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Notes - page 2

Personal quips and nonsensical snippets

January 11, 2020

With recent Iran events in the news lately, I think it’s good to remind ourselves how to spot war propaganda. This article has lots of good points on what to look for in the news, why it’s propaganda, and how to respond. I recommend the full article, but some of the takeaways are:

  • Don’t just take government official at their word. Any claim needs evidence that that’s 100% correct, not “mostly correct” or “just trust me.”
  • Don’t let bullying mischaracterizations silence you. People can twist any criticism of America’s actions into “oh you must love the terrorists” to shut you up.
  • Don’t let others change the focus. Others will focus on how “strategic” or “hypocritical” a decision is instead of how “wrong” it is.
  • Imagine the same news from the other side about us. This helps remove the distorting nationalism from our views.
  • Watch the language being used. People will say “neutralization” instead of “assassination” since it sounds better, even if it conceals facts and is less accurate.
  • Remember what they used to say. People starting a war now may have said their first strike a week ago was about “stopping a war.”
  • Listen to the dissidents. Watch for the same tricks from them, but still, find other sources. They help you fight the misinformation and break out of the bubble others want you in.

January 05, 2020

Unpopular opinion: I’ve missed waiting for Amazon packages.

Just after Christmas, I used some gift cards to buy some manga volumes. They only arrived a few days ago, so I waited for around a week. Knowing I was going to get something nice in a few days always brightened my mood. It was having something pleasant to look forward to.

In a way, canceling Amazon Prime didn’t just save me money. It saved me from impatience. But mostly money.

December 28, 2019

There was once a person who spent three hours on a Saturday walking. They walked down a street, along a trail, atop a small mountain with some deer, across a park, rested on top of New Haven’s East Rock Summit, and then went home.

This person was exhausted and talked to no one but themselves. They expected it to be lonely but instead felt invigorated. They’d enjoyed being so close to nature, pondering answers to some personal and existential worries, and the satisfaction of collapsing home in an exhausted heap.

As the person was in this collapsed heap, they saw a laser print they’d made a few days ago.

Proper solitude had brought them peace of mind amid anxieties that’d hounded them for months. Plus extra tone to their legs they know looks amazing. But mostly their peace of mind.

Next time you have some alone time, I recommended going somewhere where you can only walk and think for an hour or two. You’d be surprised how helpful it can be.

December 22, 2019

Last night, Edgerton Park in New Haven had their 2nd Annual Winter Solstice Luminary Walk. They lined the park’s path with candles, so there was enough light to follow the path. You could only see other peoples’ silhouettes, not their faces or clothes.

Several figures in a dark park with only their silhouettes visible.

This setup rarely happens to me but always find it intriguing. I can’t see the details often used for value judgments, like clothes or attractiveness. They’re simply people like myself. Knowing only, I assume they’re just as complex and worthy of basic respect as I am. That took away much of the usual social anxiety I experience around others. I don’t fear how I may judge them or they may judge me.

Part of me wishes life could always be like this, with a veil of ignorance over how we see people. So many dark paths of history likely would have changed or never happened at all.

But another part of me is also upset, knowing we’d need something like that to treat others better.

December 19, 2019

Some consider vacation time for exotic travels and adventures.

For me, vacation is about relaxation and enjoyable work. It’s remarkably easy to do this without the hassle of airports, reservations, packing luggage, travel schedules, food poisoning, sunburn, and those other things that make exotic travel “relaxing.”

Some may think I’m wasting my time or youth by traveling less. To that I say, good thing I’m the one living my life and you’re the one living yours. Not the other way around.

December 17, 2019

I have no issue with the “we’re all brains in jars” theories if they’re real. I can handle if reality itself is an illusion because of virtual simulations or a seriously bored demon.

My issue is with the reality I’m being fed. If you’re going to feed me a fake life, either give me an unbridled paradise or a terrifying hellscape. This middling “distraction and anxiety-filled disintegrating society” version isn’t cutting it anymore.

December 14, 2019

Older generations often get mad at younger generations like Millennials for having different values. These range from the serious to the trivial, such as:

I don’t know if any of these value shifts are good or not. I do know older generations shouldn’t assume they’re bad or shouldn’t happen.

The reason is simple - values changing between generations is how society grows. This repeating pattern of change-anger-acceptance isn’t new and isn’t going away.

December 12, 2019

The mere existence of things like television, video games, heroin, porn, alcohol, football, pizza with pineapple, and marijuana have taught us all one thing: something that makes you feel better doesn’t always make you a better person. If anything, these are more likely to make you a worse person in the long run.

Especially pineapple on pizza. I will do humankind a long-term favor and bury these people alive. You’re welcome, planet Earth.

December 10, 2019

Recently in a local Slack group, I shared a tweet from someone dissing Ruby on Rails. While this is unforgivable, that’s not what this note is about. Part of the context was a woman being hired in an all-women company.

To be fair, I mistakingly said the company only hiring women was intentional when that wasn’t the case at all. But even if I hadn’t, the question was already being raised about whether this was legal, discriminatory, sexist, or any number of other things.

I’m not going to get into if it was any of those (although it wasn’t). But like in that conversation, I’d like to acknowledge if the company was only men, those arguments would never have come up. There are lots of tech companies made up entirely, or almost entirely, of men where this is virtually never brought up or taken seriously.

Why? The underlying assumption that tech being full of men is normal, while tech being full of women must be either some deliberate move like affirmative action or “scoring diversity points.” In other words, the assumption that men in tech are natural while women in tech aren’t. This is, unsurprisingly, a view held mostly by white men.

If I may quote Sara Eckel from her book, “It’s Not You,” she sums it up pretty well:

Freedom is arguably our country’s most sacrosanct value—unless we’re talking about women’s liberation. Then suddenly we become cold rationalists, debating the pros and cons like a Soviet-era dictator.

December 04, 2019

Go to my Instagram today and you’ll start with photos of my fancy anime woodcut blocks. You likely already guessed this, but I only spend a fraction of my time making those. Those six photos were taken over several weeks.

Most of the remaining time I had was spent reading, coding for my job, watching videos, trying to catch up on news or code articles, playing video games, or walking to get away from everything else on the list. Pretty standard things that we always do ourselves but are boring when we see others doing them. In other words, everyday life.

Most of my life isn’t spent on something cool or edgy. But they’re the only ones I think are worth sharing with everyone. But most of my life will still be boring from an outside perspective, and normal yet enjoyable from my own.

December 03, 2019

Need some inspiration porn? I recently updated my phone wallpapers with some anime wallpaper creations.

  • Anime artwork with the quote 'hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself.'
  • Anime artwork with the quote 'you can only make the choice if you remember it's there.'

As an added bonus, people who see them will think I’m a naturally motivated, discipline person. As opposed to the truth: I’m a typical lazy, distractable human using mental tricks to avoid those impulses.

November 24, 2019

There are many ways for programmers to learn and improve, such as:

  1. Making side projects
  2. Reading news articles and blog posts
  3. Reading other people’s code
  4. Playing with other people’s code
  5. Writing tutorials or demos about code we’ve written
  6. Using intelligence-sucking devices to steal IQ points
  7. Taking notes to better remember the important info we find

I’ve been a big fan of methods around research and notes. It’s worked for a long time. Lately, it hasn’t been working as well. My motivation and inspiration are drying up, and my anxiety and impatience are building up in their place.

My guess is I’d been catching up to the code I’d been writing but not researching. Now I’m just about caught up and unsure what to do next. If that’s the case, the answer is blending some code projects and experimentation into my writing. A possible flow for this could be:

  1. Take a small code project or demo, either related to my job or something else entirely. Make sure it’s outside my comfort zone in some way.
  2. Try my hand at coding it and solving the puzzles the project carries, while documenting how it goes.
  3. Once it’s done, take my notes and write them up into one or more posts.
  4. Share the posts with the final project as a live demo or reference.

As always, I can’t predict if that’ll work for me. Also as always, I need to try.

November 19, 2019

I wanted to like a library book sale purchase of Rogue Lawyer. It had an intriguing premise, thought-out characters, and some gripping court scenes. But I can’t quite like it since handles the “multiple plotlines” structure poorly, especially at the end. There are a few elements this structure needs to work, and the book fumbles each of them.

  1. The plot threads need to merge in unexpected, dramatic ways. I’ll concede some threads do help nudge others to their conclusion. But they don’t get tied together to a more coherent, “greater than the sum of its parts” conclusion. Some wind up just being supports instead of their own compelling plotlines.
  2. There’s no satisfying conclusion. The main character reflects on what happens, shrugs, and feels depressed about the path they’ve taken. They didn’t combine into a larger lesson unless that lesson is “I give up.” Either way, it makes the entire book fizzle out like a misfired firework.
  3. It doesn’t foreshadow the plotlines’ convergence. In my opinion, the greatest strength of a multiple plotline structure is the unexpected ways the plotlines can converge. Teasing this result at the start is great since it makes the reader wonder “how could these stories possibly cause this” and set their imagination on fire as they read. Not doing this is wasting one of the best ways to keep the reader’s attention.

Want a book that does this right? Read “Big Little Lies.” You’ll thank me later.

November 10, 2019

Someone may feel they need a relationship for a satisfying or meaningful life. But isn’t that an insult to the rest of your life?

Hopefully, one’s life isn’t just window-dressing for someone else’s benefit. You’re the one living it, not them.