I'm out.

I've turned off cross-posting to LJ from my Dreamwidth account, and I will not be posting new content here anymore.

I will still read, as long as people I want to stay in touch with are posting here but haven't moved to DW, and probably comment here and there.

It's not like I'm posting all that much here (or at DW) anyway, what with the whole Facebook thing.

The Dreamwidth account will stay, though. At least until it gets sold to a company in an enemy nation.

Morality and the wealth of nations

I read somewhere* that a society has the morality it can afford**, and the statement has stuck with me for thirty years. It resonated with me because it shone a light on a thing I'd observed but hadn't really thought about in any kind of organized way.

It speaks, I think, to the idea that there is a hierarchy of needs for societies as well as for individuals. If your community can barely feed and defend yourselves, any morality that says outsiders are equal to group members in humanity, and in their right to the resources necessary to survival, is a morality that will lead to the death of the community. Such a community cannot afford to allow group members to act in a way that does not support the immediate needs of the community; dissension is death.

But a community that outproduces its needs is a community that can afford charity, that can afford to see interactions with outsiders not as zero-sum, if-they-gain-we-lose, but as an opportunity for both sides to gain. It is a community that can afford to view outsiders not as enemies, but as potential allies, and it is a community that can afford to have group members question and argue against the prevailing norms.

And the wealthier a community becomes, the more it is able to view differences not as threats but as strengths. The more it is able to welcome outsiders into the fold, and allow them to contribute to the wealth of the community, increasing the speed of the feedback loop. The more it can afford to look at the group members it has repressed in the past, and extend to them more and more of the privileges afforded by default to the "core" members.

It's important to acknowledge, of course, that what the community can afford will always outpace what the community will allow, for a variety of reasons, most of them selfish. From the history of our own community, slavery persisted long after it made economic sense, which itself was longer than we actually needed slavery in order for the community to prosper. Women's suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, LGBTQ rights, giving women the right to control their bodies themselves, have all lagged criminally behind society's ability to accommodate them.

All of which is a longwinded setup for my actual statement which is this:

The current administration and their collaborators in Congress are not only trying to roll back all the moral progress we have made since WWII (or even longer) as a society, as a nation, and in the world, their attempts to wreck the economy, if successful, will also destroy a great deal of our ability to afford that moral progress. To, in effect, go back to the days when blatant and overt racism, sexism, homo- and trans-phobia, are not only tolerated, but expected and encouraged.

We've seen, over and over again, the right try to block or roll back the rights that have been so hard-fought and won by non-rich, white, straight, cis men.

We've never that I can recall seen the right actually, credibly attack the engines of economic prosperity that allowed those rights to win through.

The rich sycophants to the Trump regime don't care if the pie gets smaller, as long as they get a bigger share. In fact, they'll actively conspire to shrink the pie. And the working- and middle-class white folks who voted for him appear perfectly happy to accept that they're going to lose out "bigly", as long as the folks they look down on are punished even worse.

This is big. This is important. This is not normal.

We need to prevent this from becoming normal.

* in Niven and Pournelle's _Lucifer's Hammer_, if I am remembering correctly.

** I learned much later of MLK's statement, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice", which I think is an observation of the same phenomenon.

This entry was originally posted at; please feel free to comment below or at Dreamwidth.



With the recent announcement that LiveJournal's servers have all been relocated to Russia, I figure it's worth mentioning that my LJ account is now, and has been for years, a simple crosspost of my Dreamwidth account. I'm georgmi over there as well.

One of these days, I'll probably close the LJ account. I'm definitely stopping paying for it.

Hope to see y'all on Dreamwidth soon! You can use the links at the bottom of this post to get there, since DW is where I'm posting this from anyway. :)

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Five questions

These questions are from [personal profile] tylik.

1. I would love to hear excerpts (because I wouldn't expect more than excerpts) from a letter you could write to your fourteen year old self. (Assume both security and authentication is ensured.)

I have very little in my life that I would change. Not so much because I have never done anything regrettable, but because, current unemployment aside, I am pretty dang satisfied with where I am today, and it's my fuckups as much as my successes that have put me here. Maybe moreso my fuckups than my successes. So I'd have to avoid anything that might alter the life-path, and in the final analysis, I'd send the letter to my financial planner instead, with instructions to sell all our AMZN on or before New Year's Eve 1999, and then save the proceeds to buy it all back and then some in October of 2001 (and to keep this information secret from younger me until the date from which I sent the letter). Also with investment information about the company that was making possible written correspondence with the past.

That said, I don't really need time-traveling mail service, since thirteen-year-old me currently lives in my basement and consumes half my grocery budget.

2. Walking/hiking tour. Three weeks, any location worldwide. Where do you go?

Switzerland/Austria, through the network of Alpine huts. Hot dinner and a bed to sleep in every night, and with less food to carry, I could have more of my camera gear with me.

3. Pick a graduate career. No worries about entrance requirements, or supporting yourself in the meantime, or other pressing time commitments in your life, and assume reasonable enough faculty that you're unlikely to find yourself in need of burying any bodies.

Man, if I knew the answer to this, I'd be doing it right now. Too many interesting choices, not enough certainty of a career at the end of any of them. I mean, there's Econ, but I don't know what an economist actually does who isn't working in academia (and I'd find policy economics' active revulsion for data even more excruciating if I were deeper into the field), or Comp Sci, but I've the feeling that most of the interesting advances are actually happening outside of the schools (though if I did pick CS, I know who I'd want as my advisor; too bad he's at Syracuse), or I could go back and finish the math degree I abandoned in order to finish college earlier and get a job, but I *really* don't know how I'd make a living with a math degree. I've always been kind of interested in Poli Sci, but the constant rage would kill me.

That and I'm at a stage in my life where my tolerance for jumping through other people's hoops is very low.

4. Describe your superheropowered alter-ego.

(You've known me this long, and you still think I'd be a superhero?) Scion of Amber. The ability to manipulate probabilities would solve most of my existential issues, and think of the interesting (and literally magical) places I could visit.

5. What is your defining beverage?

Earl Grey tea, drunk from a half-liter stein. I am six kinds of beer snob (I like my beer the way I like my women--strong, full-bodied, and dark but not too bitter), but the thing I drink every day is tea.

This entry was originally posted at; please feel free to comment below or at Dreamwidth.


Hataraku Maousama / The Devil Is A Part-Timer!

It's been years since I watched a new anime that I felt was worth reviewing. There are several reasons for that, including but not limited to: 1) me not having a job, and thus losing the big block of alone time on the ferry where I was accustomed to watching TV shows from Netflix on my laptop; 2) teh_boy being old enough to want to watch anime with me at home, which limits my choices to things I know are age-appropriate for him, which basically means re-watching things I've already seen; 3) no, those first two are the big ones. The Devil Is A Part-Timer! is a single short season, at least the part of it that's available on Hulu.

This is a weird one, tough to classify. It starts out in the end days of a world-spanning war between demons and humans in the medieval fantasy world of Ente Isla, a war that the demons have all but won when there arises a HERO from among the humans. Born of a human father and an angel mother, the hero Emilia is the only person who can wield the heavenly sword that can defeat the demonic horde. She carves a mighty swath through the demonic army, destroying three of the four generals and setting her sights on the fourth, Alciel, and his master Satan. In the final battle, she fights the two demon lords to a standstill, but before she can strike the finishing blow, Satan opens a magical portal, and with the standard "I'll be back to destroy you all/tremble in fear for my return" blather, vanishes with Alciel to...modern-day Tokyo, where the pair of them discover that Earth's low-magic environment forces them out of their demon shapes and into puny human shells.

Forced to conserve their magic, Satan and Alciel rent a small, run-down apartment in a poorer part of town, and while Alciel sets up housekeeping, Satan goes to work part-time at "MgRonalds".

From this point on, what we have is a light-hearted slice-of-life story where Satan works hard at his job, determined to improve his status from part-timer to full-time employee of MgRonalds, and someday--dare he hope?--maybe even shift manager, all the while bringing various characters into his orbit, starting with his teenage coworker, Chi, who is impressed with how earnest and nice a person he is.

Oh, and interspersed with that, he has to fend off attacks from forces who have followed him to Tokyo from Ente Isla to take him out. These attacks come both from demonic former underlings and also representatives of the human forces, including Emilia the hero. Who finds herself similarly magic-poor and working telephone customer support for a local company.

The major tension of the story comes from Emilia, naturally, as she finds it nearly impossible to reconcile the hard-working, slightly naive "Maou Sadao" with the monster who laid waste to her world and presided over the demonic army that murdered her father. Especially when she sees that, whenever "Sadao" *does* gain any kind of magical power (which, they learn, can be harvested from the fear and despair of Earth humans), he spends it helping people and repairing the damage caused by the repeated attacks on his person and those around him.

It's this tension that made me want to review the anime. Because they never bother to explain why there's this huge difference, and while they dance around the idea that maybe Satan wasn't all evil (one of the angels who comes to attack him routinely uses torture to get his way, even on people who are nominally on the "good" side, and the Church of Ente Isla is modeled on the worst aspects of the Inquisition), they never actually close that loop, and we are left with no substantive reason to think that the Satan of Ente Isla is anything other than a monster.

Like a harem-anime, the show collects characters around "Sadao", each with their own special relationship with him, but in a neat subversion of the trope, all those characters (so far) are either reduced-magic demon generals who live with "Sadao", or humans from Ente Isla who've come to Tokyo to kill him, but have found reasons to put off the denouement--for now.

I liked this show, and I wish there were more of it. As I mentioned above, you can watch it on Hulu. (I have a Hulu Plus subscription; I'm not sure whether it's available to non-subscribers.)

Happily, I see that the light novels on which the manga and anime are based have been licensed in the States and the first two volumes are available from Amazon.

This entry was originally posted at; please feel free to comment below or at Dreamwidth.


October 17, 1994

In 1989, I screwed up my first real adult-type relationship pretty badly. I had no idea of the complex raft of emotions I was going to experience. I was overwhelmed, and I ran away. Worse, I disappeared without a word of explanation to the other person, who thus had no idea what had happened and no way to find out. I wrecked that friendship forever.

Collapse )

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Startup Weekend

So I posted a couple of things from the Bellevue Startup Weekend, but I was too busy to go into any depth or detail. The Weekend is over now, and I've caught up (a little) on my sleep, so it seems like a good time for a trip report.

Startup Weekend is an opportunity for people with a business idea to meet folks who might be able to help them develop it into an actual product. For $99, SW provides a venue, seven meals (dinner Friday and all three meals Saturday and Sunday), and coaching.

Friday evening is dedicated to meet-and-greet and initial pitches from anybody who has an idea. The ideas I saw presented ranged from "WTF, really?" through "been there, done that, but now we're IN THE CLOUD!!!" to "Holy crap, I have to get me a piece of that!" Not every idea was profit-oriented, which surprised me a little. After the initial pitches, each person who presented stands by a sign with the name of their idea and talks to anybody who wants to learn more, and each participant, whether they pitched or not, votes for the ideas that interest them the most. The top N* vote getters are allowed to recruit members for their teams and continue to pursue and develop their ideas. (There is a backup rule where, even if you don't get enough votes to get "official" sanction, if you can recruit at least one other team member, you can continue working and will be allowed to present a pitch to the judges at the end of the weekend.)

Late Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning and afternoon are devoted to developing the idea for all that you are worth, and assembling a pitch for the judges, who are experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The judges pick the three top ideas and there are small prizes, the cash value of which probably do not add up to the initial ticket price. "But that don't matter" (Vincent Vega), because just about every project that managed to recruit a team got coaching and advice from the serial entrepreneurs roving the halls, and several of the teams went from idea all the way to a here-it-is-you-can-touch-it product in the 54 hours, and a couple even made actual sales. (Actual sales, it turned out, were a BIG plus with the judges.)

Tshirts, beer, and snacks abounded all weekend. So did hard work, active collaboration, and a level of energy I don't recall seeing since early days in NT.

I'd heard of SW before, but had zero experience with them and really didn't know what to expect. My pie-in-the-sky for the weekend goal was to find a cool startup and get them to hire me. Turns out that was unrealistic, because only new ideas were allowed at the pitch meeting; nobody with actual funding was presenting, and funding was not an allowed result of the process. The goal of SW is to teach people what they need to pull together in order to pitch their business to VCs later on.

After they brought the weekend to a close and kicked us out of the venue, most of the teams, even the ones that didn't win, even the ones I thought were particularly D-U-M dumb, were actively making plans to continue their collaboration going forward.

Reading back, I see that I have not mentioned what I did at SW. As it happens, I did have an idea I could have pitched, and based on the other ideas that were floating around and which got community interest, I probably would have gotten some traction, but (thank you, screaming introversion) I couldn't actually bring myself to stand up and be counted. No matter. The idea I did end up working on (even though it was somebody else's) is meatier, more interesting, and will require more skill, hard work, and expertise to bring off, and has completely changed the priorities for my job search. (Now I'm looking for shorter contracts to hold down the fort while we work in the background to get ready to look for funding for the startup.)

No, I'm not ready to share details, and I will likely evade the questions you ask me in person as well. ;)

The upshot, though, is that Startup Weekend was extremely inexpensive for the value it provided, and I feel strongly that, if I hadn't found a project to work on at this particular instantiation of the program, I would have gladly signed up for the next one.

*where N is a number not previously announced, but based on the judgment of the SW staff (our staffers cited a "sharp drop-off" in votes around the thirteenth idea)

This entry was originally posted at; please feel free to comment below or at Dreamwidth.


(no subject)

It seems Satan was sitting in his office when one of his lieutenants dashed in. "Boss! Boss! Something's wrong with the #6 furnace! We can't keep the temperature up!"

Satan wasn't too worried. This happened sometimes; Hell's infrastructure was over six thousand years old, and even Eternal stuff develops problems over time. But some adjustments, some tweaking, and they'd be back to roasting the wicked in no time. "I'm sure it's fine. We'll just go take a look, OK?"

But when they got to Furnace #6, it didn't look like anything was wrong. The fires were high, the valves were unclogged, but the lake of fire was visibly lower than it should have been. Still, most of the tormented souls looked to be in satisfactory agony. Except...out in the middle of the lake, there was one guy who'd stopped screaming.

"Turn this thing up all the way!" Satan called to the devils manning the furnace. "Get that lake boiling again!" The imps leaped to comply, but no matter how they worked the controls, the flames kept dropping. That guy out in the middle of the lake looked thoughtful.

"More fuel!" Satan roared, and loggers in the Amazon doubled their pace of deforestation, all to feed Furnace #6, but the lake of fire sputtered and went out. That guy out in the middle of the lake got a funny little smile on his face.

"More fuel!" Satan screamed, and around the world, a million bankers dropped dead, their black hearts scavenged to supplement the coal supply for Furnace #6, but the lava in the lake started to solidify. That guy out there started to grin.

"More fuel!" Satan shrieked, and all over the world, oil rigs ran dry as the oil fields were drained out from under them to pour life back into Furnace #6, but the lake was cool enough for the tormented souls to walk around on. Nobody was screaming anymore, and that one guy started to chuckle.

"More fuel!" Satan gasped, but there was no more fuel. Clouds formed overhead, and a single flake of snow drifted down, mockingly, in front of Satan's face. That one, solitary guy started to cheer.

Satan couldn't take it any more. He stomped through the growing snowbanks, grabbed the cheering fool by the collar, and shouted in his face. "WORM! HOW DARE YOU MOCK ME! WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?!?"

Around his chuckles, the guy managed to gasp out, "All I know is I'm a Mariners fan, and they must have just won the World Series!"

This entry was originally posted at; please feel free to comment below or at Dreamwidth.


Somebody asked me today what I think of Latvian jokes.

This is how I responded:

I can't speak for Latvian jokes specifically...
but I can tell you that, as a person of Polish ancestry, I am unfond of Polack jokes, particularly since the day they almost got me killed, and I tend to extend that dislike to ethnic jokes generally.

When I was in high school, a couple of my friends took early enlistment in the Army, which meant that they palled around some with some enlisted guys, who (among other things) told them where the bars were that didn’t check IDs. Which led to a group of us—all underage—at a bar in Belltown one Friday night, back before the hipsters moved in and started getting it cleaned up. It was a scary part of town.

Dunno if you’ve ever done it, but the protocol for underage drinking in public is not to draw attention to yourself. John, however, did not get that memo, and a couple of beers in, he remembered that I’m Polish and dislike the jokes. So he starts telling them, one after another, each one louder than the last.

“How many Polacks does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
“John, shut up.”
“How does a Polack take a bubble bath?”
“John, shut up.”
“How can you tell when a Polack chick is on the rag?”
“Shut up, John.”
“Why did the Polack cross the road?”
“John, shut up.”

About this time, I noticed the guy in the corner staring at us. The BIG guy in the corner. I can see his white knuckles on his beer glass from across the room, he’s gripping it so hard, and the glare he’s giving us gets a little harder with every joke.

“Did you hear about the Cessna that crashed in the Polish cemetery?”

Finally, the guy can’t stand it any more, and blows to his feet, sending the table flying. He’s even bigger than I thought, well over six feet and two-seventy, two-eighty pounds, easy. He smashes his glass down on the floor and storms out. The barkeep comes over and starts sweeping up the glass shards, and John asks, at full volume, “Hey! What was THAT guy’s problem?”

The barkeep gives John The Look and says, “He’s Polish, and he REALLY doesn’t like Polack jokes. You kids better be gone by the time he gets back here.”

John was all, “but I haven’t finished my beer”, but we dragged him out of there anyway and headed for the cars.

Unfortunately, the big Polack apparently parked the same place we did, because as we walked around the corner, we practically ran into him—he was coming back with a full head of steam and a razor.

And I am completely convinced that I would not be here today if he’d managed to find a place to plug it in.

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