nancylebov: (green leaves)
Richard Stallman ordered a button from me-- the top half had blue writing on white which said BLUE LIES MATTER*, the bottom half had black writing on yellow "Prosecute Perjury", and the whole thing had a red ring around the edge to make it more eye-catching.

What could possibly go wrong?

He wore it to Boskone, and several people saw it as being about lies from Democrats.

I considered redoing it with "Prosecute Police Perjury". However, most police lies aren't in court and therefore aren't committing perjury.

Please discuss this at DW/LJ, not on Facebook.


*read it carefully, there's a gotcha
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Daryl Davis is a black man who befriends KKK members, starting from a premise of trying to understand how people can hate him without knowing him, and also meeting people where they are.

He's got about 30 KKK robes which were given to him by people who left the KKK.

There's been a book by him for a while, but now there's a movie, available on the PBS site until 2/28.

Do *not* watch it at Film Lush, they're scammers.

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/videos/accidental-courtesy/
nancylebov: (green leaves)
I'm currently planning to maintain two parallel blogs, posting from DW to LJ.

The interesting question is how to handle my presence in both-- reading habits (some of the more prolific posters are in both DW and LJ, and I don't want to unsubscribe from them at one site and then have to keep track if they change where they are) and commenting (comment where there are already comments or what?).

I'm planning on maintaining paid accounts at both because I want to be able to edit my comments easily. Like so many people, I don't seem to see typos until after I hit send. I was nervous about saying that I value editing LJ comments more than I dislike letting the Russian owners of LJ get a few dollars a year (I assume that most of the fee is for maintaining the site), but then I decided that I might as well tell the truth and see what happens.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
From [livejournal.com profile] kalimac:

I'd totally forgotten this, but I've been going through my posts of the last year in preparation for writing a year-end post, and found this: On January 31st, I predicted that, given a straight fight between Trump and Clinton, Trump would be elected President.

Let me repeat that: On January 31st, 2016, I predicted that Trump would be elected President.

Here's the relevant part of what I wrote:
The article's second argument is that "there are simply not enough struggling, resentful, xenophobic white people in the US to constitute a national majority sufficient to win a presidential election." The flaw in that reasoning is that, if Trump wins the nomination, he won't need merely that category. Unless the party splits over him, and I wouldn't count on it doing so, other Republicans will have nowhere else to go. Trump has high negatives, yes, but so does Clinton (if she's the Democratic nominee), and she doesn't have the enthusiasm of her party's base. Enthusiasm is what means turnout, and - as the difference between 2008 and 2010 amply shows - between two strong bases, it's turnout that wins elections. Combine that with the prospect of a sluggish economy, and in a straight fight between Clinton and Trump, it'd be a wonder if Trump didn't win.

Then I wrote, "Never say that a strong candidate can't win," with a link to a collection of quotes from as late as the day before the 2008 election saying that Obama can't, or won't, win.

A bunch of people saying that Obama couldn't possibly win

I tell you three times, this wasn't my prediction. I thought Clinton would win.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
There's currently a migration to Dreamwidth because the LJ servers have been moved to Russia. This is a security risk (though I hope not a serious one for people who aren't living in Russian controlled territory*) and also puts LJ accounts at more risk for being deleted for arbitrary reasons.

If you're on my friends list on LJ, using a different name on DW, and don't mind letting me know what it is, could you let me know?

*insert scenario about Trump)
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Literally speaking, "You should have known better" makes no sense. How can people have known things before they knew them? How can there be a moral requirement which is impossible? It was a revelation to me that moral strictures should be achievable-- I thought they were just floating out in the ether being correct.

I got a lot of "you should have known better" when I was a kid, and I have no patience for it now. However, logical consistancy requires that I not blame people for not knowing better than to say it.

If I feel compelled to give advice about something someone did, I say "for future reference" to make it clear that I don't think they could or should make the past different.

On the other hand, people do say "You should have known better" quite a lot. Most people (that is to say, non-geekish people) use language very approximately, and they seem to manage. My theory is that "You should have known better" is shaming someone for making a mistake-- it's an effort to make sure they don't make that particular mistake again. There may be some hope that they'll be more alert in general, or it may just be dumping fear and anger without thinking about long-term effects.

It's worth noting that I was living in a pretty safe environment and temperamentally cautious. I'm interested in discussion of good methods for teaching urgent rules.

I believe that shaming people, especially shaming them for breaking vague rules, tends to damage their initiative. Who knows what else will bring down another punishment? Better to not take risks.

One thing that took me a surprisingly long time to learn was that when my calligraphy was going badly, I should stop and think about whether there's a problem caused by ink, paper, penpoint, or temperature/humidity. Before I had that realization, I would just keep trying the same thing, hoping that somehow matters would get better. It was sort of a moral issue-- perhaps if I was a good enough person I could get things right.

From the outside and after I figured this out, it seems as though I had very little sense. However, it was the amount of sense I had.

I was a somewhat spacey and very angry child (I think a good bit of the anger wasn't shown), and being shamed about incompetence did a lot to get me to give up on connecting to the world outside my head. If you startle someone who's being inept, it doesn't make them more competent. The rules are probably different for emergencies and I'm interested in what anyone has to say about being effective about getting people's attention.

This only feels like half an essay, but I think I might as well post it and see what further thoughts show up.

Meanwhile, a case of being told the rules repeatedly and what it can take to believe a rule might be worth following.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
http://en.news-4-u.ru/within-days-after-moving-servers-lj-in-russia-ilv-blocked-almost-100-entries.html

The LJ servers have been moved to Russia. 99 accounts and records have been blocked. This also means LJ is accessible to the Russian government.

Some of the people on my friends list have duplicated their LJ accounts to Dreamwidth, which has very similar code.

Here's how to make a Dreamwidth account that duplicates what you've posted to LJ, and the comments you've received. I think you'll need to duplicate your friendlist by hand for DW, and get individual permissions for non-public posts there.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Wells Fargo's bad incentive plan also led to clients being forced or pushed into low quality insurance from Prudential.

A commenter mentioned Wells Fargo getting loads and scads of money in the bailout, so I found a reminder that WF was highly involved in mortgage fraud-- and, of course, it did get a big bailout.

There was an annoying bit near the beginning of the article shouldn't have been "Gold is a great thing to sew onto your garments if you're a Jewish family in Vienna in 1939 but civilized people don't buy gold", it should have been "people who trust that their countries are civilized don't buy gold".

So, there was that bit about people buying gold in the Rolling Stone article and my mind naturally went to India-- their government suddenly made their larger bills into not-money so that the government could collect more taxes.

Very cleverly, this deactivated 80% of the money. It hasn't been going well.
Indians tend to keep gold as a financial reserve. I don't know what history goes into this, though that might be the next thing to research.

Anyway, googling turned up that the Indian government is also targeting gold, but none of it is from sources that I'm familiar with-- not sketchy sources from my usual infosphere, just sources from parts of the world that I don't usually see.

http://www.nigeriatoday.ng/2016/12/following-demonetization-india-is-changing-its-outlook-on-bitcoin/
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Article about hostile feedback having a dispiriting effect on open source developers.

https://medium.com/@thejameskyle/dear-javascript-7e14ffcae36c#.k9k5mjty7

The comments are the usual Team People Should Be Kinder vs.Team People Should Be Stronger. While I'm on the Be Kinder side, I don't expect either team to make a lot of progress. Also, I wonder what would happen if the Be Stronger team won-- would the world be a better place if people were unshameable?
nancylebov: (green leaves)
"'There's no courage', The Prophet said, 'before the war has begun.'
Drunkards vaunt their bravery when you speak of war.
But in the blaze of battle they scatter like mice.
I'm astonished by the man who wants purity
And yet trembles when the harshness of polishing begin...
When a man beats a carpet again and again
It's not the carpet he's attacking, but the dirt in it."
-- Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (b. 1207, d. 1273-12-17), translated by Andrew Harvey

I used to be a big fan of Idris Shah, possibly the best known modern Sufi. Now, when I say I was a big fan, this means I read all the books of his I could get my hands on, not that I tried to live according to his ideas. I was a big fan of G.K. Chesterton, too. This doesn't mean I wanted to be a Catholic.

Anyway, I read the poem and was attracted to the metaphor of the carpet beater. It's a brilliant metaphor, and a hazard for humans. (I don't know what God is up to.) If you are a human, you just might not be an expert on what part of a human (yourself as well as other people) is simply dirt to be gotten rid of, and what is the real brilliantly colored valuable carpet.

Improvement is possible, but perhaps purity is a bad goal and something else, maybe excellence, would be better. Purity is limited by what people can imagine, and what people can imagine is much simpler than the real world.

At this point, I'm primed to notice it if I see people who took damage from Sufi training. This subject is complicated by the fact that it's hard to tell who's a real Sufi and who isn't. One of Shah's very reasonable points is that when you start out on a mystic path, you aren't a mystic, so you can easily make mistakes about what you're doing and who you're following. For that matter, I've seen some question about whether Shah was a real Sufi.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
A whole lot of people are making a whole lot of predictions.

I recommend keeping track of your predictions so that you can learn something about how accurate your model of the world is.

If you have a testable prediction, there's Prediction Book for keeping track of whether it comes true. You can make your predictions public or private.

Not a testable prediction, but I promise to try to not gloat if you turn out to be wrong.

My informal prediction is that Trump and his friends will steal a tremendous amount of money. I'm less sure about governmental and street violence. Things will probably get somewhat worse, but I don't have a strong feeling about how bad things will get.

Annoyingly, we can only test predictions about the effects of one candidate's victory.

We are in historically unprecedented territory so far as I know. Normally, when a country starts to become authoritarian, it then becomes authoritarian. America, as a relatively free country with a strong opposition, is in an unusually good position to resist.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
The subject came up of what to do because of the Trump victory.

At this point, I don't have much. I'm not panicking, and it's possible I should be much more worried than I am.

One general point-- you've got a minimum of three months before political changes.

Some reasons for less worry. A high proportion of people generally survive bad times. The worst thing you can imagine is not a good guide for prediction, usually. America has a lot of checks on political power. We know about the Nazis. That last isn't a guarantee of safety, but it was a lot easier for people to kid themselves about Germany being a civilized nation.

Guesses for preparation: build general capacity-- take care of your health, your finances, and your social network. Have cash. (The Handmaid's Tale is a nightmare, and part of it is about centralized control of money.) I realize people's resources vary a lot. You can only do what's possible. You may be able to get or give help.

The big picture: I don't trust government as much as a lot of people seem to, but I also acknowledge that it's useful. I think it's very early to be thinking about violent revolution, and things would have to be very dire for revolution to be a better bet than working on and with the system. This doesn't necessarily mean that you should be law-abiding if it looks very dangerous or debilitating. We're talking about guesswork, not bright moral distinctions.

Two Cheers for Anarchism is good about informal resistance.

Political: https://storify.com/editoremilye/i-worked-for-congress-for-six-years The short version is that a phone call (expect it to be picked up by a staffer) is the best way to get attention to members of Congress.

Discussion of how to tell when things are getting really bad:

http://ask.metafilter.com/302522/Knowing-the-warning-signs

From Making Light:
Go bags
General preparedness
First aid-- this is overwhelming, eat it one bite at a time.

I'd appreciate information about de-escalating street confrontations. I've done a little of that, mostly for myself, and my approach is so weird that I'm not sure how many other people can use it.

Please note that what I'm talking about is for relatively slow-moving confrontations and a shared language.

My underlying premise is that the most important thing is to lower the emotional intensity. My concealed premise is that there's nothing between people but dominance transactions. I believe that people mostly don't know what they want, so it's possible for the person who is more certain (in this case, that I don't want a dangerous confrontation) can take charge.

So I start calmly arguing. I'm not talking nonsense except that I apparently get so abstract that I'm incomprehensible-- if the other person says they don't understand me, I apologize and keep on going.

The point isn't what I'm saying. It's that they've been moved into a discussion.

I am not trying to shame them or change their life. I just want them to not be angry. If I can get them mildly bored this is good.

I feel faintly ill after I use this method. I think it takes a lot of repression.

I have no idea where this ability came from-- I've lived a pretty safe life.

Oh, and ask for what you do want rather than telling someone to stop what they're doing.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Every now and then I hear "That is not who we are".

It gets on my nerves because of a process which started when I first heard about My Lai. My initial reaction was "An American wouldn't", followed almost immediately by "An American did".

Now, it's fair to say that wasn't typical American behavior, and that it was eventually treated as a crime. Much later, the soldiers who protected villagers were treated as heroes rather than traitors.

Individuals are complicated. Societies are more complicated.

My best understanding is that "That is not who we are" is aspirational. It's a hope that we will live up to our best dreams, which is to say the dreams the person speaking holds. It's an effort to get psychological leverage, and I don't think it works terribly well.

What I believe is true is that we are making ourselves all the time.

The important thing is what people want and what they're working on.

I recently discovered the Reith lectures, and they looks like a good source for high qualtity thought. I'm linking to one by Kwame Appiah about how values are promoted by people who care about them-- it's not tied to race, culture, or geography. I don't think the transcript is up yet.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
A major problem with having metrics (measurements intended to change behavior) is that the real world is complex-- anything that's simple enough to measure isn't going to be what you actually want.

Now we get to the SNAFU Principle-- the idea that information doesn't move in a hierarchy. The people at the bottom know what's going on, but can't take action. The people at the top can take action, but don't know what's going on.

Presumably, the more severe the punishments and the higher the rewards, the less competent the system becomes.

From memory of something Gregory Bateson said: Living systems don't maximize any one thing. Consider a rain forest. Compare it to a money-based economy.

I'd say that governments trying to maximize obedience are in a similar bind.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Here's a very frightening thing that I've been meaning to do as a Halloween post. I realize that Halloween is for things that are fun scary, but it's not night yet, so this is isn't really Halloween.

You may have heard of Goodhart's Law. It has nothing to do with being good-hearted, Goodhart's just the name of its author.

Here's my current formulation: Any measurement which is used to guide policy will become corrupt.

You understand? Not might become corrupt. Not won't become corrupt if it's well designed. WILL BECOME CORRUPT.

Are you shaking? You are living in a culture which gives more and more trust to using measurement to guide policy.

Good long discussion of metrics (metrics are measurements used to guide policy)

The Wells Fargo accounts scandal is a classic example of measuring the worng thing-- top management set up impossible demands for new accounts, and staff both pressured customers into getting accounts they didn't need and also added accounts to customers who didn't ask for them. This has turned into a disaster for Wells Fargo.

This sort of thing doesn't just happen in business. If there's a demand for crime to go down, it might just get translated into make crime statistics go down, so the public is discouraged from reporting crime.

Does GDP measure somehting important? Do unemployment statistics?

I think you can get a rough measure of which places are better to live in than others by looking at immigration/emigration and adjusting it for the level of risk and cost people are willing to endure in order to move.... but if this were used for policy it would go wrong some way or other.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
So [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll linked to Card about the election and various other things on his mind.

Firstly, the temperature of tap water-- it's quite true that there's a big difference with the seasons. I will also note that there's much more hot water for showers precisely when long hot showers are least desirable.

I have seen complaints about Card's long discussion about tap water, but I found it fairly engaging, certainly much more so than Card's political rants. I was reminded that I used to be a Card fan.

I dropped him in the 80s or thereabouts. I realized that he had a recurring pattern of older males being physically and emotionally abusive to boys, and I was getting squicked. It actually seemed like psychological progress when Card had a father in Alvin Maker who wasn't comfortable with wanting to kill his son. Also, I got fascinated by Card's character torture in a way I didn't feel good about. People would look at me as though I was crazy when I talked about dropping an author for those reasons.

Anyway, Card likes McMullen, and in the comments to James Nicoll, Sean O'Hara links to an interview with McMullen.
No, McMullin said, the GOP is already mostly right on the issues. The party's real problem is something much more fundamental. "The Republican Party has a problem now with people, candidly, in its ranks, members and some voters, who don't embrace, I think, some foundational truths upon which our country was founded and which it has drawn nearer to over time."

"Number one is that we are all created equal," McMullin continued. "That is something that Donald Trump, I don't believe, has embraced, nor have some of his supporters. And it's a deep problem in the Republican Party, and that's just the truth."

...


McMullin explained that he, like other Republicans, has heard for years from Democrats that the GOP is racist. He always rejected that kind of thinking. He rejected it, that is, until the last few years, when he worked in a senior staff position for the GOP in the House of Representatives.

"I spent a lot of time in the Republican Party believing that that was something Democrats and liberals would say, [people] who weren't interested in really understanding who we were," McMullin said. "But I have to say in the time that I spent in the House of Representatives and leadership and in senior roles there, I realized that no, they're actually right. And Donald Trump made it ever more clear that there is a serious problem of racism in the Republican Party. That is the problem. Not conservative ideals. Racism is not conservatism. And that's what I'm talking about. That's the problem."

Weirdly, the Washington Examiner page looks vaguely like Facebook while being less cluttered and less readable. I have no idea how this is possible, but I'm forced to conclude that creating the Facebook look is harder than it seems.

Not connected to the Nicolls piece, but how American politics shifted from interests to values, and why this is a problem. I'm not sure this is right, but it's at least interesting and plausible.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Discussion of sf which portrays catastrophe as bringing back the Good Old Days

So, who does a good job? For purposes of this discussion, I'm talking about rebuilding which isn't a simple matter of playing out dreams or nightmares, plausibly fits its setting, and doesn't look much like the past.

Offhand, the only one I'm thinking of is Three Parts Dead (seriously alien society after a magical catastrophe), but there must be others.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
An English professor explains why she isn't reading or assigning David Foster Wallace

I think what I'm writing isn't even an essay, it's a ramble.

Once upon a time-- I'd say until sometime in the 70s-- it was possible for a dedicated reader to pretty much keep up with science fiction, or at least I think I was managing it, with some time left over for reading earlier sf and rereading my favorites. Perhaps it was even possible at some point to keep up with the fanzines.

Admittedly, I didn't like everything and didn't read what I didn't like. Still, I wasn't the only one who had a shared vocabulary of a large body of first and second-rate sf.

Then, it seemed like I was getting swamped. What's more, the field started expanding into more media. Star Trek fans had been scraping by on three seasons worth of shows. Comic book fans were stuck with only two major companies.

I'm going to be sloppy with the decades, but for some time we're got huge numbers of tie-ins, games, movies, fan creations.... I think you could spend the rest of your life on just Harry Potter fan fiction and not keep up with it.

I'm not viewing with alarm, though with some degree of nostalgia. It's pleasant to have such a large shared vocabulary. I think it's relatively possible to still have the shared vocabulary from art that's more expensive to produce (movies and television), though there gets to be more of that because the past isn't getting lost and also because the amount getting produced in visual media is increasing and the market is becoming more international. There's still some shared vocubulary for print sf, it's just getting harder.

These days, there's more good art and more great art, which seems like a fair trade.

I recently read about people trying to keep up with short sf stories for the Hugos.... there are resouces, but you really can't.

Anyway, I'm looking at the foggy future and I'm assuming there will be some art which is broadly popular, but there's also going to be a lot of (even more?) fragmentation of audiences. We might get competent advice to computers-- programs which can accurately say "this isn't much like you've liked in the past, but you'll probably love it". I have no idea what academe will look like. Will there still be as much done with consensus masterpieces? More idiosyncratic choices by professors?

Anyone else remember the bit at the beginning of Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand? The protagonst is absorbing what seems like a fascinating bunch of book cubes, but as I recall they weren't a collection, just random packing material.

Speaking of that second rank stuff, what was the Chandler story where some handwaving science expanding the size of the ship and crew, so that stars really were like glowing grains of sand?

Maybe I'm overgeneralizing from myself. What have other people seen about shared knowledge of sf or other sorts of art?

Oh, right, I do have a title for this ramble. Actually, there's academic work done about canons, and I've only nibbled around the edges of it. My impression is that canons exist partly because of theories about what is good for people and partly out of habit. I think canons are also a result of having too much material to hold in a mind, but little enough that it's possible to think about what's worth treating as essential.

The idea that there are universal human classics that people need to be forced to read is pretty funny, though I think part of what happens is at least some of the material is fair to middling universal but students are forced to read it when they're too young for it.

My bet is that consensus is going to weaken, making canons harder to maintain, but I'm open to alternate predictions.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Yes, Journey, a game which originally intended (1 hour video) to create a sense of emotional connection but which also ended up with a sense of transcendence.

A little more about how the game was designed


Somewhat about the visual design of the game. This one is text, but unfortunately, it includes spoilers for the end of the game.

I haven't played it-- I don't have a Playstation (the game needs PS 3 or 4), and it didn't seem worth getting the Playstation for just one game, but I've watched about half a playthrough, and read/watched a fair amount about the design.

However, the game is at it's best when other people are playing at the same time, and they still are.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Following up on a previous discussion: I saw the new Ghostbusters movie yesterday.

The short review is that I was delighted by it. While the dialogue wasn’t as quotable, the good humor and enthusiasm from the main characters was a tremendous amount of fun. I’m not going to say they resembled scientists, but they were the best presentation of benign mad scientists I’ve ever seen. They’re driven by curiosity about what’s really going on.

They scratched an itch that any number of kickass superheroines haven’t gotten near– I think it’s that they were fairly ordinary-looking and what they did was physically plausible.

I think the reason the trailers bored me to the point where I wasn’t going to see the movie is that their clips are so short and somewhat focused on slapstick, while what I liked about the movie was interaction between the characters.

In regards to the “blond bimbo” male receptionist: Goddamn, you can’t believe anything you read on the net. He isn’t blond (brown hair with some bleach). For most of the movie, it seemed more plausible to me that he was taking the piss rather than actually stupid.

I’ve seen a claim that he was the only major male character. Actually, Rowan (apocalypse guy) was pretty major, though possibly the actor wasn’t quite good enough for the role.

A lot of the movie was about status, notably that the people in charge are assholes who want grovelling (initial sequence about Erin not getting tenure) and are completely unwilling to acknowledge the existence of ghosts.

Again, the black character is the most sensible person. I expect that she’ll learn physics and become a more equal member of the team.

A number of the monsters in the long fight sequence at the end (possibly a little too long, but nothing compared to Peter Jackson’s excesses) were satisfyingly scary.

As is usual with special effects movies, you should stay all the way to the end. Not only are there more and better jokes than most movies have after the “end”, but the only song I liked was next to the last during the credits.

I’d like to see Ghostbuster movies made with people from more demographics for the ghostbusting team, assuming they were made with as much care as this one.

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