Sep 25

Streaming a no go

I remember when the internet was first becoming a thing.

There was a great Qwest commercial shortly thereafter about the future of society with something like the internet in it. It had a woman (if I remember right) standing at a concierge counter asking what movies were available at the hotel.

The conceit I believe was that this future hotel had the internet so the person at the counter said, “We have every movie ever made in any language – ever.”

That’s the future that very much could’ve been but that we’ll never get.

In fact due to copyright and greed, we’re likely only to be able to access tiny and uncontroversial parts of our culture in the future.

Note that this is already occurring.

The difference between what could’ve been and what will occur is so vast it’s almost painful.

I can’t use streaming because 90% of the movies I want to watch just aren’t there. And it’s getting worse, not better.

I had better selection at a crap VHS rental store in a hick town in 1988.

The goal of corporations now is to pillage and pilfer our shared culture and rent it back to us at exorbitant and ever-increasing prices.

And they are doing so with nary a protest from us.

Perhaps in that respect we deserve what we get.



Here you can see the history of automation, in one graph.


From here. Notice how recessions cause mail volume to fall, thus mail per employee. Automation in the postal space is only medium difficulty, so it’s a good proxy for the “average” job. By this very limited measure, productivity is now a little over three times higher per employee than in 1930.

A novel


[A] novel is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy. The reader and the writer make the book together. No other art can do that. No other art can capture the essential inwardness of human life.

Paul Aster

(That said, in the future VR will be able to do that too, but oh how the traditionalists will howl. As they always do.)

Sep 25


When I was naught but a tiny whippersnapper, I thought that all movies that featured characters at different ages had to use the same actors – so in my mind if a film showed a character at six years old and then as a 40-year-old, the filmmakers must have waited 34 whole years to complete the movie.

Therefore it was amazing to me as a five-year-old that any movies like this ever got made.

I figured it out not long after, of course.

Deceptive I thought it was to do anything else. I don’t know why.

Sep 24

All bubbles

I’ve seen claims that the tulip mania that occurred in Holland in the 1630s was rational. I’ve seen the same claim for the housing bubble in the US in the early- to mid-200s. I’ve also often seen the assertion– totally revisionist and ridiculous – that “no one could have known!”Soap_bubbles

I guess you can define “rational” any way that you want, but bubbles are rational only if you believe that asset prices can rise to infinity.

Doesn’t sound all that rational to me – and notice that I did not buy a house during the bubble though I certainly could have afforded one where I lived at the time. This is because I was aware of it.  So were many others.

Just as I was aware of the stock market bubble in late ‘90s and early 2000s. A story about that at another time, perhaps.

Not a great act of genius in either case, though. Some things are just obvious.

So many people are bankrupted and impoverished by bubbles that they’d like to believe that the actions that occurred during the boom – including their own individual actions – were rational.

imagesPerhaps on an individual level there is a marginally-applicable case for a small part of this due to inequalities of knowledge.

However, the powers-that-be like to impute rationality for their marks so they can avoid helping their victims, while at the same time claiming irrationality in their own affairs to avoid criminal prosecutions and to prevent the government from taking away their toys (that is, the ability to blow up the economy at will).

Are there any financial or asset bubbles right now? I only know the US all that well, but there is one, but it’s not that large as bubbles go.

Tech is again in a bubble, but only a relatively-small part funded by VC. When it blows up – which it will – it won’t have much effect on the economy.

Sep 24

YA again

So true.

What do these critics and academics even mean when they call adult literature serious? This descriptor gets thrown around but never defined. Were I to make the same reductive assessment of all adult literature that the genre’s critics make of YA fiction, then the serious novel would be about a middle-aged person struggling with career collapse and sexual frustration. I don’t want to belittle these topics, but they’re only serious to sexually frustrated middle-aged people, coincidentally being the same narrow demographic that adult literature seems to serve. And they clearly don’t read as many books as their kids.

It amazes me that supposed experts in critical theory, textual analysis and semiotics cannot for the life of them recognize the use and societal relevance of large-scale allegory and metaphor in works of sf or YA. It’s almost like they, say, are a little biased. But that couldn’t be, right?

Do read the Guardian piece, though. The conclusion is just great.

Sep 24

Contraria contrariis curantur

Truly free speech is equally imperiled at different times and in different ways because both the Left and the Right hate it when it assails their goals and ideologies.

On balance, I think the Right is worse — as is typical — but pretending the Left isn’t often just as eager to ban speech that displeases them doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny.

Free speech is more often now constrained by corporate action than by the government directly, and this is something we are told we should not be concerned with.

“It has nothing to do with free speech if the First Amendment wasn’t violated!” as it is usually said.

I hear this from people on the Left more often than the Right, but it is widespread across the political spectrum.

But tell the worker fired for attempting to organize a union that their right to free speech was not violated. Or tell it to someone who gets canned for a mere blog post.

It’s a-ok, apparently, if a corporation does it according to most people.

I’m always a bit shocked at how willing people are to accept authoritarianism and neo-fascism as long as it is couched in the right language, framed by the right key words.

Sep 23

Wastin’ time


I’m tired of explaining to men that the feminist movement will, in fact, benefit them as well as women. I’m tired of trying to hawk gender equality like I’m some kind of car salesman showing off a shiny new sedan, explaining all of its bells and whistles. I’m tired of smiling through a thousand thoughtless microaggressions, tired of providing countless pieces of evidence, tired of being questioned on every. single. damn. thing. I’m tired of proving that microaggressions exist, tired of proving that I’m unfairly questioned and asked for proof. For a movement that’s centered around the advancement and empowerment of women, why do I feel like I’m supposed to spend so damn much of my time carefully considering how what I say and do will be taken by men?

I’m a man and I agree with this and the entire piece. If I were a woman, I’d probably be a radical separatist because it seems like the majority of men just don’t get it.

I’m not a feminist ally because it’s stylish, because it’ll get me laid (trust me: it really doesn’t, quite the opposite!) or because I have any daughters or because I have a sister.

I’m an ally because it’s only right that women get an equal shot at life, at achieving their dreams, at the pursuit of happiness.

Wasn’t there something about that in our constitution somewhere?

Sep 23

Speaking of networking

For one project I’d ordered a very expensive piece of networking gear (a Riverbed Steelhead, if you must know).

The UPS delivery driver arrived to deliver it and was carrying it in his arms. Which was fine, but he was curious about what it was.

I said, “It’s a Riverbed, a piece of networking gear that makes networks operate faster.”*

He said, “Sounds expensive. What does something like that cost?”

“About $30,000 for the one in your hands.”

“Holy shit, if I’d know that I’d brought it up on the hand truck!” he said as he handed it to me.

Yes, Riverbeds are expensive. Also worth it if you need one.

*Not quite technically true, but there’s no way to explain what a Riverbed really does in a casual conversation with a busy driver.