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12 May 2016 @ 07:33 pm
There will be more of an announcement sort of thing later.

In the mean time: this could still fall through. But it really looks like it won't. That's... very, very nice.
10 May 2016 @ 10:31 am
I really *do* want this. I get it, you're trying to get me to admit it. Yes, okay?

You can tell me yes or no any day here.
02 May 2016 @ 12:21 pm
My ability to mark entries as friends/custom/private here on LJ is okay, but clearly not up to my recent posting rate.

I at least catch the problems fairly quickly. That's good, right?
25 April 2016 @ 10:18 pm

She's the special guest this week on Sex Cels!
Pieter Hintjens, the until-recently maintainer of ZeroMQ and a fair bit of other open-source code, is a terrifying man, whose recent description of his clearly-fatal cancer has gained some fame. I hope to be as bloodlessly straightforward about human foibles and as curmudgeonly many decades hence when my own time comes.

He wrote a book called The Psychopath Code, which may be read online for free. It purports to be about understanding and foiling a specific group of people who are very approximately the same as might be called "psychopaths" or "sociopaths" in a pop-psych way (but not those clinical disorders, not really.)

It puts forward a few really interesting ideas, starting with such people as predators, and as defectors on the social contract of mutual altruism. Not new exactly, but an area with plenty of room for new ideas, and he has some good ones.

Interspersed with them, you'll find a variety of interesting opinions, from the lucid-but-improbable to the wildly unlikely (psychopaths develop near-perfect acting and cold reading without practice, and have Dunbar Numbers far higher than the neurotypical.)

Should you have time, I recommend a quick skim of it. It's an interesting idea. Don't take him too seriously... But if you were to pretend this was a work of Victorian Naturalism and the Psychopath was a creature that a blustery old Englishman was describing from his safari into Darkest Africa, you might find the whole more tolerable, and the lessons within more interesting.

I may just find old blustery Victorian accents charming. Fair warning.

It purports to be a description of subclinical psychopaths as a form of human predator... And actually, it mostly accomplishes that if you're willing to fudge on the details, and treat it as a warning rather than an accurate measurement.

Of course, it also purports to be a full defense against the same, and an understanding of them. Between you and me, maybe you shouldn't be quite that secure in some of the facts therein.

Even a blustery old Victorian naturalist has been known to be wrong now and again.
25 April 2016 @ 02:58 pm
I consume a fair bit of caffeine these days, but I do so more carefully than I once did. These are both related to me buying a *brick* of pure caffeine awhile back. It was over a pound. So, y'know, quite a long time worth of supply. Mostly it's still sitting in a jar in a locked cabinet, because leaving that out near kids would be really stupid.

I have a small tin of it at work, which I ordinarily mix with bai5 drinks, the ones with some tannin (e.g. pomegranate, blueberry) so the bitterness of the caffeine is less objectionable.

For completeness: I often have a single Mountain Dew on the way to work, timed to have the caffeine start hitting about the time I'm set up and working.

That's fine, and has worked well. It's classic agonistic usage of caffeine - reinforcing my most awake times with some extra stimulation and energy. It's a great way to provide a small but significant productivity multiplier on my work.

It also needs to change. I'll explain.

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03 April 2016 @ 08:09 pm
A company is a sort of collective organism. Like most emergent forces, it's fairly alien in its behavior, if you're used to judging human beings. Corporations simply don't behave in the same way.

For a long time, a lot of the mechanisms of this were opaque to me -- how does a corporation form this collective thinking organism? Doing that seems quite difficult.

From my current internal view of a small company (between 200 and 300 people) and my previous extensive experience doing the same thing in a number of similar-sized companies, I now get it. I have been one of the corporate mini-minds, of several different types, in several corporations, which gives me a better idea of what they do.
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22 March 2016 @ 02:20 pm
New forms of art are invented constantly -- often related to old ones, and echoing them, but with their own subtle uniqueness.

I read extensive, beautiful slashfic trigger warnings and I don't quite weep with joy... But wow, people have really made that work. I don't even mean the slashfic. I'm just talking about the little summary tags, which have become a different thing entirely.

Go them.
18 March 2016 @ 07:56 am
Many years ago, I spent awhile dancing at the Starry Plough on Monday nights. They used to have Irish dance lessons, jigs and reels. (Does this intro sound like "wow, I have no interest in this post? If so, feel free to skip it.)

I eventually wound up leaving in a huff, though I spent a number of months there first. A lot of the "in a huff" bit was that... thing just didn't seem to make *sense*. Nominally, it was a situation where you go, you learn to dance, you have fun dancing with people and maybe (if you're lucky) you get good enough or something that not only do you get to dance with whoever you want, you also get to dance a lot and (who knows?) pick up girls.

That all seems fair enough.

But... things were just odd. "I'm having trouble remembering all the steps." "No problem, just dance more." "But... this only meets once a week, and I can't drive up to Berkeley every week. Plus every second time or so, the person who has agreed to dance with me just flakes, so I miss about half of all the dances when I *am* here."

That seemed... Odd. Was it just me? Did people mostly cancel on me because I sucked?

(Not really, it turns out. A lot of it works like that.)

What actually happens is that when you're really good, you don't get flaked on much. But there aren't many paths to getting good, because they involve a kind of intense practice that isn't available to people who just put in years showing up to lessons. That's not what the lessons are for.

So the people who *did* get good, how did they do it? I spent a few months asking them. In nearly every case, the answer was "find somebody who is already good and have them block off months of time for one-on-one instruction to show you." A few went to anomalously good dance classes, but those were all of the "oh yeah, that was great. No, it doesn't exist any more" variety. (I did try going to various other dance classes, but it didn't help much.) But mostly, you got a lot of one-on-one instruction, nearly always from somebody who was bothering because the two of you were dating.

There *is* another way to practice without having one of the small number of skilled dancers pick you out for specific instruction. There's a book. The Starry Plough isn't traditional Irish dance -- a lot of its stuff was invented by one random guy in Berkeley in the 1960s and 1970s. You can't just check out a book, is what I'm saying.

But there *is* a book, and eventually somebody mentioned its existence when I complained and said they'd let me borrow it. That never happened. But somebody else later *also* mentioned the book. I eventually collected four or five different never-happened "sure, I'll loan you the book" offers.

Eventually I got tired, went less often, and that's a nasty spiral where by not going much, you dance less, so your partners flake on you more and you barely dance at all, which means you get even *less* practice, etc.

And other than a certain amount of venom in the phrase "no, I don't dance," that's a lot of where I left it until now. I had a sudden, random thought this morning. Feel free to blame that whole "thinking about privilege" thing that's going around these days -- it makes me reflexively wonder, "is there some other game going on here below the surface?"

Here's the one that I think fits for this specific dance community:

The Starry Plough community claims to be about skill. It's got classes, you show up and learn, almost all of the "get popular here" narrative is couched in terms of picking up a skill. It involved some memorization and some repetition, but nothing seriously hard.

So here's a "mystery": why were all the very skilled dancers also quite traditionally attractive, often strikingly so?

The way you got good was to date another personal who was also good and then have them put a bunch of effort into you. That's a contest of attractiveness, and specifically of attractiveness to an existing set of people with an existing aesthetic.

Sure, but then, what about the book? Doesn't that let you skeeve your way in with mere skill, study and dedication?

*Only if the book is a thing you can just borrow, not a fig leaf.*

The book is real, and I've met people that have used it. But there are (intentionally, I believe) few copies of it, and you get them by taking away valuable study time from somebody who has one. And you're always in competition with other people they might like to date.

Who wins? Well, generally the winner is whoever they'd like to win favors with. And in that community, that usually meant who they'd like to date. Which meant who they found attractive.

It wasn't a way of *actually* getting good at dancing without being attractive. That was, intentionally, quite difficult -- not least because you *then* had to also practice a lot with other people, who would flake if you weren't attractive enough to hold their interest.


Okay. So I wasn't tried and found stupid because everybody else could learn that way. I was tried and found not attractive to that cadre of dancers.

You know what? *That* I can live with.

But what has stuck with me for years, long after "tried and found stupid", was "something is wrong here, what they're saying isn't what they're doing."

Looking at it, I finally get what they were doing.

I am not, by the by, saying they are bad people. They are perfectly ordinary people. But one thing perfectly ordinary people do, *constantly*, is to take contests of charm, attractiveness and/or bribery and describe them as some more socially-acceptable sort of contest.

I am slowly becoming better at seeing through them.

(Mostly unrelated: that community no longer exists in that form. There was a power struggle and most of them were thrown out in favor of a different group. I have no knowledge of whether that's an improvement, but I expect it's different in any case.)
09 March 2016 @ 06:41 am
From Branson's "Rises, Falls and Contractions: The 19th Through 22nd Centuries", chapter 12:

21. The term "sanity" here is not used in the modern sense. Through the early 21st century, it denoted the idea that, given the same information, we would all come to the same small handful of coping methods, personalities and ways of going about our affairs. Someone who was even briefly acting outside of established convention in a way that wasn't clearly and immediately advantageous was colloquially "insane" or "crazy." Imprisoning the socially unconventional was standard; see chapter 16 for more details.