop listening. He wasn't especially particular about the way in which taxes were reduced, though he called out a corporate income tax reduction as a particularly attractive option for swaying Republican lawmakers. He said that many liberals seemed unwilling to reduce corporate income tax in exchange for a carbon tax and he questioned how much those liberals were truly convinced that climate change was the most important issue of the generation. (One could play the same trick on any number of issues: offer to cut income tax but make it revenue-neutral by imposing a tax on firearms and ammunition and see how committed conservatives are to income tax reduction.)

Of the revenue-neutral schemes Inglis mentioned: payroll tax, income tax, or a dividend, I think the latter is best-suited to balance a carbon tax. If the dividend were distributed equally to all American citizens, it would be a much more progressive tax benefit than cutting the corporate rate. Furthermore, an annual cash payment to everyone, even if they are currently unemployed and thus not paying much payroll tax, would help people cover the costs of increased energy bills, buy a more energy-efficient car, move away from rising sea levels, or otherwise cope with the new world of climate change.

I asked Inglis about the details of border-adjustment and whether it would account for non-tax incentives which lower the price of carbon production like foreign aid to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela or governmental policies by a country like China which provide polluting industries with benefits like unrestricted access to land or other perks. Inglis wasn't concerned with internalizing all externalities, and he also said the import duty would be based on the carbon content of an American-equivalent product, meaning that as American production becomes less-polluting, carbon-derived imports will get cheaper. I'll let the economists hammer out the details on this front, though.

I think Inglis's most important focus isn't on the policy specifics, but on reaching out to Republicans and conservatives as one of their own. He (and the folks republicEn can gather to their rallying call) can speak the free enterprise orthodoxy lingo that progressives aren't as fluent in and he can appeal to them from heart-felt religious conviction grounds upon which even religious liberals, let alone secular scientists, don't stand. (This isn't to say that religious liberals don't have religious conviction, but that their dogma has evolved so significantly from conservative religious dogma that attempts at convergence mostly end in a lot of barking.)

Unfortunately, the opportunities for reasonable and rational engagement across ideological lines seems to be shrinking faster than polar ice caps. In the past, the stereotypical conservative uncle Charlie and liberal niece Linda listened to similar news sources and spent time with overlapping sets of people and so could converse with a shared view of consensus reality. Today's media (broadcast and social) is so specialized that it seems difficult for folks on either side of the spectrum to agree on terminology and facts, let alone discuss a policy approach with a cool head. And it seems like at a holiday gathering that Linda's mostly on defense in response to Charlie's rants about gays or immigrants or guns tough to even start a conversation about sea level rise and crop failure. If instead of a holiday, Linda tries to start the conversation on Facebook, it's easy for Charlie to glance at the subject and skip right over it, avoiding discomfort and hitting the Like button on an inspirational message in a colorful font. Meanwhile, broadcasters and publishers can get more advertising eyeballs if they present the "opposing" side as other or untouchable, which puts politicians interested in collaboration in danger of being scorned by their in-group.

Climate change is a global problem and it needs pan-ideological work to address it. Unfortunately, building a coalition ain't what it used to be.
1st-Apr-2016 11:55 pm - Foolish Twits
Shakespeare bust oval
I just realized that I'd posted a bunch of great one-liners to my Twitter feed but hadn't added to my signature quote file. I'd forgotten a bunch of these jokes, so I'm glad to see Twitter is solving the role of my mom's "Write it down!" pleas from my youth.

You can play a really believable game of "The Floor is Lava" in Hawaii.
Ask me what's the hardest part of investing. What's the har... Timing!
You gotta fight / for your right / To ferrrrrrment - The Yeasty Boys
The incoming call said "unknown number," but I don't know how that could be: I've memorized all the digits from 0 to 9.
Ornithography: The study of V shapes in the sky.
I got a toy alien with some assembly required. When I put it together it said "We come in pieces."
What do you call a troubadour who can play the lute without hands? No holds bard.
The little self-esteem engine that could.
Who makes the best Indian tacos? A Sioux chef.
It's a bold! It's a serif! It's digbatman!
Mallard abduckted. Fowl play suspected.
So tell me... are you a coelaCAN or a coelaCANTH?
Castling is the chess equivalent of the quarterback scramble.
Nipples are a child's first user interface.
I really hope somoene has a writing program for inmates called "Prose and Cons."
A cat holding a sign that says "9 Lives Matter"
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt / 192.168.1.2 / His IP is my IP too
My imaginary friend lives at 127.0.0.2
In the land of the blinds the Venetian is king.
The process of opening and setting up a new Apple product is delightful and elegant until you get to the Software License Agreement.
After the State of the Union comes the Principality of the Dominion.
A bear managing mutual funds would probably overinvest in agricultural commodities for fall delivery.
Someone should make bumper stickers for New York that say "Maybe honking will help."
My cat loves when it's wet outside and dry inside. When it rains, it purrs.
They should have a Tour de Portland where at each stage the couriers pick up a different bulky package for delivery on the next stage.
Cat food flavors: beef, chicken, salmon. Why not mouse, sparrow, or goldfish? That's what they really want to eat.
Cats are both soft and sharp, yin and yang.
I'm noodling around on a jazz piece by Sun Ramen.
All my exes blocked my textes.
If you think stereotypes are bad, wait until you hear how inaccurate my monotypes are.
Some say if you're not paying then you are the product. Yet also: if you get paid for your work then you are the product.
Function, method, procedure, routine. Why don't any programming languages have maneuvers?
Thank you bishop, but the king already castled!
Thank you Mario, but the princess is the protagonist in her own feature film!
Professors gonna profess.
8th-Mar-2016 12:01 am - cocovore
cthulhufruit citrus cephalopod
I don't think I'd want to live on a nudist, sun-worshiping plantation with people who only eat coconuts, but I think I'd enjoy visiting for a few days. The Wikipedia article has some pretty amusing stories of a crazy German man.

Originally posted by prettygoodword at cocovore
cocovore (KOH-kuh-vor) or cocoivore (koh-KOH-ee-vor) - n., someone who eats coconuts.


Especially, one who eats ONLY coconuts. Yes, a real thing, or was. This has been showing up lately because of a recent translation of a novel about August Engelhardt, leader of a cult of cocovorous nudists. Read the Wikipedia article.

---L.
29th-Feb-2016 04:14 pm - Vacation vs Travel
spencer hot springs feet
A TSA checkpoint, an overnight flight[1] with guaranteed less than five hours sleep, a two-and-a-half hour layover, and a late morning (oh so late, for yesterday's morning) flight kinda erase any relaxation benefit from a Hawaiian vacation.

But man, home never felt so relaxing.

[1] All(?) flights from Hawaii to Da Mainland are overnight, I assume to avoid fighting the trade winds.
21st-Feb-2016 09:37 pm - Reflections from Maui
spam lite
Some thoughts after a week in Maui, in no particular order:

When you're surrounded by ocean, rainbows are easy.

Even tropical fruit is expensive in Hawaii.

When Hawaiian kids thank someone for giving them candy, do they say "Mahaloween"?

If you stick your ears in the water, you can hear the wails of whales.

On Maui, it's even relaxing to be stuck in traffic.

When the sun sets over the ocean, rather than over a mountain, the clouds lose their color right away.

I wonder which immigrant group is the source of the ubiquity of macaroni salad.

When the ocean is involved, you can make plans, but don't assume the details will be the way you want them.

It's hard to recognize the right street sign when all the place names use the Hawaiian alphabet. "Our street, uh, starts with a K, ends with an i and is about three vowels long."

If you tell people you're on your honeymoon, they invariably smile and say "Congratulations!" Consider having a honeymoon that lasts for years.

Getting in the water from the shore is free, but if you do it from a boat you don't get sand in your swimsuit.

Reggae has played a big influence on contemporary local music. Surprisingly, hip hop doesn't seem to have made it to the islands.

Jet lag is no big deal in Hawaii. Dawn is about the time I'd be getting up at home, and it's also a good time to hit the water.

Even turtles go on vacation.

"Spam sushi" might sound unappealing, but call it musubi and it's delicious.
12th-Feb-2016 01:45 pm - For The Third Time
charbonneau ghost car
Dear thieves who rummage through the center consoles of unlocked parked cars in the middle of the night,

I leave my car unlocked because there's nothing worth stealing in it. The $20 Target sunglasses with scratched lenses and a missing chunk of plastic have no resale value. The similar pair that's missing one of the ear pieces is worth even less. Please leave all pairs of cheap sunglasses in the car: they aren't much use to you, but they will help me get to work in the morning.

Sincerely,
the guy with a beat up Subaru
11th-Feb-2016 11:06 pm - Spacific Destination
xkcd don quixote
Last month, on the Thursday before the Saturday on which I was scheduled to fly across the Pacific Ocean, I couldn't bear to keep my right eye open for more than a second because everything was bright and painful. The eye surgeon gave me a prescription for durezol, a steroid in eye drop form, to be taken every hour while awake, plus dilation drops three times a day. He told me to come back the next day. "I assume I shouldn't fly to Australia on Saturday," I said, having already resigned to the honeymoon cancellation. "Not unless you're going straight from the tarmac to a doctor's office," he said.

It's Thursday again, and we've got tickets to Maui. Half as far as New Zealand and for half as long, but I have twice as many functioning eyeballs, so I'll call it even. I'm about as packed now as I was a month ago, but I feel much more ready to go.
31st-Jan-2016 11:54 pm - I have some reservations about this
cthulhufruit citrus cephalopod
Man, Maui isn't an easy place to set up last-minute travel. I'm definitely going to need a vacation after the stress of setting up accommodation for two weeks.

I miss the days of getting off the bus in a new town and walking around the square to see which hostels have space.

But I'm super glad I can get to Polynesia at all. Hawaii is half way to New Zealand, and two weeks is half as long as a month. Yet I've got all of my eyes, so I'll call it a blessing nonetheless.

I also found it refreshing that you can identify a small local business by their complete lack of adherence to modern professional web design. Like this eco-friendly rental car company-slash-cat sanctuary.
24th-Jan-2016 03:52 pm - adoxography
Trevor baby stare
I think "adoxography" pretty well describes a lot of web journalism.


Originally posted by prettygoodword at adoxography
adoxography - n. fine writing on a minor or trivial subject; rhetorical praise of things of doubtful value.


Unlike most rhetorical terms, this is NOT from ancient Greek, but rather coined at the start of the 20th century to describe an ancient Greek practice of having students of rhetoric make speeches praising such things as gout or fleas. The roots are Late Latin adoxus, paradoxical or absurd, borrowed by Erasmus from Greek adoxus, inglorious + graphos, writing. As an example, we can again point to Erasmus and his Praise of Folly.

Sorry for the light posting this week -- external obligations. Which will continue next holiday week -- regular posting should resume on the 30th.

---L.
18th-Jan-2016 05:58 pm - Odin the Pirate
requiem for a dream eye
In Multiverse #A, I'm at Google's Sydney office right now, chatting with coworkers and preparing for a summit exploring options for some new technology. I periodically close my eyes and think about plans for our upcoming month-long honeymoon in Australia and New Zealand.

In Multiverse #B, I'm sitting on the couch at home. We canceled our airfare after an ocular irritation deteriorated over two weeks. Every hour my wife puts a steroid drop in my right eye with a dilating drop thrice a day. I periodically take care of house organization tasks that have lingered for months.

Unfortunately, Multiverse #B is the one in which we live.

We spent most of December reading guide books, looking at maps, proposing itineraries, sharing adventure ideas, and connecting with Australasian Burners. Then on Sunday, January 3rd I woke up with a localized headache above my right eye. Assuming it was a hangover, I spent most of the day taking care of small details and hanging out on the couch looking up things about the southern hemisphere on the Internet. In the evening, Kelly mentioned that my eye looked really red and I was coming around to the idea that it wasn't just a hangover.

Monday the 4th was the first day back at work for a lot of folks, though I'd taken the holiday period to write a bunch of code on a new-to-me technology stack while nobody was sending interrupting emails. The Colorado sun reflecting on snow felt especially bright while I was outside and I still had a dull headache, but I thought I might recover. On Tuesday morning, the eye was still red, so I called my eye doctor and got an appointment that afternoon, wanting to make sure this was resolved before I left the country on the 16th. Her diagnosis was a bacterial infection in the right eye and gave me an eye drop sample of antibiotics plus steroids, targeted at thrice a day.

Even before I put the first drop in on Tuesday evening, I was feeling much better; I think the drops put in for dilation and other measurements helped clear some of the infection. By my checkup on Friday the 8th, I was feeling really good: my eye was still red with irritation, but my headache had gone and my vision was great. My eye doctor recommended I continue the drops for four days, but didn't think I needed to come back if things were feeling good.

On Friday night, however, things got worse. My headache returned and I was feeling really exhausted. On Saturday, light felt really bright and my head felt really lousy. I took some ibuprofen (which helped with the head but not the light) and we went to REI for some travel supplies. On Sunday I was mostly able to muster the energy to buy two Sydney→Wellington tickets, pack my suitcase and figure out which items I'd want on the plane.

On Monday the 11th, the world seemed really bright as I drove to work early. I met up with a colleague from Sydney and one from New York who were in town to work with me that week on improving our integration testing situation. I started to draw an architecture diagram on the whiteboard, but the glare mixed with the early morning grogginess was too intense. I grabbed some Google Privacy Week swag sunglasses and was able to face the whiteboard for an hour, then scheduled an eye appointment for the next day after my big presentation. Ibuprofen in the afternoon and the pair of sunglasses helped me finish the rest of the slides for my talk, though I was pretty drained when I left the office around 8.

On Tuesday, I was able to get through my lunch-hour talk about a new internal service development framework of which I've led the adoption in our team. Several people congratulated me, though I'm not sure it was the greatest presentation I've given. I think the ibuprofen wore off at about 12:55, and our out-of-town visitors were pretty concerned about my eye as I toughed it out for afternoon meetings. When I saw the eye doctor around five, she could tell I was having a lousy time, but couldn't identify anything specifically wrong. There was no longer any sign of the infection, but there was plenty of unexplained inflammation. She recommended I stop the eye drops and she said she'd call at noon the next day; if things weren't clear by then, she'd have a colleague check me out.

When I got home, Kelly said "If you lose your sight in that eye, I really hope you get Odin's wisdom." I was still hopeful that things would get better, but I asked if she would be upset if we canceled the honeymoon trip down under. She hugged me and was reassuring, noting that not having humans away for five weeks would make our cat feel much better. I think I summoned the energy to place a couple items on top of my suitcase that I'd remembered to pack, then went to bed.

After a restless night of sleep and an early morning awakening in our bright bedroom, I felt pretty terrible and really didn't want to open my right eye. I had a handful of nuts, took some ibuprofen, put a hat over my face, and laid down on the couch in the moderately darker living room. At 10:45 I summoned the energy to call in to my team standup and say that I'd be working from home and taking it easy, but also planing to leave the country on Saturday, so send me anything that needs my attention. I took a shower in the dark and was finally able to open my right eye, rather alarmed that it was as if I was looking through an icy window: everything was really foggy. My eye doctor called and when I explained that things hadn't improved, she had her office make an appointment for me with a local eye surgery office. In the afternoon and evening I was able to pull together the energy to get through a bunch of one-eyed code reviews that had been lingering for a while, but it was clear that I needed to take a break from my daily work of reading words on a screen.

Thursday morning found Kelly and me in an ocular exam room with the doctor looking very worried and saying I was experiencing an autoimmune response. He ordered a battery of tests from syphilis to lyme disease, prescribed a strong steroid to be taken hourly, and eye dilation drops thrice daily. On my right side I was having trouble reading even the big letters on the eye chart and my eye didn't want to stay open for even a few seconds of light. I actually went in to work after that, but mostly because it was an appealing place to have lunch. I attended the final important meeting about testing, delegated some tasks on a bug, and set my out-of-office reply to say that I'd be available for important business but that I needed to spend a few days away from email.

I woke up fairly early on Friday, so I put in an eye drop, turned on a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan album, put on a blindfold, and spent an hour and a quarter meditating and stretching. Kelly had to work on Friday, so I put on my coat and sunglasses and took the bus to the doctor's office, figuring some walking would be good after a month of not bicycling. Eye pressure was down and after another round of poking and prodding and strong eye drops, I finally felt comfortable keeping both eyes open at once, as long as I had sunglasses to keep the light away. I was also able to walk twenty five blocks from the bank to my house, which felt pretty nice.

Saturday was another early morning visit with the eye surgeon, who had a couple other folks he was seeing. There were a couple guys who were clearly in more ocular pain than I was, so I was feeling reasonably positive, even when I took a sad glance at my calendar when my notification popped up for my Denver to LAX flight. On Sunday we went on a half hour walk to brunch and the super market, unpacked my suitcase, watched the Broncos win a playoff game, and made dinner for my parents.

Today's appointment saw not much change from Saturday: I can make out the general shape of letters at 20/20, but they're pretty blurry. All the blood tests that have come back were negative, though some are still outstanding. I keep both eyes open most of the time. Having an eye dropper next to my eyelashes doesn't cause me to flinch away automatically, though I've still got mad respect for the willpower of people who put in contact lenses every day. I've had seven visits to the eye doctor in 14 days; I think we'll hit the limit on our high-deductible health insurance plan pretty quickly :-) Although we're not in a scenic location in southern summer, Kelly and I have spent a lot of quality time together. And we're brainstorming an alternate honeymoon trip to the Hawaiian Islands for later in February, once I'm able to fully appreciate sightseeing. And I'm feeling really glad that this problem didn't develop a month later than it did.

Aye aye, mateys!
Om Chomsky
I started reading Paul Graham when he wrote A Plan for Spam, and I wrote a masters' thesis examining several variants on Bayesian spam filtering. He generally writes insightful articles about creating tech startups, in large part because he's a domain expert on startup companies.

Graham's latest essay, on income equality is, however, mostly useless. (Perhaps because he's writing about economics and society, about which he is not a domain expert.) He published a simplified version of his argument boils down to the claim that economic inequality is purely a measurement and an outcome. He argues that economic inequality is not inherently bad and that we should instead focus on the problematic subset of causes of inequality. There's a grain of truth in this, but Graham totally ignores the outbound edges from economic inequality in the graph of social ills.

Some specific fallacies in Graham's essay:
Straw man
Graham seems to be arguing against the position that less wealth inequality is always better than more inequality. The end state of such a position is zero inequality, in which all people have the same amount of wealth, which is basically extreme communism. He says "You can't end economic inequality without preventing people from getting rich, and you can't do that without preventing them from starting startups." I'm not aware of anyone who actually holds that position. Even the Occupy Wall St. movement, a melting pot of some fairly radical ideas, wasn't advocating for the top 1% to hold precisely 1% of the wealth; they just thought the richest 1% should own significantly less than 50% of the wealth. The non-vacuous position Graham fails to argue against is the case for reducing income equality, not eliminating income equality.
Anecdotal fallacy
The long version of Graham's essay focuses on startup founders, with Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) and Larry Page (Google founder) as anecdotes. Startup founders are probably disproportionately represented in the top 20 billionaires, but I suspect that they make up a smaller fraction of the full 1% cohort. Even if, as Graham argues, major wealth acquisition for startup founders is socially beneficial, that does little to support his argument that income inequality in general isn't problematic if most of the wealth is concentrated in non-startup hands. Graham's reliance on anecdote is so strong in this piece that he dismisses economic statistics as a way to analyze the situation.
Appeal to consequences
Graham suggests that reducing economic inequality would reduce or eliminate startup culture. Graham basically takes it as a given that startups are good, and therefore concludes that attacking economic inequality would be bad. There is plenty of room for both. Furthermore, startups might not contribute that much to wealth inequality. Initial startup funding generally comes from venture capital firms and individual wealthy investors. A moderately successful startup typically gets bought by a larger company, enriching the initial investors, the founders and early employees, and potentially the shareholders of the purchasing company (if the market reacts positively to the news). Wildly successful startups usually create wealthy founders when the company goes public and the stock market places a high value on the company. In both of these cases, the story is mostly about the already wealthy moving money around, some of which goes to a relatively small number of previously-not-wealthy folks. Even here, Graham doesn't address whether the existing wealth disparity between successful founders, ordinary tech workers, and folks in less-lucrative is better or worse than other potential wealth distributions. Should employees hold a greater fraction of startup shares? Should IPOs be taxed to support poverty reduction efforts? Graham's essay gives no guidance on such matters.

Graham's essay proposes an odd argument of inevitability, too. He cites the exponential curve of technological growth as evidence that economic inequality has historically and will continue to grow exponentially. This seems factually inaccurate: the western has significantly less wealth inequality today than it did under feudalism. I suspect too that technological and economic progress in the post-war era was greatly facilitated by the destruction of significant amounts of wealth which (naturally) disproportionately impacted the rich.

Graham points out the "pie fallacy"–that there's a fixed amount of wealth to go around–and spends much of the essay talking about creating wealth. However, he ignores the fact that many important components of wealth are finite resources for which pie-division is a very important concern. The most notable of these is land, a finite resource whose supply and demand imbalance is being felt particularly acutely in Paul Graham's back yard: Silicon Valley where even educated and skilled workers are finding it difficult to afford housing. A more subtle somewhat-finite resource is consumers. A society in which few people have disposable income is one in which building new enterprises becomes increasingly tough. The lower rate of income inequality in post-war America is an important example (though Graham tries to dismiss it) because well-payed workers play an important ecological role in a growing economy, providing a wide base which can buy new products in turn funding the creation of more new products. Perhaps such an arrangement is unstable: from a relatively equal distribution wealth will naturally accumulate with the institutions and individuals who reliably generate successful business. But perhaps there's another part of that natural cycle in which the wealth becomes too concentrated and the system destabilizes, leading to destruction and redistribution of wealth, starting the cycle anew. If that's the case, should we pursue a "controlled burn" approach of intentional wealth redistribution or should we follow a "forest fire" approach when wealth redistribution comes with little warning and dramatic upheaval?
31st-Dec-2015 08:38 pm - 2015: Flwyd in Review
tell tale heart
As is often the case, when exciting things are happening they take up most of my time, so I don't blog about them. So what better use of a New Year's Eve at home than a recap of the annum.

My primary foci for 2015 were my wife, my job, and my esophagus.

Wedding

As you may recall, I proposed to Kelly at the Temple at Burning Man 2014. Planning and executing a wedding celebration took about a year, culminating in a wonderful gathering of 150 of our best friends on September 19th. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to pay attention to everyone at a single wedding day event, we created several opportunities to spend time with people: bridal shower, game day, a hike, a storytelling evening, a union ceremony, a reception full of dinner and dance, and a Sunday brunch to recover and say farewell.

Most of the decisions we made turned out really well, in some cases being more key than we'd realized.
  • Planning and conducting the ritual ourselves
  • The yin-yang and I Ching theme and the eight friends and family that played trigram roles
  • The grand-right-and-left movement across the circle that brought guests face-to-smiling-face
  • Foothills Community Park in Boulder as a venue, even though nobody told us there would be six soccer games in the field where we wanted to set up
  • My Mom's Pie in Niwot who made 20 pies to boost everyone's blood sugar after the ceremony; much better than cake
  • The Dickens Opera House in Longmont which were very accommodating, served a great dinner, and had a great space for dancing
  • Double helix rings from Zander's Creations; I didn't expect to enjoy wearing a ring every day, but it's been really nice
  • Reusable wedding outfits; we looked fabulous for a wedding, but we can also wear them on anniversaries and other party occasions
  • Not having an expectation for wedding night sex because we might be exhausted, but being sufficiently energized that we could have fantastic sex anyway
  • A Google Sheets gift suggestion list rather than a specific store's registry; we got a wide variety of gifts that can't all be found in one place (except, now, our house :-)
  • Tracking invites, RSVPs, food restriction, chair requests, and everything else with Google Sheets


I think it's a very good idea to plan a wedding before getting married. You learn a lot about your partner and have an opportunity to get a lot of significant arguments out of the way. If you can get through all the stress and conflict of wedding planning and still want to get married, I think it's a good sign you'll stick together. Along the way, we stressed about
  • What sort of wedding to have
  • When it should be
  • Where it should be
  • How many days it should last
  • How many people should be involved
  • How the ritual should be structured
  • How the reception should run
  • Timelines for invitations
  • Making homebrew in time for the big week
  • Construction of flagpoles
  • How to move humans in lines and circles
  • Who was going to attend, even though they hadn't RSVP'd
  • Where guests would stay
  • What car to take
  • Folding chairs
  • The position of celestial bodies
  • … and probably more I've forgotten

That's all a lot of chaos for a couple of introverts, so we had a separate private commitment ceremony in advance: just Kelly and Trevor and Joan the cat and a marriage license under the blue moon. This was the yin side of the wedding: inward looking and nurturing at night, establishing fortitude before the yang energy of crowds and movement in the sun.

Rest and Recovery

The traditional follow-up to a wedding is a honeymoon. But planning a wedding is a lot of work; planning a long vacation immediately afterwards would add undue stress. Instead, we set the intention of doing little but sleep, eat, and screw for the next month. Around our mensiversary we took a four-day agave moon to Valley View Hot Springs for further relaxation and a side trip to the Colorado Gator Farm and the sand dunes.

Moon of Honey

We'd been talking for some time about a honeymoon in Iceland. Winter isn't our ideal time for adventures near the Arctic Circle, so we figured we'd plan something for the summer time. Fortunately, we got an opportunity for an early summer. I've got a business meeting in Sydney in mid-January, which sounded like a great starting point for a month of adventure in the Southern Hemisphere. Wondering if there were any interesting Burner events in Oz, we discovered that Kiwiburn is the week after my meeting. It turns out that New Zealand has a more compact set of adventure opportunities, fewer things that will kill you, and less intense summers. We're still working out the time balance between former British colonies, but it looks like we'll spend more time near the flightless birds than pouched mammals.

Home

In 2014 we moved in with some friends in Ranger Outpost Cherryvale. Despite good intentions, the arrangement didn't work out. We got a great opportunity on a place we call Lucky Gin, with ample gardening, a nice kitchen, and plenty of space to host friends and family in case a wedding should break out. Providing a safe home was one of my key wedding commitments to Kelly, and we hope to stay here until we have the opportunity to buy a house.

Googling and Alpha Bets

One of my big work accomplishments this year was the full launch of the new Google Drive web UI. I led the handoff of production management and oncall duties to our great site reliability team. I then turned my attention to migrating the invisible and lesser-seen parts of our old and crufty server to smaller, easier to maintain homes. This led to a project of introducing an internal framework suite to our organization, evangelizing its use where appropriate, and coordinating things to make the transition feasible.

After six years on the team and my natural inclination to absorb information, my brain has become a repository for a lot of disparate parts of our system. My day to day work often involves answering lots of questions by email and reviewing lots of design documents. This means I don't spend as much time writing code as I would like, but it does mean that I'm demonstrating impact and scope, so several people have told me I should go for promotion. I declined to spend energy on that process this year because the performance review cycle was the same month as the wedding and I was busy working on my promotion from fiancé to husband. The next performance review cycle starts when we get back from our honeymoon, so it may end up feeling like an unproductive quarter.

The Esophagus is Connected to the Stomach

The least fun part of this year has been my gastrointestinal experience. Around the beginning of the year I had several sudden onrushes of an acid feeling, often expressed as tightness in the chest or pain in the jaw. They would often happen at night, waking me up and making me worry that I had heart trouble. I would also experience sudden trouble eating, finding it difficult to swallow. This was often on the third or fourth bite of a meal, but would also happen if I had a bready snack. Sugars like dark chocolate and dried papaya seemed to keep the issue somewhat at bay, and could provide relief after a sudden acid attack. At first I thought the feeling might be a side effect of wisdom teeth removal, but it became fairly clearly gastrointestinal.

Western medicine didn't do a great job on this one. I saw my primary care physician early in the year. After a suite of tests ruling out heart trouble and a variety of other issues, he prescribed omeprazole (brand name Prilosec), a proton pump inhibitor that helps reduce acid reflux. A course of that takes a while and didn't seem to solve the problem, so a few months later I saw an enterologist. That led to an endoscopy a few weeks later, in late April. That turned up partially elevated levels of an inflammation sign, but was otherwise unremarkable. So they prescribed a stronger dose of omeprazole, tapering over two months. That seemed to help a bit, but not a huge amount. In August I returned to the enterologists, who prescribed a modified barium swallow, which is basically a video X-ray of me eating. Of course the condition didn't end up triggering while the speech pathologist was working with me in the lab, but we determined that there didn't seem to be a structural problem in the throat. As the omeprazole course ended and I still had no better idea of the problem than eight months before, I returned to the entorologists. The next prescription was an inhaled steroid, with the goal of reducing the acid in the throat so it could recover on its own (IIRC). I picked up the prescription, but was wary of taking it, so I paid a visit to the naturopath who diagnosed me with a milk allergy over 20 years ago. As I described my symptoms she immediately inferred the problem: the top of my stomach stuck in my esophagus, likely from a night of intense vomiting last December (one of two likely proximate causes I mentioned on every doctor's visit). Her attempts to pull my stomach out of my esophagus were unsuccessful, though. Finally, I paid a visit to a massage therapist who's worked with my family for years. He was similarly very familiar with this condition and with half an hour of body work got my GI system in the best shape it's been all year. The problem isn't fixed entirely–I still often have trouble swallowing and occasionally get awoken in the middle of the night by an acid shock–but it's a case where a holistic approach was able to both diagnose and mostly solve the problem way faster than the western approach focused on data, hypotheses, and attacking symptoms.

Zymurgy

Aside from marriage, work, food consumption, moving, and gardening, my time has been occupied some this year by brewing. It's a hobby I'd wanted to get into, but had put it off until owning a house so that I didn't have to worry about moving a fermenting 5-gallon carboy. My cider foray in 2014 got me started with equipment and I took the opportunity of a more convenient kitchen at Lucky Gin to get into beer brewing. In the late spring I made a by-the-recipe Belgian wit that's been well received; even some non-beer-drinkers have said they enjoyed it. In the summer I took advantage of the juniper tree and mint patch in our back yard and made a batch of ginger juniper saison. (Intended to be ginger-mint-juniper, the mint is basically undetectable.) This brew has been a hit with homebrewers who've called out the juniper aroma without it being an overpowering taste and the complex flavor profile from the ginger. Finally, Kelly and I started a batch of honeymoon mead this week. We hope to rack it before leaving so the yeast can be cheering us on from the secondary fermentation while we enjoy a more figurative honey.

In the kitchen, I also made at least four good rhubarb pies with our bumper garden crop as well as a couple rounds of banana and zucchini bread. Maybe one of these years I'll master pie crust.

I raise a glass of mead and a slice of pie to my friends and wish you all a happy new year. I'll see you on the flip side, so to speak.
daemon tux hexley
I just spent a bunch of time reading old arguments about whether WordPress should support root-relative URIs to assets and content. It boils down to:
Web developer: Relative URIs would make it much easier to test my site on a different host before I make the changes live.
WordPress developer: Absolute URIs everywhere is better than relative URIs everywhere because there are cases where relative won't work.
Web developer: Yeah, but absolute URIs make testing and migration a pain in the ass.
WordPress developer: Just edit /etc/hosts to think that your live webserver runs on your workstation. Or run a find and replace on the SQL export of your database.

There's also, apparently, config values for base URLs, but just setting those on a site you're trying to migrate apparently doesn't have any effect because the real problem is that WordPress stores internal links as URLs. The proper solution would be for all links to other WP content to be stored as a reference, then turn references into URLs at render time. This, for example, is the approach of every wiki system: [topic] turns into a link to http://example.org/wiki/Topic

Unfortunately, this isn't the sort of problem you realize WordPress has until you've already built a site and need to move it around (like, say, to the production server) and you discover that you've just built your site on a platform that doesn't prioritize release processes. But by then, the cost of rebuilding on some other system is probably much higher than doing something hacky and limping along on a platform with dorky production hygiene.

Update: The handy wp-cli command line utility can do a global search and replace for your host name:
wp search-replace badidea.example.com bettername.example.com
Of course, if you've got a post like "Update your old links; we're no longer badidea.example.com" then it'll say "we're no longer bettername.example.com." But at least this is an automatable process.
31st-Oct-2015 02:38 pm - Plants and Microbes 2015
cthulhufruit citrus cephalopod
Samhain seems like a good time to reflect on the last six months of biology hobbies. In April we moved into a house whose owner had invested a lot of time into gardening. We thus had free reign of a few raised garden beds and a modest harvest of some established plants. The mint patch had a great time, churning out stalk upon stalk of three varieties of mint. Aside from the stomach-comforting benefit of "Stroll in the back hard and nibble on the mint," we didn't take full advantage of this crop. Our first attempt at dried mint seemed a little off and the mint I added to a batch of beer was totally undetectable. We've got quite a bit drying now, we'll see how well that preserves.

The hawthorn trees produced a nice crop of berries that I've frozen with plans of a haw-mead. The pear tree produced a measly five or six pears, almost all on the branch leaning on the side of the house; perhaps it got enervated by the wacky late spring snows. I was looking forward to making something with the Oregon grapes in the front yard, but deer beat me to them. Four rhubarb plants were on overdrive, producing fodder for a couple pies, some stand-alone compote, and two gallons of chopped stalks for future use.

Of the crops we planted, tomatoes, chili peppers, and some tiny orange hot peppers did well. Our attempts at genus allium (onions, leeks, and maybe some shallots) did almost nothing. We got a few jalapeños, four small eggplants and two mystery gourdlike squashes, one of which the squirrels devoured. The tomatoes, peppers, and mint went into some excellent salsas. I'm mulling over plans for the chili peppers, maybe I'll use them for our office's annual chili contest.

Combining plants with microorganisms, I made two beers this year: a Belgian wit and a ginger juniper saison. The former involved a few mistakes, including turning down the heat when it boiled over and then forgetting to turn it back up. This led to a remarkably smooth beer without strong hop bitterness; several people who don't normally enjoy beer have expressed delight at it. The latter also came out quite well; despite my kitchen tendency to turn flavors up to eleven, the ginger isn't overpowering and the juniper is subtle. I used fresh juniper berries from the backyard tree and their flavor from the initial boil was basically undetectable. Just before bottling I added water boiled with juniper berries and mint leaves to just the right taste and aroma. The mint quickly disappeared, though.

The nice thing about homebrew and gardneing as hobbies is that non-human biological agents do most of the work. A weekend here and there of cleaning, cooking, and weeding lets the real work of converting sunlight to chlorophil and sugar to alcohol to entities which don't have to go to the office five days a week.
26th-Sep-2015 11:37 pm - Year of the Goat
pensive goat
I turned 36 today.
36 is a multiple of 12, so this year matches my birth year in the Chinese zodiac: year of the goat[1].

I got married last week in what my wife points out was my dream wedding.
There's still a pile of presents on my floor from people who love us.
On brunch the day after the wedding, my dad played a very touching song whose opening had come to him a week before I was born but the remainder hadn't formulated until last week.
My wife and I had waffles this morning betwixt bouts of gettin' it on.
We gathered produce at the farmer's market and collaborated on a tasty salad.
We joined my parents for a gorgeous sunset at the Center of the Universe followed by a wondrous dinner at The Gold Hill Inn.
Three friends in distant parts of the country, from different parts of my life, emailed to wish me a happy birthday.

Things are pretty good; it's nice to baaahsk in the sun.


[1] Often translated as "year of the sheep," but next to a picture of a goat, with 羊 (yáng) a character for any member of that family. I briefly toyed with the idea of using 山羊 (shānyáng, "mountain goat/sheep") as my Chinese name.
copán ruinas stone face
A realization this evening:
I am much better at remembering that than I am at remembering to.

I have always had a fantastic memory for facts I read in a book or learned in class, events I was involved in, or things people said. But tell me to do a dozen things and I'll probably forget that I was going to seven of them. Then, over a few weeks, I'll remember five of them one at a time and wonder if it's still important.
15th-Aug-2015 09:14 pm - This Tale Suits Me
Trevor cartoon abi-station.com/illustmak
Kelly and I have a great relationship in part because we're fluid about gender roles. In our wedding, she's playing yang while I play yin.

Today's dose of non-traditional wedding gender balance: My outfit costs more than hers, and has a longer train. However, in keeping with traditional gender power dynamics, my clothes have pockets and hers don't.

I'm also amused that no menswear or formal wear stores seem to have tailcoats, but costume stores had several to choose from.
Vigelandsparken heels over head
It's a good thing that planning a wedding is a lot of work, because it provides ample evidence of whether the couple is good at collaborating and communicating with each other. If you have someone else plan your wedding, you might not realize that you and your spouse don't play well together until things get much more complicated.

Most of the critical wedding bits are done or planned and Kelly and I are still totally getting married. Paper invitations should be landing in people's mailboxes over the next day or two. If you want to come and haven't filled out the contact info form, let me know.
5th-Jul-2015 10:59 pm - Hovercycle
Vigelandsparken circle man
A few mornings ago I dreamt that I was exploring a possible shortcut on my bicycle. After jumping up some stairs onto a guy's porch1, I rode down a raised wooden trail, across some grass, and stopped when I came upon a pond. Pondering how to get around it, I noticed a guy on a unicycle booking it down the hill towards the pond. When he got to the edge, he jumped a few feet forward, then started furiously pedaling backwards. The spin of his wheel kept him afloat, like a one-wheeled water skeeter. After a few seconds he jumped backwards to shore.

In the dream I was concocting a physical explanation of the stunt, I think involving downward thrust and the fact that the unicycle tire is full of air, plus an allusion to skipping stones. In my waking mind I'm sure it wouldn't work (skipping stones don't work in place), but it was still really bad ass.

1 "If it was easy, they wouldn't call it a 'short cut.' They'd call it 'the way.'" – Road Trip
24th-Jun-2015 12:10 am - Effective Consent Education
I *kiss* linguists
This American Life recently ran a show called Birds & Bees about explaining tricky things to children. The first act focuses on university freshmen attending presentations about sexual consent. The presenters' goal is to get students to internalize that explicit, specific, verbal consent is required before having sex. But the students are perhaps more interested in the subtleties of how to get a "yes" than the need to obtain one.

If we followed the "consent workshop" model literally, it would lead to some really awkward conversations:
MAN AT BAR: Hello.
WOMAN AT BAR: Hello.
MAN: I think you are attractive.
WOMAN: Thank you for the compliment.
MAN: Would you like to engage in sexual intercourse?
WOMAN: Yes, I would like to do that.
Actual consent negotiation is way less direct and more fluid. Importantly, it also builds on a lot of context that is basically impossible to simulate in a room with a whiteboard, a few dozen chairs, and a bunch of curious teenagers.

Since sexual negotiation, not to mention sex itself, is almost always done in private, people don't have a lot of opportunities to learn how to do it by observation. "Can I watch while you obtain consent to have sex with your partner" would be an off-putting question to almost anyone. Media doesn't help much either: movie sex usually looks spontaneous not because Hollywood has an anti-consent bias but because it makes for a more enjoyable story. The hero and heroine don't negotiate the sex they're going to have for the same reason we don't see anyone making exact change or tying their shoes in a movie: it doesn't usually advance the plot or add to the value of a scene.

So if people don't want to demonstrate actual sexual consent in public and it's unlikely to be modeled in popular cinema, what can we do? Let's create our own consent-focused short films. In a one minute YouTube video a few people can easily create a realistic context and have a reasonable conversation about negotiated consent. Rather than a stilted conversation in a classroom it can be set in an actual bar or a bedroom. Instead of an all-verbal skit, actors can show the crucial role that body language plays. And with a lot of videos available, the negotiation can take a lot of different directions: sometimes ending with a "yes," sometimes with a "not now," and sometimes with a "no thank you" and showing folks how to gracefully respond to each answer. People would learn not just that consent is crucial but also how to effectively get consent. People would learn not just "No means no" but how to both give and receive a "no," life skills that a lot of people struggle with even in nonsexual situations.

So let's make this happen. Let's get thousands of people making YouTube videos about how consent works for them. Let's upvote the ones that are impressive or wise or funny. Let's hashtag the pants off this thing and have it go viral like HSV. Let's get videos from straight folks, gay folks, kinky folks, vanilla folks, confident folks, shy folks, polite folks, and blunt folks. Let's get amateurs and professionals. Let's get people talking about how they like to be asked and finding out how they can be better askers. Let's have less rape and more consensual sex.
2nd-Jun-2015 11:41 pm - Error Message Hall of Shame: Paypal
bad decision dinosaur
Attempting to make a purchase from a website using Paypal, I got the following message.
You will have to come back and confirm your bank in order to use it to make payments. In the mean time, please enter a credit card to continue.

Sounds nice and helpful, right? Like I can log on to PayPal's site and they'll have a friendly "Confirm your bank account" dialog or something.

Nope. "Coming back" to PayPal's site accomplished nothing useful. My "wallet" showed the checking account I've had associated with my PayPal account since the late '90s, plus two expired debit cards, both linked to that checking account. I noticed my billing address was out of date, so I changed that. No help.

I googled the first sentence of the error message, hoping to find a PayPal help page explaining how to confirm a bank account. Instead, I discovered that PayPal runs a whole online community for people who can't figure out what's going on with their account. This error has been confusing people since at least 2012. Fortunately, some user speculatively interpreted "confirm your bank" as "add a credit card", which made the bank-related error message go away. Maybe their system only has a single E_BANK_STATUS_ISSUE error.

When checking out, there was an explanatory message that the debit card I'd just associated with my account would be used if there were insufficient funds in my checking account. But since the debit card is backed by the checking account, that's not a very robust risk mitigation strategy.

User interface lessons:
  • Make sure your error message contains enough information for a user to take useful action.
  • If your backend can't distinguish between two error conditions that require different resolution steps, send a feature request to the backend team to add a new status code.
  • When a user flow involves "Give us money," make sure you do extensive user testing, covering many possible error conditions. How people fail to use your product is some of the most important knowledge you can gather.
black titan
We've moved across town once again, because apparently we really enjoy building and disassembling box forts. This time we live in northwest Boulder at a house we call Lucky Gin. If you're in my circles on Google+, you can see my address on my profile. Otherwise, email me and I'll give you details.
31st-May-2015 11:50 pm - Active Vegitation
red succulent
Kelly and I are moved out of Outpost Cherryvale and have unpacked and organized a lot at Lucky Gin, so it looks much less like a box fort.

One of the exciting features of this house is a yard ringed with plants and a set of raised garden beds ready to grow our bidding. We hit up KGNU's annual [the frequency, not just the plant facet] plant sale this morning. We mostly got Allium, but also tomatoes, an eggplant, a jalapeño, and catnip. We turned soil and planted them, then wondered what to do with all the extra space.

Since that's not enough plant-based activity for the day, I took advantage of our gas stove, extensive counter space, and kitchen we don't have to share with roommates. I started my first batch of homebrew beer, having gone through the easier process of cider last fall. Brewing is roughly two parts cleaning and one part cooking. Since I tend to do both rather slowly, the process took on the order of eight hours. And I'm not quite done: I'm taking a break from scrubbing the malt off the bottom of the pot. It burned, I think, because I turned the heat down to avoid boiling over and forgot to turn it back up, so it spent over half an hour not at a rolling boil. Fortunately, the sage advice of my old friend Charlie Papazian comes in handy: Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew. I only followed the first 66% though, opting for cool water instead of homebrew to tide me over.

Now that I've made bread tea and mixed it with bread syrup, the five gallons in a bucket will quietly sit in the corner while the yeast turns it into bread soda. Which is a very different culinary output than soda bread.

We also harvested and prepared to dry a whole bunch of mint from the garden. I'm considering a mint ginger beer for my next homebrew sally.
bug eyed earl
My iPod Shuffle full of podcasts was out of batteries this morning, so I grabbed one with a bunch of audiobooks. Not realizing it was on shuffle, I listened to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I had not previously experienced the story in its intended sequence, but I think the experience is enhanced by hearing chapters in a random order. It gives the sense of piecing together a crazy weekend in sin city, which is basically what the story is about. A bit like the cut-up method under listener control.
20th-Apr-2015 12:04 am - New Friends, Old Posts
playa surface
I just spent an hour and change reading old LJ posts from people I know now, but didn't really know when they last updated their LiveJournal.

Back in the day, I picked reading strangers' journals as one of my 150 interests. There's something unique to the culture and style of LiveJournal that got people to write about their lives in a really engaging way. Sometimes strangers journals are full of major life events and insight. Sometimes they're full of the annals of an ordinary life. And since LiveJournal's design rewards people with long attention spans, the latter journal can be just as engrossing as the former.

A series of writings in personal voice gives me a stronger sense of someone's life and personality than hundreds of photos or a mishmash of minor commentary on other stuff on the Internet. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but paragraphs are the heart of expression. Maybe LiveJournal seems like it's in decline because people don't use real keyboards to browse the Internet any more, and writing something interesting is a total pain in the ass on a phone.
pentacle disc
There's an old computing proverb (emphasis on the old): Never underestimate the bandwidth of a hurtling station wagon full of 8-track tapes.

In the process of moving[1], I put all 600 or so of my CDs in my Subaru and took them to the other side of Boulder. Assuming an average length of 40 minutes (350 megabytes) and a 20-minute transit time (Foothills Parkway is the only part of the trip where I was really hurtling), the bandwidth was 1.4 gigabits per second, which is faster than most Ethernet. And my station wagon was only half full.

Of course, I spent about two hours putting the data into cardboard-protocol packets. And my back was sore after moving them all up stairs, through the house, and to the car. So maybe there's something to all this copper wire.

This is also the sixth time I have carried over three decades of National Geographic, a very dense publication, to a new location. Reading material relocation is my primary form of upper-body exercise.


[1] More about this move later. The destination is a wonderful house in northwest Boulder we're calling Lucky Gin.
17th-Mar-2015 11:44 pm - dissert
I *kiss* linguists
If you ask a PhD student what she'll do tomorrow, she might say "just dissert."
Originally posted by prettygoodword at dissert
dissert (dih-SURT) - v., to discourse at length on a subject.


What a dissertation does. Adopted around 1620 from Latin dissertāre to set forth at length, the frequentive form of disserere, to arrange in order, from dis-, apart + serere, to join (the root of series).

---L.
4th-Mar-2015 11:36 pm - Reader's Proof
darwin change over time
Long before web comics were "a thing," my mom would often respond to my puns with a groan (she was a groan up, after all) by telling me to write it down and start a comic in the vein of The Far Side. My graphic arts skills are very limited, but if they weren't, I might have produced something like Prooffreader's Whimsy. The first few comics particularly seem like my style of word play.

The artist, David Taylor, also has an interesting blog with an apparent focus on data visualization.
4th-Mar-2015 10:24 pm - Berber of Seville
fun characters
The Berber of "Seville" is "ⵙⴻⵠⵉⵍ". Or, if you don't have a Tifinagh font,
ⵙⴻⵠⵉⵍ

It turns out I'm not the first person to think up the phrase Berber of Seville. Bombay Dub Orchestra has a groovy track of that name name.

Apologies to any Berber speakers if I've completely butchered my Neo-Tifinagh letter choices.
If you liked this pun, you might also enjoy The SHA of 'Iran'.
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