Shaving my scraggly dad beard today. I haven’t shaved since my daughter was born and I have some gross looking half-Asian scruff. Whenever I watched makeover shows, I never really understood why people got emotionally attached to hair. But somehow, I got emotionally attached to my ugly beard. For two plus weeks, my only focus has been caring for my daughter, as a team with my wife. Shaving meant a return to outside responsibilities, doing taxes and fineing a new job. I can also be vain and it was nice to not worry about that. I do want to note how barbaric our society is, with short or nonexistent parent leave and then forcing women to bear the brunt of the work by having shorter paternity leave. Capitalism, man. Anyway, I’ll feel better once the beard is gone.
There’s a scene in Mindhunter — I have very few anecdotes these days that aren’t TV references — where a cop is trying to empathize with a mom who has an infant, telling her that him and his wife were zombies for the first few months from the lack of sleep. He mentions that people talk about the good about having a baby, but they don’t mention the bad. This show takes place in the 70s. I wonder if as a society we have overcorrected, or if I’m just exposed to the wrong kind of media, because I rarely hear about the good of having babies or even kids in general. Anyway, I’d like to hear more about the sunshine and roses that other people supposedly only hear.
I ate a lot of Gummy Tummies today.
Related note: I rather miss those Trader Joe’s noodle boxes. I lived on them in college.
Another related note: I like the 7-11 gummy bears. They are cheap, squishy, and come in lots of flavors.
I’ve decided to blog about more mundane things, though not exclusively.
Here are my favorite shows for 2017. This list is kinda arbitrary. Ask me on a different day and I’ll probably switch the order. This is in order of my personal favorites, which doesn’t necessarily overlap with how good a season/show is. Gonna list the shows first, then give spoiler-filled commentary afterwards.
1. The Leftovers
2. Comrade Detective
3. The Young Pope
4. Bojack Horseman
5. Rick and Morty
6. Attack on Titan
8. Bob’s Burgers
9. Mr. Robot
11. Steven Universe
12. The Good Place
Other shows I enjoyed: Game of Thrones, You’re the Worst, Silicon Valley, Veep, Insecure, Master of None
Unfinished, but enjoying: Mindhunter
If it’s not on the list, I either haven’t watched it or I forgot about it. In fact, as I was writing this, I had to add Bojack Horseman.
1. The Leftovers
The Leftovers, wow. Season 3 started airing and critics all loved it. I skipped season 1. Partially so I could catch up before it ended, and partially because Andy Greenwald didn’t really like season 1 and my tastes tend to align with his. Season 2 starts with kind of a soft reboot, so it wasn’t a problem for me figuring out what was going on. Season 2, which aired last year, is an almost perfect season of television. Season 3 is not as perfect, but I think season 3 sticks the landing perfectly for a season finale. It does ambiguity right. It’s kind of an anti-puzzle box show, I think. We don’t know if Nora really went to the other side or not at the end. I’ve convinced myself either way multiple times, and I love the show for it. You can look at the evidence either way, but there’s no mathematical formula to decide which one is correct. Part of the reason I convince myself either way is that both ways make sense thematically.
2. Comrade Detective
I had to rank it so high because it was just so different from anything else on TV. The premise is amazing and ridiculous. But then the show takes that ridiculous concept and plays it straight. It’s not really a parody. The acting is good, the voice acting doesn’t use any cheap jokes. The whole thing isn’t a laugh-a-minute jokefest. In fact, it’s less a parody of a pro-Communist show, and more of a funhouse mirror look at American propaganda. We get to see New York as a horrible place, depicted on a cheap set. Christianity is shown as a cult. Plus, the show has some really great lines, and I wish it was more well-known because the memes would be fantastic. I particularly loved Daniel Craig as the religious villain, and the stuff about Monopoly.
3. The Young Pope
This show surprised at every turn, without being about twists. Every time I thought I had the show figured out, it became a different kind of show. The acting is superb. I mean, Jude Law should get an Emmy just for that wink in the intro, haha. The show is gorgeous; it’s amazing how they created a Vatican City out of thin air. I almost put this as #1.
4. Bojack Horseman
I don’t know how this show gets stronger and stronger. It continues to do a good job having you empathize with Bojack being shitty but not excusing his shittiness. This season, we get to see more of Bojack’s family before he even existed and how the ghosts of the past affect his actions now. Also, I really, really like the Princess Carolyn episodes now. When this show is over, it’ll probably be one of the best ever. I’ve already watched each of the first three seasons probably three times each. And that’s actually watching, not leaving them on in the background while I wash dishes.
5. Rick and Morty
I feel weird putting it this high. The show is so popular now, and the fans so obnoxious, that it feels a little weird to be praising it this much. Part of the obnoxiousness has to be a function of the show because people can’t figure out that you shouldn’t emulate anti-heroes. (See also Breaking Bad, which is actually a pretty good critique of toxic masculinity. Bojack Horseman doesn’t fall into this trap because they make sure not to make Bojack cool. I read this somewhere, but don’t remember where.) But I think part of it has to just be because of its sheer popularity. Anyway, the season didn’t disappoint after a long hiatus. Pickle Rick was a highlight, not just for its inventive brutal violence, but for a surprisingly healthy take on therapy. Oh and it’s one of the funniest shows on TV.
6. Attack on Titan
This is ranked high merely because this was the show I most looked forward to watching every week. Every week, it left me wanting more. I dunno, it just got me hyped. I guess it was the action. I like the Titans as villains because the show doesn’t shy away from how grotesque they are.
This show was less convoluted than people thought it was. Plot-wise, and backstory-wise, things are actually very straightforward. But I liked what it did to put you in this confused mood, so that you could empathize with David. Mostly, I ranked it this high because I love Aubrey Plaza and she knocks it out of the park with her performance as the villain. Best villain of 2017, by far.
8. Bob’s Burgers
Recency bias helps put the show this high for me this year. I’ve just really enjoyed the new episodes I’ve been watching. The show leaves me with a smile on my face every time I get to the end credits and a goofy song is playing. The newest season has been really strong, and the Christmas episode was particularly awesome.
9. Mr. Robot
This season was really great. It feels like less people are watching the show because they didn’t like season 2. I still enjoyed season 2. Thematically, it was weird to make the whole struggle be about finding balance with Mr. Robot, and yet they aren’t working together at the end. So could’ve been better, I guess. Season 3 moves a lot faster. The use of the Knight Rider theme is one of my favorite TV moments this year. The highs this season are really high. The episode where E-corp’s building is attacked by protestors is an excellent piece of TV. I felt like I had to rank it high because it works as great TV. Still, I’m a little less enthused about this show because I feel like it has lost its revolutionary fervor. (It’s ultimately not that surprising for liberals to argue for the preservation of the status quo.) We’ll see what happens in Season 4.
Hm, don’t have much to say about this show besides that I liked it. Alison Brie and the rest of the cast are great. The story they told was good. I do wish, though, that the rest of the ensemble could’ve gotten more story.
11. Steven Universe
Normally, I’d rank this show higher, but I looked at the actual episodes that aired in 2017 and they weren’t super impressive. The problem is that Steven Universe gets graded on a curve. Last year, had Mindful Education and Mr. Greg. This year, we got a lot of Lars. And while I am impressed how his character is developed and we get an empathetic look at social anxiety, Lars is still not my fav. And this is a ranking of my favs. Also, changing it so that Pink Diamond wasn’t killed by Rose Quartz was a bad move. I thought it brought a lot of complexity to Rose Quartz’s character and also made things interesting for Steven’s future choices.
12. The Good Place
Hard for me to figure out where to rank this because I’m talking about 2017, but this is a fall show, so am I judging this based on half of Season 1 and half of Season 2? Season 2 seems good so far, but I want to see where it goes before judging it more. Season 1 was great, and I actually binged all of it this year on Netflix. Anyway, this is probably the best non-animated sitcom for 2017. It’s a really fun show.
I thought Master of None had a strong season 2. It’s a show that takes risks and largely succeeds at trying different things. The thanksgiving episode was my favorite.
Game of Thrones is still as epic as it was, but it’s a more flawed show now that it has outpaced the source material. I don’t think this season was as bad as some people claim because I think its flaws this season are still the same flaws that its had before, aside from instantaneous dragon travel. It’s still one of the most impressive shows on TV. The Loot Train battle (what a fucking shitty name) had a great sense of drama and geography.
You’re the Worst had a solid season, after last season was a bit disappointing. Silicon Valley and Veep continued being good. I will miss Erlich a lot. I still really like Insecure but I wasn’t as excited about this season as last season for whatever reason. That’s not a critique. It’s a great show. And I liked it more on rewatch with my friends, than I did the first time around.
I decided not to put Mindhunter on the list because I haven’t finished it yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. It probably is one of Stevie’s top shows for the year.
I also finally gave in and watched Westworld. There’s a lot to like about the show, but I didn’t think the character arcs were particularly good.
I'd like to run this on my smart phone.https://t.co/mu0i4CN0lD
— John Robb (@johnrobb) October 18, 2017
In case the video dies: Chinese surveillance cam tracking people and objects in what appears to be real-time.
I think you could actually build this off the shelf. AWS has Rekognition, which does object recognition and facial recognition. Well, I’m not sure it would be real-time, but you could get fairly close sending frames from a video. You could also build a database of faces just from scraping social media.
As for the phone, technology is getting close. iPhone 7 and up support ARKit. I believe ARKit just does surface recognition and the facial tracking is more for Snapchat-filter-esque stuff and only looks at one face at a time. iPhone 7 and up also is when we got CoreML, which means phones can run trained machine learning models. So, the tech is all there, I think, to be able to do this, but I don’t know if it can quite be done software-wise yet.
Anyway, we’re a short hop away from people running surveillance AR on their phones. This will be especially bad when cops can do it. Apps will be built for real-life doxxing from any rando on the street. The current crowd-sourced identification will be hyper-powered. Also, any store will be able to run surveillance AR and then connect that data to facebook to retarget.
One small note on accuracy:
These things won’t be 100% accurate. One of the most powerful uses of AI right now is FB’s advertising system. False positives aren’t that big a deal. It just means that someone was served your ad who wasn’t interested in your ad and they don’t click on it. But false positives in other instances can potentially be deadly. For example, facial recognition already is less accurate on black people because Silicon Valley is very white. Cops with real-time AR facial recognition could get the wrong people. This doesn’t mean we should try to make surveillance more accurate to help cops. I mean this more as a warning. That facial recognition will be less accurate, cops will not care, and it will be used to increase oppression.
Normally, I leave politics off facebook. Instead, I post on twitter, or my blog, or talk on Slack, where I feel better expressing more radical views. Way too much anxiety to post on facebook and I’d likely post in a way that would alienate people.
But I posted something that pointed out that the rally at Berkeley was pretty overtly a white supremacist rally (despite being labeled as pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump protestors by more traditional media), and that expressed solidarity with antifa. It got more likes than I thought it would. However, I think that’s because the latter portion was behind “See more,” so most people didn’t see that portion. I suspect most of my facebook friends are liberals, and they’re more mushy about violence being a legitimate tactic against violent oppressors.
Regardless of whether people saw it or not, it still was encouraging. I had another conversation in someone’s facebook comments where I expressed solidarity, and the person I was talking to was unsure about the efficacy of antifa tactics but at least refused to condemn the violence. I’ve also tried to open up a bit more about how I think the world will be radically reshaped (still working along that framework I posted), and I feel more confident.
I want to start posting more radical stuff on facebook, educating people about the unjustness of our current economic systems, the possible eradication of work, abolishment of the prison-industrial complex (not reform), direct democracy, and more. It makes sense to post here to figure out my thoughts first. I suspect I’ll have to be more gentle on facebook, so hopefully I don’t scare too many people away. My goal is to expose them to more radical ideas and tip them towards radical critiques of capitalism and imperialism. I want to expand the discourse leftward. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t.
So, here’s the actual text I posted:
Alt-right = white supremacist hate group. They were holding a white supremacist rally in Berkeley. Stop pretending this is some type of “both sides are bad” “clash between pro-Trump and anti-Trump protestors.”
Here are the ties between the speakers/organizers at the rally and white nationalism/neo-Nazis:
Here’s an alt-right flag based off a third reich flag:
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) April 15, 2017
Here’s somebody giving a Nazi salute:
More open Nazis at pro-Trump rally organized by racist members of the Alt-Right. https://t.co/At5vAmePbg
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) April 15, 2017
Here’s them with an anti-semitic sign:
— New York City Antifa (@NYCAntifa) April 15, 2017
One of the groups organizing the rally was Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group:
Identity Europa, a white nationalist group, has organized this rally. They have posted anti Semitic and anti Islamic messages pic.twitter.com/oKr8LAoYaJ
— john sepulvado (@JohnLGC) April 15, 2017
You can’t just ignore them. Their candidate is president, enacting terrible policies. White terrorists like James Harris Jackson and Dylann Roof have killed people.
I support those who defended us from white supremacist scum. 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤
This is a great article on the sources of corruption in Alabama.
Of course, the main part that interested me was the stuff on over-centralization.
The legacy of centralization is closely related to Alabama’s recent scandals, not just those in Birmingham. In most states, if a lobbying group wishes to gain influence, they not only lobby in the capital, but they must also go to areas where they hope to work and lobby the mayor, the county commissioner, and other local officials to gain their favor. In Alabama, only Montgomery’s voice matters, leading to a city populated by special interests. Mike Hubbard used this centralized system of favors and kickbacks for his own material gain.
This shows how a centralized system is more fragile to being taken over by special interests. They can buy less people in order to have their will enacted.
The centralization is also closely tied with racism and classism. Power was specifically centralized to lock out “poor whites [and] black voters.” Instead of being able to control their own lives, the state capital had control of the laws. Even more recently: “When Birmingham tried to raise the minimum wage, they were struck down by the state legislature.”
The project of decentralization is not a rationalist utopian project. It is a practical project against the fragility of centralization. Centralized hierarchies are more easily corruptible. I’m not saying that localized control cannot be corrupted, but that it would require much more power and money to control more territory. Decentralized control can create bulwarks against corruption, preventing corruption from spreading.
Giving control to cities like Birmingham would not erase class distinctions. However, they would at least be able to raise the minimum wage. This is not possible in their over-centralized system. This is why I advocate for city-power over state-power and what makes me uneasy about projects like Calexit. In fact, if you magically erased nation-states and allowed cities to collaborate, we would already have the political will to do something about global warming. Again, it’s not that decentralization would automatically solve the problem, but it would make it more likely to be solved. With the Birmingham example, specifically, a lot of people would be materially better off. It’s harder to achieve this on the state level because of the aforementioned corruption.
So now, with just this specific example of Alabama, we can point out that on a utilitarian level, lots of people would likely be materially better with a more decentralized system. We can also show that it’s much less fragile when it comes to corruption by the elites. When we extend the example to include the state-level disenfranchisement, we can also show that the people have more power in the decentralized system. They may not necessarily choose to make their lives better, but at least they have the option, whereas they didn’t before. Morally and practically, decentralization is a better option than what we have now.
Sometimes an easy task becomes a giant chore. Like, when you’re about to cook dinner, but then you need to wash a pot, but the sink is full so you have to clear out the sink, but the drying rack is full so you have to put away the dry dishes first… etcetera. Anyway, I thought getting a VPN would be an easy process, but alas, it would not be so. At some point, I decided that I should set it up on my router. That way, it would protect traffic from the chromecast and gaming devices. And, I wouldn’t run into the device limits. This decision led me down a deep rabbit hole.
I have an Asus RT-N56U. When I checked the router, it only had support for PPTP, which is less secure than OpenVPN. I upgraded the firmware, and still no luck. I guess my device was too old? Other Asus devices supported it. I seent the screenshots.
I had to start researching alternate firmware. There was AsusWRT, which didn’t actually support my router, so that was out. There was something from someone going by Padavan. but it seemed like a project done by just one person and I wasn’t sure how much I trusted it. It’s probably fine. However, the process of buying a VPN put me in a more paranoid, and I decided to keep looking.
I finally stumbled upon OpenWRT. As I dug deeper, I discovered that there were two versions of my router that were indistinguishable. One version supported OpenWRT and one, the newer one, didn’t. (Newer routers aren’t as hackable because of FCC regulations. They don’t want you changing the antenna to get to channels you’re not supposed to be on.) I didn’t know which one mine was. Finding out if mine was too old to be the incompatible one would help. I dug through my Amazon records to see when I bought it, but couldn’t find it. Eventually, I came upon a forum post pointing out that there were actually visual differences. Mine was the right one!
I borrowed a usb-ethernet dongle from a friend to flash the firmware. Otherwise, I would’ve been forced to dig up my old-ass windows laptop and wait 15 minutes for its physical-drive-having-ass to boot up.
The setup wasn’t too bad. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether to use tcp or udp. (TCP was right after a bit of research.) I installed sftp on the router, which wasn’t too difficult, to move files because I didn’t want to use scp. It worked, even with Netflix.
And then, Netflix stopped working. Proxy error.
There was no easy way to disable it. If I stopped OpenVPN, it restarted itself because of the scripts the vpn recommended to prevent leakage. And I didn’t want to delete everything. That would’ve been annoying. So, we went a few days without Netflix. What a dark time.
When I tried a different vpn server, after finally having some free time to fiddle, it still didn’t work. Did I want to give up on having a VPN altogether? Netflix and other services block VPNs to prevent getting around geolocking. They geolock because the rights to the content are different in different countries. People don’t talk about this enough. Most people aren’t going to inconvenience themselves this much for privacy.
I chose to sacrifice some of my security as well. I kept the vpn, but researched a way to allow netflix traffic through directly. It was a bit of a hassle. I had to set up another repo because the vpnbypass package wasn’t part of the official repo. It worked, though, and is still the set up I have now.
I have more thoughts on VPNs and selling traffic in general. However, I’ll save that for a separate post.
The alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad is being used as a pretext to attack Syria. So I should be researching more about Syria, but instead I did a little digging on some other users of chemical weapons.
In 2004, the US used white phosphorus against insurgents in Fallujah. Initially, the US claimed that they weren’t using them against people, only for illumination. This was a lie.
During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons. The US provided intelligence to Saddam, basically telling him where to use them. And they also provided other arms and sold materials to help them create chemical weapons. This wasn’t revealed until years later.
Um, so when are we getting regime change in the US, lol
Another thing that bugs me is that chemical weapons were sold as part of Saddam’s WMDs when the case for the Iraq War was made. However, that weapons program had been dismantled. When some remnants were found (that weren’t part of any active program), they were again touted as proof of WMDs when they couldn’t claim the nuclear thing anymore.
Assad supposedly had to end his chemical weapons program too several years ago. Yet here we go again. Maybe he didn’t get rid of them? Maybe he did? Now I see why people love conspiracy theories.
In any case, even when one can make the case about foreign dictators being bad, that still doesn’t necessarily justify invasion. In fact, the US keeps losing wars, the same way whitewashed Hollywood movies keep losing at the box office. Well, this is a terrible analogy because whitewashed movies don’t help create space for ISIS.
So yeah, I’m not too well-versed in the particulars of Syria, but I am generally against bombing, especially when it’s done unilaterally by a US president.
Clinton likely would’ve done the same, and pretty much said so in her last interview. Can’t wait to see all the Democrats, the press, and moderate Republicans start standing with Trump. This is why centrism is garbage because the main thing both parties agree on is killing people abroad.
Some of my favorite shows for 2016:
People vs OJ
Game of Thrones
This is just off the top of my head. There are other shows I liked but forgot to list and other shows that I haven’t watched yet. There are also shows that I like but didn’t have strong seasons in 2016 so I didn’t list them.
I also watched a lot of Mary Tyler Moore, a lot of Friends, and all of Seinfeld, which continues my sitcom education. I’ve previously watched all of Cheers and Frasier.
I’m currently really enjoying Legion.
This is incredibly inspiring: How Progressive Cities Can Reshape the World — And Democracy
I think this is what the future should look like. Smaller units of governance, with the ability to collaborate on larger levels. Smart use of technology to get closer to direct democracy, seeing what the people really want. It’s also a very practical guide, insofar as it looks to occupy current institutions and combine that with work outside those institutions. It also acknowledges our very real problems, whereas neoliberalism denies them. In that way, it presents a true alternative to the autocratic, xenophobic right-wing that’s gaining steam worldwide.
Gonna do more research.
I devoured, over two days, Brave New War by John Robb. If you want to understand how modern day conflicts are fought, this is a must-read. It came out in 2007 and is still relevant (helps explains Trump) and will be relevant for a long time. I also recommend his blog.
Crepes-a-Go-Go is moving from downtown to closer to San Pablo, near the library on University. When I talked to the owner, he said that some big New York developer had bought that entire block and kicked everyone out. They had been in that location for something like 29 years. He added that Berkeley isn’t a place for mom and pop shops anymore. Later, Stevie told me that she thought maybe the University had owned the land and then sold it to the developers. I don’t want Berkeley to get San Francisco-ized. Is there anything that can be done?
I believe society should provide for everyone’s basic needs. Everyone should have food, shelter, education, and mental and physical health care.
Some would call this utopian. I disagree. I would call it the bare fucking minimum for a just society.
Providing for basic needs wouldn’t solve a lot of humanity’s problems. We’ll still fight. There will still be a lot of injustice.
But it’s a necessary start. I truly believe that providing for basic needs instead of forcing people into wage slavery would unleash a lot of human creativity. It’s not about problems magically being solved, but allowing people to use more of their time and energy to start working on those problems.
It speaks to how poor our imaginations are that this counts as utopian thinking. There’s enough for everyone. We have the technology to provide for everyone and the technology to make the distribution possible. It’s all within reach. It’s not pie in the sky thinking. We live in an age where this is doable.
Note that I didn’t say we’d all be perpetually full and jolly. I didn’t say we’d all live in mansions with everything we want. It’s only the basic needs that I’m talking about right now. That’s not utopian at all and fuck capitalism for making us think that it is.
I could see myself looking at back at this and thinking I was really stupid to write this, but I’m going to write it anyway. I already cringe at a lot of what I previously wrote anyway. Blogging is for this, I guess. Putting out your proto-thoughts into the void so that you can laugh at them later. No, really, though, this is helping me reason through things. And more importantly, get them out of my brain so I can move on to reasoning about newer things. I’ve mostly been focusing on trashing liberals because it helps me collect my thoughts so that I can be nicer on Facebook and push the conversation leftward without people muting me right away. When people are rehabilitating Bush (and even saying they’d rather have Nixon), I feel like this is important work. I use the word important very loosely. Please don’t think I’m that full of myself. Anyway, I do want to spend some of my brainspace thinking of more positive views of the future. Even if those first attempts are awkward. So here we go.
Twitch Plays Pokemon was a massive success in decentralized decision-making. In case you don’t remember, TTP was when someone hooked up a hacked version of the original pokemon game to Twitch and let people enter commands to play. It was chaos. Anyone who could chat could play. You typed in A, B, start, select, up, down, left or right and your command was put in the queue. When I first saw it, I was like, “Oh, haha, that’s neat” and then peaced out. I was later drawn back in after a co-worker told me that it was amazing. And indeed it was.
What emerged was strategy and mythology. People posted strategies on a subreddit. (I imagine everyone is familiar with reddit, but people were talking on a forum that was just for people playing TPP.) They proposed where what we should try that day. There were competing ideas. They were upvoted and downvoted accordingly. But in the end, the vote that mattered was the hive mind. People voted by posting the moves they wanted in the TPP chat. You could see the struggles. The character would move up and then down again and then up and slowly (or quickly) one side would win the tug of war. The hive mind moved it and it obeyed. The strategies were actually being executed. All this just from a bunch of people typing commands.
I remember in particular an argument about whether we should put a pokemon in the day care or not. I disagreed. The character wobbled back and forth as the argument raged on. I kept trying to push it in the opposite direction. But I could see we were losing. We made it to the day care and deposited a pokemon. You could feel yourself as part of this collective.
As the game progressed, people posted tactics too. Ledges are one-way barriers. To progress through the game, sometimes you have to make it through a pathway with ledges. If you drop down the ledge, then you have to go all the way back around. As you can imagine, this is a much more difficult task when you have a bajillion people typing in commands, not all of whom agree with the direction you’re going. At the beginning, people were spamming up to keep from being pushed down. Eventually, the tactics changed to where people were not spamming up because it actually made going through ledges harder. (I won’t bore you with the full details because I’ve probably bored you enough.) So, the collective intelligence managed to not only move around strategically, but it managed to get smarter and more efficient.
There were also trolls. Most of the people wanted us to beat the game. That was the goal. Some people didn’t want that. They’d do things like push us towards the computer and try to release pokemon. The collective pushed back, though. What made this so inspiring is that we won. In so many other arenas, trolls win. They poison the discourse and get people to leave. They harass and destroy. They graduate to doxxing and swatting and even shooting. But if you structure the rules correctly, anarchy can produce great results. You can win even with the participation of bad agents. More importantly, most of us wanted this to happen. It truly followed the will of the people. I remember being emotionally moved when we finally won. I stayed up late to watch. At the time, we had no idea if it was possible to win or not. We won, and it was a triumph against trolls everywhere.
I used the word anarchy earlier. It might be misleading to say it was all “anarchy.” To progress through the game, you have to get some stuff in the Safari Zone. It costs money to enter and you only get a certain number of steps. With the rules in place, we would’ve run out of money and then could never complete the game. So, the game was changed. A new mode was created. Democracy mode. In this mode, there was a timer. Everyone inputed their commands. Instead of the character moving in every direction, it only moved in the direction that got the most votes in that time. Tick tick. Move move. It worked. Then, we were given a choice. You could put in the normal commands, or you could place a vote for anarchy or democracy. When it reached a certain threshold, the mode changed. The collective used this to our advantage. You see, we dynamically changed our mode of governance in order to best meet our challenges. It’s really amazing when you think about it. Usually, it’s very hard to enact such constitutional changes, but we flipped back and forth. New strategies arose in reddit and the collective mind moved.
Besides the strategy, reddit also became a compendium of mythology. The game screen showed one thing, but we narrativized it further and imbued the game with even more meaning. The collective mind would sometimes do silly things, like look at the helix fossil a bunch of times in a row. This became a meme where “consult the helix fossil” was a phrase and the helix fossil was deemed an oracle. Then, there arose counter-mythologies about how the helix fossil was a false prophet and the dome fossil was the truth. I even own a helix fossil t-shirt. When pokemon were released accidentally or due to trolling (or a little of both), we eulogized the lost. Some of our pokemon became heroes. A single venomoth took out a dragonite. ATV slew dragonite all by his lonesome. Fan art arose. And people also explained the mechanics of the game that allowed this unlikely event to happen. It’s part of what made the game so fun. Also, because the game was global, I’d sleep and then Asia and Australia would play. I couldn’t watch or rewatch what they’d done. (Besides, literally rewatching would be boring.) However, I did get narrativized recaps through reddit. It was fun participating and it was fun spectating.
The other half of this blog post’s title is “New Forms of Government.” Now this is where I get silly, but I think this social experiment proves that this type of anarchic decision making isn’t doomed to failure. Some think that the people can’t be trusted with power, but I think they can. People point to popular votes where the “wrong” outcome was given. People vote for the less talented, but more palatable individual in a reality singing competition. People pick “Boaty McBoatface” as a boat name. However, in a world more complex than pokemon, government by an elite few actually can cause more harm. Think of the very serious foreign policy types who always argue for military intervention. Decentralized decision making was right for pokemon and it is right for the world. And one thing that is often missing from these discussions is that pokemon was a much more enjoyable experience this way. If it was run by an elite few, it would’ve been rather boring to watch. Boaty McBoatface is a great name, by the way. It elicits joy.
Even beyond actual government, so much of our world is actually tiny dictatorships. Companies are run by CEOs. Employees often get very little say. Even open-source projects, which is thought of as collectivist (because anyone can contribute), are mostly governed very hierarchically. Pull requests are committed based on the decision of the person who owns the repository. Or they endow some people with the power to approve. But it would be interesting to make git repositories that were governed different. Maybe with some type of voting system? Forums and comments are governed by admins and moderators with the power to banish or edit. What if people could be voted in or out, and this could be done without mods? While content is created in a more decentralized manner on social media, its distribution is determined algorithmically but not neutrally. That is, Zuckerberg can decide that live video is important and boom, it’s privileged more in your feed. In a more decentralized world, the platform would be open and algorithms would compete.
I truly believe that technology can positively reshape the way we govern ourselves. With new software, we can come to collective decisions more instantly, more dynamically, in a more decentralized fashion, and that this will improve humanity. I know, it sounds techno-utopian. I’m often more curmudgeonly about technology. But think about what we have already collectively accomplished. As programmers, we have collectively contributed to Stack Overflow and created this hive mind so we don’t have to waste time solving the same problems over and over. It’s free and amazing. It has collectively made us so much more productive. Open-source projects are similarly a boon to us collectively. Projects like Ruby on Rails make humanity better. Instead of reinventing boilerplate code, we can collectively create abstractions and work on what truly matters. Beyond even using an open-source plug-in to add a feature to make our lives easier, we can create infrastructure. So much of this is done for free, for the collective betterment of society, not for profit.
And, oh, we also beat Pokemon.
Imagine a world more like this. And imagine instead of administrators of these open-source projects being bogged down by fatigue, the project was maintained collectively, not just collective contributions. How much more could we improve society? This is why I am sometimes optimistic. We are in an age of instantaneous communication across vast distances. We should be able to harness this power to turn our governments into decentralized, dynamic units.
So, Trump is saying that Obama wiretapped him. Liberals say Trump is a liar. I mean, he is generally prone to making shit up. I do doubt Obama literally had a wiretap in Trump Tower. At the same time, he presided over an expansion of mass surveillance over Americans. Liberals can nitpick but offer no substantive critique of surveillance.
People are shitting on Ben Carson for saying that slaves were immigrants. Yes, Ben Carson made crude, offensive, stupid, illogical remarks. But in response to the Muslim ban, these same people were unironically, proudly saying that “America is a nation of immigrants” and “Immigrants built America.” These phrases feed into American exceptionalism all the same. Here’s a good pieceon what’s wrong with those phrases.
These are just two examples based on recent news. Liberalism offers no real answer to Trumpism. All its critiques don’t go far enough. They actually uphold fascism (mass surveillance) and colonialism.
Sushi Ko recently closed. I only started eating there because the Japanese place across the street had closed after a fire. (I miss that place. Decent sushi, good non-sushi, never too crowded.) Eventually, I started eating there every Wednesday with my business partner. They had a really good lunch special with gyoza and teriyaki chicken. The regular lunch bento where you got to pick and choose was already a great deal, and the lunch special was an extra dollar off. The special switched days, our work schedule changed, but we still kept coming back.
One day we were going to walk in. The door was open, but no one was sitting at the tables. It was just the owners packing things up. Are you closed? Is it just for the day? Forever? Why? They told us it was closing because the rent was going up by a lot. We thanked the owners.
It makes me sad to see a nice restaurant like that close, not because business was bad, but because rent was going up. In its place will be some dumb wings place, or so says the sign indicating someone in that spot is applying for a liquor license.
Nearby a Tender Greens has opened. I ate there and it was good. It’s much more expensive, though. (The portions are big enough that it’s not a rip-off.) A Blue Bottle recently opened in the WeWork building. They serve avocado toast, the current fad food used to rip off hipsters.
Games of Berkeley has moved. I was glad to see it wasn’t closed forever. They had a red tag sale, but I didn’t see anything interesting. It’s weird seeing the iconic building empty.
I recently ate at Long Life Veggie House. It has very generous portions for a good price, especially the lunch specials. It’s a trip being inside because it’s at the old SpoonRocket HQ. I look around and I can still see the tangle of wires in the closet, the router where I replaced the cable with one of my personal cables, the shelving stuffed with stickers and whatnot, the curtains, and of course, the wall of Cambros. Oh and I remember the people. Anyway, Long Life Veggie House used to be downtown. I suppose its rent went up a lot too.
Restaurants always come and go. It’s a high turnover business. But I hope we don’t see more Berkeley restaurants replaced by chains. Don’t you dare touch Top Dog.
I’ve seen liberals want to understand the other side. For them, this means trying to read more conservative/Republican sources.
I recently read a tweet (can’t find it, ugh, but I’ll try again later) about how from a global perspective, US Democrats are considered to be a party on the right side of the political spectrum.
So, if liberals really want to look at the other side, they’d be better served reading non-US leftists.
Perhaps this is what was bothering me when people were talking about bubbles after the election. That liberals need to look beyond capitalism and imperialism to truly get outside their bubble.
UPDATE: Found the tweet. I think someone else I follow quote tweeted it and added more, but I can’t find that.
I recently downloaded RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch. I have fond memories of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon game, managing a park’s finances and building cool coasters. The touch version is garbage. I mean, it’s slick for what it is. But I have what mobile games have become. Rides make money. Then, you have to come back every so often to tap them and collect the money. Rides have a maximum amount of money they can hold, so you have to come re-open the game. It’s very Farmville-esque, but hyper-powered as games chase engagement metrics. Then, there’s the stupid slot machine mechanic. In order to build things, you have to collect cards. Cards are random. So, it could be forever before you get the thing you need.
Building a roller coaster wasn’t even allowed until I reached Level 5. Once there, the game noticed that I didn’t have the cards I needed, took pity, and gave me more. (Meanwhile, people leave the park because I can’t get the cards to give them the types of food they like.) The actual process of building a roller coaster was a disaster. The controls are difficult and unintuitive.
The game is completely joyless. I’m so tired of free-to-play. All of these mechanics make for things that aren’t actually games. They’re optimized for extracting revenue.
Some of the first games I played on iOS brought me so much joy. When I first played World of Goo on iPad, I thought it was magical. It felt like it was the way the game should be played. Lost Winds was similarly amazing. It was a platformer where you drew lines of wind to move your character around. The characters and story, the background and the villains, were all charming.
Lost Winds will be unplayable when I update my iPad. I’ve been putting it off. I wish we could preserve this history better. iOS versions go up and up. The game doesn’t make more money. Eventually, the game is no longer compatible. It disappears. In fact, Apple recently purposely purged a lot of unworking games from the store. I can’t download the games anymore. They’re gone forever. A lot of games from my childhood are better preserved. I can still boot up a DOS VM and play old shareware games. But what will happen to these old games?
With Lost Winds, I can still download the game from Steam, but it loses its magic when not played on the touch screen.
There are still a lot of amazing mobile games. I recently downloaded Causality. I’ve also been playing Mini Metro and Hoplite. Amanita Design’s wordless adventure games remain among my favorites. Monument Valley is beautiful. None of them are free-to-play, though. Maybe I’ll try paying for RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic.
It makes me incredibly sad to see these joyless games and to see some of my favorite games disappear. Are there any projects to preserve them?
I saw an article or articles going around about how Trump could possibly use his own Reichstag Fire to consolidate power and enact emergency measures. I’m not sure why, but these articles troubled me — not because I thought they were true, but because something in the framework that creates these types of pieces is wrong. I guess I’d like to explore why I think this.
What’s interesting is we already had a moment like this with George W. Bush. Bush used a terrorist attack to compromise civil liberties. The Patriot Act expanded the government’s ability to surveil us. Beyond the Patriot Act, there was illegal spying. All of these were essentially approved of by the Democrats, including when telecoms were given immunity for helping the government with illegal surveillance. Clinton voted for the Patriot Act, in fact. The world we live in now, with the NSA able to listen in to anything, where Western countries help each other spy on their own citizens, is directly a result of what happened under Bush. Obama promised constitutionality, but did not dismantle any of this. Trump now has control of this. So why does he need to create some type of false flag operation to gain power? What additional surveillance powers would he gain? How, in this case, is Trump unique?
In addition to spying, the CIA engaged in torture. Obama promised to close Guantanamo, but never did. Trump has promised to start torturing again. Now, liberals are starting to rehabilitate Bush and Romney as “reasonable” Republicans. Bush already used a terror attack to start torturing people. Romney promised to “double Guantanamo” when he was running for office. People cheered for this shit. Trump doesn’t need an additional terrorist attack.
Our domestic police forces have become increasingly militarized since the war on terror. This includes not only the way they approach things, but equipment. Yeah, the police has military grade equipment. And they used it at Standing Rock, attacking water protectors. This happened under Obama, paused, and then resumed under Trump. Trump didn’t need to do anything special. We’re worried about hypothetical shit when what’s already happening is not that far off from worst case scenario.
This is just analyzing the Bush era. Let’s not forget that America has continuously attacked minorities. The way the police treat black people is already fascistic. This is a part of America’s past and it is part of our present, as witnessed through countless cell phone videos. This is propped up by the prison-industrial complex. The US already locks up a higher percentage of its population than any other country. Our so-called rule of law and systems of justice are Kafkaesque nightmares. Poor people are locked up for years before they even get a trial because they can’t make bail. The conditions inside our prisons are inhumane. Oh and remember when I mentioned torture, let’s not forget Chicago’s own “black site” for torturing its own citizens. In Ferguson, the city systematically targeted its own black citizens, using the police force to extort them with fines. All this, and Trump didn’t even have to lift a finger.
So I guess I wonder why we have to invent dystopias when we already live in one.
I do recognize that it can get “worse.” That me in my privileged bubble and my privileged friends could have our bubbles popped. I’m in the middle of reading a cartoonist’s account of the conditions in Serbia during the war and sanctions. We don’t have hyper-inflation going on here; we have running water and electricity. Lucky us, I guess. Oh and neo-Nazis don’t freely roam the streets yet. And myself, I haven’t taken up arms for a revolution. So, maybe my actions show that I don’t really believe it’s so bad as to be a dystopia. I am thinking and learning, though… and writing. But even with all that, I think if we truly want to be free, we need to look clearly at what has already happened. If don’t normalize Trump but normalize the pre-Trump status quo, then we have lost. If we worry about Trump using a terrorist attack to further erode civil liberties, but “miss Bush,” then we have lost.
The final thing that bothers me is the idea that Trump could perhaps use a protest as pretext to further grab power. That perhaps if it became a riot, then he could crack down. Beyond the fact that this ignores the already militarized response to protests (which I’ve already covered above), it seems to disempower those who would want to protest. That Trump and crew are omnipotent evil villains and everything we do somehow plays into their plans. It’s just a cleverer way of dressing up the normal liberal complaints. When it comes to radical demands, they’ll pretend to agree with the principles but disagree with the means or disagree with on’s tone. In the past, they thought actions of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s were all counterproductive. Oddly enough, though, none of the right’s moves are ever counterproductive. It’s an inconsistent framework.
I do understand that some actions are counterproductive. I recognize this in foreign policy where intervention can cause more problems. One of my favorite parts of Avatar: The Last Airbender is when King Bumi is attacked by the Fire Nation and decides to do nothing (and then waits for a better moment). Doing nothing is sometimes awesome. But not now. We need swarms of people trying different tactics.
Hm, so I think I have adequately figured out why I find those types of articles troubling. Time for sleep.
Software engineers can be such clods.
Several big companies, including Apple and Google, engaged in collusion to keep wages down. The capitalists aren’t on your side. (Our side, I suppose is the better way to phrase it, as I’m also a developer.)
The startup world often isn’t any better for non-founders. The equity given to the first engineers is usually not as good as what they think it is. Especially in a less than ideal exit where investors grab their share first and the engineers are left with scraps (or nothing). When an exit does happen, they’re usually not consulted and don’t get to fight for their share. It’s especially bad when you consider the hours they’re expected to put in. Then, factor in that their work product belongs to the company. Their upside is rather limited even with the small share they get. (Perhaps I will google links to stories to show what’s up, but I’m tired right now. If you’re experienced in the world, you’ll understand this intuitively.)
Really, engineers at places like Uber should be allies with the lower-income contract workers. Not the capitalists who have proven that they will engage in pretty much literal theft.
The solution is to go beyond capitalism.
I’m not sure how many people are aware of how Trump stiffed contractors. Here’s an article on it. This kind of behavior makes him a dick, and I think a lot of people recognize that. Even if legal, it’s described as an unethical loophole. It’s exploitative. If you agree, you can keep reading. If you don’t, whatever; I’m not going to argue this point.
Now, let’s talk about Zuckerberg. I specifically bring him up because there’s speculation that he could potentially run for office. He is a liberal, so some people might be encouraged by this, but he is a rich capitalist. In fact, Zuckerberg’s exploitation exceeds Trump’s. Social media depends on people creating free content. The value is created by the users. But it’s not redistributed to the users. Facebook advertises against the content we create, but it keeps all the value and no creator is paid (aside from small exceptions). Their algorithms, for displaying content, displaying the best ads, facial recognition, all depend on the data that we create, yet we are not recompensed. Facebook’s exploitation of free labor far exceeds Trump’s in both monetary value and the number of people exploited.
We don’t see it because we are taught to work within the framework of capitalism. Trump’s exploitation is more obvious because he had an agreement. Whereas with facebook, we click approve for a user agreement that let’s facebook do this. Nothing should be redistributed to the user, because in capitalism, the value that’s created belongs to the capitalist. Under capitalism, when an employee develops a tool that makes them more productive, the excess value is captured by the company and the employee merely gets what she was already making (or less). So really, it’s not just a problem with the Zuckerbergs or the Trumps of the world (although they are particularly egregious cases), but a problem with the system of capitalism itself. As a society, we lack imagination. We need to start imagining a world where instead of Zuckerberg being able to buy land in Hawaii and possibly elections, the workers are the ones who get the value of what they create. People will tell you that this will never happen, but many of them are the same ones who insisted that Brexit would never happen, that Trump would never win the primary, that Trump would never be president, and perhaps they are the same ones who insisted that Iraq had WMDs.
And I’ve limited this conversation merely to exploitation. Zuckerberg’s views are troubling in general, as well. But that’s a different conversation, and I’m not interested in that one yet.
I watched I Am Not Your Negro with my wife and mother-in-law last week. Definitely recommend it to anyone.
Here’s an article if you want to read something about it before deciding to watch it: https://thebaffler.com/blog/the-defiant-i-am-not-your-negro-orr
I’ve wanted to read Baldwin for a long time but wasn’t sure where to start. After watching the movie, I bought a collection of essays. Haven’t read it yet, though.
I saw this originally on social media somewhere, then googled and found a different article on it: A librarian in Florida went rogue to save 2,361 books from an algorithm.
A librarian created a fake library card to check out books. If they’re not checked out, they get culled from the collection, so this was done to save the books.
I wonder if something could be done where you create an app or website (or google doc?) that actual people use to check out books on their own, instead of having to create a fake account.
Antifascists have been written about in the NY Times and in Wired, which are very mainstream publications. I’ve seen people complain that the tactics are counterproductive because they draw attention to the right-wing extremists, but rarely do I see that attention is also being drawn to the protesters. Just wanted to point out that this is also an effect.
This story about New Yorkers removing Nazi graffiti from subway cars went viral. (First saw it on Twitter, but can’t remember where, so no hat tip.) It wasn’t condemned, so I guess liberals find this ethically acceptable. But force isn’t? So, I have some further ethical dilemmas…
Can you punch a Nazi to prevent him from putting up Nazi propaganda?
No! That’s still force and using force to hurt someone you disagree with is also fascist.
Okay, what if I take the Nazi’s sharpie and destroy it, without actually hurting the Nazi?
No, destroying property is wrong and makes you just as bad as the fascists.
Ah, but the Nazi is about to deface property. Doesn’t that put me in the right?
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Well, what if I simply stole the Nazi’s pen, without him ever being aware of it?
No, the Nazi still has rights to his property. Stealing is always wrong. What are we but savages without the rule of law? You are destroying civil society by undermining the rule of law and thus you are also a Nazi.
But I can destroy the Nazi propaganda after he puts it up?
Well, it depends. If it’s graffiti, you can clean it up. However, you must do so respectfully and can’t damage any property. If it’s a flier put up somewhere public, you can’t remove it because that would violate free speech. You can, however, debate with the poster. By the way, Nazis can also be women. Let’s not be sexist by assuming gender.
Milo gets police protection. In fact, he gets extra police protection as BPD was coordinating with neighboring areas.
Meanwhile, water protectors trying to stop a pipeline get attacked by a tank.
This is not a post about hypocrisy. Or to say that “one side” is “always” protected and the “other side” is “never” protected. I merely want to say that there tends to be a clear pattern as to whose speech is protected by the state. And that these things can happen on the same day, and in my particular facebook feed, which is mostly people who are Democrats, people felt more strongly that they wanted to condemn “rioters” rather than the state violence in the latter. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt, that they wanted to comment on something closer to home. Yet with the BLM matters protests, there seems to be a pattern where property damage is worthy of universal contempt and condemnation, but systematic state violence is not.
I know, I know, maybe I simply want to see the pattern. Is this a case of “why are people paying attention to X, but not paying attention to Y?” My feed is so limited, and I’m not getting a full vision of public opinion. Timing matters and perhaps I don’t see the intensity of people’s reactions. After all, my social media posts don’t reflect much thought about NoDAPL even though I’ve donated money to the cause. Maybe that’s all true. But even if I’m wrong, the state’s actions still are clear.
I like to view things in terms of systems and this seems to be a clear case of the system acting to protect itself, even though liberals would ostensibly be against such repression. The state commits violence. Nationalism blinds people to it. Even when they recognize it, they attribute to a few bad actors. Both sides are painted as equivalent; stopping fascism is equivalent to fascism. Any reaction is “counterproductive.” The status quo is upheld. The system of state violence against minorities ends up protecting itself.
Not sure what my opinion is on Calexit, in terms of whether I support it or not. California as a unit still seems to big. I’m more excited about cities rebelling than a state. (If you look at voting maps, the US is more divided along city/rural than red state / blue state.)
If California defies the federal government over this immigration issue and the federal government retaliates by withholding funding, then California may respond with withholding its own taxes from the federal government. This is a de facto Calexit. That may trigger a violent response from the federal government. I imagine California would back down at the mere threat of violence, but hey, times are strange.
Anyway, time to start stockpiling.
The Muslim ban is a tragedy, but it’s hard to call it un-American. America has a long history of xenophobia. If America keeps doing it, then how can it be un-American?
I keep thinking about the end of Bojack season 3 with this exchange between Bojack and Todd:
Todd: You can’t keep doing this. You can’t keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay. You need to be better
Bojack: I know and I’m sorry. I was drunk there was all this pressure with the Oscar campaign but now… now that it’s over
Todd: No! No, Bojack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol or the drugs or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career or when you were a kid. It’s you. Alright, it’s you. Fuck man, what else is there to say.
It’s not Russian hackers, or stupid hicks, or one bad president. It’s America.
This isn’t a stain. It’s part of the fabric. Racism was woven into the constitution.
We can’t keep clinging to this notion of America like it’s really good with this hidden heart of gold (to call back to Bojack season 1). We have to judge it by its actions… and they’re not pleasant.
Let’s give up on nation-states and capitalism and start building something better.
I’ve been more interested in how to trick machine learning these days. This is a cool example of an image being imperceptibly modified so that machine learning classifies it wrong.
The main reason I’m interested is because of all the tracking going on. By advertisers, by advertising platforms, by governments, and by hackers. It’s too late and too hard to keep information from getting out, so I think it’s more interesting to create false information so that someone gets an incorrect view of me.
One technique I want to try is what I’m calling “adversarial liking.” It just means liking things on facebook that I don’t actually like. For example, I’m going to ask for a list of podcasts and like them all, even though I’m never going to listen to them. I want facebook to get an incorrect picture of me. Facebook doesn’t really account for this threat model, so it should be a successful attack.
I know, as an advertiser, it’d suck to have my ads be less effective because facebook has a more inaccurate picture. But this kind of stuff will be more important in this age of surveillance. Some of my next projects might include google searching for things I don’t care about, creating automated web traffic, adding products to my amazon cart, signing up to and “reading” email newsletters, and creating false location trails.