Jun 30

Gilmore no more

About The Handmaid’s Tale, Elisabeth Moss does a really good job. I can’t imagine anyone better to play the part.

However, Alexis Bledel is just great as Ofglen.

I didn’t know she had a role like that in her. Good fucking work making the viewer feel so much in so little screen time.

Jun 29

Time travel

I’m not a millennial and I don’t agree with all of this post, but I am glad someone remembers what it was really like.

The 90’s were so positive, and it seemed like anything and everything was possible for me and humanity.

It doesn’t matter if any of that hope and promise was true. I’ll have more to say about that in a moment. What matters is how it felt.

And how it felt is just as Lindsey describes it. The internet was going to change the world, to improve it for everyone. Knowledge would be set free. The Cold War was over in a fizzle and we no longer lived under the constant dread of nuclear annihilation. We’d finally started getting raises again, and also seemingly solved financial and economic crises once and for all. The Great Moderation was in effect and the economy was on a seemingly eternal rising arc even while the environment improved. Poverty was declining; well-being for everyone was on the upswing. Jobs were plentiful and housing costs were minimal. Violence was decreasing and even racism seemed to be accelerating the pace of its long, slow wane.

Every fucking day you got out of bed it seemed the world was better than the day before.

I can’t find the words to tell you — for those who weren’t there or who are too young to really remember — just how very much different it felt, how much freer, how it seemed as a nation and as individuals that we could really achieve just about anything we cared to given the time.

No, it wasn’t a utopia. There were problems. Many of them. But here’s the difference: it felt like we could and that we would solve them. That’s the important part.

But back to the question of if any of that promise was true.

Most of I think actually was. And I am a cynic, if you didn’t know. The promise was real; those possibilities were capable of being realized. However, most of them would have made the rich somewhat less rich (the most important reason for the destruction of the dream of the 90s), and would’ve made white people just another group rather than the dominant group.

And then there’s now.

Every day you spill out of bed the news is worse. More tragic. More despair-filled. The president is a dangerous buffoon, climate change is accelerating and enormous financial calamities are in our immediate past and in our immediate future. The Left and the Right are beholden to the ideology of neoliberalism at all costs — even at the expense of the lives and futures of all the children and young people now living and still to be born.

The environment is worsening. Extinctions are increasing, and the rate of acceleration of extinctions is also increasing. The biosphere is in mortal danger, and meanwhile cadres of idiots on the Right and the Left believe that humans have no connection to the one thing keeping them alive. The coral reefs are dying and the oceans aren’t far behind.

No one is getting raises though we are told that we are at “full employment.” The rich are receiving tax cuts; the poor are told to go and die. Health care is likely to be stripped from millions of people while large swathes of the Left and the Right are militating for increased hostilities towards Russia, which has thousands of nuclear weapons. Monopolies and monopsonies dominate our lives and the only improvement in individual liberty is when one mega-corporation battles some other mega-corporation and it accidentally happens to benefit the hoi polloi.

And, oh yeah, Bill Cosby got away with raping more than a dozen women and feminism is in retreat.

I don’t understand nostalgia for the 1950s, because nostalgia for that time is mostly based on remembrance of 50s sitcoms by people who are actually too young to recall it in reality.

But I understand nostalgia for the 1990s because then — and especially in the early parts of that decade — it felt like the whole world was getting better, and that it was getting better for everyone — white, black, all people everywhere — and that we might actually be on a path of shared prosperity in an egalitarian society in a world worth living in.

Then came the first at-the-time small blemish on the dream: the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Then 9/11. Then Afghanistan and Iraq; the Patriot Act; neoliberalism ever-tightening around our throats; eternal war, ever-present despair.

Now, we can’t solve our simplest problems and are told that even trying is futile, and we believe it. We feel it. We know it’s true, whether it’s true or not.

So yes, I understand 90s nostalgia, because I remember how it felt to wake up in a nation and in a world where the present did not feel like some third-rate dystopia, and the future did not seem likely to be an even worse dystopia.

Jun 28

User focus

I used to ask about removing user control from software, “How do companies benefit from making their users’ experiences worse?”

But then I realized that it’s the wrong question. It’s not about the users — not really.

Does anyone really believe that Mozilla is attempting to please users by making their software worse, for instance? No, of course they aren’t. The users are an excuse, or a nuisance — at least for those who actually control the browser and its manifestation in the world.

The sociological causes and reasons aren’t single-axis, of course. Part of it is simply that as society itself gets more authoritarian and less free-wheeling, software companies (like everyone else) follow suit.

But another portion is change for the sake of change and yet another reason is that I think developers and designers actually enjoy angering their most ardent fans and most devoted users — because these people are the most demanding, and the most critical.

Pissing this user class off is a goal, because doing so is fulfilling and because since (supposedly) this group does not represent regular users — for some reason deemed the most important — contravening their interests and objectives in using the software is seen as a win, as something that proves that the regular user’s interests are being centered.

I pick on Mozilla and Firefox because I know the most about this company and software, but all of this is true of many other companies as well. However, Firefox is one of the most egregious examples even in a bad bunch.

All of this is of course not at all how software adoption or software choice works. By alienating and wilfully discarding their most ardent advocates, organizations like Mozilla and Microsoft and Apple destroy those who push their products and lead to a manifold increase in adoption and continued use.

This works the other way, too. One of the big reasons for Firefox’s decline is self-inflicted wounds caused by many of their biggest advocates have abandoned the product and its mission.

Buying the claim that destroying the product is being done “for the users” is the narrative they’d prefer you to believe, because it sounds the most honorable. But it’s not the true reason, and pleasing users is not the goal.

Jun 28

Dub dub

My brain is fried from being sick and studying for cert tests, so I need something light to watch for a break.

So I tried Kong: Skull Island.

Holy crap, it has the worst overdubbing of any big budget movie I’ve ever seen. Just terrible sound localization, syncing, and verisimilitude.

I could not even watch it.

When I could’ve done better, you have truly failed.

Also, the miltiary helicopters on the ship didn’t have their rotors tied down and secured, which is SOP.

Jun 27


Jun 27


This is really linguistically and semiotically interesting, but I’m too tired to write about that. It’s also a few years old. Luckily, it’s also hella funny:

“Tinkle outside the binkle.”


Jun 26

Who nose

Today, I blew my nose so hard I could feel air jetting from my eyeball.

That CAN’T be healthy.

Jun 26

Physics envy and vice versa

New Model of Evolution Finally Reveals How Cooperation Evolves.


I haven’t read the paper — don’t have time — but this sounds like another “physicists solve biology” claim. Not saying the result is invalid, but this is a common theme with physicists who barge into other fields, “solve” them and then depart, triumphant — meanwhile, they haven’t contributed much if anything useful or even remotely true.

I really doubt such a simple model will contribute much to the study of the evolution of cooperation, and if it does contribute anything actually useful it’ll be very minor and obvious.

Jun 25

Shifts and rifts

This is an observant comment in a pretty insightful thread overall.

The problem is that video games were at one point an escape from mundane reality. And now mundane reality is so bereft of opportunity that people are pretending to have mundane, banal jobs for fun.

The guys who regularly sink hours into Truck Simulator could be actually driving a truck, for example.

I’m just barely old enough to remember when getting a job with even minimal experience was pretty damn easy. That relative utopia all was on the wane right as I was entering the job market.

And it was so much easier than today. I know, nothing has changed, it’s all the same, just to have beat the street, all the Boomer bromides.

But it’s not the same. It’s a much harder world now.

Interesting comments about how it’s affecting the dating market, too. I’ve noticed this in my own office — the relatively attractive younger guys in my office who have good jobs and decent prospects are just swarmed by the young women interns.

It’s because they have so few choices of men who have the same prospects they do. Society’s changing fast. Going to be changing faster, soon.