Doug Wyatt Guitars, from a few years ago

A while back, on a trip to Gatlinburg with my family, I came across a music shop called “Doug Wyatt Guitars.” As an avid guitarist who can’t, like, JUST PASS A GUITAR STORE BY LIKE MY WIFE WANTED ME TO, I stopped in – and was rewarded greatly.

For lo, not only was yon proprietor an actual luthier – yes, he makes guitars – but he had a collection of synthesizers just … not just on the wall, but EVERYWHERE. Stacked on top of each other. Synths I’d played and wanted back in the day, sure, but also synths I’d heard of… and here they were, in the flesh, either being restored or in working condition.

Doug and I talked for a while, and it turns out we shared musical tastes in a lot of ways. He was awesome – and apparently thought enough of me to let me play around with some of the gear, including some really expensive stuff that was way out of my league. Here’re some photos!

Doug Wyatt, showing his mad Rush cred
What madness is all THIS?
Note the WORKING Odyssey….
I don’t even know what some of these ARE!
Not enough room to actually mount all the history…

Facts are more important than opinions.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez catapulted herself into the limelight by being a firebrand, a torch-carrier for Democratic Socialism (which, I’m informed, is different than “Socialism,” and is definitely different than National Socialism), and an interview in which she offered this gem:

I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.

CBS News, interview with Anderson Cooper, 2019/Jan/6

Now, let’s be straight up here: there’s more context to this quote than just the quote itself. She actually said that facts were important, and she acknowledged that she’s fuzzy on a few numbers here and there – apparently by orders of magnitude, but that’s okay.

After all: what’s the US national budget? I can manufacture a number in my head offhand that sounds vaguely right, but it turns out that I was wrong by a … few trillion as well. So never mind that she said that the Pentagon spent more than sixteen trillion more than the actual national budget as a whole – the idea is that there are really big numbers involved, and perhaps we should be thinking about that instead of fretting over whether a junior Representative knows everything right off the bat.

However, it does speak to her character that she’s willing to claim things without, like, knowing them; for example, I just tested myself in the previous paragraph, by asking myself: “What is the national budget?” and coming up with an answer… and then, you know, looking it up. I didn’t write my answer down, because that’s a truth claim, and I don’t like making truth claims without data.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez apparently has no such qualms, even when she has actual agency in the government of the United States.

Pardon me, but yikes.

Facts are wayyyyy more important than opinions, because facts give us the basis upon which to form those opinions. Facts should be able to change our opinions.

The idea that being “morally right” is more important than “precisely right” is… terrifying. How do you know if you’re morally right without reality backing you up? If reality disagrees with you, are you going to choose your morality over, like, what’s real?

That’s living in a fantasy land, where one branch of government spends more than six times what our actual government takes in every year. Where unicorns sprout elves made of gold. Where what would help one borough in one city will help every person in every village in a country that consists of more than 3.5 million square miles – projecting the needs of roughly 1.3% of a population across the remaining 98.7% of it.

I respect Representative Ocasio-Cortez’ chutzpah. I admire her fire. As a person, I’m sure she’s admirable – we need people willing to stand for moral positions, even if we disagree with them.But it’s important that morality is based on facts, absolutely and irrevocably. If the facts are wrong, point that out… with other facts. Correct the perceptions. Adjust the positions accordingly.

Don’t make up stuff to justify yourself. It’s one thing to be wrong, but another thing to stick to your guns despite your data being wrong.

In the real world, we call that “lying.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez can accuse President Trump all she likes – but unless her positions change as her knowledge of actual, precise, correct facts change, she’s lying too.

Newsblur; Fricassee; old friends – 14/Feb/2019

Things I’m thinking about:

RSS Feeds

I’ve started using Newsblur again. I shut off Facebook a while back for various reasons (nothing drastic, just… tired, mostly), so my news has been supplied by a fairly limited set of channels.

Newsblur fixes that. It’s not just Newsblur, of course; you can use any of a number of feed readers, but Newsblur is the one that works best for me.

I’m enjoying it so far.

With that said: if you know of any sites that are new, flashy, interesting, relevant for … well, news, visual arts, philosophy, creating music, Python or Java programming, let me know! I may already have them in my feed, but I might not, and I want to grow my list of sources if I can.

Fricassee!

I looked up what a fricassee was, because I used it as a sort of joke dish. However, my use was copied from, like, Bugs Bunny back in the 1970s; I had no idea what a fricassee actually is.

Now I do:

A dish of stewed or fried pieces of meat served in a thick white sauce.

We learn together! (Unless, of course, you already knew what a fricassee was.)

Old Friends

I have no intention of living in the past – the “good old days” were the “bad old days” too – but I miss those friends with whom I’ve lost communication.

Social networking helps in a few cases, but it’s also so…ephemeral that it doesn’t really establish the connections that made us friends in the first place.

C’est la vie – a phrase I use far too often, I think.

The Grammy Awards ignored Rock and Metal!, Gordon Ramsey, Larry Hogan on CNN

Things I’m thinking about:

The Grammies

An article in “Ultimate Classic Rock” was entitled “How the 2019 Grammy Awards Basically Ignored Rock and Metal“.

I’m… a little bit surprised, considering how rap and hip-hop (are those different?) have been ignored by the Grammy Awards ever since they became significant art forms, and rock – historically – has not especially been ignored. Sure, it’s been ridiculous sometimes – I’m not really a super-duper Metallica fan but Jethro Tull’s Crest of a Knave should never have gotten the nod over ..and Justice for All.

But the Grammies at least have had rock and metal winners, regardless of how insincere those wins might have been. So… okay, 2018’s awards were not rock- or metal- focused, let’s wait 30 years and then complain, okay?

I’m not even really a rap fan, but the lack of rap artists winning Grammy awards is ridiculous to me.

Gordon Ramsey

I’m a big fan of Gordon Ramsey (and cooking shows in general, really) despite not being able to cook worth a flip.

I like Ramsey even though I find his confrontational style unnecessary in a lot of cases – because by golly I think he knows what he’s doing and I think he means well

“A Dose of Reality” by Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland

Governor Larry Hogan, of Maryland, posted a really nice article on CNN, well worth reading: “A dose of reality for Trump, Pelosi and Schumer.”

Worth reading not only by the principals named, but by everyone. if I had any advice for the American populace, it might very well include “… everyone just calm down. Truth will be known, and God doesn’t care if your side wins.”

Blackface, Journalists not being “Journalists”, AI Title Generator – 2019/Feb/11

Things I’m thinking about lately

Blackface

This thing about blackface among Virginia political leaders is.. interesting and frustrating.

Look: blackface is problematic. At some point, the culture matters, but it’s always been about poking fun of African-American people – it’s never been good. Ever.

But now we’re seeing another witchhunt, and some of it has implications beyond what its natural purview should be.

Remember a few years ago, when a girl wore a Chinese dress and was slammed for “cultural appropriation”? We’re looking at that being the natural extension here, again.

We’re looking at something that says that a little girl who dresses up as Serena Williams – the tennis star – is crippling her future, by opening herself up for an accusation of “blackface.”

That’s not even silly. Some of the accusations going around in Virginia center around a dance contest where someone dressed up as Michael Jackson, makeup included.

That’s homage, not insult.

I’ve no interest in defending someone being racist, but we need to remember that the absolutes here are disastrous.

The Media Screwed Up – Color Me Surprised

Catlin Flanagan published “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story” in The Atlantic. It’s brutal, vicious, and right on point. Included are these two absolute smashing quotes:

By Saturday, the story had become so hot, and the appetite for it so deep, that some news outlets felt compelled to do some actual reporting.

…and this overlong paragraph, that would be devastating to any journalist who had the guts to read it …

How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.

Journalism has been absolutely wrecked by outlets screeching for clicks instead of keeping to their purpose of informing the public. It’s what got Trump elected. It’s amplifying hatred of the other – when “the other” is the fellow who doesn’t agree with everything you say politically.

I hope journalists are paying attention.

Speaking of paying attention…

AI Article Title Generator

BJ Campbell wrote a paywalled article on Medium, called “AI Article Title Generator.” In it, he suggests a business whose sole goal is to optimize titles for clicks, with said articles only having to be tangentially related to the titles. It’s sarcastic… but right on. I’ve thought of similar things, sadly, but not enunciated them… and had I said them, I wouldn’t have said them as eloquently as BJ did.

I write terrible titles, because I’m not trying to maximize traffic through clicks. I’m trying to write information, so I try to write titles that say what the article in question is actually about.

Since I tend to write composite editorials – like this one – that means my titles tend to be really boring. C’est la vie.

Thoughts of the Day, 2019/Feb/8

Things I’m thinking lately:

Teamwork

You can’t want me to excel and then get in my way.

Well, you can, but you… shouldn’t.

Date Formats

Yes, I find I prefer year/month/day. It’s inherently sortable. It’s also really common in computing, and should be more common.

Headings

I’m trying to switch back to the headings format. It’s easier to read, but not write… but I’m trying to be okay with encouraging easier reading.

Not Twitter

Most of these “thoughts of the day” would be decent tweets, I think, but they might be too long. I’m not sure. I’m not really a Twitter person. The platform tends to de-emphasize nuance too much for my tastes.

Bad Habits

I just realized something unfortunate: when I’m in flow – that creative state where your brain is churning along at full speed on a problem – I have a habit of grazing for food. The more I achieve flow state, the more I want snacks in easy reach. For someone who’s trying to force themselves back into some semblance of decent shape, that’s not good.

Volt, considering moving away from WordPress

Ah, new things and directions….

  • Someone on IRC this morning mentioned Volt.ws, a messaging client available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It’s really tiny. It’s also missing a lot of functionality still, but it can connect to Slack… and it’s tiny. It still doesn’t support Slack private messages, but once it gets those (which should be in February 2019) it might be my preferred Slack client, over Slack’s own and Franz… because Slack’s client is awful on system resources and Franz is worse, despite being a better client.
  • I have been trying to figure out ways to move on from WordPress. It’s not really WordPress’ fault… I want Asciidoctor support, for one thing, and I’m rather disheartened at relying on an application written in PHP. But the alternatives require more time than I have right now, and I’m really not thinking I could personally design a good user interface if I wrote my own software. I’ve considered Jekyll and Hugo, but I’d really want to work out the comments mechanism before moving on. Plus, I am used to running software live; a static site feels odd.
  • I wonder how many programming advances have been created in an attempt to simply avoid boredom on the part of the programmer.
  • I’ve been considering trying to echo these things on Medium just to see what the differences in exposure would be.

Outrage on Social Media articles; State of the Union

Things I’m thinking about, after switching back to a list-based list of thoughts because Gutenberg headers annoy me:

  • Gutenberg headers annoy me. I’m thinking of switching back to my comfortable editing process where I’m not constantly griping about my editor. It’s a flow thing.
  • Good article from Medium, paywalled (so if you don’t have a Medium account that you pay for – it’s $5/month – you may have to open this in a private window): The Power of Not Retweeting. Both the article and the subject are recommended. It’s very easy to be outraged by something that lacks context, and the context might make all the difference in how you actually react – but by the time you get context, it’s too late, you’ve committed your reaction to history and told all your friends.
  • Another excellent Medium article, this time from the New York Times’ Medium account: This Is Your Brain Off Facebook. It’s a little ironic that the NYT published this, given how manipulative they are for their readers… but the king of manipulation is still CNN in my opinion. Those guys should be ashamed. Their editors should be doubly ashamed.
  • I did not watch the State of the Union, but having people tell me that I shouldn’t watch it as a form of protest annoyed me and tempted me to endure the farce anyway. I want our politicians to love country over party, and that’s… not what we have right now.
  • Why didn’t I want to watch the State of the Union? Lots of reasons:
    • It’s Trump. His mode of speaking annoys me greatly. His inability to stay on topic annoys me. His stupid self-propping annoys me. I used to think George W. Bush wasn’t a particularly effective speaker because he always seemed to be searching for words – and now I find that I’d far prefer a President who actually searched for the right words to one who blathers out whatever foolish crap crosses his brain at any given time.
    • Do I need another reason? Oh, yeah.
    • The endless politicization of everything, and the seeming need to turn everything into a protest. I’m all for protesting police brutality, but sometimes a football game (or a State of the Union address) is … just a football game, and the protests don’t really make a difference besides signalling.
    • Circling back: I don’t trust Trump… or his opponents. They both lie. They both choose truths based on what plays to their bases. What’s funny is that Trump told us what he’d do in his campaign… and he’s actually held to that pretty strongly, for better or for worse. That’s somewhat commendable. His political opponents are changing their long-held opinions on lots of things just so they can oppose Trump – I’ve said before that he should just start echoing their campaign positions just to force them to change stances.
    • This is a lot less relevant of a list than I thought it might be.
    • Every State of the Union I’ve ever watched has bored me! There, there’s my best reason right there.

Super Bowl, Commercials, Gutenberg Headings

Okay, I’m going to try the header format thing again, because it’s something new and different (for me) in WordPress’ Medium-style editor. But here are the things I’m thinking about:

The Super Bowl

I tried to think of a cute pun for the title, but “The Super Bah” was dumb. I came up with others, but that’s still the best of them, and it’s not any good.

The Super Bowl, Part II

You let us down, Jared. I kept thinking you were a University of Georgia graduate too (just like Todd Gurley, the stud running back who was underused during the game).

Why did I think you were a Georgia QB? Because you kinda sucked on the biggest stage football has. You killed your team, Jared. You killed your team.

The only saving grace for the Rams was that the refs rather clearly wanted the Patriots to win, with a runner being called “defenseless” after he caught the ball, to preserve a drive when the Rams’ impressive defense got a critical and impressive stop.

I enjoy defensive battles… but this was a battle of a good defense against a good offense (when New England had the ball) and a good defense against an overmatched toddler (when Los Angeles had the ball.)

I wish the refs hadn’t given the Rams the win against New Orleans.

(After rereading this section, I sound a lot angrier than I actually am – I was neutral about the game, and thought mostly that Jared Goff was outmatched, as he apparently was. I’m okay with the Patriots winning; they earned it. The Rams defense was stellar. The offense was… less than stellar.)

Best Commercial

The best commercial of the night was a local one, for Michael and Sons, an HVAC company local to the Virginia area.

It had two football players (kids, like pre-teens), with one “tackling” the other – pretty gently, it was like they told him to push the other one down – and, after the tackle, a thrown ball hits the tackler in the backside. The ref then waves “incomplete pass!” — just like the Saints/Rams refs, except with a parody.

We’re not normally Michael and Sons customers – not only was our home built with a different HVAC company, but we actually know the owner of yet another HVAC company – but dang, that commercial was so on point that we talked about switching.

Hopefully a video will show up online of that commercial (and hopefully I remember to look for it so I can link to it.)

The ASMR commercial was the other notable commercial. Apparently people were creeped out by it. I don’t know – I found it fascinating, mostly because I didn’t recognize the ASMR aspect of it until later. But it was for a … beer, I think, so maybe as a commercial it was intriguing but not all that effective, because I might switch HVAC companies but I am not drinking that beer.

Gutenberg

Now that I’ve used the heading stuff in WordPress’ editor, my first impression is that I do not like it. I’ve been trying to give this editor a spin for a while, to give it a fair shake… and while it has some nice features (pasting a URL over selected text converts it to a link!) it’s mostly annoying

Open Source Blog Software

I keep wanting to move away from WordPress, because I’ve been using it forever and I keep thinking there’s a Platonic ideal that isn’t WordPress.

However, most of them are in PHP – violating the Platonic ideal – and the ones that remain are either static site generators (Jekyll, Hugo) or node.js implementations (ghost), or things that are documented really inconsistently (typo/publify). I thought about roller, but…

Intersections with Politics

Things I’m thinking about:

I’m changing the format up today, because one of the entries is longer than usual.

Trump and the Patriots

It’s really annoying that people are mad at the New England Patriots because Trump likes them. I dislike the Patriots myself – I nearly cost myself a job after they lost to the Giants – but for people to root against them just because of Trump speaks to a lack of basic reasoning on their parts. I don’t like thinking that my fellow humans are idiots. They’re acting like idiots.

Redemption is Being Considered Impossible

Speaking of politics, this thing with the governor of Virginia is making me angry.

Look, I’m not here to excuse the governor’s… anything. I don’t know exactly what happened; I think he’s been accused of being in either blackface or a KKK hood in an unidentified picture from a yearbook in 1984, and as I understand it, first he confirmed it, then denied it, then apologized, or… something.

Being in blackface is dumb. Being in a KKK hood is even dumber. Let’s get that out of the way immediately; I can’t condone either one, and won’t, even as a joke. Jokes are supposed to be funny, not threatening or harmful. Whoever was in the picture really should be ashamed of it, period, whether it was meant seriously or in jest.

But here’s the thing: it was in 1984. Thirty-four years ago! When he was a student! He may have been an idiot then – but who is he now?

With all the outrage, is the assertion that he’s a racist today? That’s what it looks like and should be. “Resign because you did something dumb 34 years ago” is… an idiotic thing to say, no matter what party he’s a member of (Democrat, if you’re curious) or what party the ones crying for him to resign are members of (both Democrat and Republican).

The implication is something we’ve seen shadows of before: There is no such thing as redemption. We’ve seen it mostly from the Left, although the Right is starting to pick it up as a useful political tool.

But the Left had better watch itself, very carefully… because if there’s no such thing as redemption, the Democratic Party itself is damned.

This is the party that fought for slavery… and after slavery was made illegal, overthrew the Republican government in North Carolina to restore the old order.

If there’s no redemption possible, then what in the world would make the Democrats think they can ever remove that stain from their history? They’re saying people can’t change – in 34 years, Governor Northam can’t have changed how he views people with different skin colors, Brett Kavanaugh can’t have become a decent man since he was in high school, and so forth. (Apparently Bill Clinton’s the only human being for whom redemption is a thing?)

If people can’t change, then people who claim the label associated with slavery are endorsing slavery. That’s the Democratic party, folks. There’s no sea change possible, is what they’re saying… and they chose a label that is by their own declaration and action irrevocably associated with endorsing slavery.

We’ve hit the slippery slope. Pandora’s Box has been opened, as I feared… I just hope that the cancer it represents eats its way to the extremes and leaves the middle confused but otherwise unaffected… until the extremes are eliminated and the middle ground can take care of its own with love and reason again.