Jul 082019

By ancient tradition, our book club reads the online-available Short Stories and Novelettes that have been nominated for the Hugo Award every year. Here’s my reviews.


Best Short Story Category

The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker

A fantastic tale about our quest for knowledge, and the price we’re willing to pay to understand. This is perhaps a tragedy, or borderline horror? Which means it’s perfect for me. :) But in the end, after the narrator asserts that the protagonist has given up, in the very last line we learn that the protagonist is still asking “How?” He still wants to know how the magic works, and I am willing to bet he could still cast the Spell if he wanted to. Which fills me with hope and happiness. Much like us, his desire to know is too deep. Even when he thinks he’s given up and moved on, it’s still there, prodding him and shaping his life. :) I liked this one.


The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher

Oh man. There’s this tension in awards, or at least, in the Hugos, between “This should be a great work of merit that will be remembered for decades” and “This was so much fun it’s my favorite yaassssss!” For an award as prestigious as the Hugos, I think the works SHOULD have great SF/F merit. OTOH, it’s hard not to cheer for something that you love just cuz it’s a ton of fun.

I bring this up because this story is pure fluff. It’s literally a wish-fulfillment sex-comedy. And the thing is, I love it. I love Rose, I had a huge amount of fun reading this. I still brings a smile to my face. But, like, really, this is not award-worthy material. It’s pure candy. One member of our book club was actually angry, because its nomination took away a spot that an actual deserving work could have been in. I wasn’t angry, because I enjoyed this story so much, but I agree. This should not have been nominated. So, Recommended, but wtf Hugo voters? What happened to standards?


The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark

This is not a story. This is nine vignettes that are probably world-building exercises for a novel that will be great. I say this because the world-building is absolutely fantastic. Revolutionary America with wearwolves and voodoo magic and all sorts of amazing mythological/magical forces that have their own vested interests in this war and it’s outcome. I’m super excited to read a story set in this world! I’m kinda sad that we don’t have one yet. There are no characters in this world-building exercises. There is no plot. It’s just setting a foundation.

I immediately compared this to The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, because famously, it is another story without any characters or any plot, it’s simply a description of a world. And it’s one of the most well-regarded short stories in SF history. But there’s a major difference. Omelas has something to say. It takes utilitarianism, and it asks the reader “Do you really believe this, in your soul? Are you OK with this?” It is a critique of a moral philosophy, disguised as a story. And it’s only a few paragraphs long. Nine Teeth goes on forever without saying anything of substance. Maybe “slavery sucks”? But that’s not really interesting, and we all already know that. It’s certainly on the same level as “A major school of current ethical thought has this consequence, can you live with it?”

Not Recommended


STET by Sarah Gailey

I admire this story for its ambition. It tried to do something amazing, to tell a story through implication, wrapped in the footnotes of a dry tech analysis. It’s demands work from the reader. Doing this sort of thing is hard, and so it’s not huge strike against it that the story fails. What should land as a gut-punch is instead a glancing blow. The revelations are interesting, but lack the eye-opening character. A good effort, but it didn’t quite work for me.

I guess I’m reaching an age were I can compare new things to older things now, which is kinda weird. But this story immediately brought to my mind Kenneth: A Users Manual, which tries the same trick, but gets it RIGHT. Kenneth is gut-wrenching and beautiful, and tells a story in the addendum and footnotes of a “user manual.” I would recommend that story instead, it’s everything this one wanted to be, and still makes my blood sing.


The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander

Another one of those stories that are fun but don’t have any substance. It’s basically a straight-up adventure with some jokes thrown in. Less pure-campy fun than Rose MacGregor, this story is completely forgettable. I actually forgot it already, and I had just read it like 10 days ago. Pass.


A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow

The most beautiful and heart-wrenching of all the shorts this year. Holy crap guys. Remember that tragic and soul-searching essay by Rainbow Rowell, “Learn To Read, Kid, But Don’t Fall In Love“? This story is basically an exploration of that, but taking the opposite stance. Escapism is important, and for some people, absolutely vital. There is only so much real-life that some people can take when their lives are absolute shit. And SF/F provides an escape world that is so much better than most other options of escapism. It’s heartwarming in parts. It’s wrenching in others. When you learn what these kids are going through, and you learn how the protagonist failed them before, it’s just… man. It’s hard. You feel the feels.

In the end I was left wondering, though. Is that escape REALLY a good thing. The kid that our protagonist helped… is he better off? And is this story dangerous, a memetic hazard, for those of us in the real world that DON’T have magic? It made me feel, and it made me think. It’s so good. It deserves all the awards, Strongly Recommended!


Best Novelette Category

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho

At first it seems this will be a story of the value of perseverance, which we’re not exactly lacking, ya know? But then it turns into a story of failure. The story of how to continue on with your life once its clear you never will achieve your goals, you have failed in your ambition in life, and you will never be good enough to fulfill your dreams. Basically what 99.9% of the population goes through when it reaches middle-age. This is not a story we have in abundance, at least not in the SF/F genre, and it was a refreshing change to read. What do you do after failing at life? It’s not like you’re going to kill yourself. You just have to keep on keeping on, and find joy in other things. Like relationships, and family. And, again, the despair makes it the sort of story I enjoy.

But then in the end it returns to “Actually, it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, just keep on trying and you’ll get there!” Which I guess makes for a feel-good ending, but felt cliche. Overall, I thought this one is OK.


The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly

A revenge story, with beautiful, mouth-watering descriptions of food. The protagonist doesn’t actually do anything, which is unusual. She basically just tells the reader about how her husband exacts revenge on the bloodthirsty tyrant via clever trickery, and describes the poisoned treats he passes on. It’s strange to have such a passive protag, but overall a pretty good story.


Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory

Frankly, I didn’t understand this story at all. It’s nine vignettes, describing nine days in the protagonists life, starting in his childhood and ending in late senescence, when he’s in his 90s. But like… there’s no story? And no theme? And we see how the character evolves over the years, but since each vignette is so brief we don’t really feel any life-changing moment. Smarter readers in my book club said that it’s basically a story about the human race adapting to circumstances beyond our control, fitting ourselves into the changing shape of an unfathomable world. Looking back over the story, I agree that there’s a theme of slow, gradual change and adaptation in the character arc. But overall, this felt like a literary story without much meat to it. All style and mood, without any point. I didn’t like it.


The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer

Meh. The protag cares for her mother as she slowly dies of Alzheimer’s, putting the rest of her life on hold. Afterwards she feels empty and doesn’t deal with the grief, since what was her mom died slowly over many years, and by the time the body passed her mother had long ago faded away. The ghost of her mom leaves the protagonist a sign that she’s OK, and she’s proud of her daughter, and there is a sense of closure. This basically reads like MFA Lit Fic, with a ghost thrown in. I disliked it. Interestingly, I was alone in this, everyone else in my book club loved it. Maybe I’m just jaded and grumpy.


When We Were Starless by Simone Heller

Now this — THIS was fantastic! For starters, the author makes the reader do some *work*. You aren’t spoon-fed anything, and the world in this story is drastically different from our own. As the people within it are used to the world, the reader has to slowly piece together from clues and descriptions what’s actually happening in our terms. It’s a delightful puzzle, and it’s not so hard that anyone can’t do it with a bit of perseverance. I don’t want to spoil the puzzle by giving away anything, but rationalists will find this world right up our alley.

More importantly, the story sparks within the reader a joy of learning, and the wonder of scientific advancement. You know that feeling you got when Harry shows Draco the photograph of astronauts on the moon, the feeling of “This is what we can do at our best!” that just gives you shivers? Yeah, that feeling. This story fills you with that just shortly after you resolve the puzzle.

Then soon after you realize that this is a crapsack, only-survival-matters world, where people who expend energy on anything other than survival will be wiped out. And you despair for the protagonist, who has discovered science but now can never use it. It is a goddamn tragedy. Except… maybe it’s not. Because the way that Heller resolves this tension is beautiful, and leaves one with hope and triumph in our souls, afterall.

This is an absolutely fantastic story, I loved every bit of it. Highly recommended.


Final Notes: Our book club is a liberal bunch. There’s only one person in our group that falls right of center, everyone else is leftist to various degrees. And yet, even we couldn’t help but notice that this year’s choices were nearly all, to quote a fellow member “very woke.” It’s obvious, and by the time you come to your 8th woke story it’s a bit of a distraction. Like, I hate to say it, but it does make one think “is it really the case that every work of SF merit this year happened to be woke?” Maybe. The world of everyone-who’s-not-a-Trumpist has been strongly affected by the rise of Trump, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this sort of thing is a constant weight on the minds of authors, and reflected in their work. And readers are likely to be drawn to things that speak to their current fears as well, thus resulting in the ballot we have this year. But man, there were a couple places it felt forced, and when it’s in nearly every work it starts to feel like a subconscious/unspoken requirement. Hopefully as the world reverts to sanity this sort of thing will occur less.


Book Club Reviews: As always, I highly recommend doing this once per year. You’re exposed to a lot of disparate things at once, and you get to learn a lot about the tastes of your fellow book clubbers. The reading goes fast, as there’s much less word count than a novel. And basically everyone will find something they like. It’s fun, quick, and a nice change of pace.

Jun 272019

I recently discovered that the term “woke” originated in the African-American community and referred to awareness of police violence against black people, as well as other forms of structural oppression. In retrospect, I should have guessed at its origin simply by the beauty and fitness of the word.

It was such a good term that it was promptly co-opted by the Leftist forces.

I find it more than a bit amusing that the same group that loses their minds over any slight against racial purity by shouting “cultural appropriation!” have, in fact, appropriated a word that used to do meaningful work for an important cause, and now use it as a label for their catalog of slights.

I propose that we endeavor only to use the term “woke” in its original, helpful form. And whenever we see affluent white people expressing outrage that someone doesn’t have enough bloodline purity to eg: drink certain teas, or wear their hair in a certain way, or attend Yoga sessions, that we instead refer to that as “whitewoke.” To highlight that it’s privileged white people taking power away from a phrase that did real good and using it for their own outrage porn instead.

Yes, it should be a slur, used against those who deserve it.

May 312019

Holy crap, I guess I missed my last archive checkpoint, and now I’ve got almost 6 months to do? blaaaarg.


Serj from System of a Down sings Rains of Castamere. I got goosebumps.


Both interesting and touching (and fun!) How Aladdin Changed Animation (by Screwing Over Robin Williams)


Your laws have to be pretty terrifying if making them public is an act of terror, Georgia
“Consistent with its strategy of terrorism, Defendant freely admits to the copying and distribution of massive numbers of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations,” reads the lawsuit in part. Because suing someone and claiming its terrorism is a better idea than subsidizing the annotations from the state budget?


Quoted friend: “I can’t think of a more concise-but-thorough, from-the-bedrock-up description of rational epistemics, and genuinely think that if schools had a solid, yearlong class just on the contents of this video, maybe around 7th grade, society’s sanity waterline would be so significantly higher that you would see ripple effects throughout it.”


All the signs were there. This is a short video hosted on reddit of GoT actor’s reactions when asked about the final season.


This is why I, too, bathe once a week. Hide your wives!

I just learned that the best game of 2015 is getting a sequel this year!


Long Lost ‘Zork’ Source Code Uploaded to GitHub, But Few People Understand It.
I realize all art is transitory. We’ve lost most of the epics of the ancients, and in a thousand years it’s likely we’ll only have fragments of Shakespeare and Beethoven. But the digital natural of today’s art is speeding all this up drastically. Art is being lost at a ludicrous pace in our own lifetimes. In the same vein as this article, Icewind Dale II couldn’t be rereleased because Beamdog had lost the source code. World of Warcraft Classic barely avoided the same fate just 14 years after its original release. Myspace lost uncounted hours of music very recently. Most novels written, and most art drawn, never see physical incarnation. 100 years from now, what will be left of contemporary art?


This is one of those haunting, beautiful episodes that reminds me why I love WtNV


When it is written that Katie Bouman is the woman “behind the black hole photo”, it is objectively true. She wasn’t the only woman, but her work was crucial to making all of this happen. When Andrew Chael says that his software could not have worked without her, he isn’t just being a stand-up guy, he’s being literal.


It Could Happen Here is the most interesting new podcast I have found in this year.


“Reminder: Anything you “buy” that has copy protection is a rental. People who “stole” these books still have their copies, people who paid are seeing their “libraries” deleted. Again.”

You also lose all notes and annotations you made in those books.

“Starting today, Microsoft is ending all ebook sales in its Microsoft Store for Windows PCs. “Previously purchased ebooks will be removed from users’ libraries in early July,” … “Even free ones will be deleted.”


A Bill Decriminalizing Teen Sexting Passes the House, Causing Republican to Scream About Anal Sex on the Floor


Ecuador legalized gangs. Murder rates plummeted.
“The country allowed the gangs to remake themselves as cultural associations that could register with the government, which in turn allowed them to qualify for grants and benefit from social programming, just like everybody else.
…they’d undergone a stunning transformation. The members were still very active in their gangs, but these were functioning more like social movements or cultural groups. Previously violent Latin Kings were working in everything from catering to crime analysis. And they were collaborating with other gangs they’d warred with in the past.”


Alex Winter puts into words what I’ve been low-level feeling for a couple years… the internet has been completely seized by the normies. What the cybergeeks of the early era remember of as the internet now exists only as “The Dark Net.”

I think I will look more into this Dark Net thing.
Also, this should probably be called a Bill Talk XD



Remembering The Tragic Death That Gave Life To Temple Of The Dog & Pearl Jam, On This Day In 1990 (cw: depressing)


Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay. This sounds like a well-lived life, and I would have loved to meet her. Maybe in the future, if she’s been suspended. /hope
(also, I always thought cosplay had started in Japan, was really surprised by this)


Venom genuinely does not understand why Eddie refuses to admit humans have a hivemind


Boeing has a history of covering up deadly design errors in its planes.

“… if the spring and the end cap were slightly misaligned, the slides could extend beyond their design limit. This would cause a “rudder hardover,” where the rudder suddenly moves to its maximum deflection…
[after a crash] investigators wanted to test [the valve], so they took it to the manufacturer for analysis…The remains of the valve were taken from the United Airlines headquarters to the headquarters of Parker Bertea, the company that designed and built the valve, in Irvine, California. Investigators discovered upon their arrival that someone had made off with the spring and end cap, but at the time they did not know the significance of this act. [Boeing] tried to steer the NTSB toward a conclusion that the crash was caused by a wind rotor, a phenomenon similar to a sideways tornado that could sometimes be found along the Rocky Mountains. The NTSB did not buy the theory, but it also could not find any evidence that the dual servo valve had failed…

While the investigation was ongoing, it adopted a philosophy of trying to avoid paying out damages to families of crews because this could be legally interpreted as an admission of responsibility. It had tampered with the PCU from the Colorado Springs crash and repeatedly tried to misdirect the investigation with “alternative” theories. It is widely suspected that Boeing knew about the problems with the PCU for decades but had done nothing, despite the hundreds of reported incidents. Because no one was collecting all the accounts of rudder deflections, it was likely that no one except Boeing realized how common they were. It was not until people started dying in crashes that enough scrutiny was placed on the 737 to uncover this history of ignoring the problem.

…The crashes also highlighted the vulnerability of the NTSB to corporate meddling. In 1996, According to the Seattle Times, the safety board had only 90 employees and relied on manufacturers to provide technical expertise in cases like the United 585 and USAir 427 crashes, which made it much harder to investigate cases where the manufacturer knew that it was responsible. Boeing’s obfuscation at every turn was pure corporate expediency: fixing the problem would require a massive recall costing hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention millions more in compensation that would have to be paid out if Boeing admitted responsibility. Even when the flaw began to result in deadly crashes, Boeing stuck by this policy. Had the failure been easier to detect and prove, they might not have been able to get away with it, but—thanks in part to Boeing’s muddying of the waters—they never faced the massive backlash that they should have received.



The Paradox of American Friendliness.


“What McCrae Dowless did under the direction of Harris is hire a bunch of people to go and collect the absentee ballots of mainly people of color and the elderly. For North Carolina, third party individuals are not allowed to retrieve your absentee ballots, only immediate family members, so already we have a crime being committed. They would pickup the ballots and ENSURE THAT THE VOTER DIDN’T SEAL THEM. That’s important.

In the testimony in front of the NC General Elections Board, multiple individuals testified that what happened is, they would take the ballots back to Dowless’ house and review the ballots. Most people don’t vote for everything on the ballot. Or they do straight ticket. So, at Dowless’ house, multiple individuals would review the ballots and ensure that app unmarked votes were marked Republican and this is where as one above pointed out, they would destroy a ballot and replace it with a new one and then forge the signature. Or on a majority of the ballots, simply mark the votes for ‘whoever the Republican was’.

Once that identity theft and forging was finished, they would seal the ballot and mail it in on the behalf of these trusting individuals.

Harris up there is crying because his son; a deputy US attorney; testified that he informed his father on 3 separate occasions that was he was doing was illegal and felonies under federal law.”


A big first step against Civil Asset Forfeiture, in a *unanimous* decision! Supreme Court Limits Civil Asset Forfeiture, Rules Excessive Fines Apply To States

“Forfeiture of the Land Rover, the court determined, would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Timbs’s offense,” Ginsburg wrote.

She also noted that the ban on excessive fines was added to the Bill of Rights for the purpose of protecting individual liberty. “Protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason: Such fines undermine other liberties.”

She noted that those fines could be used to retaliate against political enemies and have been used as a source of revenue.


A tax on using people’s attention!

“Young men are staying at home to play video games instead of going out to find jobs. There seem to be two related reasons for this: Video games are amazingly good; and there is no such pleasure to be had from anything else you might buy on a minimum wage, so why bother earning one? If this seems a sorry state of affairs, here’s a solution: tax media companies for the hours of human attention they consume. Give them an interest in reducing the hours that people spend staring at their screens. (This first paragraph is a summary from The Browser) …

Over the past few decades, labor force participation has sharply dropped for men ages 20-34. Theories about the root cause range from indolence, to a lack of skills and training, to offshoring, to (perhaps most interestingly) the increasing attractiveness and availability of leisure and media entertainment. In this essay, we propose that the drop in labor participation rate of young men is a result of a combination of factors: (i) a decrease in cost of access to media entertainment leisure, (ii) increases in both the availability and (iii) quality media entertainment leisure, and (iv) a decrease in the marginal signalling utility of (conspicuous) consumption goods for all but the highest earners…

One potential solution would be to tax the unproductive leisure activities which people prefer over work. This is perhaps not as crazy as it seems, because (i) the true cost of these activities is already distorted from a consumer perspective by the advertisers who subsidize media consumption,and (ii) we already tax income and productivity – if time and money are fungible, you might just pull the idea of income tax ‘above’ the decision of how to spend time, and say that each person is responsible for investing some amount of sweat (in the form of time or money) into the public good.

Of course it would be impossible to gain political support for such a radical idea, especially when people today enjoy leisure time for free. No one would support a policy that required them to buy this time back from the state in the form of a tax.

Since media companies are capitalizing and profiting on a huge amount of attention that might otherwise be spent productively, however, taxing them for the share of the citizenry’s time that they consume could be more sensible and more practical than taxing citizens themselves.

One view of the status quo is that media companies are aggregating human attention and selling it at a discount–far below minimum wage–to advertisers in a massive arbitrage on human capital. So, the state could set the price of an hour of human attention at the minimum wage rate, and charge media companies 12% (the federal income tax rate on minimum wage) of that wage rate for each hour of human attention they consume.”


How Colonialism Actually Worked. I’m beginning more and more to see the imposition of legibility by states as great evils.


The top 26 billionaires own $1.4t, out of a global wealth pool of $317t, so 0.44%. Which is still a lot, ~1/200th of all wealth


Chipotle may have outsmarted itself by blocking thousands of employee lawsuits over wage theft. Chipotle engaged in wage theft, then claims thousands of workers cannot engage in a class action lawsuit because they signed arbitration clauses. Hidden ones, in an online document that they couldn’t edit. The Judge agreed because morality doesn’t exist.

Then when the class action lawyers took the unusual act of deciding to continue to represent their clients through the arbitration process, Chipotle tried to get an injunction saying they couldn’t, because of course they don’t want anyone having recourse to legal help. Thank god the judge dismissed it out of hand.

Chipotle is now claiming that having to go through so many individual arbitrations will drive it bankrupt. The numbers say this is total bullshit, but I hope they do go bankrupt. And I hope every Chipotle executive involved in these decisions has a severe health crisis and has to spend years of their life with disfigurement or chronic pain.


Well that’s an interesting take! – “The primary function of privacy is not to hide things society finds unacceptable, but to create an environment in which your own mind feels safe to tell you things. If you’re not allowing these unshareworthy thoughts and feelings a space to come out, they still affect your feelings and behavior– you just don’t know how or why.


The hottest take of all: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” played a pivotal role in the rise of Islamic fundamentalism


Ever tried to copy a link from a Google search result, and got a ridiculous mess that won’t even paste correctly because it’s too damn long? And wondered wtf was even happening, why do I have to click through and then copy from the browser’s address bar?
“Because nobody cares, Google records every click that you make from a Google search results page, except they use JavaScript to fake the links that you’re looking at so that when you mouse over them it looks like the real link but if you actually try and copy to the fucking clipboard it’s this gigantic shitty link to Google with all kinds of tracking information. This is a website that removes all that shit and give you the real link, because when you’re on a cell phone it’s all you’ve fucking got.”


This is from December 2018, so probably outdated and things are worse now. —

TIL that in Venezuela, the minimum wage is the median wage – more than half the country makes only the minimum wage.
AND that a day’s work at this rate is enough to buy 900 calories if buying only the cheapest available foodstuff.

So, assuming no other expenses at all, a day of labor gets you 900 calories. Not enough to live. This is literally working to starve to death.
Oh my god.


What you’ve heard about “Nanette” on Netflix is true. Go watch it, it’s really good/interesting, and often very funny. OK, it’s downright fantastic, and it will be with me for a long time.


I read this back in high school, so over 20 years ago now (god I’m old). It’s still with me. A Person Paper on Purity in Language by Douglas Hofstadter


You can still vote for What Lies Dreaming once a week at Top Webfiction: http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=what-lies-dreaming

May 232019

Please put down the tomatoes and hear me out for a sec. :)

Season 8 was, I believe we all agree, even worse than anyone had anticipated (and I had anticipated something pretty bad). But if you can overlook everything that was built up before in the series and then shat on, the last episode was pretty good.

I know that is a lot of sin to overlook. One doesn’t build up something this beautiful and then murder it (in the artistic sense) and get off without a lot of anger. And I realize that if it was evaluated purely on its own merits without that series-murder for context, the final episode is still bad. Anyone who hadn’t watched any other GoT would just see idiot characters making stupid choices to drive a bad narrative. Characters who contradict themselves and make nonsensical arguments, which no one else seems to notice.

But when you take it all together–the amazing series, the precipitous decline, and the absolute travesty of Season Eight… it final episode comes through as a good mood piece. This episode was the final death rattle of a show we once loved. It was a funeral for vision and beauty. Everything was dark and dreary and awful, and even the sunny day at the end was basically a spiteful sun-god laughing at all men’s follies; rather than cheerful.

In form and structure, it followed what we’ve been conditioned to accept from Season Eight. Failure and despair at something once-great reduced to ash by inhuman callousness. The audience is feeling this emotion one level up, despairing for a show they used to love, reduced to crap by writers who just don’t care anymore.

So it didn’t matter that characters acted idiotically and contradicted themselves. This episode was about us as modern viewers, being sad about a show destroyed… rather than us as vicarious participants being sad that a family/city was destroyed. The contradictions and nonsense arguments are par for the course at this point. That only drives in the point that all is lost.

But it’s not just that I was sad because the series had died. Many series have done the same. Phantom Menace did it to a cultural institution. Why don’t I say those things were “good” in their way? Well… the final GoT episode was, itself, all about the aesthetic of despair. We were sad for different reasons, yes. Nonetheless, this episode gave us all the visuals, music, pacing, and depressed acting to revel in that emotion. I wouldn’t have said it was a good final episode if it had been like ep 5, with all the explosions and fights-to-the-death, or the frantic idiocy of ep 3. Those were also bad episodes that nailed this coffin shut. But only this episode had the proper aesthetic of loss and despair. I liked that.

Good bye, show that I used to know. All is mourning.

Apr 262019

I had always thought Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” was kinda cheesy, due to a lack of scientific knowledge. Like, while the concept of a new, gross color that no one has ever seen before and therefore can’t describe in words is nicely creepy in principle, it just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t get over that color is just frequency of the EM spectrum, and we see all the frequencies in our visible range. There is no unused frequency of light that a color could be hiding in which we’ve never seen, so the idea just kept kicking me out of the story.

This was another example of “a little knowledge is worse than none.” Because it turns out that there IS an alien color. One which we see, but which doesn’t correspond to any frequency of light in the visible spectrum. A color out of space actually exists!

We’ve even known it was special, different from all other colors, on some sub-conscious/psychic level. This is demonstrated by the fact that this color has, through much of human history, been reserved only for the ruling elite. It’s known as the royal color, and protected as such. Any lesser humans that dared to wear it could be punished, and in some places even executed.* Even to this day there are people who have such a powerful unnatural attraction to this color that they define themselves by their love of it.

That color is Purple.

Seriously, I had no idea that there is no wavelength of light that corresponds to purple, and it is an interpolation of our brains.** Our brains are freakin’ magic.

Which means “The Colour Out Of Space” is easily salvageable. Same psychic properties that drove people insane also messed with the cones in their eyes that created unique activation patterns which didn’t match any wavelength of light. Solved!

Yes, this was all a fancy way of sharing a cool video about how we see color, your welcome. :)


* the alternate hypothesis, that purple dye was very hard and costly to produce and so only the most powerful/wealthy could afford it, and in time it became a status symbol of that power/wealth and so lower classes were legally prevented from using it even when they could afford it, and has nothing to do with psychic phenomena, is clearly ridiculous and will not be entertained here.

** I also had no idea that violet and purple aren’t the same thing. This is why I’m not an artist of the color-using variety.

Mar 252019

In my previous post Guys, Take A Knee, I had several people express confusion as to what I was talking about. I turns out I’m taller than average, and most people cannot take the action I was recommending.

I realize that, at nearly 6’3”, I am statistically taller than average. But aside from rare occasions when my tallness is being called on for a specific purpose, I never feel tall. I simply feel like a standard-issue human.

Back when I was overweight, I never felt fat either (surprisingly, that came after I lost the weight). I just felt… normal.

I have two exceedingly short friends who both have told me they never feel short. They feel like they’re on par with everyone else, and are surprised to see themselves in pictures standing next to taller people and being significantly smaller. Or about the rare rude shocks of being reminded of their shortness when a typical task for everyone else is beyond their reach.

I wonder if this is a similar phenomenon to the Typical Mind Fallacy? They don’t seem like they’re the same, as TMF often is a result of the fact that no one is explicit about their mental processes (most of the time), and since we can’t read other people’s minds we can only assume they work similar to ours. TBF doesn’t have that problem, since we CAN see our bodies, and how they compare to others nearby. How the heck would one miss the fact that they are taller/shorter than most people around them? But they seem to both tap into a sort of invisibility-of-the-self, a lack of awareness of oneself as a distinct thinking unit (or physical object). I am not a body in the physical world. I am not a brain running a prediction engine. I simply am.

I think this is also why I can never remember what the protagonist of a story is supposed to look like. They become the Invisible Self, a Me by other means, and so physicality drops away.

Except, of course, not everyone is like that, as another commenter pointed out. It’s fascinating that there are so many ways to be human. :)

Dec 052018

Well I’ll be damned. Major dark web drug suppliers have started to voluntarily ban the synthetic opioid fentanyl because it is too dangerous.


Who did CNN get to be their E. Coli expert? The Food Babe. The lady who claims there’s yoga mats in your bread. Yeah, of course everything she says is going to be made up bullshit, and put CNN viewers at risk. Jesus.


“The [baby] boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it. They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens.

dealing with these problems has simply been irrelevant to the largest political class in the country — the boomers.”


Google Employees: “New York Times article […] stigmatizing depiction of polyamory and BDSM counterintuitively hurts victims and makes them less likely to speak out.
… Our existence as sex-positive and polyamorous people is not inherently abusive or scandalous. The abuses reported in the New York Times arose from corporate power dynamics and misogyny, not from polyamory or BDSM.”


Warcraft Classic is coming back. I will disappear for 3 months this summer.


From Robert Wiblin, who took it from Cards Against Humanity’s research:

“39.1% of Democrats think that it’s wrong to negatively stereotype people based on their place of birth… AND that Southerners are more racist.

65.2% of Republicans think that people shouldn’t be so easily offended… AND that Black Lives Matter is offensive.

64.6% of Democrats think that a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body… AND that selling organs should be illegal.

48.5% of Democrats think that a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body… AND that prostitution should be illegal.

57.9% of Republicans think that people should be free to express their opinions in the workplace… AND that athletes should not be allowed to sit or kneel during the national anthem.

Over half of Democrats think that Men and women ‘are equal in their talents and abilities.’ AND that women are ‘better at multi-tasking’ and ‘better able to feel empathy.’

More than half of the people who support Trump’s border wall believe that they could get past it.

34.5% of Democrats say that they trust the scientific consensus… AND that GMOs are not safe to eat.”


Just found out that you’re not supposed to drink hot tap water. Why did no one tell me??
The copper alloy pipes within the house could be up to 8% lead before 2014 (tho industry standard was no more than 5%, and some used even less).
In a pilot study, multi-day stagnant hot water did accumulate some lead. This was particularly prevalent in new pipes (since after some time all the readily-accessible lead has been leached out), so you’re actually better off with a few years on your pipes.
The CDC recommends not using hot tap water for drinking or cooking
I assuage myself that the levels to be found nowadays are probably too low to worry about much, since all pipes are either made under the new standards, or are already several years old. Especially if one takes the precaution of running the hot water for a while to clear out everything that’s been sitting in the pipes. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ll be using hot tap water for cooking or tea.


Bohemian Rhapsody Performed in 42 Styles


Three things from the midterm elections that [a friend] feels haven’t gotten enough attention:

1.4 million people in Florida just gained the right to vote – that’s over 10% of the currently registered voter population. It’s the largest expansion of voting rights in decades, a long-overdue rebuke of a shitty Jim Crow relic, it empowers marginalized communities, and will make it much harder for anyone running on a platform of bigotry and cruelty to win the state in future elections.

In Texas, a democrat who ran on impeaching Trump and abolishing ICE lost by only 3 points, with coattails that flipped an impressive number of downballot races in the aggressively-gerrymandered state. Texas is purple now.

The withered husk of the GOP was destroyed in the under-45 demographic, especially among women. The existing trend appears to be growing stronger as people who came of age under Bush, Obama, and Trump have developed basically the political attitudes you would expect given that background. There’s a myth that this is a common pattern of past generations: they start off liberal and get more conservative over time. That’s not really true. First: political distributions within a generation don’t change that much as they age. Second: the gap among millennials and gen Z is much bigger than any American political generation gap in the modern era. The effects of the Bush and Trump administrations on developing political attitudes are as real as they are lasting, and barring a dramatic change they have destined the Republican party for irrelevance


LeBron’s tattoo artists are suing the video game company making NBA 2K for portraying him with his tattoos without getting a licence from the tattoo artist.


The Planet Money halloween episode was pretty great. A spooky tale of haunting economics!


The History Behind “Hocus Pocus.” The entire history is worth reading, to get context on how the protestant reformation led to:
“…into this colossal mess walks the Great Hocus Pocus of London! With his billowing stars-and-moons cape and his gift for lifting an object over his head, intoning the solemn, allegedly Latin magic phrase “Hocus Pocus!!” and BOOM, his scarf just becomes a bunny wabbit, or something. He was a great illusionist of the early 1600s. There was no Vatican II yet, so every Catholic liturgy was in Latin and most folk didn’t know Latin. So, it was a common misconception at the time that when the priest lifted the bread and blessed it, he was performing a work of Magic, transforming the bread to the body of Christ, and the wine to the blood. Transubstantiation was something scholars could debate until they were blue in the face; the working class, many of whom still celebrated Yule and Samhain and the rest, knew it was Magic. So the Great Hocus Pocus of London would hold up items, mimicking a Catholic priest, and intone solemnly, “Hoc – us poc – us!” And BOOM! The item changed to something else. Hocus pocus was a seventeenth-century corruption of the Latin phrase “hoc est corpus” (this is the body) from the Eucharist.”


European Court of Human Rights comes out *in favor* of blasphemy laws. From comment: “Saying that blasphemy laws don’t breach human rights is tantamount to saying that freedom of speech and freedom of (from) religion aren’t human rights”


A bunch from Wiblim this month!

Homo sapiens is a post-truth species, whose power depends on creating and believing fictions. Ever since the stone age, self-reinforcing myths have served to unite human collectives. Indeed, Homo sapiens conquered this planet thanks above all to the unique human ability to create and spread fictions. We are the only mammals that can cooperate with numerous strangers because only we can invent fictional stories,

…I am aware that many people might be upset by my equating religion with fake news, but that’s exactly the point. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion”


What The Social Network is *really* about


Amazon’s Ring Police Portal For Mass Surveillance
A lot of discussion in the Ycombinator comments, but basically Amazon is offering the police access to all video from their Ring doorbell camera devices. The customer has to opt-in (currently), but as long as the video is on Amazon servers rather than your own, I consider that shaky as hell.
“Ring is just giving this to cops for free and offering customers a discount for letting their video surveillance from their home / doorbell be shared with the police in this portal.

over 50+ local police departments are now partners.

…There is no legal protection for privacy of citizens face’s caught in these cameras and added to their facial recognition algorithms.”


The “In The No” series from Radio Lab is fantastic. (pt 1, pt 2, pt 3)In-depth discussion about today’s social climate around sexual harassment, from many perspectives. Some of the best reporting I’ve seen on this.


Somehow, I missed this in the initial Final Exam sprint. Delightful. And I lol’ed at the best comment:
“I just came in from clicking “random subreddit”, read this whole thing, and now have absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on here”


We Need to Share the Real, Gory, Painful Details of Postpartum Life
“Yes, these details are disturbing, bloody, brutal, messy, gross and uncomfortable. (Did I mention bloody?)
…Why do we hide? Who are we protecting? Not ourselves. When we stay silent, we don’t get the help we desperately need. Not other women. When we stay silent, we simply perpetuate a system that prioritizes babies at the expense of moms.”