Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A Thing I Try To Avoid But May Be Caught Up In

As a polemicist, I consider idées fixes ... dangerous. While a single answer to every question has its attractions, it seems unlikely and also represents a risk of becoming boring.

But lately damn near every topic/issue I write on seems to boil down, in the end, to the problem of moral panic.

Am I onto something, or just letting myself get obsessed with a one-size-fits-all "answer?"

Post-It Note

One of my recent Garrison Center columns appears in today's New York Post, edited down to "letter to the editor" length (they asked my permission to do the editing, but didn't need to since all my stuff goes instantly into the public domain).

Cool!

Wordle 1095 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle is US Marine Corps slang for "hat." 


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First Letter: C

Monday, June 17, 2024

Well, That Was a Short Honeymoon

Last night, the Libertarian Party of Florida added four new members to its executive committee (all of whom just happen to be affiliated with the Mises PAC), just in time to pass a motion calling on the Libertarian National Committee to "investigate" the Libertarian National Convention's presidential and vice-presidential nominations due to "allegations that convention elections are invalid due to the inclusion of a sufficient number of ineligible votes that affected the outcome."*

Interestingly, the motion doesn't reference the impact of said allegations, if true, on the elections of party officers and at-large LNC representatives, although the supporting documentation does question two such elections. I wonder if that might have something to do with two of the officers and all of the at-large reps being Mises PAC picks?

After the national convention showed slight signs of a possible turnaround, I was ready to get active in LPF again and help organize an affiliate for my county (the old one disappeared some time back).

So much for that.

I always have limited time, money, and patience for attempting to save LPF and the "national party" from the Mises PAC and from themselves.

That time, money, and patience ran out a couple of years ago, but in a triumph of hope over experience I managed to dredge a little motivation back up. Now I'm fresh out again.

* The meaning of "inclusion of a sufficient number of ineligible votes that affected the outcome" is as follows: The Mises PAC busted its ass to completely rig the national convention, but was only able to partially rig it, resulting in enough entirely eligible but not Mises PAC affiliated delegates being correctly seated, which prevented the Mises PAC from running the table. So now they're seeking other ways to destroy the party, as has always been their mission.

Wordle 1094 Hint

Hint: To solve today's Wordle, focus on all the ones that came before it. 



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First Letter: P

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Sometimes I Need A Reminder ...

... of just how much I hate meetings and why I generally avoid roles that require very many of them.

I recently finally formally joined a caucus -- the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus -- and highly recommend that any radical libertarians who happen to read this blog and happen to be LP members do likewise.

But unless you like endless tedium punctuated by compulsive pulling out of your own hair, you should do so before attending any meetings. Maybe even instead of attending any meetings. Just sayin'.

Wordle 1093 Hint

Hint: Trouble with today's Wordle? Have a cup of espresso and think about it -- you'll do fine! 



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First Letter: G

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Is It Just Me, @Alexa99?

Apparently not. A little bit of web searching pulls up all kinds of "is my Echo Dot just broken?" and "has Alexa gone nuts?" material from the last few weeks.

Shortly after I returned from that Memorial Day weekend trip, Tamara mentioned that the Echo Pop in our living room hadn't been responding.

So I tested it:

"Alexa [blue 'I'm listening' light comes on], what time is it?"

No response [blue 'I'm listening' light goes off].

Unplugged and plugged back in to reset.

Same problem.

Unplugged and plugged back in again to reset again.

Fixed.

For a little while. Seems to do that every day or so. Sometimes one reset gets it working again. Sometimes it takes two.

Same story with the Echo Pop in the bedroom.

But not the old-fashioned ("3rd Generation") Echo Dot in my home office.

At least not yet.

Maybe because I don't use it as much? Or maybe because there's been some kind of buggy software update for later, but not earlier, device generations?

I understand Amazon's Alexa division has had layoffs. And that they're planning to introduce a higher paid tier of more AI-enabled service. And so on and so forth.

I jumped on the Alexa bandwagon fairly early, and I think I was the kind of customer they were looking for when they sold the devices at cost in hope of using Alexa to drive sales in other areas.

They make additional money from me every month for their higher-tier music service.

I often add consumables to my Amazon cart based on Alexa reminders that it may be time to purchase more laundry detergent, etc.

My natural inclination is to continue dancing with the gal what brung me, but if these reliability issues don't get fixed soon I'll be looking into other options for my "voice-activated personal assistant/music streaming speaker" services.

Wordle 1092 Hint

Hint: Her name is Mary, and John Fogerty left a good job in the city for her.



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First Letter: P

Friday, June 14, 2024

An Interesting Formulation ...

... of equally interesting attribution (hat tip to John Hudak on Facebook for calling it to my attention):

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

I'd personally replace "conservatism" with "all forms of statism" in said formulation, though.

Wordle 1091 Hint

Hint: You might find money -- or a dead body -- in today's Wordle.



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First Letter: V

Thursday, June 13, 2024

I Suppose It's Time ...

... to actually read Ray Kurzweil. This interview at Wired is fascinating. 

I've added the Kindle editions of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2005) and the forthcoming The Singularity Is Nearer: When We Merge with AI to my Amazon Wish List. I'll probably get around to grabbing them soon myself if no one else gets around to getting them for me sooner.

I'm personally somewhat convinced that we're on the "true" side of the simulation hypothesis, which implies (to me, anyway) that there could be one or more kinds of "afterlife." But developing both extended longevity and an AI-provided "afterlife" within the simulation itself does sound pretty cool, and as prophets go, Kurzweil looks fairly solid.

Wordle 1090 Hint

Hint: Per Kierkegaard, the anxiety that accompanies freedom of choice.



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First Letter: A

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Word PSA


Incorrect usage I noticed today:

As it stands, the majority of Bitcoin mining already takes place in the U.S., accounting for 37.8 percent share of the entire network by hashrate ...

Any percentage not greater than 50% isn't a "majority."

Lots of other things wrong with that article, but the particular one just kind of jumped out at me.

If You Don't Trust Me ...

... to keep actual confidential material actually confidential without a signed non-disclosure agreement,  you don't trust me, period.

And that's fine. But let's not blow smoke up each others' asses about it.

I don't sign an NDA unless I have a really good reason to do so, for the simple reason that I don't like intentionally leaving trails of legally binding, but highly interpretable, paperwork in my wake.

I would not, for example, sign any kind of general NDA (for example, one covering "any data or information that is proprietary to the Disclosing Party, whether in tangible or intangible form, whenever and however disclosed") for the privilege of doing minor volunteer work on a political campaign. That would produce a situation of continuing legal jeopardy based on two factors: 1) The Disclosing Party's view versus mine regarding what's "proprietary," and 2) The Disclosing Party's willingness and ability to engage in vexatious litigation.

One really good reason for signing an NDA might be substantial money for a job that's narrow enough for there to be little or no question as to what constitutes covered material and what doesn't. Another might be access to important information I find useful and can use, where the NDA covers very specific other particulars that I wouldn't find useful (or at least not so useful that I couldn't do without them) anyway.

To combine the two examples, suppose I got offered $10k to interview, and write an article featuring, some very wealthy and/or influential person whose views I found incredibly interesting ... and the NDA was very specific in that it forbade me to share the exact location of the person's house I visited, or the names of that person's children. I'd gladly sign that kind of NDA for that kind of purpose.

Wordle 1089 Hint

Hint: I don't know if I should give you a hint on this one -- I'd like to discourage/prevent you from solving today's Wordle!



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First Letter: D

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Wordle 1088 Hint

Hint: Like the music of Duke Ellington or Glenn Miller, but in the past tense.



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First Letter: S

Monday, June 10, 2024

I Guess I Just Need To Work Harder ...

... if I want to get individually named on the Ukrainian regime's enemies list. I'm associated with several organizations on the list, and know/work with several people on the list, but apparently I'm small fry.

Wordle 1087 Hint

Hint: Comic books, Japanese style.



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First Letter: M

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Don't Get Used To It ...

I periodically become unhappy with this blog's general look, make changes, then later realize I don't like the changes either.

This is one of those "make changes" periods. It may be a few days before I settle on something else I also won't like, but won't start not liking until later.

So keep calm and carry on, etc.

A Disturbance In The Force

One of my daily news/analysis go-to shows is Rising, a production of The Hill.

Or, rather, it was one of my favorites until the other day, when this happened:

One reason I enjoy(ed) Rising is (er, was) the balance/chemistry between Briahna Joy Gray and Robby Soave.

Ms. Gray is a "progressive" (formerly affiliated with the Bernie Sanders campaign). She seems very loosely affiliated with, but not happy with, the Democratic Party.

Mr. Soave is a "libertarian" (currently also affiliated with Reason magazine). He seems very loosely affiliated with, but not happy with, the Republican Party.

The two of them together seemed willing to get into, and capable of informatively getting into, conversations about the news that actually got beneath the completely superficial and made me think. I like thinking. I enjoy getting help thinking.

I don't have anything against the various guest hosts who show up when one of them is missing (and whom I assume are in the process of auditioning to replace Ms. Gray). But I've not noticed any of them, in any pairings, producing the enjoyable and informative content that the Gray/Soave pairing produced.

If I was an exec at one of the major cable news channels, I'd be looking for a way to get those two back together for a "real" TV show. Just sayin' ...

Wordle 1086 Hint

Hint: When three is one too many.



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First Letter: C

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Wordle 1085 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle can mean multiple things, including "therefore" and "in the future."



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First Letter: H

Friday, June 07, 2024

More Coffee Musings

Last August, I mused on my various summer coffee options. Since then, there have been some developments. Not in chronological order:

  • My thrift-store Krups espresso machine gave up the ghost (as thrift-store espresso machines will do); and
  • I bought an Aeropress Go (not an affiliate link, and I got it on sale for a lot cheaper than the currently displayed price); and
  • I decided I didn't like the Aeropress and put it away; until
  • Yesterday, I decided to RTFM (or, rather, to do a little Googling, since the actual manual was the first thing that went in the trash when I opened the Aeropress); and
  • Decided I like the Aeropress
Since I was thinking of the Aeropress as an espresso machine, it didn't occur to me to actually steep the coffee before giving the water a good hard press through the filter. I was getting what amounted to brown hot water out of the thing.

Using double paper filters and letting it steep for 4-5 minutes before bringing on the pressure produces a decent cup of something close to espresso (from Cafe Bustelo grounds).

So now I'm back in "brew a couple of cups of something close to espresso, refrigerate overnight, have two nice cold brew lattes in the morning" mode rather than "steep regular coffee in the French press, refrigerate overnight, have two not-quite-as-nice cold brew lattes in the morning" mode.

I really prefer espresso to regular coffee. Not just the flavor, but the caffeine content.

To see if I can get from "close to espresso" to "actual espresso," I've ordered a $1.59 ultra-fine stainless steel filter from Temu. My understanding is that paper filters tend to stop a lot of the oils that make espresso more than just coffee. With the paper filters, there's not really any crema on top, and it doesn't have quite the full, creamy mouthfeel caused by the oil droplets the filters block most of.




In the "you get what you pay for ... or at least what someone pays for, and a $1.59 filter just may not do the job" mindset, I've added a higher end filter ($10.99) and something called the Prismo attachment ($30, which is more than I paid for the Aeropress itself) to my Amazon Wish List. So if any of you are depressed every morning just thinking about me suffering from inferior coffee, feel free to cheer yourself up by helping fix the situation.

Side note: One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Libertarian National Convention was getting my customary (any time I'm at a convention) Starbucks Iced White Chocolate Mocha Latte each morning. I generally try to avoid Starbucks, Opus, and other coffee shops between conventions, then treat myself. In the six years between my last physical convention and this one (New Orleans, 2018 -- I attended the 2020 convention virtually and didn't go to Reno in 2022), I probably averaged a little less than one commercial iced white chocolate mocha latte per year, usually from Opus when I happened to be at the hospital visiting or waiting for someone. But I got three -- Friday morning, Saturday morning, and Sunday morning -- from the "licensed to sell Starbucks beverages" hotel shop in DC.

A Caper I Maybe Could Have Been, But Wasn't, Involved In

Thanks to Ken Willey (a Libertarian Party comrade ever since about the time I got active with the LP in Florida) for calling my attention to this piece in The Bulwark.

It's unnervingly "me-adjacent." I know, like, and have occasionally been privileged to work with, three of the main characters (Darcy Richardson, Joe Wendt, and Richard Winger), and also at least occasionally talk with Nicholas Hensley, national chair of the Reform Party (ever since Darcy and I fell one convention vote short of being that party's 2016 presidential ticket).

I will neither confirm nor deny that I was ever reached out to for possible involvement in the goings-on described.

I will, however, confirm that I had no actual involvement in them. I decided very early on that RFK Jr. wasn't a candidate I cared to support, let alone work with or for. In fact, I had pretty much been clean of my addiction to partisan electoral politics for some time, until the idea of going to the Libertarian Party's national convention came up.

Now I'm hooked again. I wonder any of them there $10,000-a-month consulting contracts are still up for grabs.

Wordle 1084 Hint

Hint: Two clues in one sentence: "Yes, Honeydew, I will marry you, but I have one condition -- we can't elope."



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First Letter: M

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Some Good Medical News For Once!

Per United Press International:

Common drugs used to control cholesterol, blood sugar and high blood pressure might also lower a person's risk of stroke, a new study finds. The researchers evaluated the risk of brain aneurysms that cause bleeding strokes in patients. ... They identified four specific drugs that appeared to lower the risk of a brain aneurysm, after accounting for other risk factors ..."

It just so happens that I'm on two of those four drugs (metformin and lisinopril), and on another (rosuvastatin) that's in the same class as a third (simvastatin).

It also just so happens that my brother Mike died of ... you guessed it ... a brain aneurysm. Or at least a brain bleed in exactly the same spot where he'd had a brain aneurysm repaired decades before (I don't know whether another aneurysm occurred in the same spot or whether the repair just gave way for some reason).

So if there's any genetic component to a tendency toward brain aneurysms, I'm probably benefiting.

Wordle 1083 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle could be an anesthetic, a cryptocurrency, or a theoretical element.



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First Letter: E

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Post-Convention Note #4

A tweet from the Montana Libertarian Party:
The Montana LP entered into an affiliate agreement with the Libertarian National Committee.

Per that affiliate agreement, the Montana LP received representation -- in the form of delegates of its choosing -- at the 2024 Libertarian National Convention.

Per that affiliate agreement, it is the obligation of the Montana LP to support the presidential ticket nominated at that convention.

If the Montana LP didn't want to abide by the results of the convention, it should have disaffiliated itself from the Libertarian National Committee instead of exercising its right to send voting delegates to the convention.

Since the Montana LP has decided to default on its obligations under the affiliate agreement, the LNC should rescind the mutual affiliation. In November. For now, it should go to court to enforce those obligations.

My Next Computer Goal

I really only notice it when I travel -- and although that's infrequent, there's always a chance that it will become more frequent:

My current laptop is a refurbished Dell Chromebook runnning 8Gb of RAM on a 1.1GHz Celeron CPU. The performance ... isn't terrible.

The 11.6" screen, however, is. I'm getting older and I either need to get bifocals or a larger screen. I don't want to get bifocals. My near vision, when sitting at a desk, does fine with a 17" or 19" monitor (I've got a 17" USB travel monitor that I use with the laptop so that I can rock two screens). I only put on glasses when I need help with distance vision (driving, for example).

So I'm keeping my eye out for a good deal on a laptop that:

  • Has a 17-inch screen
  • Comes with 16Gb of RAM installed (that's what my $150 CyberGeek mini PC has)
  • Has a reasonably good CPU
  • Either comes with Linux pre-installed or won't turn into a brick if I install it
I'm very happy with my desktop outfit (the aforementioned mini PC and two Insignia 19" flat screen TVs as monitors, running Lubuntu). For traveling, I'd like to recreate that as closely as possible, but 17" screens will do.

When I travel by plane, my laptop and mouse go in my carry-on "personal item," while the travel monitor and full-size USB keyboard go in my checked baggage (or larger carry-on). I'm sure I have, or can easily find, a "personal item" bag that will accommodate a 17" laptop.

I'm keeping an eye out at Amazon, NewEgg, etc., and I always check out the machines I see at thrift stores. I want to keep the cost under $200, which is probably the biggest problem in finding what I need.

Wordle 1082 Hint

Hint: Mozart called it the "king of instruments."



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First Letter: O

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Wordle 1081 Hint

Hint: You might find today's Wordle among a wedding party, or working at a stable.



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First Letter: G

Monday, June 03, 2024

AI: The Dead (Probably) Don't Care

"Not everyone would want to be reincarnated as a chatbot," Tamara Kneese wrote at Wired last year.

It's an interesting piece, and it goes into more (a lot more) than that single quote, including the possibly massive investments in maintenance and tech upgrades required to keep a person "alive" as an AI.

But it's that single quote I'm interested in, partly because I'm seeing variations of it (including first-person "I don't want that" statements) all over the place lately.

My POV:

While you're alive, you may not like the idea of being "reincarnated" as an AI chatbot.

Once you're dead, you probably won't give a damn.

If there's not an afterlife, you won't care about anything.

If there is an afterlife, you may not even remember this life, and even if you do you remember it you're likely to have higher priorities than wringing your hands over a piece of software that pretends to be the former you. Maybe you'll be playing a harp around God's throne in heaven, or maybe you'll be reincarnated as a marmoset, or whatever. Either way, you're going to have new you things to do that will likely preclude worrying about AI-simulated old yous.

I guess I could be wrong.

Maybe there's an afterlife in which all we've got to fill our time is watch the people we knew in this life and worry about them, in which case we might feel that AI "reincarnations" are damaging to those people.

Or maybe, if there's such a thing as a "soul," an AI could capture that soul, become "me," and thus prevent me from passing on to heaven, hell, the bardo, etc.

But if there's an afterlife, speculation as to its characteristics is just speculation. We don't possess any kind of real/reliable information on it, so it's kind of silly to obsess over/at this level of detail.

Concerning That Verdict

In August of 2018, I wrote:

Trump paid out hush money -- money secured by a confidentiality agreement --  to his first wife in 1992, when he was not a candidate for public office. And again to his second wife in 1999, when he was not a candidate for public office (he did withhold a payment when she threatened to go public as he prepared his failed campaign for the Reform Party’s 2000 presidential nomination, which I guess could be taken as evidence that he “intended to influence the election”). 
Who else has Trump paid for silence when he wasn’t a candidate for public office, and why? Who knows? 
While it’s obvious that the upcoming presidential election was much on Donald Trump’s mind in October of 2016, it’s not obvious to me that someone paying sex-related hush money on his behalf is a “campaign contribution,” especially if he had other reasons (for example, the potential wrath of his third wife) to not want his sex life on the front page. And his history says he did in fact have other motivations.

 

I've not seen anything since to change my mind on the matter.

On the other hand, I'm not breaking out a violin -- not even the world's smallest violin -- to play a tearful tune and soothe Trump's pain over the felony convictions he just racked up. He's spent much of his life playing stupid games; he shouldn't whine when he wins stupid prizes.

Wordle 1080 Hint

Hint: There's mad, there's raving mad, and then there's this kind of raving mad.



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First Letter: S

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Wordle 1079 Hint

Hint: Johnny, as personified by Barry Williams.



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First Letter: B

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Not ENTIRELY A Gratuitous Post ...

... even though it does increment my blog post count for June, just in case I'm indisposed and can't write as much over the next few days.

I think I've got some kind of bug. Maybe some kind of slow-to-really-manifest bug that I might have picked up in Washington, DC or traveling to or from there.

The first couple of days home, I expected to feel worn out. I'm not as used to traveling as I once was, and it was actually a pretty hard five days. Anyone who thinks sitting in a meetings for hours on end isn't work has never sat in meetings for hours on end for several days in a row.

By yesterday, I thought I should be feeling a lot better, but I still just felt tired, cranky, and achy.

Today, I have a sore throat. No fever or anything like that. Yet.

I'll be interested to find out whether my travel partner, GregL, is under the weather at all.

Thanks For Asking! -- 06/01/24

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." -- Matthew 7:7-8

My answers may not prove as profound as those you'll find in the Bible. But ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comment thread below this post, and I'll answer (in comments or linked from them).





Wordle 1078 Hint

Hint: You might use the smaller version of today's Wordle to wash your hands in; at larger scale, it might be the convergence point for an entire region's surface water.



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First Letter: B