Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.

I used to draw robots! I'm not sure if my current pen and crosshatch choices go well it though...

the problem with having a giant light bulb for a brain is how thin and delicate the glass is. and how i got hammers for hands.

a snail really do be like [scooting his slimy lil way across the garden with dogged determination, resolute in his understanding that the destination lies in the journey itself]

Relying on your intuition is kind of like assuming the information at the first google hit is right.
August 17, 2019
On FB my old manager Kevin asked
Why do we ikea? I mean really. Why?
This was my response:
I think there are 3 reasons to dislike IKEA:
  1. the cultural triumph of mediocrity, of not great materials furniture not built for the long haul
  2. the disastrously wearing and psychologically manipulative experience of the IKEA store, its rat maze and sometimes huuuuuuge lines
  3. the torment of assembling this shitty flatpack, and how failing to notice one little tiny dot representing a screw hole and the only asymmetry of the piece means you have to undo like 20 minutes of work
But for those, I say:
  1. IKEA is also a victory for quality of thoughtful design and simplicity, not to mention affordability.
  2. The IKEA store is kind of an aspirational wonderland, tantalizing inspirations for a more elegant and less cluttered life
  3. People feel a bit more connected to furniture they assembled - your work went into it, vs just you or some hired blokes wrestling in a piece that then just sits there
I dunno. I dig it! I remember a story from growing up - Salvation Army Officer families generally live in pre-furnished houses or apartments, so there's often little choice about furnishings. One time, though, our quarters were newly established, and my parents got the chance to tasteful scandinavian design stuff. But word was the people who moved in after had a tendency to be super rough with the new stuff, but mostly so they could replace it with the same old colonial crap.

(speaking of kinetic typography videos, the one I saw for Cee Lo Green's F*** You still stands out)
Today someone said "what are linked lists for" and I said "technical interviews, mainly" and nobody reacted in any way and I still think about that.
In retrospect I think it's time to question Billy Joel's claim that his generation didn't start the fire

Doing old Blog Grooming I found a 2006 article 'Sleeping on it' best for complex decisions - way back when I quoted
Thinking hard about a complex decision that rests on multiple factors appears to bamboozle the conscious mind so that people only consider a subset of information, which they weight inappropriately, resulting in an unsatisfactory choice. In contrast, the unconscious mind appears able to ponder over all the information and produce a decision that most people remain satisfied with.
The thing is, I still think it’s a mistake to conflate that sense of satisfaction with objective correctness. That unconscious overnight process is not amenable to inspection or rational confirmation, and I think is pretty much at the mercies of every ingrained prejudice and presumption we’ve internalized.

It’s like that muscle memory thing… to perform a skill at high level it's crucial that you impress the movements into your subconscious - but it’s not so good to drill and drill and practice if you’re just letting your poor form or style become a more deeply ingrained habit. It's the same for athletic feats as it is thinking.
There's one thing computing teaches you, and that's that there's no point to remembering *everything*.
Douglas Coupland
I recorded that 17 years ago, with the comment "I'm trying to utilize this statement as encouragement to discard all these old files that are only slightly interesting in a 'passing interests and random activities of Kirk in the late 1990s'". I'm still not sure I got the knack of that.
I feel I can tell I am becoming an old by my lack of enthusiasm for unisex one-piece-looking rompers a few folks at my company's shore side outing are wearing.
August 14, 2019
Doing old blog maintenance, I ran into this Valentine's note to me, written early in the trajectory arc of a long romance:
I wonder if I love you too much. I guess when people say "too much" what they really mean is "more than you." Probably just paranoia. It's just hitting me how much you've come to mean to me in so short a time, and what it would mean to lose you.
Maybe it wasn't just paranoia. I worry I've never loved as vibrantly as other folks seem to.

I don't love people for their Nouns, who they "really are" - maybe because I can't bear witness to their inner life! I love people's Verbs - interactions that outsiders (such as me) can observe. Actions people perform in the public sphere have their bona fides of objective reality, and so I can know my feelings are rooted in truth.

But is that love of other folks, then? Or just admiration?

As a young teen, I figured out that I couldn't given free rein to my desires. Lust might lead to STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Hunger might lead to me becoming fat(ter). And worst of all: acting on unfiltered feelings - lust, anger, greed, wrath, pride, envy, gluttony - put me at risk for eternal hellfire! Yeah, God could forgive, but repeated transgressions (the verb) brought the veracity of the repentance (the noun) into question. And which of those temporary pleasures would be worth eternal punishment?

When I do try to survey my own emotional landscape, I'm appalled at how ego-driven so much of it is; my obsession of the importance of objective (yet never fully and confidently known) truths leaves me hungry for external validation - and so I like how reading books tells me I'm smart, playing in bands tells me I'm talented, playing video games tells me I'm empowered, at least in those virtual microcosms. (I don't think I'm alone in hunger, especially in folks raised as boys - not that I think girls have it better. But some of the most damning things to say about a dude is that he's a bad driver, or not funny, or not competent in bed - many men want their ego stroked as much as any of their other parts.)

So, love from other folks: am I seeking love? Or just admiration?

And to top it off - since the interpretation of objective reality is a group project, I can't put too much weight on what feelings I do find arising in me. I'm not such a martyr that I have to ignore my own preferences, but I am compelled to evaluate my behavior based on what seems good for the group - or in the case of romance, the couple - not just me.

So I dunno. Is it this complicated for everyone?
I had a dream where - I think - people were using certain foodstuffs as power system. I woke up enough to write "the exothermic aesthetic of yellow rice and yogurt sauce"
Quick question,
If "illegals" are lazy freeloaders just leaching off the system,
Why does ICE always raid workplaces?
Steve A Mattison
August 13, 2019
Some small passages I liked from Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven", a novel bouncing its point of view from right around the time a horrific flu virus spares less than 1 in a 1000 and ends civilization, and a few decades later where a small pack of survivors (taking their motto from an old Star Trek Voyager episode saying "Survival is Insufficient") make some kind of living as a travelling Symphony and Shakespeare show.
There are tears in her eyes now. Miranda is a person with very few certainties, but one of them is that only the dishonorable leave when things get difficult.
The brief flare of a meteor, or perhaps a falling satellite. Is this what airplanes would have looked like at night, just streaks of light across the sky? Kirsten knew they'd flown at hundreds of miles per hour, inconceivable speeds, but she wasn't sure what hundreds of miles per hour would have looked like.
I've been thinking lately about immortality. What it means to be remembered, what I want to be remembered for, certain questions concerning memory and fame. I love watching old movies. I watch the faces of long-dead actors on the screen, and I think about how they'll never truly die. I know that's a cliché but it happens to be true. Not just the famous ones who everyone knows, the Clark Gables, the Ava Gardners, but the bit players, the maid carrying the tray, the butler, the cowboys in the bar, the third girl from the left in the nightclub. They're all immortal to me. First we only want to be seen, but once we're seen, that's not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.
"A sea of electric lights. It gives me chills to think of it. I don't really remember my parents. Actually just impressions. I remember hot air coming out of vents in the winter, and machines that played music. I remember what computers looked like with the screen lit up. I remember how you could open a fridge, and cold air and light would spill out. Or freezers, even colder, with those little squares of ice in trays. Do you remember fridges?"
"Of course. It's been a while since I've seen one used for anything other than shelving space."
"And they had light inside as well as cold, right? I'm not just imagining this?"
"They had light inside."
None of the older Symphony members knew much about science, which was frankly maddening given how much time these people had had to look things up on the Internet before the world ended.
Crowds had gathered beneath the television monitors. Clark decided that whatever they were looking at, he couldn't face it without a cup of tea. He assumed it was a terrorist attack. He bought a cup of Earl Grey at a kiosk, and took his time adding the milk. This is the last time I'll stir milk into my tea without knowing what happened, he thought, wistful in advance for the present moment, and went to stand with the crowd beneath a television that was tuned to CNN.
"Why did we always say we were going to shoot emails?"
"I don't know. I've wondered that too."
"Why couldn't we just say we were going to send them? We were just pressing a button, were we not?"
"Not even a real button. A picture of a button on a screen."
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about."
"There was not, in fact, an email gun. Although that would've been nice. I would've preferred that."
He found he was a man who repented almost everything, regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light. This was actually the main difference between twenty-one and fifty-one, he decided, the sheer volume of regret.
A few passages were reminders of the cornucopia of small technological miracles we are surrounded by daily... it reminds me of Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine", and its meditation on the design of mundane objects. (Or the old essay I, Pencil - a bit of libertarian propaganda but a reminder of the crazy complexity in even something as mundane as that...) But it also has some of the most gripping scenes of normal people bearing witness at the inflexion point of collapse since Cory Doctorow's When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth.
Coding for Fun and the Culture of Learning - made an entry for my company's engineering blog, about the fun of old 8-bit computers, the comapany's Peer-led classes, and the fun of programming stuff in Processing and p5.js
Fun history of Apple Easter Eggs:

(mentioned on The Daring Fireball's Talk Show podcast...)
SONG TO OYSTERS

I like to eat an uncooked oyster,
Nothing's slicker, nothing's moister.
Nothing's easier on your gorge
Or, when the time comes, to dischorge.

But not to let it too long rest
Within your mouth is always best.
For if your mind dwells on an oyster ...
Nothing's slicker. Nothing's moister.

I prefer my oyster fried.
Then I'm sure my oyster's died.
Roy Blount, Jr.

Tweet Thread on Zion, Illinois. The city layout in the form of a Union Jack is just the beginning of the weirdness... (I wonder why there was a prohibition on tan-colored shoes though...)
I'm not saying there wasn't a democratic mandate for Brexit at the time. I'm just saying if I narrowly decided to order fish at a restaurant that was known for chicken, but said it was happy to offer fish, and so far I've been waiting three hours, and two chefs who promised to cook the fish had quit, and the third one is promising to deliver the fish in the next five minutes whether it's cooked or not, or indeed still alive, and all the waiting staff have spent the last few hours arguing amongst themselves about whether I wanted battered cod, grilled salmon, jellied eels or dolphin kebabs, and if large parts of the restaurant appeared to be on fire but no-one was paying attention to it because they were all arguing about fish, I would quite like, just once, to be asked if I definitely still wanted the fish.
Jay Rayner
(Not sure if original to him or not)