Category Archives: Gimcrackery

Nonsense. Bunk. Leftovers. However you want to call it. These posts usually cover my nichijou.

If I were a teacher

Some time last week, I had a delightfully twisted brainwave. I wish that I had the chops to design and teach a portion of the standard high-school English curriculum just to incorporate a unit that I would christen “Offensive Writing / Defensive Reading.”

The endgame of said unit would be to prepare students against manipulation when consuming media. The most engaging path to learning this power is to engage in some shadiness yourself. I daresay that students would find delight in this half-malicious study.

  • We begin by studying propaganda – written, spoken, and depicted. Students will be given a couple of simple propaganda projects to practice (and experience) amplification and distortion.
  • We progress into op-eds, a much longer study. Students will produce essays deliberately and fallaciously misconstruing reality, learning to artfully deploy and deceive.
  • The final portion of this incorporates public speaking, splitting the class in half. We choose an issue and have each half choose a side. Then, each side prepares 2 cases.
    • The first case is objective, carefully researched, and generally “defensive.”
    • The second case is mendacious and slippery, bordering on the intellectually dishonest (like the loudest radio show hosts) – generally “offensive.”
    • We hold two rounds of debate, complementing offense and defense on both sides to let both halves experience both attacking and being attacked.

Great care must be spent choosing topics that are not hot-button current events. Historical, well-documented, but non-common-knowledge events are good candidates. There is a nonzero chance that students will sustain some offense (or even trauma) along the way. And if any student is unlucky enough to believe some of the crap that comes of these teachings (e.g. “what if Jonathan Swift is right about eating children?”), it may calcify as a lifelong impediment in determining truth. That would be the ultimate failure in teaching.



It’s a bold move, being wishy-washy

I was roving across LinkedIn today and came across the line “My passion is people.” It sounds confident, self-assured, and succinct. It’s not insincere or arrogant. It makes a good impression without pigeonholing he / she who utters this phrase.

What am I? What kind of blurb headlines my LinkedIn self?

“I don’t have strong opinions either way.”

Here is the pinnacle of wishy-washiness, the ill-defined jawline in congress with the wobbly lower lip. This is a fellow you don’t want to hire. Perhaps he’s worth something for the collaborative spirit he’s sure to have, but it’s no good to take pride in lack of character.

“I like making things work.”

Who doesn’t? Next applicant.

“I value invisibility.”

This sounds arrogant. You think you’re a master valet to old money? Actually, what does this even mean? If you want to be invisible, why should we hire you?

“Maintainability is my joy.”


etc. etc.

I could spout these smelly aphorisms all day and not come any closer to something useful. The above headings are all true, but they’re no use in networking.

Never mind faith and proselytizing – works are the thing I must show. I would do well to really ramp up my OSS game.


A silly wish to transform policing

I write this fully aware that I have a nasty authoritarian streak and zero civic training. These are sketches of a crazy rando who dreams about nicer things, but lacks the power and vision to make them materialize.

And as always, I could be totally wrong and just suffering from Silicon Valley Syndrome (“throw more money and tech at the problem instead of thinking of simpler human solutions”).

We must begin by solving the human authentication problem. Suppose humankind can develop avatars that can represent people in the real world. Then we must in tandem develop some sufficiently secure scheme to make sure that your avatar cannot be usurped, cannot be taken over, cannot be misrepresented, cannot be masqueraded as. Verifying that an avatar maps one-to-one to exactly one particular human being must be fast, accessible, and highly accurate.

Obviously, this presupposes that we perfect all the plumbing needed to deploy masses of cyborg avatars. Robotics and highly available internet connectivity would have to scale much larger and much quicker than they have historically. I imagine a lot of jury-rigging ad-hoc infrastructure solutions in rural areas. I’m going to hand-wave all these questions away in pursuit of the bigger picture.

From there, any interested state (county, municipality?) could contract with the avatar-makers to work out a distributed scheme that ensures every avatar is always recording what it sees and does. Since these avatars will be extensions of individual human beings, the avatars do not themselves have any innate right to privacy. Avatars do not need worry about forgetting to turn off body cameras in the restroom. If your proxy is just a soulless subservient extension of yourself, there is never a good reason to tamper with its record-keeping. Nevertheless, control must be given either to the masses or to a totally apolitical / nonprofit / unaligned third party to guard against the worst case.

We arrive at the conclusion. Policing can be done entirely remotely but in a way that still guarantees that every officer of the peace is individual identifiable and accountable for his or her actions. This removes essentially all immediate physical risk from an officer’s day-to-day work. Therefore the officer should never be discouraged from acting generally and should always be discouraged from overextending. With no danger to life and limb, all excuses for police brutality (flimsy as they may already be in the status quo) should vanish. Unnecessarily roughshod treatment at the hands of an avatar will be captured in the public record and duly scorned.

There are many problems here that I’m slowly turning over in my head.

  1. Officers bound and determined to be bad (most common example: being racially selective) can abuse the system just as easily (if not more so). This is only somewhat offset by the always-on body cams. The public does not have the time to monitor all video feeds 24/7 to detect patterns of racism etc. etc. and it has been a historical toss-up as to who can reasonably have oversight on this.
  2. Better-prepared criminals no longer have any incentive to hold back if resisting arrest. A maimed avatar is a much lesser sin than a deceased police officer, so if legislation does not keep pace, a dynamic may well develop in which criminals are always incentivized to disable / “kill” police avatars.
  3. Where does all the money for this come from?

A wishlist for the IX

I know I’m just spinning shitty fan-fiction, but I would really love to be vindicated about my thoughts on the Holdo gambit. (I’ll live and still love Star Wars just the same if I’m not, though.) Just one thing in the next film – one little thing – could probably quell the angrier fans a little. Maybe someone else tries to use a capital ship against the First Order in the same way and fails in spectacular fashion. Maybe they pass straight through like a neutrino through the entire planet (something something mass shadows). Maybe the First Order, much better-prepared this time, stops the maneuver cold (e.g. Interdictor-style hyperspeed countermeasures, or maybe just the standard shields work as they are to stop these shenanigans).

Big shrug. It doesn’t really matter either way (come on, it’s a fictional universe that was never big on steady world-building). I’m here to escape and have fun, not to nit-pick and wave my world-building dick around.


I just popped out a piece of imagery so vivid that I feel the need to double-up from writing it down on paper to cross-posting it here. This isn’t even the Oscar Isaac on ice thing, this is just me ranting to myself (as I have for a while now)…

My very first mistake was not communicating about [that thing] in a calm and adult manner. It’s very well to blame her for coming up with such a demeaning pet name for me, but it’s my duty to cast off burdens which are not mine to bear (like that).

In the end, she stopped. So that was good. But only good insofar as it would be good if your visibly zoosadistic first cousin once removed stops killing weasels in your back garden. It’s an improvement, to be sure, but more work is yet to be done.

I don’t have any weird cousins (much less weird first cousins once removed). But now that I know how the “removal” deal works, I love bandying it about like a baguette sword.


Some scattered thoughts on TLJ

I just saw The Last Jedi and I really want to scrawl some random stuff down.

Here’s an unpopular shot across your bow: I’m in love. I have a new favorite Star Wars film.

Spoilers follow. Please stop.

Spoilers follow. Please stop.

Spoilers follow. Please stop.

Actual spoilers follow. Please stop!

“We are what they grow beyond.”

In that vein, deposition is a often necessary component of growth. It’s not abrupt or necessarily bad storytelling (though we can quibble about the execution) – but unseating a chrome dome, slicing a wrinkly birthday cake, and briefly failing to emulate the crew on the HMS Bounty are all characters striking toward something greater.

One exception lingers – our favorite, in search of a parent or two, now having lost what she briefly gained. As exemplified in the cave, though, her greatest struggle is within. She remains unable to do away with her fascination with who she is. She’s not unlike that one punk-ass bitch (was his name Matt?) in this. Her greatest trial is something that is yet to be shown on screen.

The Last Jedi is the first Star Wars film in which I genuinely (and surprisingly) didn’t care at all about the tech. Bio-hexacrypt? Hand-wave it away. Miniature Death Star tech? Another big Maltese Falcon. I seriously don’t give a shit – not in the negative way, but in the sense that I’m going to turn my ears off if somebody’s going to complain about the tech, because to my mind, they are missing the point. Nobody ever read Matthew 4:1 and said “Oh for fuck’s sake, another story of venturing into the wilderness? What a lazy rehash of Exodus 13:18.” I grant you that Starkiller Base was not the best-executed device, but the key point is the same. So it is with the huge battering ram cannon.

To me, Star Wars has always been the following:

  • Egalitarian escapism
  • Opera buffa (of the highest form – no slight to Johnny)
  • Cyclical in nature
  • A story about people coming into themselves

So I think I would only be mildly annoyed of our good JJ undoes Rey Random’s lineage – but I could get over that. Other than that, I see no real constraints on how IX will progress.



Get Elon on Azraq and Zaatari!

I remain deeply skeptical and resentful of the Christian Science Monitor for their questionably technical infrastructure and for their abjectly miserable support staff. (I sincerely hope I never have to straighten out anything with either one ever again lest I go jump in a lake.)

That said, I’m also easily distracted and almost as easily placated. The December 5 edition of the Monitor Daily is the best pick-me-up I’ve experienced in a long time. The gorgeous picture of Joseph, Moreblessing, and Meryl Mutsakani is the most beautiful photo I’ve seen all year. Their story is compellingly told and (probably unjustifiably) fills my heart with hope for Zimbabwe. If ever I were to be hoodwinked by emotional journalism, I’d at least want it to be written like this.

Further down, it pains me to read again about the Syrian refugee crisis, but the sudden solar deus ex machina brightens up my day. It’s especially gratifying to see no celebrity appeal in the article; the easiest and flashiest path would have been to consult SolarCity and Elon Musk on how to power the Azraq and Zaatari camps. The UN – perhaps not intentionally – casually showed the wider application and utility of solar power by turning instead to the IKEA Foundation and to the KfW. In the wider context of renewable energy, this is a modest proof that solar power isn’t just a Silicon-fueled conspiracy. If it can provide serviceable power to a refugee camp, it can provide for just about anything.