Review: One Billion Americans, by Matthew Yglesias

This was a great read about how the United States should reframe many of its basic political assumptions. It is tempting to think of life as a zero-sum game. Having more for me, even enough for me, means less or even not enough for others. Usually, we have the open-mindedness to feel like we can cooperate with some few – our family, our community, or perhaps our nation or religion or even (problematically) our ethnic group.

Is Section 3 of the 14th Amendment Undemocratic?

US politics continue to be interesting. As many of you know, the Colorado Supreme Court has recently ruled that Donald Trump should be struck from the ballot in Colorado. Under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, if you’ve sworn to support the Constitution, and then engaged in (or “given aid or comfort to”) an insurrection, you are no longer eligible to serve in office. The Colorado Supreme Court applied this law to Trump, citing the Capitol attack of January 6, 2021.

2023 in Retrospective and 2024 in Prospective

Another year has gone by And in response, I simply sigh Another year has taken place I guess I’ll handle it with grace? Another year, the same old grind… And yet I feel I’ve fallen behind As you might know if you’ve read my equivalent post from last year, I am now 35 years old (and 3 days). If we consider “working years” to range from 20 to 65 – which seems a decent definition – then I am 1/3 of the way through them, 1/3 of the way through my career.

Are You Sure? (Revised)

This is a revision of a flash fiction piece first published in 2018. After a year of talking, and another year of planning, the project was complete. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the local clergy, and the town council had finally done it: Right in the town square, they installed a giant loudspeaker. From thenceforth, every two minutes, a booming voice would spread all over town, announcing: ARE YOU SURE? Foolhardy decisions, they had decreed, would soon be a thing of the past.

Operating Systems: What is the command line?

This is my newest post in my series about operating systems. Yes, it was last updated in 2019 – I’m a hobbyist blogger. This is a post about the command line, a computer topic, but it is for educating a non-technical (but tech-curious) audience. Most of the programmers in my audience will already know everything I have to say, and may be bored by some explanation of things they already know, though I intend to discuss some technical details of how computers work.

Can computers think things?

This blog post isn’t about ChatGPT. It isn’t about machine learning, neural nets, or any mysterious or border-line spiritual form of computing. That’s a whole ‘nother set of philosophical and metaphysical conundrums (conundra?). This is about a way people sometimes speak, informally, about bog-standard boring non-AI computers and computer programs. You’ve probably heard people speak this way. You’ve probably spoken this way sometimes yourself: “The server thinks your password is wrong.

Verbal Tics

I remember hearing an idea once – I’d like to cite it, but proper citation seems difficult, as I heard it from an acquaintance, and Mr. Google isn’t being his usual helpful self. The idea was, different politicians have these verbal tics, these filler catch-phrases, that indicate their deepest conversational anxieties. For President Obama, it’s “let me be clear.” According to this thesis, he is really concerned about being unclear, and this tic is so prominent in his speech that it shows that his biggest anxiety is being insufficiently clear about something, as waffling, or evading the deep issue underlying all the petty concerns.

New Link: Technical Only RSS

TLDR: I am adding a new link for RSS subscribers who just want to subscribe to technical posts. The RSS feed has always been available, but it is now explicitly one of the links across the top, for those who want their RSS feed to only give them my new technical posts. I am writing this post primarily to let people know about this new link, but I also want to muse on it a little.

The Curse of Coffee

TRIBUNAL PROCEEDING TRANSCRIPT SUB LEGIBUS ORDINIS SACROSANCTI IMMORTALIUM PROVISIONAL PROOF TEXT IN THE CASE OF: ŌRDŌ SACROSANCTUS VERSUS THE NAMELESS DAUGHTER OF MUŠMAḪḪU THE SEVEN-HEADED SERPENT, SHE WHO IS KNOWN TO THE MORTALS AS EUNICE LORD JUSTICE MEPHISTO, PRESIDING LORD JUSTICE DRACHENMILCH, LORD JUSTICE BA’AL-HA-KHUMUS, AND LORD LADY JUSTICE XYXXYZ MR. AZAXAZALIA, ESQ., PROSECUTOR MS. “EUNICE”, DEFENDANT A RECORD OF EUNICE‘S TESTIMONY TRANSCRIBED BY GEORGE SMITH, HUMAN, JUNIOR APPRENTICE CLERK

On ADHD Medication

Here’s a story; stop me if you’ve heard it before. There’s a child, an energetic, enthusiastic child, perhaps hard to deal with in some ways, but all around just beautiful. And then they go to a parochial school – or perhaps they just have a rather strict public school teacher. In either case, the authority figure makes it their wicked mission to suppress all the beautiful children’s personalities into identical, well-behaved zombies in the interest of the idol of order.

Fiction Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

I already enjoyed the Monk and Robot series by Becky Chambers (A Psalm for the Wild-Built and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy). It’s now one of my favorite books. so I was excited to also read her earlier work, the Wayfarer series, starting with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and it did not disappoint me. Both these series are science fiction. While Monk and Robot is solarpunk, a relatively new sub-genre focused on imagining a world with major environmental (and economic) problems solved, the Wayfarer series much more reminds me of the kind of science fiction I used to read as a kid.

Debt Ceiling, Redux

So you might or might not be aware about the debt ceiling argument currently taking place in the US. I’ve already written about this, but President Biden for some reason didn’t listen to me (perhaps because he doesn’t read my blog – which is disappointing). Other, more famous people have written about it too,, but the President insists on pretending he has to make a deal with the Republicans. So, to catch everyone up, here’s how this all works.

Voice is Hard

I was reading my ADHD blog post today, considering whether to send it to a friend, and it was surprisingly hard for me to bring myself to. I realized I was embarrassed at the voice, the phrasing, the lack of beauty in the individual words, all of which is something I paid relatively little attention to before – and which my friend, who also writes, will definitely notice. It’s something I’ve paid less attention to than I should.

This Little Piggy Did Crime

Strattera in 100 Words

It is half past noon. I have done no work, not even from bed, where I somehow still am. My laptop is on, to-do list open. I’ve checked messages, even replied to one or two, but when I go to do something, I find myself several minutes later not having done it. I’d used the bathroom instead. Or something else? What was it? What was I going to do first, again?

Treat Tolkien’s World Like Other Mythologies

Tolkien was trying to make a new mythology, a new set of deeply resonant stories, for modern (especially English) culture, and he succeeded. He transformed fantasy, and founded the concept of high fantasy. His detailed legendarium (as his mythology is called) is a masterpiece of world-building, with deep symbolism and emotional complexity, a mythology with arguably more depth and room to explore than many ancient ones. Tolkien scholars work full-time to study it, and many more people draw from it explicitly and implicitly for their own art, in D&D and other more modern fantasy settings.

Write Everything Down (Part 4): My Desktop Environment

I’d like to share with you how I use my computer, in a way that is (for me) ADHD friendly and well-suited for implementing my organization system. Tools are important to any organizational and productivity system, and optimizing your tools for your brain and your workflow are important. My computer is my most important productivity tool, where my work happens, and where my life/chore/errand/calendar organization happens, so it should be an interesting example of an optimized key tool.

The Debt Ceiling Is Unconstitutional, and Biden Should Just Say So

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. US Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 4 The debt ceiling is unconstitutional. We’ve let the Republicans play their games for long enough, in the interest of “stability of the economy” and a general fear of rocking the boat, but that time is over now.

Complexities of Defining ADHD

ADHD is a controversial topic, and it’s never been more relevant. Diagnoses are soaring right now, driven up by a variety of interacting forces. Open discussion about ADHD – and the related general concept of “neurodiversity” – has been exploding on the Internet. And recently, there’s been a very unfortunate Adderall shortage. So I wanted to take an opportunity to share some thoughts about it. I would say that I was taking this opportunity to clear things up, but unfortunately, that might not be possible.

Christmas Disappointment: Smashing Princes and Cities

Today, in liturgical Western Christianity, it is the 10th day of Christmas. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the extended edition of the holiday! Unfortunately, this essay is not a celebration of Christmas, but rather an explanation of why I have often found it disappointing recently in life, because of a disconnect between the promise and the reality. Every time Christmas comes around, I think of a classical sacred choral piece that I’ve performed in multiple different choirs in youth and adulthood, from Mendelssohn’s Christus, namely “Es Wird ein Stern aus Jakob Aufgeh’n” (“There shall come a star out of Jacob”).

A Life (and Blog) Theme for the Coming Year

Happy December! Happy Winter Holidays! We’re almost done with 2022! I just had my birthday yesterday, on December 20. I am now 34 years old, which is more than a third of a century! I generally take the opportunity on my birthday to do some reflection on the previous year, and to set a theme for the next year. I wanted to share both with you, my audience. The past year has been intense for me personally.

Write Everything Down (Part 3): My Personal Organizational System

As promised in my previous posts about organization, I will now go into some detail about my own organizational system. But before I start talking about it, and how I came to develop it, I’d like to emphasize a few points, or more specifically, three caveats, lest Zeus strike me down with a thunderbolt for my hubris: Caveat the First: My system is a work in progress. Even though it is overall very helpful, it’s always falling apart a little bit.

Write Everything Down (Part 2): Failed Organizational Systems

In my previous post on organization, I concluded with this statement: As everyone’s brain works differently (whether ADHD or not), people differ tremendously in what their ideal organizational systems are. For me, I am much less productive if I have a less than ideal system – the stakes are very high. But even for people who can be productive on any system, I think that tailoring their system to their brain, their lifestyle, their job and schedule and hobbies, can have amazing results.

Write Everything Down (Part 1)

Memory Leak I have an excellent memory. I have a terrible memory. Well, which one is it? This is a confusing state to be in. It can be frustrating to people around me. How is it – my father used to ask me when I was in high school – that I could remember all the lessons and readings for my tests in school, and get all the good grades, but couldn’t ever remember to do the simplest task or household chore, or to bring with me the simplest item?

Fiction Review: Plain Truth

I enjoyed Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. I finished it a couple of months ago, when I was feeling very restless and impatient about everything going on in my life. At the time, I desperately needed fun books to read, but I was simultaneously having a lot of trouble finishing books. This book pulled me the whole way through when other books were failing to: It was in a setting, the Amish communities, that had always interested me.

Why I Won’t Correct You’re Grammar (unless you ask)

I am an Ivy League-educated professional who regularly has to write for my job, who was always in the top English classes in school. And sometimes, I mix up “your” and “you’re.” I know how grammar works. I always, if I stop to think about it, can figure out which one to use. I know all the tricks. Most of the time, I don’t have to think about it, and the right one comes out.

Reviews and Reactions: 2022 Short Story Hugo Nominees

We decided to write up our thoughts on each of the short stories nominated for the 2022 Hugo awards. Of course, here be spoilers, spoilers galore. If you don’t want these stories spoiled, go read them, and then come back here. This is the same concept as Jimmy’s review of the 2021 nominees, and so we shall adapt the explanation from that post: As an exercise, we read each of these stories and told each other what we thought the themes were, and I reference that throughout these reflections.

Netflix Should Become a Tech Company

Netflix should become a tech company. I hear the obvious response already: Jimmy, Netflix is already a tech company! Counterpoint: Is it though? Somehow, after two dot-com booms, the markets still have an aesthetic-based definition of what constitutes a “tech company”: If a company – any company – has an expensive enough app, and if its founders talk enough about “disrupting” industries, then it is a “tech company” and is therefore entitled to a valuation completely disconnected from its actual industry.

God grant me patience… and I want it RIGHT NOW!

I’ve been feeling recently like I’ve been spinning my wheels in my personal life. I’m pressing on the metaphorical accelerator as hard as I can, probably too hard for safety, and instead of moving forward, the wheels are just spinning, spinning, spinning. I think a large part of it is my perspective of time. “Time is canceled,” my friends and I would say continuously during the lockdown. And it isn’t back, not yet, not how it used to be, not for me.

More on Mortgages

Mortgage interest rates have recently risen, and are currently very volatile. At the time of this writing, PSECU, my credit union, is offering mortgages at 5.125%, much higher than the 3.125% I locked in at, but lower than the peak above 6% I had recently read about in the news. But what does this mean in practice? Well, let’s run some numbers. Understanding how expensive a house is can be confusing.

Reviews and Reactions: 2021 Short Story Hugo Nominees

NB: These are for the 2021 Hugo awards, not the recently-announced 2022 Hugo awards. That one is coming soon. I decided to write up my thoughts on each of the short stories nominated for the 2021 Hugo awards. Of course, here be spoilers, spoilers galore. If you don’t want these stories spoiled, go read them, and then come back here. As an exercise, a friend and I read each of these stories and told each other what we thought the themes were, and I reference that throughout these reflections.

Review: The Comic Book Story of Beer

I like beer, and I like comic books, so I was excited to read The Comic Book Story of Beer. And it was overall quite a fun read! It contextualized how important beer was in antiquity – including theories that beer catalyzed the agricultural revolution – and how important it’s been in society ever since, taking a social approach to the entire history, while also explaining a lot of the science alongside the primarily social narrative.

Can you reproduce it?

NOTE: This post has the #programming tag, but is intended to be comprehensible by everyone, programmer or not. In fact, I hope some non-programmers read it, as my goal with this post is to explain some of what it means to be a programmer to non-programmers. Therefore, it is also tagged with “nontechnical”. What is the most important skill for a software engineer? It’s definitely not any particular programming language; they come and go, and a good programmer can pick them up as they work.

Biking to Philly

I am out of biking shape. I know I am out of biking shape. The pandemic has not been good to my physical fitness. (For the record, this isn’t a proper edited and outlined and triaged essay, just some notes on my past weekend.) But as out of shape as I am, I also know it’s only 25 miles from here to Philly on the Schuylkill River Trail, and so I figured maybe I could do it without any additional prep.

Crank-‘em Out

For a time, I tried to cultivate an interest in Go. Not this Go, but this Go. The interest didn’t last long – like chess, I had a hard time getting up to even a fairly basic level of competence. And I quickly developed another enthusiastic interest to replace it – sometimes, an interest just doesn’t work out, and it’s nobody’s fault, and you have to just move on and not get too sad, because there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Mortgages are Interesting

I just bought a house, and it came with a mortgage. I bought the house and committed to the mortgage all in one ceremony, in a cute little office where I signed enough papers that the sellers were able to solemnly hand me the keys to my new castle. In the lead-up to this, I was told how early payments, mortgage insurance, and refinancing works, and it’s – I think very reasonably – been on my mind since.

A Modern Version

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Were too busy deciding who would be king…
To even TRY to put Humpty Dumpty together again.
And he’s just sitting there, all yolk and shell, waiting…

A Prudent Quarantine

Five Members sat in council. There are some activities, some patterns of human group behavior, that transcend era and culture, and meeting in council is one of them. In spite of the youth of the participants – they were in their late teens and early 20’s – and the informality of the setting – leather couches covered in scratch marks, unfinished walls – they still clearly were sitting in council. The seriousness with which they were watching the video, their intentional and controlled posturing and nuanced glances, would have been instantly recognizable to any Parliament or Diet throughout history.

A Respectable Octopedian

In front of Penny in line was a 7 foot tall humanoid with glowing blue skin. She suppressed the urge to ask what species they were, and let the alien order their vegan breakfast burrito. The barista at United Planets’ first-floor Starbucks looked human except for the extra hands. Polycherian, Penny remembered. When the barista handed Penny her order – an egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel – Penny bowed respectfully and said pflintsu – Polycherian for “thank you” – before getting on the elevator.

All Rent Should Be Cancelled

Even early last week, before restaurants were closed, before we were banned from unnecessary gatherings, when many people still had to go into their office jobs, the bars were empty on my street. I walked into one, ordered a cocktail, asked the bartender why it was so slow. It was usually slow on Tuesdays, of course, but normally there was at least one other customer. But the pandemic had already scared everyone else away, and if it continued, the bar would surely have to close.

Just Jump

Kayleigh needed a break from work. When you need a break from work, sometimes you go to the bathroom. Sometimes you stop by the coffee machine, chat with a colleague while it brews. And sometimes, you straight-up leave the office and walk to a nearby bar. Today, Kayleigh found herself taking that last option. She didn’t normally do this — she felt that, as the boss, she had to hold herself to a higher standard than anyone else, and drinking before the end of the workday was against policy.

The Letter from the Trees

ENVELOPE HEADER: Date: January 5, 2027 To: Rachel Friedman, President of the United States and Leader of the Free World From: The Roots of the Great Trees of Galaxy-Wide Civilization Subject: An Offer, an Apology, and an Explanation The Offer In the name of the One Almighty God: in the name of the Many Stars through which God is made manifest, in the name of the manifestation of God you call the Sun, and in the name of Original Star from Before Time, we offer you peace, not of a lack of conflict, but of a mutual growth.

Extra Version

There’s a lot of books and articles out there about how to interact with, or be, an introvert. Society really looks down on introverts, we hear, and even when it doesn’t, it certainly isn’t designed to be navigated by introverts. They’re a very misunderstood bunch, but they have a lot to contribute. Here’s how you can properly cherish them, etc. etc. Katelin couldn’t relate to any of this at all. Society not designed for introverts — bullshit!

Father, Forgive Them

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Jesus, on the cross (Luke 23:34) My grandfather always used to love telling a certain anecdote about Calvin Coolidge. He was a man of such few words that one time, President Coolidge went to hear a world-famous preacher preach. Upon returning from the sermon, his wife asked what it was about. He replied “sin.” Not satisfied with the answer, the wife asked, “Well, what did the preacher have to say about sin?

Experiences in Switzerland

Just wanted to write up a summary of random notes from my Switzerland trip, not including the conference which was also a lot of fun but I think less interesting for my non-programmer friends, slash it might make for a better separate post. SIM set up It was relatively easy to buy a Swisscom SIM card in the airport, although they did not offer to set it up in my phone for me.

Putting On Airs

Julia liked Eric. She wasn’t in love with Eric, she didn’t fantasize about marrying him or idly think about what their children would be like, but she liked him, an appropriate amount for having met him only two times. Internet dating was strange to her, and she knew that dating took work. And besides, it was a good sign she was mature enough to not feel those goofier feelings yet. She would instead be, appropriately, cautiously yet earnestly excited.

Music and Lyrics

I just finished singing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in a concert as a member of the Grace Church Choral Society, and it was the most technically difficult piece I have ever sung in a choir. It was a single piece of concert length, a mass setting, as is custom for our spring concerts. It was all in one language: in this case, in Latin. This is different from our holiday concerts in the winter, where we sing a variety of Christmas-y and otherwise celebratory works in a variety of (European, Christian) languages, including English.

Soulfully

When Rajnish had agreed to mentor an intern, he was not expecting such a young girl. He was a little bit reassured when he was told how well Erica had done in college, that she was a “genius” — a dubious word, he would’ve preferred a “hard worker” or a “promising candidate” — but how could anyone deserve to be a junior in college at 17? She must be tricking everyone.

Is the US the only country?

A common trope within left-leaning American circles is to claim that the US is the only “developed” or “industrial” or “major” or “first world” country to not have X, where X is usually something like “publicly funded health care” or “government-guaranteed paid family leave” or similar. Recently this came up with Bernie Sanders and his common refrain that the US was the only “major” country to not guarantee health care as a human right.

The Bible, Me Too, and Lust

[Jesus said:] You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Angels

The intern was nervous as she approached her boss, manila folder in hand. “Congresswoman Fischer,” she said, “I’m not sure I was actually supposed to see this document — I think it might be classified — but you did say you wanted me to look for examples of wasteful spending that might make for good PR…” Congresswoman Fischer waved the explanation away and then reached her hand out for the document.

Are you sure?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the local clergy, and the town council had been planning this concept for over a year. Finally they did it: Right in the town square, they installed a giant loudspeaker. From thenceforth, every two minutes, a booming voice would spread all over town, announcing “Are you sure?” Foolhardy decisions, they had decreed, would soon be a thing of the past. The locals seemed to adapt pretty readily.

India: Little Differences

Second collected thoughts on India. More Communitarian, Less Individualistic, Through Food and Beverage There is much less emphasis on individual choice. If you order tea (chay in Hindi) it will come with milk in it. If you order coffee, it will come with milk in it. They will not ask you how you want your coffee. Similarly, when I was in a cab ride between cities, I was not asked what food I wanted at the rest stop.

Adulting in India

The Way of NYC When I first moved to New York City, someone older and wiser than I gave me the following “rules” of New York City: Nothing is cheap. Nothing is easy. There are no exceptions to the first two rules. I found this to be extremely true in New York City. It was stressful and exhausting, and I was broke and living off an advance I’d gotten from my then-employer, living in AirBnB’s I could put on credit card, where I could maybe stay in each for a month, tops.

India: Zeroth Impressions

Everyone’s been asking me how India is and has been wondering if I’ve gone exploring. I haven’t really. Sunday I was just recovering from jetlag and yesterday I had work and then I immediately had to go home and crash I was so tired: so I guess again recovering from jet lag? This would normally not prevent me from exploring, but I’m honestly a little outside my comfort zone. I am not in a walkable neighborhood of a city like I expected, but next to a huge highway.