2015-12-31

The Butthurt is Strong in This One

Butthurt, precious, precious butthurt!  And such a deserving target.

Now I absolutely hate, hate, hate George Lucas.  But I'll give credit where it's due.  He was once capable of innovative film making and special effects.   His movies, while neither awesome, nor terrible, were possible of being just plain good.

But the stupid fucker can't ever leave well enough alone.  Most people are familiar with how he destroyed the original Star Wars trilogy,  by adding scenes, making Greedo shoot first, and reworking some of the special effects.

What really pisses me off about him is how he absolutely destroyed THX 1138 in the same way.

THX 1138 is a typical 1970's sci-fi genre flick, where the post-apocalyptic dystopia is the focus (see also Zardoz).  It features a docile population living an antiseptic, tightly-controlled existence, and the eponymous THX 1138 violates this order & is subsequently punished.

Thankfully, the honestly spectacular scenes set in the "white prison" are unaltered.  Whatever impulse that Lucas had to add a jar-jar character to this part of the film where thankfully overridden by what little sense the man still possesses.

The problems really start post escape.  The digitally-added ape-man surface dwellers are pure CGI masturbation from a storytelling perspective.  They contribute nothing to the overall narrative, and are the metaphorical dog licking his balls--George Lucas added them because he can.  End of story.

Then there's this (warning: NY Post) crime against humanity.

So after him proving that since the initial release of Star Wars, Lucas has been some sort of reverse King Midas, with everything he touched turned to shit.

So, him feeling bad is the best possible outcome.  The problem is, he's not self-aware enough to feel bad about his crimes against his own work, only bad about not being able to working his same shit magic on future franchise releases.

And what kind of charlatan would try to create a coherent universe, with a multipart epic storyline with "different planets, with different spaceships – you know, to make it new," in every instalment?   How the fuck is that world-building?

Take it away, Zoidberg:

Pizza So Terrible You Get Deported For It

 Domino's? Really? Philistines...

Mexican police say Couch and his mother spent three days in a rented condo at a resort development in Puerto Vallarta before finding an apartment. One of the Couches' telephones had been used to order delivery from Domino's Pizza to the condominium complex in Puerto Vallarta's old town, according to a police report issued by the Jalisco state prosecutors' office.

why am i doing this?

So why am I blogging?

I'm blogging because I hate talking about myself and that includes what/how I think and my reasoning process.

I hate talking about that stuff because issues are complex interactions of multiple components, many of which I understand somewhat intuitively, but I'm reduced to an incoherent stuttering fool when I try to translate that intuitive understanding into a verbal explanation.

I'll start explaining a complex  issue and my thought process, and recursively follow rabbit holes as I try to explain the interacting components, and eventually, after about 3 or so of these, forget what I was originally talking about and freeze.

I find writing about this stuff helps me organize my thoughts, since I at least follow through from intuition to explanation at least once, which is a step I have skipped in the past.

So this is about me improving as a communicator, especially in areas that tend to trip me up.

It's also a place for me to make fart jokes about tragic gas well leaks, and express my somewhat jaundiced view of the intersection of science, technology, society and politics.

OTA

I wrote this piece at the tail end of 2015 (literally), but I think that given what has happened over the past year, it's particularly apt.  It was pointed out, multiple times, on the reality-based media that the two political poles had shifted so far apart that they couldn't even agree on the basic facts of an issue.

The polarization is almost completely unilateral, by the way.   

So this is the event that I see as the tipping point for how we got here.  Certainly lifting the fairness doctrine didn't help, but killing the OTA gave congress to chose its own experts on important issues.  There was no longer a trusted arbiter of truth, and here we are two decades later.

I loved Cosmos.  It is the only television show aired within the past five years that I have suffered through commercials to watch as it aired.  (I tend to record OTA TV, cut out the commercials and transcode it before watching, but that's another blog post).

I bring it up, in this case, because of episode 7, which follows Dr.
Claire Patterson's quest to determine the age of the Earth by measuring the proportion of uranium that had radioactively decayed to lead found in zircon particles.

Patterson ran into problems due, ultimately, to environmental lead contamination, caused primarily by burning leaded gasoline.

This was all scientifically proven, using ice core samples, and over the opposition of a powerful industry and their mouthpiece Dr. Robert A. Kehoe.  Leaded gasoline was phased out in the US in the mid-1970s as a result.

It is a wonderful, well-told story, and it is a very compelling example of how industry uses it's own experts to cast doubt on scientific findings that would have unfortunate policy implications for said industry.

So what's OTA, and why is it the title of this blog post?

The OTA is (was) the Office of Technology Assessment, a non-partisan congressional agency tasked with assembling reports to inform congresspeople on technical issues, that represent the best understanding of scientists and experts in the the reports' relevant fields.

In other words, they examine a given issue thoroughly, and provide a report for decision makers that represents the best understanding of the facts of the issue.

So they are a bullshit filter.  OTA began issuing reports in 1974, which is too late for it to have been a player in the leaded gasoline debate.

But its creation can be seen as a response to this debate, a desire of policy makers to use a common set of facts as a foundation for future policy decisions.   As the saying goes: everyone is entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts; and this agency is a reflection of that.

That is, until twenty years ago when Newt Gingrich essentially killed the agency.

Since then, rational debate of serious scientific issues has been impossible as Republicans (primarily, and pretty much exclusively) outright deny the scientific, factual, consensus viewpoints on a number of issues, chief among them, climate change.

I think it was Al Frankin who wrote something to the effect of "You can't compromise on pizza toppings if one side denies the very existence of pizza and wants to order burning tires for dinner."   This is the nature of policy debates in the US for the past two decades.

So what I would have liked to have seen in The Clean Room episode of Cosmos was some mention of the OTA, its role in assisting policy makers in answering policy-related questions.  For example, imagine what the AIDS debate would have looked like in 1987 without reports about insect transmission of AIDS (not really possible in any realistic scenario).

Imagine how ebola scare of 2014 would have played out in the US if there were an agency tasked with providing officials with a realistic assessment of the true dangers to public health.

Sadly, now the damage done is terminal.  The Republican party, especially the teabagger wing, would simply boycott the panel and declare the resulting research partisan, and therefore invalid.   So reviving the agency won't have a meaningful effect on real policy concerns until the broader trend towards anti-intellectualism in flyover country is reversed.

2015-12-30

Different Rules

Dean Skelos to collect his pension, despite being a felon.

In fact, in 2011, lawmakers had voted to withhold pensions of corrupt or convicted officials, however, that change does not apply to state officials who entered the pension system before that year. 

So OF COURSE, it passed.  It didn't apply to anybody who actually voted for it!

Ancillary Justice

Available in German
I wonder how the whole non-gendered society plays out in a language in which all nouns are inherently gendered.

I'm not proficient enough in German any more to be able to read this and get the more than the most basic plot outline, but I do appreciate how an additional layer of gender non-neutrality might add to the confusion when gender does play a factor in the story.

Yay, ID theft!

So I noticed a recurring charge on a credit card bill to lynda.com that I don't remember making.   I disputed the charges as soon as I noticed them, but since I tend to do autopayments, about 5 of them had gone through.

They returned the money at least.

Today, since the holidays are finally behind us, I gave lynda.com a call to track it down.   Turns out an account was opened on 7/19 (a day I remember very vividly).

Whoever snakybysyl@hotmail.com, you can go fuck yourself.  If I find out who you are, I will slit your throat, even if I have to drive to Cincinnati to do it.

Now 7/19 was the final day of our major equipment relocation and expansion project.  I was in Lebanon, OH, working 14 hour days in a loud, cold datacenter trying to get our big Cray machine online and ready to turn over to users for acceptance testing.

Now7/19 was our last day there.  We spent every available minute at the site, working with the hardware, only for it to EPO (emergency power off) due to misconfigured fan controllers just as we were on our way out (so no pressure, literally...)

Anyway, we left, got to the airport, and flew to Detroit metro.  In Detroit, our full plane, had fuel, had a service crew, but had no pilot (seems Delta doesn't think far enough in advance to know that planes they oversell need pilots to fly them).

My coworker found a flight to Philadelphia, and so we opted to fly there, and drive the 5 hours from Philly to Albany.   We landed at midnight and arrived between 5 and 6 am.

I remember 7/19 very vividly, and at no point was in any position to sign up for an online educational video subscription.

So now the card is cancelled, and a new one is en route.  I really didn't want to have to go through this again, but it looks like I'll be scrutinizing purchase histories for the next few days.

To be fair to lynda.com, they immediately flagged the account as fraudulent when I contacted them, and I have no reason to believe that there was any malicious intent on their part. 

I am dissappoint

Such a missed opportunity.  The above youtube video invites the viewer to enable audio by clicking on an annotation at the top of the video.

Here we've got a giant plume of methane gas escaping the bowels of the earth...

My inner 12 year-old idiot is left very unsatisfied.

Organization

Trust me, of all the professions out there, the only one where laziness* is an asset is software development.

Consider the following two approaches toward solving a complex problem involving interactions with multiple systems and data sources.

The first lazy programmer hits the ground running.  He wants the code done now so he can retreat to his underground lair for another WOW binge.   He writes boilerplate for each separate interacting system, and copies and pastes code between different parts of the application as necessary.

It requires almost no thought, and can be executed very quickly. 

The second lazy programmer takes a moment to think.  She ponders the interactions between the different systems, and tries to model the solution to an intuitive understanding of the real world problem being solved.  She uses an object oriented paradigm both in the recreation in code of the problem, but also share common code in a parent-child relationship (no copying and pasting).

It requires much more brainpower up front, and is not as productive from a sheer LOC/day (lines of code) metric.

And the second lazy programmer is the hands-down superior coder.   She is a special type of lazy, one who takes a long-term view and knows what true effort expended over time is.

The first programmer is trying to satisfy his short-term laziness and seek an immediate payoff, but in doing so, he ignores the effort that will need to go into maintaining and updating the software.  It is inevitable that the software will need to be revisited later, sometimes years, so this is really where the well-honed, long-term laziness is key.

Organizing the code into classes can accomplish three benefits that reduce DPMO.  First, since code isn't so often copied and pasted in OO development, we don't see as many transcription-type errors occurring than if the code were copy-pasted.

In returning to maintain a piece of software, it is usually much easier to mentally navigate an object hierarchy than a less well organized pile of code.  This is the second benefit.   If one isn't as familiar with the code, they can learn it easier by examining the object hierarchy, and how it maps to the problem being solved.

The third benefit is that the code being shared is being shared through the object hierarchy, so everytime object->function() gets called in the code, it is the same source function (for the most part, this is a gross oversimplification). 

This means that if a particular function needs to be changed, then it is changed in one place, and all references to it are automatically updated.

This is in contrast to having to hunt through a bunch of copy-pasta boilerplate, and update each instance in the source code.

So true laziness looks for opportunities to prevent more work in the future, at the cost of working slightly harder now, as opposed to doing the opposite by taking short cuts.

I've written, and been forced to maintain, code from both approaches to laziness.   The assiduously lazy coder beats the obsequiously lazy coder every time.

*For certain values of laziness.

How I Met Your Mother

2015 was a turnaround year for me.   I had hit a rock bottom period in the beginning of the year, and was able, with help, to get my life back on track.

I outline it a bit in the So Yeah post, but I don't dwell on the trigger.  

That trigger was How I Met Your Mother.  Really.

There's nothing really remarkable about HIMYM that sets it apart from other sitcoms.   It's generally harmless.  I didn't have any especially powerful crushes on any of the female characters (not even Robin).   The plot was more or less coherent over so many seasons, and nice touches like having The Freshman, by The Verve Pipe playing in the background when Lily and Marshall first meet in the dorm kept give the show an awareness of what people my age experienced at certain stages of life (As a senior in HS in 1998, I am about 1 year behind the main case in age).

So why did HIMYM have such a profound effect on me?

Part of it is described by David Foster Wallace in E Unibus Pluram.  When I first read this essay as a Junior in college, I was stricken by just how much I agreed with the overall assessment of popular television as a series of cynically constructed in-jokes, that re-enforce our own individual egos (because we get them, thus thinking we're special), and began to assess my own entertainment choices through a similar filter, for a while.  While there's more to it than this, I bring it up, because it is the where the seeds of self-assessment were planted in me.

So I want to begin with a quote about loneliness from DFW.

The second great thing is that television looks to be an absolute godsend for a human subspecies that loves to watch people but hates to be watched itself.  For the television screen affords access only one way.   A psychic ball-check valve.  We can see Them; They can't see Us.  We can relax, unobserved, as we ogle.  I happen to believe this is why television also appeals so much to lonely people.   To voluntary shut-ins. Every lonely human I know watches way more than the average U.S. six hours a day.  The lonely, like the fictional, love one-way watching.  For lonely people are usually lonely not because of hideous deformity or odor or obnoxiousness--in fact there exists today social and support groups for persons with precisely these features.  Lonely people tend rather to be lonely because they decline to bear the emotional costs associated with being around other humans.  They are allergic to people.  People affect them too strongly.  Let's call the average U.S. lonely person Joe Briefcase.  Joe Briefcase just loathes the strain of the self-consciousness which so oddly seems to appear only when other human beings are around, staring, their human sense-antennae abristle.  Joe B. fears how he might appear to watchers.  He sits out the stressful U.S. game of appearance poker.

DFW plays up the voyeurism angle a bit more than I feel is applicable to most people; most people aren't fiction writers, so they generally don't have a need to describe realistic interactions, so motivations for consumption might differ somewhat.

So loneliness, and for some one with social anxiety disorder, his description of the voluntary shut-in is very apt (we won't go into the background of the anxiety, which in my life, can be traced to one particular event, primarily, from which I'll probably never recover completely, and no, it wasn't when my house was robbed).  Preoccupation with the perceptions of others can be a powerful opponent, especially, if one is caught up in the illusion of transparency, or the idea that their internal thoughts and feelings are visible, or apparent to others, and that they are being constantly judged on their internal monologues.

Seriously, read the whole thing. 

So let's circle back to HIMYM by talking about Firefly.  (those are Firefly posters in my living room):


And Firefly was the other other show that I was really obsessed with.  And the reasons are the complete opposite of HIMYM.

Firefly was a show I could relate to.   It tickled my ego in precisely the way that E Unibus Pluram describes.  I got the metafiction, the tropes, the odd genre-bending juxtaposition of westerns and space opera.  The characters were even somewhat relatable, given the context.

HIMYM is almost none of these.  It is a very straight-forward look at the lives of my peers, the forming of relationships, the settling down, that while others who have accomplished these life stages may relate, I was completely incapable of doing so.  

The period appropriate soundtrack choices and references to certain college-age antics (like playing Edward), where things that could certainly trigger some nostalgic feelings in me, it became clear to me that I was missing out on the main point of the show, that I was supposed to be feeling that about everything!

I was supposed to look at the flashback vignettes, along with the the seemingly perpetual struggle for Ted to settle down, as part of a more complete picture of how human relationships form, and what is really at stake.

So in the self-aware meta-narrative of my life relating to the choices of fiction I consume, I had alienated myself.  Completely.

And it was devastating.

Fallout 4

Spoilers ahead.  You have been warned.

Assless Chaps finished the main story line of Fallout 4 (at level 65) last night by destroying the institute (and thus triggering the final cut scene, along with the closing "war never changes" bookend).

I'm not really satisfied with how things played out, and I think it is a fundamental lack of imagination on the part of the story's authors.  Insofar as how a structured story plays out in an open-world, sandbox setting.  What I was forced to do in the last minutes of the game were mostly at odds with how I had behaved previously.

For those unfamiliar with the game, there are four main factions that the player can align themselves with, or antagonize.   They are the Minutemen, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel, and The Institute.   There are also various raiders (humans), mercenaries (gunners, not sure if it's possible to align with them, because they're instantly hostile), supermutants, mutated animals, and robot enemies.  There are also religious fanatics, The Children of Atom, that are hostile everywhere, except for one place in the glowing sea.

The various factions inhabit post-nuclear apocalyptic Boston, aka the Commonwealth.  In the Fallout universe, American society never progressed past the late 1950's-early 1960's, though technology continued to progress.   In 2077, nuclear war broke out between the US, China and Russia.  The game is set 200 years after the end of the war.  All sides devastated,  the planet barely habitable.

The Minutemen are the first faction the player encounters, which is during the in-game tutorial.  Like their namesake, they are a group of private citizens that aim to defend the more helpless population against the dangers of the Commonwealth (raiders, feral ghouls, and the like).  The player represents a rebirth of the organization, which had fallen due to infighting in recent years.  Generally, one of the handful of random settlements strewn across the Commonwealth will have a problem that needs to be solved, and the Minutemen will respond, solve the problem and secure the allegiance of the settlement (there's a side element of settlement building that I didn't focus too much on in this playthrough).

The Railroad first appears in Fallout 3 (I haven't played the first 2 games, so maybe sooner) during a quest where the player must track down an android, from the Commonwealth (assumed at the time to be Virginia, since Fallout 3 is set in Washington DC).  This android has been given a new identity, cosmetic surgery, and is living, undetected in the Rivet City settlement (in fallout 3).  During a random encounter while on this quest, the player will be confronted by a member of the Railroad, an organization that helps androids and other artificial humans escape their enslavement, analogous to the Underground Railroad.  This person will give the player an android component that can be given to the quest's originator as proof the android has been killed.

The Railroad in Fallout 4 is basically the exact same thing.  They assist "syths" (synthetic humans) in their escape from The Institute.  They oppose The Institute due to The Institute's enslavement of synths.   They believe synths are people, with the same rights as natural-born humans.

The Brotherhood of Steel is essentially an offshoot of the remaining military after the war.  They are obsessed with obtaining technology, and preventing it from falling into "the wrong hands" (which is to say, any faction that is not the Brotherhood of Steel).  They oppose The Institute on these grounds.  An ancillary benefit to being in their good graces is that they often hunt down and exterminate raiders, gunners, children of atom, and various other common opponents in their hunt for technology.   They also hunt down your Minutemen.

The Institute is the Big Bad of the Commonwealth, and are opposed by all other factions.   They are a highly secretive group of scientists living in a facility deep under the CIT (the in-universe MIT) ruins.   They are by far the most technologically advanced, having perfected a way to create synthetic humans that are indistinguishable from the real thing (the player can observe the manufacturing process for these synths).   The rest of the Commonwealth views the institute with fear; for decades the Institute had been surreptitiously meddling in the affairs of the above ground world, occasionally kidnapping people and replacing them with synthetic versions.  

The Institute seems noble otherwise.  They are primarily concerned with their own safety, and generally prefer non-violent resolutions to problems.   They view themselves as the future of humanity, and the only way to achieve their goals, which are never adequately defined.   They seem intentionally to be vague bromides without any real meaning, and the player is unable to take them at anything other than face value.

At this point in the game, Assless Chaps had been working with the Railroad, as an undercover agent in The Institute.  The Institute, at this point, "has plans," which somehow involves synths, most likely as labor, but don't elaborate on them.    Assless Chaps is now the director of the Institute, because of nepotism.  He is also assisting with a plot to free as many captive synths as possible.

Now let's step back and put the artificial human angle into some context.  I present Roy Batty:

All these moments will be lost in time.  Like tears in rain.

The game doesn't really explore the philosophical issues of artificial humans; instead they pit the Railroad, which believes that synths are sentient, against the Institute, which insists they aren't, and leaves it up to the player to decide who is right.   There is no further context presented in game, so unless the player has seen Blade Runner (or read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), they might be more likely to approach the synthetic human question as if the Institute were right.

So, because we're all meat, and that meat is hard-wired to process information in more or less the same way, the manufacturing process of said meat matters not in whether a person is a person.  

And I couldn't get the outcome that would have progressed logically from my actions.

So at this point, the Institute wants to remove the Brotherhood of Steel from the Commonwealth, because they present the most serious threat.   The Railroad has also been forced to confront the Brotherhood, because the Brotherhood is trying to disrupt the Railroad in order to obtain access to Institute technology (synths).  

So the Railroad and Institute are in agreement: The Brotherhood must go.  But at this point, it doesn't seem possible to use the Institute to take them out, and then proceed with the Railroad's synth rescue plan.  The player is ordered to destroy the Railroad.

So ultimately, the player is forced to destroy the Institute, by detonating a nuclear reactor it contains.  It isn't possible to change the direction of the institute as its new director.   No option to attempt to restore the trust of the wasteland settlers, even if the Brotherhood must be destroyed (and frankly, their helicopters are really fucking annoying, so I won't be assisting them at all next time).

What I wanted to do was:

  1. Figure out why synths are so important, and why the Institute's official line on their sentience must so assiduously be toed.
  2. Figure out what the main plan for the commonwealth is.
  3. As director of the Institute, use my authority to implement a new policy regarding synths that doesn't involve enslaving them.
  4. As director, use my authority to effect a new approach towards dealing with wasteland residents.
  5. As director of the Institute, General of the Minutemen, and key agent of the Railroad, forge an alliance between these three organizations to work together to help the institute better help the wasteland at large, and to help change the Institute's overall image.
And none of this was possible.

I guess my complaint is that if you're trying to model complex inter-organizational relationships, then the stated goals of the organizations involved can't really be at odds with the outcomes intended by game designers.

2015-12-29

Helicopter Parent

One hell of a mother.

The teenager, Ethan Couch, 18, and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, were arrested by Mexican authorities in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta on Monday evening, less than three weeks after they became fugitives. Officials in both countries said that Mr. Couch, who they said had dyed his hair and beard in an attempt at disguise, would be returned to Texas to face justice, though how long that would take remained unclear.

 Where have I seen this before:  a mother absconds to Mexico with her teenaged son.  Oh Yeah.  Now will they claim to be running from killer robots?

Defending Her Honor

From the Sooner State, comes this touching tale.

Police reports show at approximately 10:30 p.m. Dec. 24 officers were called to the 900 block of Chisholm Road. Upon arrival, the officers spoke with a witness who told them he saw Scoggin on surveillance video with his pants around his ankles and holding a goat down. The witness told police Scoggin was "obviously having sexual intercourse with the goat." The reporting party told police he then grabbed his gun and ran to the barn.

Ostensibly, to defend the goat's honor...

The reporting party told police this is not the first time this has happened to their goats.

So this is common in Oklahoma? 

Maybe the goat was asking for it?

35

I am now the product of two consecutive primes.  Last time this happened was 20 years ago and 42 years until it happens again.

2015-12-28

Betteridge

No.
The mobile internet is still, 8 years after the iphone was launched, a dumbed-down version of the real internet.

And it isn't because Apple doesn't find it necessary to support every half-baked, draft standard that Ars Technica is currently slobbering over.


And I DO NOT WANT simple web pages to have so much control over my phone that they can vibrate whenever they want.  Or to run in the background.  They're WEB PAGES!


2015-12-27

What's "Facepalm" in Russian?


wheels within wheels

Freemasons, the Illuminati, NASA, is nothing safe?

Honestly, can we at least not leave our wadded up tissues laying around everywhere?

Stupid People and Their Money

I'll bet it won't cost $3.6 million (million!) dollars for this rag to rot away at the bottom of a landfill where it belongs.

Even the reduced price tag represents “an obscene amount of money,” Corley said. “This may blow everybody’s mind and throw everybody for a loop, but I am not voting for that much money to go into it.”

Yeah, an obscene amount of money.  Morons.

Christmas in Houston

Typical.

Law enforcement officials do not yet know the cause of the fire, but ATF officials told Houston television station KHOU that there were multiple origins for the fire.

Rednecks.   There's your cause right there.  Or Trump supporters.

2015-12-26

Computer Science Inspired Pickup Lines


I'll be in the nerd lair...

Pray Harder, Assholes

Oh Boo-Hoo! 

Karma's a bitch, isn't is Senator Sessions?

I say we toss them an anvil. Your constituents may be as dumb as goldfish, but here in NY we can remember things for more than 4 seconds.

Woot!


Should be fun!  Can't wait!

HULK SMASH

This seriously tweaked my berserk button.

This is the story of a tech startup that was purchased by the free-falling Blackberry.  Valued at $1.1 billion privately, the company sold for $425 million.

So who got raped in the deal?  The employees, of course!

Just how punishing that price was became clear in late September. In an investor document about the sale that was distributed to shareholders, employees discovered their Good stock was valued at 44 cents a share, down from $4.32 a year earlier. In contrast, preferred stock owned by Good’s venture capitalists was worth almost seven times as much, more than $3 a share. The paperwork also showed that Good’s board had turned down an $825 million cash offer just six months earlier, in March.

 For some employees, it meant that their shares were practically worthless. Even worse, they had paid taxes on the stock based on the higher value.

So as always, instead of KY, the investor class uses sand when the fuck us.

In Good’s case, the six investors on the board had preferred shares worth a combined $125 million. After the sale to BlackBerry, Ms. Wyatt, who has since left the company, took home $4 million, as well as a $1.9 million severance payment, according to investor documents.

So at least women are just as capable of exploiting their underlings for profit as men, so there's progress being made there...


merry fucking christmas, bitch. [editor's note:  there are many other words I'd like to call this person, but we'll leave it at bitch]

At an all-hands company meeting in June, Ms. Wyatt again said Good was spending responsibly. Thanks to the cash from a recent $26 million legal settlement, she added, the company had “a ton of options,” including an I.P.O., according to a video of the gathering.

...

Companies that buy employee shares offered some Good workers about $3 a share for their stock in the first half of the year. But based on their belief in the company’s robust health, the employees refused. Others bought Good common stock in August, when it was valued at $3.34 a share, according to individual employee tax documents reviewed by The New York Times. Employees had little idea that an outside appraisal firm had valued Good at $434 million and the common stock at about 88 cents a share as of June 30, according to investor documents and legal filings.

So she LIED to her employees about the health of the company, and that breach of fiduciary responsibility led to their decisions not to sell.

It is unconscionable that the investor class, who are literally leaches on the rest of us, reaping the rewards ahead of the employees, who created the value to begin with.

2015-12-25

Tradition



With that out of the way, when I am finally able to move forward and begin making my own traditions with my own family, there are 2 that we absolutely must retain.

First is breakfast that includes egg strata with croissants.


For a very long time (like until I was 12 or 13), I was absolutely convinced that I hated it, because I'm not a huge fan of eggs.  That is until I actually tried it, of course.  Now, it's the highlight of the holidays.   It's a simple dish, but to me is the very definition of comfort food.  We can add anything and everything else to the menu for all I care, but as long as strata is on the menu, it will be a proper christmas.

The second is the traditional rearranging of the blocks.  My family has a set of blocks that spell out "Merry Christmas."

(I apologize for the poor quality of the picture, I was attempting to surreptitiously take a before shot in light that wasn't ideal)

Here's the after:


This is ideally to be performed by one of the children, without the knowledge of the parents.  Parents may revert, but the child is then obligated to change it back at the first opportunity.

One year we spent christmas at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Manlius.   They have a similar set of blocks, so they were switched as well.  

2015-12-24

But Did it Work? Don't Leave Me Hanging!

A farmer is out tending to his prized bull when he notices that the bull's eyes are crossed.  Since this is an expensive animal, and very important to him, he calls the vet.

The vet arrives a short while later, takes one look at the, bull and grabs a copper pipe.  He tells the farmer to go stand in front of the bull, and stop him when the eyes are fixed.  The vet then sticks the pipe up the bull's ass, and blows into it as hard as he can.  

The bull's eyes straighten out, and so the farmer signals the vet.  The vet charges fifty dollars for the visit, and leaves.

About three weeks later, the farmer notices that the bull's eyes are crossed again.  He calls the vet, who returns, readies the pipe and blows again.

Once again, the bull's eyes uncross themselves.

The farmer pays the vet and returns to his business.

The another three weeks later, the bull's eyes are crossed again.  Knowing the previous solution, and wanting to save a buck, the farmer calls his farm hand over to keep watch while he inserts and blows into the pipe.   Nothing happens, the bull's eyes remain crossed.

Out of desperation, he suggests to the farm hand that they switch places, and that the farm hand should try blowing.

The farm hand agrees.  He the pulls the pipe out of the bull's ass, turns it around, and sticks the other end in.

"What did you do that for?" The farmer asked.

"What, did you think I would blow into the same end of the pipe that your lips had touched?" The farm hand replied.

And such are the jokes that my father tells over lunch today.

Going There

The back and forth with the wonderful girl in the So Yeah comments got me thinking about my own context, and whether my self assessment is accurate, or if I'm lying to myself about my problem, the recovery, or both.

NIH on Recovery from Alcoholism.

More than one-third (35.9 percent) of U.S. adults with alcohol dependence (alcoholism) that began more than one year ago are now in full recovery, according to an article in the current issue of Addiction. The fully recovered individuals show symptoms of neither alcohol dependence nor alcohol abuse and either abstain or drink at levels below those known to increase relapse risk. They include roughly equal proportions of abstainers (18.2 percent) and low-risk drinkers (17.7 percent). The analysis is based on data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a project of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

One-quarter (25.0 percent) of individuals with alcohol dependence that began more than one year ago now are dependent, 27.3 percent are in partial remission (that is, exhibit some symptoms of alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse), and 11.8 percent are asymptomatic risk drinkers with no symptoms but whose consumption increases their chances of relapse (for men, more than 14 drinks per week or more than four drinks on any day; for women, more than 7 drinks per week or more than three drinks on any day).

The NIH survey gives me something to think very long and hard about. It is by no means a get out of jail free card (or a you're right and she's wrong card).  My current behavior places me in the at risk category.  While 14 drinks a week is much more than I will currently imbibe, the weekly movie night is typically more than 4 drinks.  I do need to cut back even further to get myself out of this category (or maybe return to complete abstention, but dreck like Left Behind is much more fun to watch with a warm glow).

Now on to cravings.   They are still there, and much worse during stressful situations.  But cravings, however acute are just one factor in a mix of emotional, environmental, social and other factors that contribute to behavior in a given situation.

I'm WEIRD, as are the participants of the survey, so the station in life we occupy is probably more conducive (less financial pressure, no experiences of averse racial bias, etc) to more positive outcome, as opposed to total relapse.

What I am not saying is that I'm cured.  I am not making light of the suffering of others; I'm sticking to my own situation.   I recognize places where certain ascribed statuses have given me an advantage, and I don't try an minimize those (namely, my WEIRD-ness).

So it's both, I guess.


EDIT: This episode of Radiolab came up during my drive to my parent's house a couple of days ago.  It's interesting how addiction came to be viewed as primarily a moral, rather than medical, issue, and how that is starting to change.  

Ars SciFi Reading List

I 100% Agree (for the most part ;)

I don't find myself drawn to near-future military fiction, so I'll skip that one.

But the Ancillary Trilogy (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy) really are all the hype suggest them to be.

I want to touch on why Ancillary Justice is so important, and why it belongs on the reading list of everybody who reads anything at all.  First and foremost is the description by Ars (they said it better than I ever could, so standing on the shoulders of giants and all..)

Ancillary Justice, the first novel in this trilogy, was so brain-explodingly original and powerful that it swept the science fiction awards in 2013, winning both the coveted Hugo Award and Nebula Award for best novel. It's the tale of a spaceship that is also an AI hive mind, blown up after the violent colonial occupation of a planet. All that remains of the hive mind is a single human named Breq, an "ancillary" who was once a kind of biological extension of the ship's will. Now, Breq lives only to avenge the death of her most beloved officer, which means killing another kind of hive mind that has gone to war with itself. The trilogy begins as an action adventure and slowly becomes a meditation on colonialism and AI consciousness. Come for the gun fights and fully-realized extraterrestrial civilizations, and stay for Leckie's sly observations about the nature of power.

What  is so wonderfully brain-explody about this series is how the civilization that Ann Leckie builds, one of complete gender neutrality, contributes to the experience of reading the book.   On the most basic level, the plot would make a pretty good sci-fi action movie.

The gender neutrality adds a dimension of mystery to the relationships between the characters that would be absent otherwise.   The main language of the dominant civilization doesn't even have a concept of gender, and this is re-enforced when characters interact with members of civilizations that do have a more familiar concept of gender; the result is confusion about which pronoun should be used for whom.

And it kicked off an absolute shitstorm when it won the Hugo.   Now generally, the use of SJW as a pejorative is a signal to me that you are an asshole, with nothing of value to contribute to anything.

Now the puppies, along with Gamerghazi (I use -gate as the suffix for actual scandals, butthurt teenagers don't count), make up the movement that I generally call Boko Haram of the Suburbs.

Essentially, it is privileged white males raging against a world that dares not perpetually reaffirm said privilege.   Like Boko Haram, they are stupid, desperate people lashing out at what they imaging to be their social enemies.

And yes, I'm aware that it is very much engaging in hyperbole to paint these seemingly insignificant groups of malcontents with the brush of radical (and extremely violent) terrorism.

The problem is, if the shoe fits...   What all of these groups have in common is they are closed feedback loops that "otherize" mainstream society, and lash out at it when the self-alienation becomes too strong.  Whether it's swatting, kidnapping a bunch of schoolgirls, or responding to the perceived "approved reading list" with one's own approved reading list, the root cause is the same.

So where the puppies intersected with the gamerghazi morons, is how I discovered the Ancillary trilogy.   And it is absolutely wonderful.

Just like Slaughterhouse Five, Persepolis, 1984, The Call of the Wild, and other books that are banned or frequently challenged, I was driven by curiosity to see what the hubbub was all about.

(as an aside, I didn't really enjoy Naked Lunch, and never actually finished it)

The Three Body Problem is also a brain-explodingly good read.   The eponymous problem of orbital mechanics factors fairly heavily, though the low level mathematics are omitted.  It features something of an ad hoc computer like those made by minecraft players.

The story is enriched by the translator's footnotes, which help familiarize the reader with aspects of China's cultural revolution; explaining references that assume a more complete understanding of Chinese cultural evolution.

So, buy the books I've linked to.  You won't be disappointed.

Edit:  Also, these:

  • vN, and its sequel iD.  These tell the story of sophisticated androids developed by religious fanatics to serve humanity after they [the fanatics] are raptured away.  The story is told from the point of view of one of these robots (and the religious aspect is a very, very, very minor part of the plot, it's not much more than the sentence I typed about it, in fact).
  • RedshirtsStar Trek meets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  Genre-savy and funny as well.
  • Flowertown.  A deadly chemical spill forces the quarantine of a midwestern American city and its residents.  Conspiracies, and plot twists, and a delightfully sarcastic female protagonist make this a great read.
  • The Sherriff of Yrnameer. A light hearted and hilarious story of escape and redemption, similar in spirit to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Breaking News: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to Make Wine.

It will probably taste like ass.

Badum-tish.  I'll be here all week...tip your waitress.

apropos of nothing

Here's the Running Faggot sketch from The Kids in the Hall.


Now, I think this sketch actually really works.  It is silly, and taken at face value, is pretty much an excuse to say the word faggot on television as many times as possible.

What keeps this sketch from being truly offensive is a bit of background information on the actor portraying the eponymous faggot: Scott Thompson, who is (and was at the time) openly gay.

This sketch, while it was in season 1 of TKitH, it was in episode 6, so there had been some time to establish what THitH humor was all about (how all 4 male actors don womens' clothing and play female characters, frequently).

Overall, this seems to me to be similar to the use of the word "nigger" in Blazing Saddles.

In both cases, the potential to offend is dulled by self-awareness.  Both works present their shock words with a wink, as if to say: we don't really mean it, but people who do are terrible...

Which takes me to the id of the Republican party, a man blessedly free of the ravages of intelligence, self-awareness, tact, or any semblance of propriety whatsoever.  Here is an anachronistic use of a highly geographically specific slang term; a term that has a much different meaning to the culture as a whole.

What this represents is an outright refusal to adapt with changing times.  It is an assiduously maintained ignorance of what is acceptable in polite company.

And this is red meat for those who view themselves as victims of "political correctness" gone mad.  Like this asshole.   Now they're circling the wagons around their idol...

But FuckFace von Clownstick isn't smart enough for that to be his intention.  Either he's a genius, and the dumb guy blowhard is just an act, or he's just a dumb guy blowhard.  Occam's razor suggests what we're really dealing with.

In the spirit of the reason for the season, here's an exploration of Christ as a carpenter.


Afterall, I wouldn't want to alienate the 70% of the population who evidently get all butthurt that there's not enough jesus in christmas, now would I?

Work

I'm ostensibly at work.  Meaning, I'm setting at my desk in my office deep within the bowels of Evil Conglomerate Customer (TM).

I doubt much is going to happen today.

2015-12-23

Je Suis WashingtonPost

It's only a matter of time before some rabid teabagger goes all Charlie Hebdo on the Amazon Post.

Of course there's this.

Cruz later launched an "emergency" campaign to fundraise against the "liberal media" he said attacked his daughters.

Your honor, I beg the court for mercy in my sentence for my conviction of the murder of my parents.  I am, afterall, an orphan...

It isn't fair to the children though, look who their father is.  And their mother, I can't fathom the type of deranged sociopath that would look at Ted Cruz and see a potential breeding mate.

Boston Dynamics has some of the most impressive robot videos out there.   A shame they're owned by evil incarnate.


Astrology (Not an Endorsement)

Back in my mid-teens, the culturally-acceptable prepackaged societal outgroup I associated myself with included the wiccans, so there's a little of where I'm coming from here.

I've had a bit of exposure to astrology and tarot as a result and I want to focus a little on astrology now.

First and foremost, the idea that the position the sun rises relative to the stars has any sort of causal effect on a persons personality is utter bullshit.  Plain and simple.

That said, as a capricorn the description is eerily apt in many places.

A slightly less bullshit description might be that of my MBTI:  INTP

Now the Myers-Brigs type indicator is not without valid criticism, but at least the underlying theory is related to psychology.

I've found that understanding how I approach problems and understand the world has helped me communicate with those that differ from myself.  Mostly, though, it's the understanding that different fundamental innate approaches exist.  Sadly, it's easy to assume that everyone you deal with shares the same understanding of the world as you do, which is where a lot of social friction comes from.

Anyway, with this little bit of psychology in mind, it seems that when one of those astrology-love sites describes a pairing, they're really describing how two people with different outlooks and personalities might get along.  There might be some insight here, and again, it has absolutely nothing to do with the relative position of the sun and planets on your birthday. 

That and the people who leave comments on such sites are hilarious.


Funny I am a Capricorn Male married a Taurus woman.She was my everything my wife best friend lover my everything.Then after 20/21 years she left me said it was her not me .No idea what that means .
so when it says perfect match I now know it aint :(
Even tried dating other Taurus women and started to notice the same traits in them that she had .So I’m trying other start signs now I’ve moved on .
Just beware Capricorn men of these taurus ladies mine was a control freak !!


Maybe your grammar scared her away.  This next guy presents the Epimenides paradox (and besides, who solicits this kind of feedback from comments on an astrology website?)

I’m a hard core deceptive person, what should I do then????? Should I go ahead with a truthful match or someone like me will be a great pairing????????

I'd say go with the truthful one, then play out the scene from The Labyrinth with the doors.


Zach Hits One Out of the Park






































He's one of the most consistently funny daily webcomics out there.  And one of the smartest.

http://smbc-comics.com/





Take THAT white audience!

This is brilliant!  About 40 seconds in, Harry Connick Jr adds a beat to shift the audience from clapping on 1 and 3 to the genre correct 2 and 4.


MY EYES!! THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!!!

Alternate title:  Nesting
Alternate Alternate title: No wonder the terrorists hate us.





Feast your eyes on the home of the above.  It is exactly as bad as you might imagine from this one picture.  Here's the permalink.

Some highlights:

Nothing screams class like leopard-print anything!

 It looks like a little girl's princess-themed bedroom threw up in there.

Gott im Himmel!  That combination is a crime against nature.  This next one, I want to make very clear, I am not making fun of her weight...but
This one has it all:

  • Polished copper credenza: check
  • Well-upholstered homeowner: check
  • Three tacky objay darts mixing art-deco, mid-century modern, and whatever the hell that blue and white blob is supposed to represent: check.
In fact, the only thing here that isn't an utter abomination is this:
However, in its context, it's just bad.  Maybe with the right frame and white backing mat...

Now to prove I'm not just a critical philistine (or that I am, but at least I have enough sense to know that just because something clashes, it doesn't make the combination whimsical), here's my living room:

The florescent lights play hell with the color balance.   This next one is closer to the real color (less yellow-heavy, but a bit too much red):



EDIT:  For well executed whimsical clashing, see Olive Snook's apartment from Pushing Daisies:

(there are many other examples, Pushing Daisies is one of the most underrated shows of all time, but that's another post)

Short-Fingered Vulgarian Vulgarian, Short-Fingered Due to Upbrining. Film at Eleven.

I don't bring up Fuckface von Clownstick much, because he's exactly what it says on the tin: a skin sack full of fetid garbage with an ego the size of Mars, who happens to be about as sharp as a sock full of soup.

 So "schlonged" is how he characterizes Hillary Clinton's losing to Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries.  Turns out, he might not have made that up off the cuff.

Not to make too fine a point of it, but when I was growing up on Long Island, not too far from where Donald Trump grew up and around the same time, "shlonged" was a pretty commonplace verb meaning, roughly, "thoroughly defeated." It had nothing to do, at least in the minds of anyone I knew, with the Yiddish noun shlong, meaning penis.

I guess we can be thankful that he said schlonged and not Donkey Punched.

2015-12-22

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go


I don't remember where I found this, or who scottc is, but I think the smile on the gas pump's face is what makes this especially hilarious.

Misreading the Tea Leaves

Hothardware link (not an endorsement of their site.  I run all manner of ad blockers and ghostry, so I have no idea what malware lurks behind the link).

Here's the funny part:

That's still quite a bit ahead of Windows 10, which is in second place with a 15.34 percent share of the [European] desktop OS market, but things are starting to trend in the right direction for Microsoft.

Things are playing out similarly in North America where Windows 7 is down to 41.6 percent. However, it's Mac OS X that's in second place at 18.21 percent, followed by Windows 10 at 12.44 percent.

Microsoft should be encouraged by these results, though it will be interesting to see how things play out in 2016, and especially late in the year when the free upgrade promotion comes to a screeching halt.


They can't even give it away!  This is not an encouraging result!  It's free.  Microsoft is cramming it down their customers throats, both accidentally and soon intentionally, and they can't even beat OSX in the North American market.   This is not a sign of success.  It's a sign that they've badly misread the market, and people really don't want to be data points for Microsoft's advertising business.


WOLVERINES

Just who is this shit for and why did it pop up in my amazon items to consider list thingy?

Look, when Barry Soetoro finally rounds all of you up and christens the grand opening of the FEMA re-education camps with the blood of the current republican majority, I think they'll remember to take your wallet at the door.

God preppers are morons.

Jesus, it gets worse!  That's literally twice as much as my brand new couch cost.   And the best part, the page is a PNG screenshot of text, so it can't be selected and pasted.  I was going to mention the shipping options (discreet cardboard boxes, so you don't advertize to their neighborhood that you're dangerously unstable), and free scheduled freight delivery for orders over 500 lbs.

If there's anything any rational human being would be buying, it's more than 500 lbs of dehydrated garbage at once. 


Lustre Melts My Brain (Again)

Chances are, if you're working on a big supercomputer, you're interacting with one of two major distributed file systems (there are more, but these are the big 2).

If you're on Cray, you're using lustre, most likely.

If you're on IBM, you're probably using GPFS.

We're on Cray.

Without giving away any proprietary details, Lustre is a distributed file system.  A typical configuration is comprised thusly:

  • Multiple storage targets.  These are the hard drives (conceptually, the reality is much more complicated).
  • Multiple servers:  Each server hosts multiple storage targets, and performs the IO operations as requested by the client.
  • Clients, the computers that access the file system.
  • Metadata servers/targets.  These maintain a coherent file system name space (associate the correct file data with the correct file name, for example).
This grossly oversimplified, mind you.  There are also routers that forward IO between different network types (and we've got a bunch of those).

So we've go a user shotgunning so much data down our throats at once that it causes targets to time out.

It took me 2 days to figure that out.  My brain is melted.

Incidentally: one of the many things wrong with excel is its tendency to simply strip off the seconds from any date/time fields in your spreadsheet.  Because if you have 12 data points per minute, why would you need to be able to distinguish between them?

On the bright side  LMT is absolutely invaluable, and well worth the effort in setting it up.

We're at a point where I think the only recourse will be to increase timeouts to accommodate the load, rather than to tweak the number of in-flight IO operations, since the latter is pretty much already maxed.

Maybe at some point in the future I'll write something about scalability challenges. 

2015-12-21

Our Biggest Mistake

Our biggest mistake as a nation was to end the post Civil War reconstruction, thus letting the completely false notion of some sort of moral high ground on the part of the confederates metastasize.

The suit claims removal of the monuments violates the [Sons of Confederate Veterans]’ First Amendment right to free expression, “which they exercise by maintaining and preserving the historic character and nature of the city of New Orleans, including their monuments.”

So they're essentially arguing that just because something is old, it must be protected.   I guess that's why Nazi memorabilia is so popular in Germany today...

Even a Blind Acorn Sometimes Finds a Hog

Gilstrap pops his cherry.

The most litigious "patent troll" of 2014 has been effectively shut down, and will have to pay attorneys' fees to several defendants.

US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases that any other federal judge, issued an order (PDF) on Thursday saying that the behavior of eDekka LLC qualified as "exceptional," and that the company should pay the legal fees of various companies it sued.

Gilstrap's courtroom is, arguably, the most surprising spot in the nation from which a patent troll slap-down might originate. The judge has been criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for making life unnecessarily difficult for patent defendants. He's also invalidated relatively few patents under Supreme Court precedent set in last year's Alice Corp. case, even as other federal judges have been tossing out software patents at a steady clip.

And until this order was issued, Gilstrap had never before ordered any patent plaintiff to pay up for filing massive numbers of lawsuits, even after it became the easier to win such awards after the Octane Fitness case.

The patent boils down to basically "hashing," a concept so fundamental to computer programming, that several languages have the data structure built in (hashes in perl and dictionaries in python being two examples).   This is so obvious to a practitioner, that one generally wouldn't even think to apply for a patent in the first place.

2015-12-19

That Danish Looks Yummy, Asshole

Because fuck you internet.

Because if puppies need anything...

...it's bad PR.

This is sad though.  Now those puppies will have to be put down, it's the only humane thing we can do with them at this point.

Star Wars Post


This is by far the best review of the Star Wars prequels in existence.  Go watch the entire series.


2015-12-18

Wilkommen an Amerika


Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Wochenender Betrunksblog.  

Hilarious, but Cheap, Shots

Offered without comment:


and



Incidentally, a whole jug of wine:




Now aside from the Robocop clip, the 2 taken from The Critic are really a cheap shot against Orson Welles.  The following is absolutely tragic:





This is Why I Fucking Hate Michigan




Brick Dick aside,  Michigan is fucked.  There are small pockets of civilization around Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw, Ann Arbor and other major cities, but is Missi-fucking-ssippi everywhere else.

This is the kind of thing that michiganders (the small m is deliberate, like god instead of God), routinely do.

I remember that while a student a Eastern Michigan University, shortly after 9/11, some redneck was injured when he tried to shoot up the fucking shriners of all organizations, because "Moslem Temple."

Now this fucking retard had the gun stowed away in the waistband of his sweatpants.  SWEATPANTS!  So when the gun falls, because SWEATPANTS (I mean seriously!), it goes off, hitting him in the thigh and requiring a hospital visit.

Channel 7 Detroit was forced to remind its viewers that the Shriners are a charitable organization, and  are in no way associated with the Islamic religion that night.

...Though my inner feminist is delighted to see us inching closer toward equality in the randomly shooting at people for no fucking reason department.*

k

* It really isn't.

So Yeah


Where indeed?

From 2004-2014 is a drunken stupor...my lost decade.

2014 nearly killed me* and then...

Here's 2015 in my world:

Jan 2:  7:30 AM.  Arrive at work.  It's been 18 hours since the last time I smoked weed, and I'm hung over, as usual.   I spent the previous night watching How I Met Your Mother (I'm only in season 3 at this point), and something in me snaps.

Jan 2: 8:00 AM.  I check myself into Ellis Hospital for mental issues.  I'm feeling suicidal.

Jan 2: 10:00 AM. The nurse determines I'm not actually going to kill myself if I'm released, and so I am.  My parents come down from Willsboro, and the illusion that I've got it together is shattered.

Jan 2: 11:00 AM. I arrive home, and empty 3 bottles of very good German beer in the sink.  I now have no consumable alcohol in the house.

Jan 2.  I call various psychiatrists, trying to make an appointment.  I'm not suicidal at this point, so it's technically not an emergency, so nobody has room to pencil me in.  Granted, I'm a mess, and at the end of my chain, none of this is good news.

Jan 2: I find someone.

Jan 3: Extinction burst.  I get shitfaced on a bottle of Ouzo and destroy the 2 bedroom doors (since replaced).  Concurrently, our Big Computer crashes, and I'm in no condition to help (in fact,  the escalation calls fail to waken me from my alcohol-induced coma).

I stop drinking.  Skip ahead a while and I'm finally seeing the shrink.  He diagnoses me with depression (natch) and anxiety disorder.  Zoloft is perscribed.

I spend the next 2 weeks in a fog, as the SSRI pounds away at my system.   At the same time, I begin Slaughtering My Demons.

In the ensuing months, I've come to terms, more or less, with my anxiety, repaired my professional relationships, played an essential role in the successful datacenter relocation and supercomputer expansion of Evil Conglomerate Customer (TM), and was rewarded with a promotion in my annual review this past October.

From my point of view, so far, I've got nothing to apologize for.

And now we're in mid-November, and I begin looking to the next phase of my life.  I've finally conquered my demons, and it's time to start a family...

I try online dating.  Match.com sucks.  okcupid sucks.  eHarmony isn't much better, but in order to get anything out of it, the upfront cost is around $250 (and it doesn't matter how long you sign up for, 2 years is actually cheaper than 3 months).

And then I meet a wonderful girl**.

And then I blow it.

Frankly, I'm ahead.  It was a good year.  I suck at people.  I'm learning.  And honestly, while the impression I gave about my attitude toward money was horrifying, I'm sure the way I explain my thinking in the Money and Happiness post isn't so much.

And when the time came to finally meet the wonderful girl in person, I'm so concerned about seeming optimistic that I say I'm having a great day (which I am) and that nothing could bring it down, because of the bonus.

Missing, of course, was the context.  The struggle with anxiety, depression and alcoholism.  The seeking of help, of turning my life around, and how the promotion was an affirmation of my effort, and the bonus a reminder of my success in turning my life around.   OF COURSE I was happy about that.

And yet, I was too proud, or too embarrassed about where I came from to put my optimism in the truthful context.  And that's how I blew it.  Shame begets anxiety and anxiety begets regret. But this time regret won't beget shame, as it has in the past, because this time, I actually tried.   I recognize where I went wrong, and I'm hoping the various virtual particle interactions that occur in the void between matter compel her to read this post, because I think it will explain a lot.

And she told me not to contact her.  So I won't.

So geht die Welt.

(To be completely truthful, I wish I had a few practice dates before this one to learn this kind of lesson, because this girl** is really special, and I don't think I'll find anyone like her).

*And by 2014, I mean "I" and by "me" I mean "myself."

**And by girl, I respectfully mean woman. 

2015-12-17

Sad Trombone

Wah wah waahhh

The worst possible outcome of meeting a new potential love interest was just realized...she didn't like me.

Sorry if this doesn't seem like the end of the world.  She's a wonderful person, and will make whomever she ends up with very happy, but "us" just wasn't meant to be.

It's my fault, and it's hers.  Who cares.  Good luck D.  I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness, wherever you find it.

k

Slaughtering Your Demons

A wise man once told me that having anxious feelings about something is how we know that we care about the outcome.   That man is Dr. Zosar Mohamed, my psychiatrist (I got help, remember).

This is single most important thing he taught me, so far, and that I honestly didn't get his permission to share; I beg his forgiveness if doing so is somehow verboten, but it's just so insightful, and simple, and helpful not to share.  I'll link to Dr. Mohamed's book, which I own, at the end of this post (for whatever that's worth).

It goes like this: there are four stages to how we completely process and interpret events.   These stages are:
  1. The event itself.
  2. Our interpretation of the event.
  3. How we feel about that interpretation.
  4. How we behave based upon #3.
One thing we notice right away (or not, which is why some of us need(ed) help), is that the only stage of how we perceive the world that is external, and that we have no control over, is the event itself.

Jesus Christ, praise be upon Him, was walking with His apostles one day.  The passed by a dead dog that had been lying in the street for days.  Each apostle commented on how ugly the dog was, how badly it smelled, that there were swarms of flies around it, and that the carcass should be thrown away.  Jesus, praise is upon Him, looked at it and exclaimed, "What white teeth!"

 --Zoser Mohamed, Have a Passion for Success (p31)

(forgive the lack of proper MLA attribution, this is a blog, not a published paper)

(for the record, I'm a die-hard atheist, and Dr. Mohamed is a Muslim, so neither of us have much interest in Jesus).

As somebody with an anxiety disorder, my tendency was to interpret events in negative ways, which led to fear, and behaviors designed to prevent the worst imagined outcome.  When this behavior made the bad outcome a self fulfilling prophecy, it reinforced the initial interpretation of the event, leading to the vicious cycle of expecting the worst and achieving it.

The trick is to pause in between steps 1 and 2, take a deep breath, and think for a second about the event, before interpreting it.   This is really fucking hard to do!

Say somebody cuts you off in traffic.  How does that make you feel?

Now, what if that person is rushing his expecting wife to the hospital to deliver their baby?

How does that make you feel?

The point is we don't have complete information about the events that affect our lives (and thus our mental state), so the conclusions we draw from the events we experience are what really shapes our overall outlook.

So why is this really hard, all we've got to do is assume the best, right? Well, no.  That would make us all morons.  Sometimes the negative interpretation is the correct one.  If you're in an abusive relationship, for example.

This is also hard, because our emotions are innate, and we're not used to interjecting in our mental processes before they've been formed.   It can be done, however.

For me, it took an extra step, at least initially.

It is hard to interrupt the progression from stage 1 to 2 and even stage 2 to 3, but stage 3 to 4 is where our higher consciousness begins its involvement.  We can recognize the bad feeling very easily, so start there and work backwards.

Why do we feel this way?  What do we think happened?  Ask yourself what you THINK happened, and whether or not you know for sure the motivations behind the actions.  Now take a deep breath and revisit your feeling, is it different?

Now proceed to stage 4.  You'll be happier.

This is not the final solution, but the first step.  With enough practice, you really will be able to pause between the event and your initial interpretation, obviating the need to backtrack, which makes the whole process much easier.   

Think of common situations.  Where I work, we have a very heavily used set of elevators that link one wing of the main building to the cafeteria, two floors above.  A running joke is how (very few) people opt to use that elevator to go up or down a single floor, instead of from the main floor to the cafeteria.   Over time, I've been able to change my initial reaction to this event from one of mild annoyance, to one of "good, now I won't be stuck behind a slow walker in the hallway." (I walk pretty fast, for the record).

So in summary, if we are anxious about events in our daily lives, and feel powerless to change our trajectory, this is a helpful tool to overcome that.

Disclaimer:  I am by no means a mental health professional, and if you are experiencing severe anxiety and depression, I urge you to seek professional help.