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Scripting News: Wednesday, May 31, 2023

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

It's nice to be thought of as a real person. 😄#

What if the blogosphere of 20 years ago traveled to the future and saw what remains of Google, Twitter and Facebook and got a taste of ChatGPT, Mastodon and Bluesky. #

I asked ChatGPT to write a description of my linkblogging tool, and it came up with something far more hyped that I would ever write, but actually I think I should write this kind of copy for my products. I told it nothing about my product other than it was a linkblogging tool.#

I've already watched the last episode of Succession about five times, and I expect to watch it a few more. As my understanding grows, I hear different parts. I swear there could be a QAnon thing going on here. Anyway, yesterday I wrote about bullshit and about how Tom didn't win if winning means being the chosen successor of Logan Roy. That was the Swede. My jaw dropped when Roman said they were bullshit. There's that word. Bullshit. The kids were bullshit. Nothing. Tom was a great choice to be the new Gerri. The book closes so neatly. The ending wasn't dramatic like the ending of the Sopranos or Mad Men, or clever like Six Feet Under. it was more like the ending of The Wire, things just wound down in a natural way. The truth was the people who really run the world (a "world of a father," says Shiv) are Logans. The people we see on the news shows are Toms. We never hear from the children.#

BTW "world of a father" is interesting. Remember Marcia said "He made you a playground and you think it's the world."#

Scripting News for email

01 Jun 2023 at 05:00
#

The goal of discovering who you are and what you love is learning embrace who you are and what you love so that you can find that anywhere, doing anything.

Rhoneisms

01 Jun 2023 at 03:41

Free speech distortion, cancel culture confusion

 Speech or Cancel Culture At Boston University? by Ken White (The Popehat Review)

But are labor protests cancel culture now? Is not paying writers a form of controversial expression that we ought to hear out and react to with refined and well-moderated debate? Is the entire history of the American labor movement’s raucousness a history of woke censorship?

 

Or is that all cynical partisan bullshit, a way to delegitimize certain (usually left-leaning) political views while pretending to be noble and pro-free-speech?

I also think it’s notably obtuse for the president to act as though these students should have no say in their graduation ceremony. Inviting an anti-labor CEO in the midst of a writer’s strike is an implicit endorsement of his tactics, rubbing the graduating students’ noses in their university’s political stance, showing that they care more about the prestige of their speakers than their students’ opinions. To be forced to listen to some anti-union slimer would certainly ruin my graduation day — a day of celebration and achievement tarnished by someone who disrespects the value of work or creativity.

(via Dan the Clam Man)

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Under Elon Musk, Twitter has approved 83% of censorship requests by authoritarian governments by MARÍA ANTONIA SÁNCHEZ-VALLEJO (EL PAÍS)

Since Musk’s takeover, the company has received 971 requests from governments (compared to only 338 in the six-month period from October 2021 to April 2022), fully acceding to 808 of them and partially acceding to 154. In the year prior to Musk taking control, Twitter agreed to 50% of such requests, in line with the compliance rate indicated in the company’s last transparency report (none have been published since October 2022).

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Caving to Violent Right-Wing Threats Will Only Make Things Worse by Parker Malloy (The Present Age)

Target panicked in response to right-wing tantrums, lies, and threats of violence, with a spokesperson saying that “we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work,”

Musk gave the same excuse on India — funny how these companies suddenly care about workers when they can be used as an excuse to make the morally weak choice and let fascists get their way 🤔 This is why we cannot rely on Disney and Target to save us from oppression.

How do you think people on the right reacted to that? Do you think they said, “Oh wow, thank you, Target!…”? No, of course not. They saw it as evidence that their campaign of terrorizing store employees and vandalizing in-store displays was working.

☝️ Actual Cancel Culture goes after minority groups, not powerful people.

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May 29, 2023 by HEATHER COX RICHARDSON (Letters from an American)

The War Department thought it was important for Americans to understand the tactics fascists would use to take power in the United States. They would try to gain power “under the guise of ‘super-patriotism’ and ‘super-Americanism.’” And they would use three techniques:

First, they would pit religious, racial, and economic groups against one another to break down national unity. Part of that effort to divide and conquer would be a “well-planned ‘hate campaign’ against minority races, religions, and other groups.”

Quoting from an army pamphlet on fascism (via Kottke)

Tracy Durnell

01 Jun 2023 at 02:24
#

Finished Ted Lasso. Overall really enjoyed it. This season almost lost its way a couple times, sometimes overthinking itself, but it wrapped up perfectly. 📺

Manton Reece

01 Jun 2023 at 01:20

Lessons from Soviet Russia on deploying small nuclear generators

 

The Soviet Union had an engineering problem. Thousands of miles of remote frozen arctic coastline that needed lighthouses and radio towers which required power. But those places were too cold and too remote for human operators in the winter months, so the Soviets devised a plan to deploy small Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs). Radioactive strontium-90 heats an arrangement of metal fins, the fins cool, and a semiconductor turns that energy into electricity. The RTG’s design was the same tech the Soviet Union used to deploy radio to areas without power. What could go wrong?

It’s worth noting this was the advent of the nuclear era; the pre-Chernobyl era. There had been no nuclear disaster that might have made them question this strategy, the superpowers had mastered the atom after all. It’s also worth noting that Americans and NASA used and still use RTGs on satellites zooming through space and rovers on Mars. As far as nuclear power goes, putting a spicy rock inside a container to generate power is “acceptable use”.

The Soviets deployed over 2500 of these “Beta-M” generators across a variety of remote locations. All they had to do was send someone out in the warm months to service them. I’m sure the program wasn’t without incident, but as far as a remote power generator that doesn’t require a human babysitter replenishing fuel supply goes… the solution worked?

Fast-forward to 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia fell into bankruptcy which is a bad set of circumstances for a government-funded nuclear device program. With no money to send people out to repair the machines, the machines fell out of maintenance – which wasn’t hard because they were brazenly deployed in rusty containers or with no coverage at all, exposed bare to the harsh winter elements. The haphazardly deployed devices failed and radiation leeched out. Further complicating the problem, the organizational turmoil meant Russia lost track of the location of these devices.

Generally speaking, a small fission reactor having a nuclear meltdown in the remote wilderness isn’t a big problem… unless humans make contact… which happened. Woodsmen find a mysterious metal cylinder that repels snow, scrap metal thieves stumble upon their next big score, and remote lighthouse explorers poke at a curious object; the tales don’t always end in death but there’s probably lots of tales we’ll never hear.

The Soviet RTG program is – for me – a foreboding engineering parable about the cost of deploying an idea with no plans for future maintenance. Sure, I can deploy this hot new tech now and it does the job in new and clever ways, but what is the impact if we don’t have a plan for regular maintenance? When future people interact with my contraption, will it work and will it kill anyone? Y’know, the basic concerns every software project deals with.

I wonder if software has a kind of digital entropy, where even good software left untouched for a short timeframe rots and stops working. Are environments too harsh for my deployments and causing my abstractions to leak? Do irradiated ones and zeroes escape the metallic hard disk enclosure? Surely some smart scientists at MIT are looking into this.

Speaking of smart scientists… according to the AP the United States is planning on rolling out micro-reactors in 2024. There’s even a page on the DoE website about nuclear microreactors. I dunno. It could be the Soviet RTG story I stumbled across influencing my optimism here… but are we sure about this? I actually don’t oppose using nuclear as a short-term fix to break away from fossil fuels… but are we sure about this? Is “on the brink of credit default” America or “on the brink of another Civil War” America the place you want to deploy a bunch of at-home reactors? Asking one more time… are we sure about this!?

On second thought, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about and we solved all the risks around installing lots of small reactors with destabilized elements. I mean, this company is even called Ultra Safe, that’s how you know it’s safe. Says so on the tin. Nothing ominous about that.

daverupert.com

01 Jun 2023 at 00:40
#

I seem to have made a serious AWS pricing miscalculation, transferring a bunch of small files from EC2 to S3. Data transfer is free, but PUT requests aren’t. With millions of requests, adds up to real money. This is why I usually prefer Linode’s flat pricing.

Manton Reece

31 May 2023 at 23:24

Enchantment and the Courage of Joy: René Magritte on the Antidote to the Banality of Pessimism

 

“Life is wasted when we make it more terrifying, precisely because it is so easy to do so.”


Enchantment and the Courage of Joy: René Magritte on the Antidote to the Banality of Pessimism

In a world pocked by cynicism and pummeled by devastating news, to find joy for oneself and spark it in others, to find hope for oneself and spark it in others, is nothing less than a countercultural act of courage and resistance. This is not a matter of denying reality — it is a matter of discovering a parallel reality where joy and hope are equally valid ways of being. To live there is to live enchanted with the underlying wonder of reality, beneath the frightful stories we tell ourselves and are told about it.

Having lost his mother to suicide, having lived through two World Wars, the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte (November 21, 1898–August 15, 1967) devoted his life and his art to creating such a parallel world of enchantment.

The Lovers II by René Magritte, 1928

In a 1947 interview included in his Selected Writings (public library) — the first release of Magritte’s manifestos, interviews, and other prose in English, thanks to the heroic efforts of scholar Kathleen Rooney — he reflects:

Experience of conflict and a load of suffering has taught me that what matters above all is to celebrate joy for the eyes and the mind. It is much easier to terrorize than to charm… I live in a very unpleasant world because of its routine ugliness. That’s why my painting is a battle, or rather a counter-offensive.

Magritte revisits the subject in his manifesto Surrealism in the Sunshine, indicting the cultural tyranny of pessimism and fear-mongering — a worldview we have been sold under the toxic premise that if we focus on the worst of reality, we are seeing it more clearly and would be prepared to protect ourselves from its devastations. A quarter century before the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm insisted that “pessimism [is] an alienated form of despair,” Magritte writes:

We think that if life is seen in a tragic light it is seen more clearly, and that we are then in touch with the mystery of existence. We even believe that we can reach objectivity thanks to this revelation. The greater the terror, the greater the objectivity.

This notion is the result of philosophies (materialist or idealist), that claim that the real world is knowable, that matter is of the same essence as mind, since the perfect mind would no longer be distinct from the matter it explains and would thus deny it. The man on the street is unknowingly in harmony with this idea: he thinks there is a mystery, he thinks he must live and suffer and that the very meaning of life is that it is a dream-nightmare.

In his art and the worldview from which it springs, Magritte presents an antidote to this warped thinking — a backdoor out of our elective suffering. An epoch before we began to understand the neurophysiology of enchantment, he echoes his contemporary Egon Schiele’s exhortation to “envy those who see beauty in everything in the world,” and writes:

Our mental universe (which contains all we know, feel or are afraid of in the real world we live in) may be enchanting, happy, tragic, comic, etc.

We are capable of transforming it and giving it a charm which makes life more valuable. More valuable since life becomes more joyful, thanks to the extraordinary effort needed to create this charm.

Life is wasted when we make it more terrifying, precisely because it is so easy to do so. It is an easy task, because people who are intellectually lazy are convinced that this miserable terror is “the truth”, that this terror is knowledge of the “extra-mental” world. This is an easy way out, resulting in a banal explanation of the world as terrifying.

Creating enchantment is an effective means of counteracting this depressing, banal habit.

[…]

We must go in search of enchantment.

Complement with Viktor Frankl on saying “yes” to life in spite of everything and Walt Whitman on optimism as a force of resistance, then revisit Rebecca Solnit on hope in dark times.


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For a decade and half, I have been spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each month composing The Marginalian (which bore the unbearable name Brain Pickings for its first fifteen years). It has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. If this labor makes your own life more livable in any way, please consider lending a helping hand with a donation. Your support makes all the difference.


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31 May 2023 at 21:16
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