You have the right to be offended.
You have the right to get shot.
You have the right to tell the military to fuck off.
You have the right to be framed.
You have the right to be impugned.
You have the right to a jury with cultural bias.
You have the right to fact finding by non-experts.
You have the right to mundane cruel punishments.
You have the right to the inconceivable.
You have the right to misguided local government.
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.
Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.
No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.
Obama's speech about surveillance last week
featured the following paragraph which gets modern cybersecurity totally backwards:
We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it's to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.
This train of thought made sense during the cold war. Communication systems built by and used in the Soviet Union were different than those built in the U.S. So if the NSA could simultaneously find and keep secret flaws in a Russian phone system while ensuring security flaws in American phone systems got fixed.
On the Internet, that game doesn't work anymore. Tech companies, open source groups, and standards bodies sell and distribute hardware, software, and protocols globally. Countries and companies throughout the world use the same routers, the same operating systems, and the same secure communications protocols. Every undisclosed security hole and every undetected backdoor that the NSA has at its disposal to "penetrate digital communications" is a tool that attackers have to harm the targets Obama claims the NSA is trying to protect. The stock exchanges and air traffic control systems and banks are using the same networking gear, the same database software, the same VPNs, and the same web browsers as the plotting terrorists, hacking criminals, and enemy governments.
Even if the NSA only uses their powers for good, the more "capabilities in [the digital spying] field" they have the less safe American interests are from foreign spies, criminals, and terrorists. The nation will be more secure if our communications technologies are robustly secure than if we can listen in on all the world's chatter. And by making American communications more secure, the world's communications will be more secure.
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.
In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.
I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.
For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?
Cancel me not—for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.
Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
cuts capers like a happy haversine.
I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a² cos 2φ!
Early in my experience with Unix-like systems I discovered fortune
. This program would occasionally provide me with a clever passage attributed -- Stanislaw Lem, "Cyberiad"
"Who is this Stanislaw Lem fellow and what is a Cyberiad," I wondered. And then, because it was the mid-90s and search engines didn't exist yet, I did nothing.
A few years later, I started collecting quotes
to add to my random signature program. A great many of them came from fortune
, since it gave me a quip every time I logged in or out. The first Cyberiad quote that made it on the list was
[The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical.] They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each nonexisted in an entirely different way.
Different modes of nonexistence, a fantastic puzzle for a philosophy minor like me. I wanted to find and read this book.
There are a few books and authors I keep in the back of my mind for eventual purchase. It gives me direction when I find myself in a bookstore: check the D section of Classics for The Vicomte de Bragelonne, check the A section of Sci-Fi for the HHGTTG radio series scripts, check the L section of Sci-Fi for Stanisław Lem…
You would think it wouldn't be too hard to find a book by "the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,"
yet ten years went by without finding one of his books between Le Guin
. I was even a beta tester for Google Books on Android tablets, but couldn't buy an electronic Cyberiad
. (It's available now
, though.) Tantalizingly, Google ran a fantastic narrative doodle based on The Cyberiad
. I finally found a copy when I chanced to stop in to Red Letter Books in Boulder, enticed by a book about mangoes on the shelf out front. "Before I buy this, I need to see if they happen to have any Lem." Sure enough, my Quixotic quest found its goal, wedged in a dense shelf of mass market paperbacks.The Cyberiad
is a book of short stories about machines who build machines. The central character is Trurl, a constructor. He and his good friend Klapaucius the constructor build all manner of robots and devices, often on commission from rulers of distant worlds. Unlike the science fiction school led by Asimov, the engineering details of the machines and their scientific mechanism of action are of little importance. The stories are not about the machines but about the philosophical considerations and allegorical implications of such a device in a world not entirely dissimilar from ours. The first story, How The World Was Saved
concerns a machine that can create anything starting with N
. After creating concrete and abstract nouns, they ask the machine to do Nothing, whereby it starts to eliminate the universe.
Originally written in Polish, the book has a lot of rhymes and wordplay with sciency terms which works surprisingly well in translation (to English, at least.) The sidebar to the right has a poem produced by Trurl's Electronic Bard. Lem has a great facility for technical naming in a way that's fun rather than dry:
The second, newer trail was opened up by the Imperium Myrapoclean, whose turboservoslaves carved a tunnel six billion miles in length through the heart of the Great Glossaurontus itself.
What I like best about The Cyberiad
is how it resonates with my experience as a constructor of sorts. The book was written in 1967, when hardware was still the king of technology, before we realized that software eats the world. Yet the story Trurl's Machine
and other passages describe the foibles of building, debugging, and otherwise producing a computer program better than any software-focused essay I've read. Throughout the book, Trurl displays the three cardinal virtues
of the programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris. If more tales were added to the Cyberiad today, perhaps the constructors would be programs which write other programs.
All makers and builders and coders and creators would do well to read The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age
. This hypermedia book report
claims the book inspired Will Wright to create SimCity; what might it do for you? Acquire it in cybernetic digital form or via a musty-bookstore-quest for a well-loved copy not so overpriced as these
When you write a story down, it only happens one way.
When you adapt a book to film, the characters have specific appearances.
When you draw shapes on a map, a smeared spectrum becomes four crisp colors.
I want to expound more on these ideas in a blog post, but starting the year with an intellectual all-nighter wouldn't be very auspicious.
On Wednesday, January 1st, join me for the first games day of 2014, and the first one at my house since July!
2013 brought many changes. Closest to home, a 1/1000 flood changed the course of Four Mile Canyon Creek and the continuity of Wagonwheel Gap Rd. The water's mostly back where it belongs, washed out sections of street have been replaced with a flat dirt road, and all my books are back on the shelves.
Not all is back the way it was, though. The Anne U. White trail is closed (on account of no longer being a trail). And the road shoulder at the bottom of my driveway where everyone used to park is now a steep ditch, unsuitable for parking.
If you would like to join the fun, please follow these three requests:
* RSVP so I know how many to expect
* Carpool if at all possible
* Call 303-EEL-WANG before arriving† for updated parking instructions based on the situation that afternoon
† Your cellphone probably won't work in the canyon. If you're calling from the road, do so around Broadway & Lee Hill. Or just call from home and don't use the phone while driving.
In other respects, this will be a normal games day. Feel free to bring
* games you'd like to play (new holiday gifts?); I have plenty here
* food and beverages to share; I'll have beer and several snacks
* friends and family young and old (especially if you carpool)
Arrive at 2pm or later; leave when you get tired, bored, or turn into a pumpkin.
Happy New Year, Hogmanay, Omisoka, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Christmas, Nochebuena, Festivus, Yule, Dongzhi, Yalda, Thiruvathira, Ziemassvetki, Korochun, Saturnalia, Dhanu, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, and all other winter holidays,
Trevor and Kelly
Cthulhufruit makes a tasty fruit insaladty.
I'm not sure if this is appeeling or appalling.
A great old one a day keeps the doctor away.
Sweet? Sour? I'm the fruit with demonic power.
Eat a balanced diet with five to seven earthlings.
After seven weeks, I live at my house again. Hooray!
It's actually been livable for a couple weeks, but we had to choose the right timing to reacculturate the cat. Even so, she spent four hours yesterday pouting under the porch, where she felt safe.
One of the many perks of living in Boulder is that I can evacuate to my parents house for a month and a half. They've got a spare master bedroom, lots of tasty teas and nuts, and an endless supply of conversation. They're also half a block from a bus stop and in biking distance of all of Boulder, which is nice when your car's stuck on the side of a canyon.
It's nice to be back, though. The Internet is faster. There's a hammock on the front porch (and it's still super sunny in November). I can listen to the punk music show at loud volume without my dad giving me a funny look. We can walk around naked and fondle each other. Rather than setting aside a weekend day to drive up to the house and rearrange things (which got moved to make way for carpet), do a little work, goof around, do a little work, make out... On the plus side, my room is way more organized than it was this summer... or indeed last summer.
I'm not sure if we'll host a games day this month. We can have a welcome living room and a clear table, but it's still a one-lane road at the bottom of the driveway. I'll see how it holds up to rain and snow. The county says the contractors should have it done by the end of December–hopefully we don't get a big dump earlier.
(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)
This email is from China domain name registration center, which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally in China.
We received an application from Huatong Ltd on November 4, 2013. They want to register " trevorstone " as their Internet Keyword and " trevorstone .cn "、" trevorstone .com.cn " 、" trevorstone .net.cn "、" trevorstone .org.cn " domain names etc.., they are in China domain names. But after checking it, we find " trevorstone " conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
was my distributor in China.
(Interestingly enough, this was sent to two email addresses which can be found on trevorstone.org, but not the address associated with the DNS record. I'm also amused by their inconsistent use of the halfwidth-width comma
Halloween is Burning Man for normal people.
- Families put significant effort and money into decorating their
home theme camp.
- People get dressed up in sexy, creative, and unusual costumes.
- They wander around town checking out theme camps, meeting strangers, and participating in the candy gift economy.
- Raging parties happen on weeknights.
- Some folks eat more stimulants and drink more booze than they should.
- It's a spiritual experience for some, an artistic outlet for others, and a bunch just treat it as a visually stimulating excuse to party.
Please give me as unbiased opinion as possible to the following question:
Suppose, due to a natural disaster, that a rental property was inaccessible and uninhabitable for roughly a month. Assume that during that period, objects in the house remained secure. What percent of the rental price is it reasonable to charge for that period of time?
Yesterday was a gorgeous early fall day. It would've been a perfect afternoon to hike the Anne U. White trail. Unfortunately, it's now the Anne U. White jumble of rocks and downed trees, made inaccessible by a river channel running through the parking lot and trailhead.
At 7 pm on Wednesday, September 11th, I was at work making a hilarious meme after three unusually rainy days in Boulder. Kelly asked me to pick up Chinese food on the way home, so I called and placed an order. Listening to Soelta Gael
, I heard an emergency broadcast system announcement that the rain clouds had just passed through Boulder and were expected to camp out above the Four Mile burn area and flash floods were expected. "Whoa," I said, "I'd better bring the Chinese home to Kelly before a bunch of debris washes up on the road."
With windshield wipers on the highest setting and a pleasant smell in the car, I arrived at the base of Wagonwheel Gap Rd to find two firefighters and a truck blocking the way. I asked if I could drive up to my house, which is just past Bow Mountain Dr. They didn't want to let me in, but suggested I drive through Pine Hills to Bow Mountain where another firefighter pair might let me cross the road. That route was significantly scarier, with hairpin turns in tight fog and deepening rivulets through the dirt road. I explained to the second set of firefighters that I lived in that house right there, on top of the steep driveway, and that I was bringing dinner to my girlfriend and wasn't planning to go anywhere else that night. They let me through; Kelly made a "my hero!" boast post on Facebook.
After dinner, I spent a bunch of time reading the Internet, then started writing some code, occasionally stepping out on the porch to admire the water running down the street, highlighted by firefighters' bright lights. At midnight, the elderly couple across the street, with the creek running strong along their back yard, drove past the firefighters and over the mountain to safety. At 1 am, the power in the neighborhood went out. "Oh my," I realized, "This experience might get a lot more exciting." Without sun, electricity or Internet, I did what anyone would do: went to bed.
At 5 am on Thursday we got a reverse 911 call announcing that electricity and gas would be shut off in our area for 24 hours. At 7:30 the sun, still filtered through clouds and rain, was bright enough to get us out of bed. I surveyed the canyon from our windows and porch, expecting to see a bunch of mud and sticks on the road, perhaps preventing me from getting to work that day. Instead I discovered that an entire 10-foot section of road at the bottom of our driveway had disappeared, replaced by a rushing river and a jumble of rocks. I realized then that this would be much more of an adventure (yet staying in place) than I'd expected.
I called my manager, thankful we have some corded phones that work without electricity. "I'm letting you know that there's no longer a road at the bottom of my driveway and we have no power." "Do you want someone to come get you?" "No, let me explain: there is no road
to my house." "Oh, so you're working from home?" "No, there's no power." "Oh, okay. Stay safe and take care of what you need to do." "Yes, we will. Could you please find someone to cover my oncall shift? I will not be responding to any pages for a while."
We realized that no power means no water when you're in the mountains on a well. We filled a few gallon jugs with the water left in the purification system. I filled a few more from the water container left over from Burning Man. We took advantage of the clogged gutters and continuing downpour to fill four large tubs with water for all our non-potable needs, primarily toilet flushing. We took stock of our food situation: fine. Chinese leftovers, some meat in the fridge, a table full of pretzels, ginger snaps, spam packets, dried fruit, and other non-perishable deliciousness from festival season. Not to mention a cabinet full of provisions and a freezer with slowly thawing meat, chocolate, and Tofuti Cuties. Cooking wouldn't be too much of a hassle, thanks to two camp stoves and a box of propane canisters. Also thanks to impulse Burning Man purchases we were flush with flashlights, AA, and AAA batteries. We found the pack of C batteries I'd bought when I really wanted Ds, thankful for the mistake that let us turn on the radio. Thanks to KGNU, Boulder's community radio station
and the National Weather Service, we had a pretty good idea of what was going on: flooding all over Boulder County, and plenty of folks worse off than we were.
Grabbing one of the 20 warming beers in the mini-fridge, I recalled a bumper sticker I'd seen on a computer at Burning Man: Maybe partying will help.
It turns out to be a pretty good motto.
We called parents to assure them we were okay and would be staying put for a few days until the river goddess's visit was over. Our landlord called; we assured him the house was fine. He asked if we wanted him to bring us anything. No, people hiking in would just make the situation worse. We've got plenty of food and water and batteries and flashlights. What we'd like you to bring, our upstairs neighbor said, is three pepperoni pizzas. We're fine; we'll band together; we can survive like this for a week. We're Burners, we do this sort of thing for fun.
Over the next three days we had a fantastic, if somewhat damp, time. We met way more neighbors than we had in a year of living there. Potlucking with the folks on either side of our house, we ate steak, halibut, vegetables, omelets, and bacon. We drank beer, wine, and mead. We played Dominion, crazy eights, and a bunch of percussion instruments from my room. After a year of random access clothing storage on top of my dresser, I folded all my T-shirts and put them in drawers. I found my copies of The Hobbit
and The Cyberiad
that I'm in the middle of and had been looking for since July. We packed and repacked for hike-out evacuation in 21st Century style: two changes of socks, a pair of cargo pants, a warm hat, a Ziploc with cell phones, a tangle of cords, a grocery bag with my Mac Mini and another with my hard drive.
As Thursday and Friday unfolded, we'd saunter down the driveway every hour or two to ogle the river and marvel at how much less of a road we had
. There was a car stuck against a tree in the middle of the creek, having floated 200 yards downstream after falling out of a garage. There was also an electric lawnmower at the edge of the paved precipice, arriving by some great measure of cosmic luck or perhaps an uphill neighbor with a sense of humor. As water receded the gas lines were revealed, naked as they ran up the canyon.
A year ago in September there was no water in Fourmile Canyon Creek; a hike up the Anne U. White trail revealed only a few strips of mud. We had a box packed for the cat in case we had to evacuate in a hurry from a fire. Flames were no longer a concern as the soil refused any new water, forcing rainfall to flow down the slope. The minor ditch on the north side of the street–downhill from a totally separate drainage basin than Fourmile Canyon Creek–had become a creek of its own, conjoining with the canyon's main water course several feet below the end of our driveway. I remarked that if we got three feet of snow we could get some fantastic air sledding down our driveway before crunching safely into powder padding the rocks. Yet again, maybe partying will help.
On Saturday morning, the rain took a break and the skies cleared. Dozens of folks were exploring the area, sharing speculative tips on how to hike out and where it might be safe to cross the river. Our upstairs neighbors rescued two cats from a nearby evacuated house. A few guys from the power company hiked in, surveyed the lines, and before noon we had power back on. This changed the fun survivalist game quite a bit. The food in the freezer wasn't in danger. (Cold) showers, dishes, and toilet flushing were possible. Nights would be more normal, less intimate. Without much warning, our upstairs neighbors took the slight rain reprise and crossed the river with three cats and a dog, meeting up with a friend on the other side and hiking up the the road on side of the canyon.
On Sunday the 15th, as we finished camp coffee, tea, and bacon, a UTV of firefighters came down the canyon. They told us more rain was expected through Monday and Tuesday. "That's disappointing," I said, "We were planning to hike out on Monday or Tuesday." The firefighters let us know that they had some trucks parked just up the road which could evacuate us now, and that they wouldn't be coming back in the next few days. Making sure our next door neighbors (who couldn't hike out) were coming, we grabbed our backpacks, put the cat in the carrier we'd prepared with comforts and treats, and gave a big thank you to the BLM firefighter from Rifle with a pickup who drove us out through Carriage Hills, skirting the chasm near the top of the road while a crew shored it up. It was a more abrupt departure than I'd expected so there wasn't much closure; as I looked down from Lee Hill a part of me wished I was still there, enjoying the flood, the camaraderie, and the lack of chaos and responsibility from the rest of the world. It had been a fleeting glimpse of how life was not so long ago in parts of the U.S., and still is today in many parts of the world.
Returning to the connected world, we discovered that several of our friends and relatives were a bit panicked about us and considered hiking in to see if we were okay. We found this a bit amusing, since we weren't panicked about our conditions at all. We were rather glad that nobody hiked in to save us, because we wouldn't have let them hike back out: the river was pretty dangerous and we've got a hammock you can sleep in, not to mention bacon. Furthermore, we were in a far better position to assess the hiking options: we know the curves of the canyon, we know exactly where we live, and we could turn around and retreat to safety if we got to a dead end. If you're concerned about your loved ones in a natural disaster, check the people finder resources and contact the folks organizing the emergency response. Volunteer firefighters who live in your friend's neighborhood will do a much better search and rescue (or search and say hello and leave in place) operation than a pal with a backpack with some trail mix and a gallon of water.
As flood evacuees, I think we're pretty lucky. My parents live in Boulder; they greeted us with open arms and an available master bedroom. Kelly's mom isn't far away either, and her house is a good base of operations for Kelly's weekend classes. The only damage to our house up the canyon was some water that seeped into the carpet in my bedroom; the only damaged objects were empty cardboard boxes. Although our cars are stuck at the top of a driveway which ends at a chasm, we're in one of the best cities in the country for alternative transportation. Before I got my bike situation sorted out I spent a few days walking to work, a 45-minute opportunity to catch up on podcasts from August. Our evacuation expenses have been fairly minimal, too: cat food and litter, a week's worth of clothes and other immediate needs at Target, a couple hundred bucks to my parents for food and gratitude for space.
Cruising around town in the two weeks since the flood has been a bit surreal. Boulder was just the focal point of a major natural disaster, yet after two days of sun there was less visible damage than after any heavy snowstorm in March. Boulder Creek was higher and faster than I've ever seen it before and you can tell where creeks and ditches had overflowed by the red- and orange-tinged dirt residue that's been swept to the sides of the streets. Open areas along waterways are now covered in this dusty umber, a subtle surprise out of the corner of your eye when you're used to seeing a field of wilting green. Several bike paths, which almost invariably follow the water, are still under an inch of gunk.
Yet these evaporated muddy fields and closed bike paths are all part of the plan. For several decades, Boulder city government has displayed an unwavering focus on flood mitigation, pushing back hard on people who wanted to build in 100- and 500-year flood plains. Along came a thousand-year flood
and the city came out in fine shape. Fewer than 10 people died in the county and most of the buildings which washed away were in the mountains or in Lyons, which hasn't had as flood-focused a zoning process.
The flood response and rescue effort also highlighted effective government at its best. The National Weather Service provided fantastic and timely information. County and local officials started disaster response on Wednesday night and were (as far as I could tell, with the radio as my only connection to the world) on top of assessment, response, and communication. Volunteer firefighters hiked through the hills to check on folks and prioritize evacuations. The federal government got involved quickly, with National Guard helicopters flying rescue missions as soon as the skies were safe, FEMA organizing crisis response, responders from other jurisdictions joining the effort, and government-supported relief organizations Red Cross and United Way setting up shelters, staging areas, and providing other social infrastructure. Road crews were quickly working hard in tough conditions and Xcel has been on the ball restoring utilities.
Over two weeks, a crew established a replacement road for the sections of Wagonwheel Gap Road that had transformed into Wagonwheel Chasm. It's not paved, and it's one-lane in several sections. It also, unfortunately, leaves a large gap at the bottom of our driveway, so our cars are still camping out, wondering when partying will help. Our house is one of the few in the county without gas, though they expect to be ready to turn on the pilot light this week. It will be a week or so until our carpet can be replaced–you won't be surprised to learn that there's a backlog of carpet orders in Colorado. In the mean time, I'm boxing up all my books and moving all the ends and quite odds from my bedroom into the living room. It's a bit like moving, with the object placement rejiggering and the "I probably don't need most of what's in this box but I don't have time to go through it" sighs and the "where am I living" angst and the "I have other things I'd rather do with my spare time." Other things like hiking the trail. I'll miss out on so many great colors of leaves and crisp breaths of air. I'm glad I was present for this experience, though. It's rare in our modern world to see up close the dangerous power of water, the abysmal
and how it handles the obstruction of a mountain keeping still
. We got to watch local geography be made.
- Tags:boulder, burning man, canyon, flood, government, home, mountain, natural disaster, party, water
- Location:Boulder, CO
- Music:KGNU - The Present Edge
I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream
at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
this weekend. If you're near Boulder, plan to see it in the next two weeks.
The Athenians were dressed in a 1920s style, which worked pretty well. The fairies had a very Burner asthetic, which worked excellently. In a departure from other productions I've seen, Puck had quite a bit of Grumpy Cat in him, sporting a dusty tuxedo coat, a beer belly, and a rotating collection of found hats. Totally a Burner.
The association got me thinking. Someone should record a Midsummer Night's Dream
adaptation at Black Rock City. Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena are camp mates, at Burning Man for the first time. Lysander and Hermia are dating; Demetrius and Helena hooked up a few times, but now Demetrius has the hots for Lysander's girl. Annoyed with his lechery, the two head out for a night on the playa, planning to have a personal wedding ceremony at the Temple at dawn. Helena mentions the two's plans and then chases after Demetrius as he tries to track the couple down in the blinking and burning wilds. The two have an ongoing argument about love and its unrequition as they stumble from bar to dance camp to bar in search of their camp mates.
Oberon, a Cacophanist leader and long-time Burner, sees Demetrius and Helena arguing up and down the Esplanade. He tells his pal Puck to grab some of their crazy aphrodisiac drug and covertly slip it to both his sometimes-lover sometimes-competitor Titania, another Cacophanist leader, and to the arguing virgins. "You'll know them by the Reality Camp outfits and lack of headlights or glowsticks." Puck finds Lysander and Hermia, also poorly lit and boringly dressed, sleeping on two couches, part of an art installation in deep playa.
Meanwhile, there's a bunch of white collar guys at their camp (also birgins) rehearsing for a performance in center camp later in the week. Most of them lack any theater experience and one of them is cutely uncomfortable with the idea of dressing in drag, even though, hey, it's Burning Man. Puck happens by unseen, having found Titania asleep on a cozy pillow-laden art car parked across the street. As Bottom, the drunk actor with the big ego, exits the stage and ducks behind the camp's shelter, Puck trips him into a food scraps tub and then rolls him into a pile of costumes. Smelling strongly of bacon grease and cheap beer and with butt costume piece
stuck to his head, Bottom rushes back to the play. His camp mates get wigged out (maybe they were peaking) and split. Too drunk to be fully aware of his situation, Bottom tries to chase them, running straight into Titania's hammock. Titania falls immediately in lust, licking Bottom's neck where she can taste the bacon. Titania tells her friends to drive around the playa at her new beau's direction while the two of them cuddle in the most comfortable part of the car.
On the other side of the playa, Helena has lost track of Demetrius but then trips right over Lysander's couch. Under the drug's influence he starts trying to get in Helena's panties and the she gives chase. Hermia wakes up and can't find Lysander. She freaks out and runs off in a different direction. She runs into Demetrius, who got distracted by a dance party where Oberon and Puck happen to be hanging out. She starts accusing Demetrius of doing something terrible to her boyfriend. They get in another tiff and she storms off toward the other side of city. Demetrius starts to give chase, followed by Oberon on bicycle, but gets tired and crashes out on a bench by the Man. Oberon sees Helena and Lysander approach and slips Demetrius an aphrodisiac dose. Upon hearing "Whoa, it's Demetrius" from his friends, he wakes up and immediately starts a testosterone battle. Puck has meanwhile found Hermia and said "I think the guy you were with earlier tonight is over at the Man." She shows up, is insulted by the guys who were trying to get it on with her mere hours before, and hilarious drama ensues. The guys insist they take it to the Thunderdome, but get distracted by Puck with a really cool blinking light and spooky sound setup and get drawn to a hammock camp in the city where they pass out and Puck slips Lysander a hangover remedy.
Oberon spots Titania's art car and follows it by bike for a while, grinning widely. When they stop for a nap, Oberon slips a hangover remedy to Titania. She wakes up, totally embarrassed that she's been making out with a foam ass and wondering why her clothes smell like bacon. (She's a vegan.) Oberon explains the prank, Titania admits he got her good and the two make up. They take Bottom back to their camp and wipe him down with baby wipes, then set him on a couch on an esplanade.
Dawn breaks and the birgin campers find themselves cuddled in hammocks and madly in love. They decide to do tandem weddings at the Temple later that day. Bottom wakes up with a head full of crazy dreams and wanders to the Temple to journal and process. As the campers are getting ready for their weddings, he hears them mention that they want to see this play at Center Camp they read about in the What Where When. Remembering their theatrical plans, Bottom hops a community bike and dashes back to camp. His friends are worried and sad that they won't have their stage opportunity when Bottom busts in and stirs everyone up. They put on a production that would be panned in any normal theater but which is ridiculous enough to amuse everyone in Center Camp.
Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Sing this little ditty
Head to the mountains, they're quite pretty
This Sunday, come on up to 1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd and play games in the shade. Bring friends, kids, food, drinks, games, and anything else you'd like to enjoy a great summer day with a bunch of nerds.
As usual, the fun starts around 2 PM and continues until everyone leaves, which is usually in the 11 to midnight range. If you'd like to get a trail hike in, get an early start -- Anne U. White "closes" at noon due to flash flood concerns.
Directions to my house are at http://trevorstone.org/wagonwheel.html
My phone number is 303-EEL-WANG. Most cell phones won't work in the canyon, so give out my number if someone needs to reach you while you're up here.
Be seeing you,
If you've put off migrating from Google Reader
until this weekend, you're running out of time to pick a replacement. First, be sure to export your feed list with Google Takeout
Google Reader had a lot of subtle bits that I really liked, and none of the replacement options perfectly replicate that experience. They have, however, had feature development in the last three years, so it's not all a wash of bummed-out nostalgia. Some options, with pros and cons from my perspective follow. Slashdot has some pointers
and there are plenty of other lists floating around. Also note that you can set up a LiveJournal "user" for RSS feeds (if one doesn't exist for the feed you like) and read it on your friends page. This would probably be overwhelming for something like Slashdot or Boing Boing, though.
- Feedly seems to be the majority choice.
- Feedly started as a new UI on top of your Google Reader data. Prior to Reader's notice of impending doom they'd started a project to replace the Reader API on AppEngine. This API means there are several apps you can use which will all work from the same feed list and read/unread state. They've got a very modern web/app design, so if you're a crusty old hacker you might not like it. Sharing happens through any of a dozen or so popular web services, and Feedly tends to replace the original URL with its own shortened one.
Pros: Per-feed settings for post order and layout. Feeds can be in multiple groups and sorted arbitrarily. Algorithmic picks for interesting posts in each category. Magazine layout with article snippet for picking what to read. Good Android client, including quick reading of original article. Android client has a button to read the title text on XKCD.
Cons: They don't have a business model yet, so they might not be sustainable. There's no "full screen" mode on the web, which I liked for APOD and other large photos. They don't have an import/export UI yet, so keep your Reader zip file around and migrate by Monday.
- NewsBlur is also fairly good.
- NewsBlur is open source, with one guy doing most of the work. The service is free for up to 64 feeds and pretty cheap if you've got more. There are some features available only to premium users; unfortunately "arrow keys work like every other web page" is one of them. NewsBlur's key distinctive features are reading posts in "original" mode, with styling more like the blog's site, and a training-based article recommendation algorithm. It's got a lot of keystrokes, making feed consumption pretty efficient. Unfortunately, I've found a lot of the UI confusing and awkward. It's unclear to me how the training system works (which may be partly a UI issue), so I haven't used it much. If I like cat memes and dislike dog memes will it show me more cat memes, or will it just be confused about whether I like I Can Haz Cheezburger? NewsBlur has an official Android app with some warts and it's got some third-party clients as well. NewsBlur users can comment and share within the app; you can see other NewsBlur user comments under posts or you can limit it to just designated friends.
Pros: You can pay money for it; you can also use it for free. Good interaction for "read everything" mode. Lots of keyboard shortcuts. Reasonable Android app.
Cons: Awkward UI. Android client has some issues like trouble playing YouTube videos and sometimes missing posts. Training system is unclear, may take a while to be effective. Can't put feeds in multiple folders or sort items arbitrarily.
- The Old Reader is kind of like Google Reader was circa 2009.
- The Old Reader totally collapsed under the migration load of Google shutting down a service because it didn't get enough use. They've got more server power now, but I didn't spend much time with their app since it took a couple weeks to import my feeds. Their web UI is straightforward and familiar to Reader users. They've got in-app sharing, so if all your friends want to use it too, it's a good choice. They don't have an Android app yet.
- BazQux also has a familiar Reader UI.
- It's named for metasyntactic variables and is written in Haskell, which tells you something about their team. Its unique features include showing the blog's comments and easy subscription to people and pages on Facebook and Google+. As far as I can tell, they don't have any mobile apps yet. If you're really into blog comments, this would be a good choice. There's a 30-day free trial, after which you have to pay. In the first month of "OMG, gotta replace Reader," BazQux didn't stand out enough to warrant paying.
- GoodNoows has a 2D card UI and a focus on news sources.
- GoodNoows had the best source discovery of any of the apps I tried. I didn't use it much, though, because my brain still can't handle blocks of non-linear text on the web. Also, I don't like the new Google+ UI.
- Digg and AOL have late entries into the fray.
- Somehow, it seems both companies didn't realize that Google Reader was on life support, so they probably banged these apps out in three months. I haven't tried either. They might be good; they've probably got a team roughly the size of Feedly's working on them.
Any good RSS readers I've missed? My requirements: Read from a web browser on several computers and an Android tablet.
According to additional details from Snowden leaks published by The Guardian
, the UK's counterpart to the NSA
, is wiretapping all or most transatlantic cables which terminate in Britain, i.e., most traffic between Europe and the U.S.
In a sense, this sort of traffic interception is well-known in Internet security, though the scale is new. Internet traffic often travels over untrusted links, from coffee shop WiFi to backbones owned by hostile governments. Good network security design doesn't try to ensure that every step your packet takes is secure. Instead, it focuses on end-to-end security of the data, such as encrypting the transmission and requiring authentication to access hosts. Intercepts can still learn what nodes are communicating (metadata like "you went to a Google web page"), but not the content of the transmission (like the budget spreadsheet you're editing).
Given news and leaks about spy programs in the last several years, we should assume that any internet traffic is monitored. Use https
(the secure web protocol) whenever possible, and complain to websites that don't support https. Assume that a government spy agency can intercept any email you send, though emails with sender and recipient on the same system (e.g. gmail to gmail) may be safe. Unfortunately, email encryption like GPG
isn't easy to use for most people. For secure communication, consider using an authenticated online document editor from a company you trust, like Google Docs
or Office 365
. Share the document with a generic title (like "Conversation with Bob, 2013-06-22") and type your message. I believe this approach is more robust to intercept-style snooping than email or phone conversations. However, a saved document (like an email) can be subpoenaed in an investigation or court case and can be read by anyone who gets your account credentials, like a hacker or a spy agency that installed a keylogger on your account.
The first filter immediately rejects high-volume, low-value traffic, such as peer-to-peer downloads, which reduces the volume by about 30%. Others pull out packets of information relating to "selectors" – search terms including subjects, phone numbers and email addresses of interest. Some 40,000 of these were chosen by GCHQ and 31,000 by the NSA. Most of the information extracted is "content", such as recordings of phone calls or the substance of email messages. The rest is metadata.
– GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications
, The Guardian
Now, fair Hippolyta, our gathering hour
Draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires,
Like to a card game or a roleplayer
Long dithering all a young man's avenues.
Tonight is the summer solstice and this weekend a full moon. What more auspicious an occasion than game day?
Bring your games, your food, your drinks, your friends, your children to 1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd. this Sunday, 2 PM or and time later. You might enjoy a hike on the Anne U. White trail before (or indeed after) you start rolling dice and shuffling cards. We'll play until everyone gets tired and goes home, usually between 10 and midnight.
As usual, call 303-EEL-WANG if you need directional assistance, and note that most cell phones don't get service in the canyon. http://trevorstone.org/wagonwheel.html
has notes about navigation and parking. Early in the day, there will be a lot of hikers parked at the bottom of the driveway, so pay attention to the designated no-parking zones.
If we gamers have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended
That you have but gather'd here
While these pieces did appear.
And this week's Sunday theme,
No more gaming but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Stone,
If we have upset the tone
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Stone a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Bring me your hands and all your friends,
And Trevor shall bestow good ends.
This week's attention on the NSA's domestic surveillance has reminded me of an exchange from 2006
in which Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA, claimed that the Fourth Amendment doesn't require probable cause and, furthermore, "if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth."
Lest anyone forget what the Fourth Amendment says
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The opening scene of my dad's favorite book, At Swim-Two-Birds
, features the insight
The modern novel is largely a work of reference.
The main character goes on to construct a story using several characters from the Irish story collective.
I find it a very strange that our culture believes that the original teller of a story can exercise control over the stories other people want to tell about the characters the first introduced. I find it sadly ironic that the poster child for character-copyright is a company whose most famous stories are based on characters and stories in the public domain.
Conflating copyright of a work and copyright of characters is like claiming ownership of all dogs fathered by your dog. It's an unnatural damming of the stream of human cultural evolution.
(elevated from a comment on a recent post by grenacia about Kindle Worlds
The votes are in; it looks like this Sunday (the 26th) is popular for a Memorial Weekend edition of games day. It's also my 33⅔ birthday.
Where: 1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd http://trevorstone.org/wagonwheel.html
When: 2pm-ish until late-ish
Call: 303-EEL-WANG (you may not have cell reception here)
Bring: Games, friends, family, food, festive feelings. Don't bring beer; I've still got plenty from Cinco de Mayo.
Vehicular advisory: The Boulder Creek Festival is happening downtown this weekend. Consider taking 28th St. or Foothills. It will probably also be a popular day to hike Anne U. White trail. If all the space at the bottom of my driveway is in use, you can park on the west side of Bow Mountain Dr. Don't park on the south side of Wagonwheel or on Pinto. Or get some exercise on a bike with gears -- it takes me about 20 minutes to ride from Broadway & Lee Hill to my house.
In February, This American Life
aired two one-hour shows about Harper High School
. You can listen to part one
and part two
. The school is in the Englewood neighborhood of south Chicago
. It looks like an old residential neighborhood, with houses from the first half of the century, mature trees, and small patches of grass. In many cities around the country, this would be a neighborhood with a mix of hipsters and retirees. In South Side Chicago, though, this is a neighborhood run by a patchwork of gangs with endemic gun violence. This American Life
spent a semester reporting at Harper because in the previous year eight current and recent students had been murdered; 21 more had been wounded by bullets.
From my standpoint as an outsider to this world, I found several key insights.
Most importantly, the administrators, teachers, and staff at the school have a lot of social capital
. First, they speak the same language–African American Vernacular English
. Second, they know the social scene the students are living in–which gangs students are in, the alliances and rivalries, and the territory maps. They know all the students on a personal basis and they keep an eye on their social networks: if someone who didn't attend the school gets shot, the staff can map out which students might get caught up in retribution and who might need proactive outreach. After hearing the Harper staff talk with students, I'm starting to think that programs like Teach for America
are coming from the wrong angle. In a school like this, social capital is key to helping students succeed. Someone who grew up in white suburbia and attended a prestigious college coming in to an "underprivileged" urban school will have no social capital to work with, no matter how well they know math or English.
I've blogged about social capital in the context of violence reduction efforts in South Side Chicago before. A year and a half ago I wrote about The Interrupters
, a documentary about CeaseFire
, an organization of former gangbangers, hustlers, and convicts. These are people with social capital–they've lived in the violent neighborhoods, they know the emotional state folks are in, they've done violent things, and they've paid a price. A kid that's struggling with the urge for retributive violence is a lot more likely to listen to someone with a shared vocabulary, style, and background than to a Nancy Reagan-style "Just say no to gang violence."
Second, gangs are the social structure
. At the beginning of the first part, This American Life
explains that this isn't the gang landscape that the middle class might assume, with the Crips and the Bloods maintaining city-wide hierarchies and drug distribution networks. The reporters said Chicago police have been fairly effective at arresting big-time gang leaders, yet scores of small local gangs flourish, often with a territory of a couple square blocks. The gangs often don't have significant criminal involvement or other revenue streams. They're just local kids banding together, making it safer to navigate through territory controlled by other gangs. Gangs are the social support system, the guys a guy can rely on when he gets into a jam. There's not a lot of choice in gang membership; opting out is nearly impossible. If you live in a particular neighborhood, when you reach a certain age, you're a member of the local gang.
School officials recognize this endemic environment and they smartly don't preach a message of "stay out of gangs." Their focus is on keeping the kids safe, supporting kids when they're affected by violence and stressful events, and encouraging them to make good decisions (there's a difference between a gang member who's part of a social group and a gangbanger who's involved in crime and initiates or threatens violence). Gangs aren't a unique social structure that's limited to poor ethnic neighborhoods in America. Certainly a lot of the details of gang life are based on the urban environment. Yet if you take a step back, you can see an evolution from tribes to gangs. Chicago is certainly no stranger to violent gangs; Al Capone was one of its most famous residents. West Side Story
highlighted the similarities between mid-century gang conflict and Renaissance Italy qua Romeo and Juliet
. Much of Shakespeare's work can be seen as gang and tribal conflict, from Macbeth
to the War of the Roses. White people spent centuries on large-scale gang violence, first with swords and later with guns. Tribes and gangs thrive today in the Afghan warlord system, bands of Somali pirates, Hamas and Hezbollah networks, prisons, and other places where people don't have a formal social system or government they feel they can rely on. To an outsider, tribal and gang battles usually don't make sense. The gangs in the story were sometimes said to be fighting over territory, which (from a historic perspective) seems an odd thing to do in a residential area with no agricultural or mineral resources. Other times, the gangs are in a long-running feud of back-and-forth revenge and nobody can remember what the initial problem was. That doesn't sound too different than the Montagues and the Capulets.
Third, the presence of guns is a major factor differentiating contemporary gangs from gang and tribal conflict in the past. Teenagers getting in fights over girls, insults, and perceived harm to their friends is far from new. School in the British Isles is somewhat famous for kids getting in fistfights and rolling around in the mud (leading, I suppose, to the sport of rugby). American media as wholesome as Lil' Rascals
portrays boys in gangs that support each other, yet don't lead to kids getting murdered in high school. A gun is a tool with a remarkable power to amplify a rash decision.
When fists are the most dangerous weapons in a stupid fight, the worst physical outcome is usually lost teeth or a broken bone. When guns are involved in a stupid fight, the outcome is often death, paralyzation, or functional loss of a limb. There's a silver lining: the story mentions that many of the kids have terrible aim, so a lot more kids get shot at than actually get shot. But that also means there are a lot of stray bullets, and someone with no gang association can die when a stray bullet flies through a living room window.
Finally, it's interesting to look at this story through the lens of NRA rhetoric. One common gun liberalization argument is that criminals will ignore restrictions on gun sales, so we should make guns legal so that non-criminals can buy them. In practice, things are a little more complicated. Even though Chicago has strong anti-gun laws, with no gun shops in city limits and no firing ranges, kids interviewed in the story said it wasn't hard to get a gun for less than $100 or even free, a gift from another member of the gang. Yet before the NRA claims this as vindication of their argument, one reason it's easy for these kids to get a gun from Indiana or elsewhere is because the NRA has the political standing to ensure laws intended to make it hard to buy a gun stay weak. And in many cases, the kids who get a gun aren't criminals yet, but once you've got a gun it's a lot easier to end up with a criminal charge, ranging from unlawful possession to accidental manslaughter to murder. When you're fighting with fists, you've got to do a lot of damage before you end up with much jail time.
So what does this mean for gun laws? I don't know if stricter gun laws would improve things in America. But I don't think adding more guns to Englewood will make the neighborhood safer. Part of the gun rights activist narrative is that people won't shoot you if they think you might shoot back. Rival gangs with decade-long cycles of revenge killings definitely seem like a factual counterpoint. When C shoots B for shooting C's pal A, C must know there's a good chance he'll get shot before too long. And even if nobody shoots C, they'll probably get his homie D. A gang functions in some ways like an informal government, providing services to the local community when the formal government structures can't or won't come through. But gang-administered justice ignores modern judicial principles: punishing your brother for your own transgressions is far too common.
What's the solution? I don't know. Harper High School is doing a commendable job, but it can't change the situation alone. The neighborhoods need better economic opportunities. The kids need strong people in their life who can convince them not to fall into the trap of violence. People need to overcome their tribal instincts for revenge and bury the hatchet and the .45. None of these avenues have a magic bullet, so to speak, and one of them alone is probably inadequate. America can do better, but we don't yet know how. After the Sandy Hook shooting, President Obama said it should be at least as easy to get mental health counseling as it is to get a gun. Add conflict mediation to mental health and that would be a good first step.
Oh hey, the fourth weekend of March is coming up. I should host a game day!
When: Sunday, March 24, noon until late
Where: 1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd, http://trevorstone.org/wagonwheel.html
What's new: I've got a conference call from 5-7 PM, so we're starting at noon, two hours earlier than usual. I won't kick anyone out at 5, but I will need to duck out for two hours, so you'll have to fend for yourself for a while.
What's usual: Show up whenever you like. Bring fod, drinks, friends, games, kids, funny stories, whatever you like!
"If Valentine's Day is the holiday for couples, what's the holiday for bachelors?"
"Why, Palm Sunday, of course."
will be retired
on July 1st. This makes me very
Google products I use as a consumer, sorted by how much my life would suck without them:
- GMail (I host my primary email address and forward to gmail)
- Blogger (other people's blogs)
I used Reader to find the current and previous places I lived. If I didn't get hired, there was a good chance I'd have found my eventual employer via Reader. I learned about Wave via Reader while traveling in Guatemala. Reader is my main source of insight into technology, linguistics, and astronomy. Reader provides the material for around 25% of my Google+ posts. I joined Twitter only after following all the Twits I cared about got too unwieldy in Reader. If I'd been hired in Mountain View, Reader would've been on the top 5 projects I wanted to work on.
Reader is a product that respects my attention. Unlike seemingly every other social product, it keeps track of the content I've seen and doesn't show it to me again. It tells me how much is new in each source so I don't get pulled into a casino random reward trap. I can read several related posts in sequence so that I'm not suddenly context switching between programming, politics, and pictures of cats. If I'm away from the Internet for a week, I can find and read the important/really interesting stuff to catch up. I can start reading something interesting, realize I don't have time to digest it fully, and know that I can come back to it later. I can read posts with (most of) the original formatting; with images in context; with text hyperlinked.
So... anyone got suggestions for a Reader replacement? I've got several RSS feeds on my LiveJournal friends page, which is great for comics but lousy for noisy feeds like Slashdot and BoingBoing.
Minimum viable feature set:
- Add feed by URL
- Keep track of read items, unread count on each feed
- Ability to read each feed independently
- Android app, read items kept in sync with web
- Mark as unread/read later/star
- Show all items (vs. only unread)
- Read several feeds together
- Social sharing buttons
- Add feed bookmarklet
Google Reader's usage is small compared to services like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and probably even LiveJournal. But its many of its users are very devoted and tech savvy. I'd be willing to pay several bucks a month for a service like Reader. I think someone could make a viable business out of it.
Friends, Gamers, Countrymen, lend me your ears. Whether you're a Lincoln fan or more of a Washington guy, I hope you'll celebrate the birth over two centuries ago of some white guys by playing games at my house this Monday.
Monday, February 18th (Presidents Day), 2pm until late
1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd. http://trevorstone.org/wagonwheel.html
Park below the driveway on the north side of the road.
Bring any combination of snacks, drinks, friends, kids, games, and jokes about denizens of the White House.
My friend Zooko
has shared some very personal stories
about mental health and diet, tied together with the narrative of his relationship with Aaron Swartz
, who the Internet is still mourning. My comment on his second post may be of interest to readers of this journal.
I don't remember if it was my N.D. or the book she gives to new patients who said it, but the biggest insight I've ever heard about diet is "It's essentially impossible to lose weight while you're eating something you're allergic to."
I've learned that food and mood are connected in a way that's far less intuitive to us than food and physical sickness. If we eat a bunch of clams and then throw up the next day, we blame the clams. But if we eat a bunch of bread and then feel mopey the next day, we don't instinctively blame the bread.
When I stopped eating dairy products 20 years ago, I had an immediate (well, over a month) improvement in both mood and focus. I wasn't anything resembling bipolar, but I would often get pretty depressed about things. I attempted suicide by dehydration (a method which allows one to back out at any time). I frequently stayed home from school because I was just feeling "bleh." If one detail of a homework assignment didn't make sense, I might end up lying on the floor for hours crying about it. I'd start all sorts of passive aggressive fights with my brother.
Once milk was out of the picture, I became vastly more productive. I hardly missed any school. I rarely got upset. The pain and suffering in the world didn't make me want to kill myself. I stopped fighting with my brother. I got elected vice president of student council. I don't think my carbohydrate balance changed significantly, then or now. I eat a lot of whole grains and a mild amount of sweets.
My ex had a similar experience when she found out she was allergic to corn. She stopped picking fights about stuff that didn't matter. She was able to focus on reading. She didn't let things like a messy kitchen bother her. She stopped having bowel issues. She didn't have super-painful periods (and stopped taking pain relievers with corn as the inert ingredient). She spent a lot less time being sick in bed. She lost some weight. In recent years she's lost a lot more weight, possibly from cutting wheat from her diet. She still eats plenty of carbs; she's just picky about which.
For a subculture that loves delving deep into complex systems, a lot of us nerds and hackers don't know a lot about our own bodies. We've each got an amazing personalized work of distributed engineering with very limited documentation.
I don't know if Aaron had problems with too many carbs, like Amber. Or if he had problems with dairy, like me. Or if he had problems with wheat, like so many in the Venn diagram of Asperger's Syndrome and Geek Focus. Or if his brain didn't play well with some pervasive modern food additive. Nonetheless, there may be something to the theory that Aaron's gut-brain network was compromised.
I just finished the thorough and interesting bio of Aaron Swartz
. Near the end, it describes his last twenty-four hours:
Though Stinebrickner-Kauffman was feeling tired, Swartz was in high spirits, and insisted that they go meet some friends at a Lower East Side bar called Spitzer’s Corner. Swartz treated himself to two of his favorite foods: macaroni and cheese and a grilled cheese sandwich. The mac and cheese was mediocre, but Swartz and Stinebrickner-Kauffman agreed that the grilled cheese sandwich was among the best they had ever eaten.
On the morning of Jan. 11, one week after he’d insisted it would be a great year, Swartz woke up despondent—lower than Stinebrickner-Kauffman had ever seen him. "I tried everything to get him up," she says. "I turned on music, I opened the windows, I tickled him." Eventually he got up and got dressed, and Stinebrickner-Kauffman thought he was going to come with her to her office. But instead, Swartz said he was going to stay home and rest. He needed to be alone. "And I asked him why he had gotten dressed," says Stinebrickner-Kauffman. "But he didn’t answer."
Again, I have no idea what Aaron's gastrointestinal situation was like that. But if I had that kind of dramatic mood swing, I'd blame the cheese.
Shadow Boxing Day
is February 3rd; the day after Groundhog Day. It's a holiday dedicated to getting shit done
that you've been putting off for a while.
Although Shadow Boxing Day was also Super Bowl Sunday this year, I don't have TV reception at my house, so I had the whole day to spend setting up a virtual private server with not one but two hosting companies.
For the non-sysadmins out there, a virtual private server is a way to run an operating system so that it looks like you're the only one using the computer, but actually there are several other OSes on that particular piece of hardware. When you're running a data center and selling access, this is both cheaper and simpler for maintenance than maintaining a 1:1 OS to machine correspondence.
My personal domain and several for members of my family have been hosted on a server owned by a friend of mine for several years. It's been nice and reliable (1636 days uptime), but it's old enough that the software upgrade repository has gone away. /proc/cpuinfo also informs me that it's a Pentium III, the name of which brings back memories of gamers and IRC and AIM and other things from my late college years.
So I did some research on VPS packages. It looked like DreamHost
had the best deal for what I needed because they included "unlimited" disk space while other offerings scale disk with other resources I don't need as much of. After reading lots of FAQ material, I created an account and started setting up the server when I discovered that DreamHost's account management is kind of painful. First, for FTP reasons I think, every account on your server must have a globally (within DreamHost) unique user ID. tstone
was, of course, taken, and while I was able to get flwyd
, I wasn't relishing the thought of having to remember to type a username every time I sshed in. More annoying, though, was that their account creation tool seems to require that users with sudo access and users with a website must be disjoint sets. While this makes sense if you're playing sysadmin for fun, it turns out to be really painful if you need to switch accounts every time you need to install a Ruby gem or edit an HTTP config file.
Since I was being über productive on Shadow Boxing Day, I went through the whole signup and VPS setup process again, this time with Linode
. This time, I got what I was expecting: a default Linux install where I have to apt-get install
and configure everything myself. And to maximize the velocity, though not with optimal direction, I did it all a third time after getting things into a weird state on initial try.
Conclusion: If you want to host a whole bunch of WordPress and phpBB sites on your own server and give your friends and family self-service options for their sites (and they can remember whatever strange user ID they end up with), DreamHost is a great VPS choice. It's also a good choice if you don't need a private server for your small site. However, if you want a Linux blank slate, DreamHost is likely to prove frustrating. They've got a 14-day free trial, so I think I'll poke around a bit more and see if I can come up with a less maddening sysadmin scheme.
At the Aaron Swartz memorial in San Francisco (video)
, some interesting themes emerged.
The first is Aaron's passion for machine-readable public information. This principle is at the core of much that Aaron did, from enabling search engines to find public domain and CC-licensed content to downloading swaths of paywall-guarded documents so that the public can have access to its own information.
The second is the unbalanced power wielded by prosecutors. Aaron killed himself in part because he felt helpless when faced with a multimillion dollar federal trial featuring 13 felony counts. If Aaron couldn't face this, what hope have ordinary folks who aren't close friends of Harvard law professors, rights advocacy organizations, and expert witnesses, not to mention a chunk of cash from selling an Internet startup. Faced with expensive defense lawyers and the fearsome specter of the government's prosecutors, only 3% of cases make it to the trial which we're constitutionally promised.
The third, expressed by his girlfriend Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman
and fellow document liberator Carl Malamud
was a call to the technologists and scholars and activists to become radicalized. Aaron did big things because he thought they mattered. Like Peter Singer, he stressed about the opportunity cost of not doing the most important thing in the world. His death has become, in part, a call for people in the free culture movement to step up and do more.
So here's an interesting challenge that combines all three: write a program that interprets and presents law. Though they predate computers by a few thousand years, laws are meant to be something like human-runnable source code. They're detailed, they're written explicitly, and they apply to everyone. And yet in many cases it takes someone with a graduate degree to understand what they say. People with graduate degrees are expensive and unevenly distributed.
Imagine we had a program which could turn laws and judicial opinions into machine-readable format. We could then write programs that took those laws and presented them in various ways, helping lay people understand both core details and subtle interactions. We could write other programs to organize this legal information into arguments given the evidence about a case.
Compared to people with graduate degrees doing stuff
, running computer programs is free. Someone without a lot of resources could understand what they're charged with, explore similar cases, and collaborate with friends on a defense. There'd still be a role
for lawyers to conduct the defense at trial and advise on the best way to convince a jury, but the time spent at trial is today dwarfed by the time and expense preparing for it. Let the humans do what they're good at&endash;convince humans of things&endash;and let the computers do what they do best&endash;tirelessly and cheaply examine lots of data and find useful patterns.
Like a patient who comes to a doctor after reading the medical literature and closely observing his body, a defendant who comes to a lawyer with a solid understanding of the relevant laws is in a much better position to face the plaintiffs and prosecutors who have the deck stacked in their favor. If we can make computers understand law, we can empower all citizens, regardless of income, to make fair use of the due process granted them by the constitution.
Building such a system wouldn't be easy. Human language is still hard for computers to understand. And legalese is even hard for humans to understand. There are all sorts of powerful people and organizations, private and governmental, with interests vested in law and courts being expensive and difficult to access. It's not easy, and that's why it should be done. A hard, ambitious, and meaningful project like this would capture the spirit that's been raised in Aaron Swartz's wake.
Originally posted by prettygoodword
tsundoku (tsun-DOH-ku) - n., the piling up of unread books.
Borrowed late last year from Japanese, from tsumu, to pile up + doku, to read/reading (using an alternate character reading), with a pun on tsundeoku, to leave piled up. Usage in English is rapidly evolving, but it seems to get used as a verb of the action as well as the noun of the act.
Tsundoku is problem endemic in the Stone households.