09-24-09 - Indian Summer

We're having a little indian summer in Seattle. I keep thinking it's the last nice day before the drear kicks in, but we just keep getting more hot sunny days. I really wish I could get out and get a good bike ride in while the weather is still good, but I don't feel like I can take the hour or two off work, just fucking being alive and doing the minimum of errands takes so much damn time.

A few days ago when we had a nice hot night, I went late night skinny dipping in lake wash. (lake wash in the P.N.dub bitches). It's long been a dream of mine, and it finally just happened. All my fantasies are become reality these days, effortlessly, easily, they just happen.

My fucking phone continues to randomly decide not to send texts (they just go into pending state and then never retry). It keeps leading to bad social misunderstandings because someone will send me a text, I'll reply, but it doesn't actually go out, so they think I'm just ignoring them, and then I think they're ignoring me.

My continued boycott of Facebook and Apple is becoming more ridiculous by the minute. Aside from facebook being specifically designed to suck your time, my biggest complaint about it and Myspace is the fact that they are not open and try to trick you into registering by making them visible to members only. I try to boycott all web sites that are members only, so GORP, trails.com, etc etc shit that won't show you their content without registration can fucking suck my cock. There are bands that only list their tour dates on their facebook site now, restaurants that put their current menu on facebook, etc. Facebook is not part of the open internet! All of you need to get some balls and join the boycott with me.

I'd like to be able to set up Google to never show me results in protected sites like Experts Exchange (fuckers) or the IEEE (fuckers) or Facebook (fuckers). There should be a "free content only" option. We should have a "free the internet" movement.

I am a big believer in not trying to understand things that are too complex to be understood or that you don't have enough time to really dig into or that you don't have all the information about. If you try to reason about something without a full understanding, it's easy to make very big mistakes. In those cases it's much better just to back up and take an empirical holistic view.

(the exception of course is researchers who are trying to expand our area of understanding, but they should also not be taking cutting edge research and telling the public about it or making conclusions from it; basically my contention is that research into complex topics like the body should have a waiting period where the scientists can hash it out before we try to draw conclusions from it)

For example, I know sugar and fat are bad for me (in large quantities). My body feels bad when I eat it. I don't think we have a solid understanding of all the metabolic pathways involved in digestion and how the body's internal regulatory systems respond to various inputs and how that all interacts with your exercise schedule, and I think that paying too much attention to the limited set of details that you might know can only lead to skewed pictures and leaps of logic that don't match the simple big picture. I really don't believe in paying much attention to all the nonsense about lycopenes or omega-3's or alpha-stupidol or whatever. Maybe some of that shit would be good for you, maybe not, the science is incredibly weak. It's funny to me the exact same people who will make fun of the now-disproven food fads such as low-sodium and low-cholesterol are the same people who try to eat almonds and blueberries and believe that canard about red wine being good for you because it appears to benefit something in some specific pathway, without understanding how it affects feedback systems long term.

For another example, when the Fed was holding interest rates so low for a long time when we weren't in recession and everybody was convinced they could get rich quick by buying a house, you should be able to see something is going horribly wrong. You may not understand the exact mechanisms of the financial system that will lead to problems (in fact, maybe nobody understands all the factors at play and self-balancing mechanisms and positive and negative feedback loops in the financial system any more), but focusing too much on logical details and making risk analyses and macroeconomic models can easily lead you to false conclusions. I think you see the truth better by just ignoring all that rigor and detail and stepping back to the big picture and saying "something is obviously wrong here and it doesn't matter if whether or not I can say exactly what or how it will blow up".

Another great example is politics and world affairs; it's tempting for the smart rationalists to think "hey if we topple this regime or back these rebels or sabotage this political campaign then these other things will logically follow" , but it's just too complex a system and they fail to account for various factors, and through the blidness of logical reasoning without a full model they wind up making mistakes that are very large.

It's another thing that was really hammered home for me by poker. Yes if you really really understand what's going on, then you can reason from logical first principles and come to new conclusions (BTW you probably don't really understand what's going on, so don't do this). Failing that, you are best off using very simple empirical concepts aka "common wisdom" and "rules of thumb" and such. If you try to figure out how to play using logic and math without 100% understanding, you will be much worse off than if you just followed the wives tales.

Commuting fucking blows so bad. I've been waking up really happy recently, full of energy and peace. Especially after a night spent with N I wake up in a state of bliss with just a content glow. I have coffee, read the paper, eat eggs, and I'm in love with the world and the fresh air and the sunshine. And then it's all wiped away and replaced with weariness and anger.

I've been doing really shitty work for RAD recently. I go in and try to make myself focus, but my mind just wanders, I write a little code and just lose track of where I am. I'm sure a lot of it is just because I've been absolutely exhausted every day for the past month because of backpacking or camping or just because I'm staying up super late with N every night painting the town red. But it makes me wonder if my days as a productive coder are done. And even if they're not done now, maybe they will be soon.

I definitely find that the happier I am in my outside life, the more I take care of my body, the more I socialize and have hobbies and exercise - the less I want to work and the less I can focus on work. I'm most productive when my outside life just blows and I'm lonely and I neglect my body and just sit at the computer all the time.

There's this myth that happier more balanced coders are more productive. Bullshit. The family man with a social life who exercises is maybe putting in 4 solid hours. The nerd who slams caffeine and never leaves his desk and turns into a throbbing brain with an atrophied body (like a third stage guild navigator) is way way way more productive. Yes, the nerd might wreck his body or burn out and not be able to work at all any more, but that's not my concern if I'm an employer - at that point I can just fire him and get a new nerd. There's this myth that exercise gives you energy; yes, it does, sort of, but it's energy that makes me want to run around outside, not energy that makes me want to sit inside and write code. It doesn't even have to do with time necessarily, I can actually feel that when my brain is happy, when it's bursting with contentment and excitement like it has been recently, it can't think clearly and it's not interested in diving into deep contemplation.

I never want to manage people, I tried it, I can't do it. Some day if I can't code or manage, I pretty much have to leave software. But I have no idea what else I could ever do with myself. In some ways this industry feels like a dead end.


Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

I love a good boycott, and I also boycott Apple and Facebook. Solidarity!

cam said...

I too boycott those guys. The trick with Expert's Exchange though is just to scroll riiiight down the bottom. Still, it's an awful site.

cbloom said...

Good to know I'm not alone. My friends here think it's very self-defeating. It certainly doesn't feel like there's a strong enough movement to do any good.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Peer pressure can be powerful; maybe that's the real secret of pair programming and code reviews and demo days.

My problem is that I rarely feel like finishing anything. The fun part is having the idea and minimally proving it, but the standards of finishing are so high these days. I dread the last half of the work.

Aaron said...

Boycotting Facebook is like boycotting IM. Though I know you're also against IM, it can be super powerful. There is a class of communication that is below the importance of what you would blog, just little crap. FB is perfect for that. I totally view (and use) FB like a media-enabled instant messenger (but without a specific user I'm typing to). It's a shitload more efficient than manually IM'ing a funny video or article I just read to my 20 friends and people I sorta vaguely know. I don't have to think about who to send it to or anything. That it's not part of the open internet or searchable from the outside is fine... what on earth would I search FB for? There's nothing of real value on there. That's not the purpose. I was a long time FB holdout myself, but used properly FB is pretty awesome. Granted, once Wave is out there maybe we won't need FB anymore, and certainly THAT will be searchable... you'll be able to search for meaningful stuff in other people mindless drivel to your hearts content!

Aaron said...

Ah, and the other good thing about FB is it scales with your desired level of involvement. Wanna lurk? Go for it. Wanna post a little bit here and there? Have at it. Wanna update your precious little 'status' and tell people how your emo self is feeling every couple hours? Er, have at it, weirdo. Oh and if you want to yip about your precious emo self every 5 minutes, then you use Twitter. But then it's just a tool too, see: Iran Street Protests / Twitter.

cbloom said...

"There's nothing of real value on there."

This is the problem - people are starting to put actual content on FB now, which IMO is innapropriate, but since they're locked into their FB account and using that page all the time, it's the easiest most logical place for them to post real content, so they do.

cbloom said...

"My problem is that I rarely feel like finishing anything. The fun part is having the idea and minimally proving it, but the standards of finishing are so high these days. I dread the last half of the work."

Yeah, I've often thought about just prototyping ideas and then hiring people to finish them, but I think that's just an idle fantasy.

Aaron said...

Mm, good point. Seems kinda weird, you'd think bands would want to post their stuff in a way that got seen outside of FB too (using the band posting tour-date thing as an example). But that relies on intelligence to do the right thing, so that's gonna fail. I guess the only option is making it all google-searchable and visible w/o logging in unless you choose to block it. Though, that bumps up against the "only my friends see what i'm posting" illusion.

cbloom said...

Wave FTW hopefully.

old rants