May 29, 2016

Black Masses

An email exchange with an upcoming roommate for my trip to Cali in June got me thinking about Holly Golightly, which naturally led to me rewatching Breakfast at Tiffany's. I had "rented" the film from Google Play and after the film was done, came across the offer for a discounted second movie -- 75% off my next rental! I got $50 in Play Store credits a few years ago as part of some Google promotion that I don't know remember, so none of my movie rentals cost me anything, for now, but 75% off is hard to argue with, though it does miff me a bit that it costs Google almost nothing to provide the film. What am I paying for, exactly? At least no one's paying anything.

Anyway, I ended up watching Black Mass, a recent film telling the story of Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger, a Boston mobman from the 60-70-80's.  He fled Boston when the feds came for him and spent decades on the FBI's most wanted list. He was arrested in Santa Monica in 2011.

Bulger got a name for his ruthlessness in tracking down and killing anyone that talked to the police. Which was ironic because he himself was on the rolls as an informant for the FBI.

He took out witnesses and leaks ruthlessly because witnesses were the lynchpin of the justice system. Freedom depended on your ability to keep the number of people willing to testify about you to zero.

But we're moving away from this sort of a thing. From relying on witnesses to make a case. Now we catch criminals at the moment of action -- the witness was not your friends, colleagues, or passers-by but the space itself -- the landscape watched you and heard you and stands as a witness to your deeds. Computer records are the proof that we have and need.  People putting people away will end, soon.

Now I wonder if Bulger would be able to amass such power, if he would have murdered so many people, if certain kinds of criminals have been largely irradicated -- the bloody, outwardly violent type.

And whether what will replace them is any less sinister.

May 22, 2016

here is a series of thoughts that i have had today

reality is not what you think it is.

my name is neil saitug and i write about things.  i also read things.  most of what i read will never come to fruition as written thoughts.  this thought, in a great company of other sad thoughts, saddens me the most greatly.

here is a series of thoughts that i have had today, and a few recurring thoughts from this week:

- the power of explanation, as expostulated by David Deutsche in his two books, The Fabric of Reality and the Beginning of Infinity, are everywhere.  it is one of the core functions that powers great teachers and great ideas alike.  explanations are cross-cultural; they are universally treasured by humans of all creeds, classes, occupations and concerns.  in fact, I would naively posit that the key to understanding any group or single human being is to understand the explanations that they make use of.  this thought is so deep, that I find it reflecting back at me in almost any media or interaction, both present and past.

- the true revolution that underlies the free software movement (rebranded and watered down in the mid-aughts as Open Source software). this thought is driven largely by finishing off Gabriella Coleman's Coding Freedom.  coincidentally, the Google v. Oracle debate that is occurring right now makes a great stage for dissecting the current day status of copyright vs freedom of speech legal status of open source code; in fact I would argue that the lawsuit is one of the most monumental public and legal moments for open source/free software meets copyrightability that has occurred since Coleman's book was published in 2012.  on a more personal note and as someone who writes code, i found myself deeply reconsidering my own attitudes and proprietary assumptions surrounding the code that i write.  when i write and publicize code on the internet, what is my relationship with the people who find it?  how is that similar (or different) to the relationship that I am assuming right now, with you, my reader?  to what extent is code different than essays?  what is the most important thing about putting my code out in the world: is it freedom of that code to become part of the commons of code that exists for the world to use, or is it recognition of authorship, or monetary?  how much control do i as a creator of a public work do i retain for myself over the work itself?  how much does that matter to me?  are ideas really free, if they have a creator?  or am i just a vessel for the work?  (can you hear it?  the voice? no?  i'll tell you what it's saying: ego, ego ego).  i'm leaning strongly towards allowing the next bits of software that i write to be strongly free, but am struggling with accepting that other people may make money off of them.

- book mania.  i've been buying books like a fiend for a while now, and have been feverishly reading through them.  i'm starting to flag a bit tho, as the number of books that i want to read, while currently in my lifetime an attainable goal (that is to say that given all of the books that i would like to read currently, if i were put a hard stop on the list, i would ostensibly be able to finish all of the books within the end of my lifetime.  there is a point where this will no longer be the case, however.  what that point it is is...?)  so, given that i can read all of the books that i want to read, is there an ordering or certain works that are more important to read earlier than later?  this builds a bit upon the idea that there are certain thoughts or habits that can act as catalysts for further thoughts or lines of inquiry; ideally these generative books would be the ones that i read first, and save all the others for later, where the timeliness for them is less important.  ok, so how do i pick out which books are more timely than others?  i don't have a good answer for this yet, but here's a few general rules of thumb that i've been using: recently written books get higher priority, as they're more likely to be timely/about currently actionable things.  books that are recommended to me by someone else are more important than books i've found via Amazon.  books that pertain to lines of inquiry i find currently interesting are ranked higher.  fictional works have currently taken a bit of a backseat, the thought being that most plot lines are things that I've read before, and assuming that most fictional work is not contributive to 'generative' thought as other works (i'm sorry to say it, but recent experience has proven this to be exceptionally true).  here's a list of the books (and book genres) that i'm currently attempting to find time for: finishing David Deutsche's Beginning of Infinity; a book/dissertation of the results of a generative, social AI experiment (starting to wonder if i wouldn't have gotten thru this faster if it had been in ebook format); a number of books on the history concerning the 34th street district (Macy's, Santa Corp, Empire State Building, Penn Station) -- these have a deadline of next Monday; Pychon's Bleeding Edge; a book of short stories; Hamilton's biography; a book on the engineering systems underlying NYC; Tuttle's beginning Chinese characters; a very recently published book on poverty and racism in America; an ethnography on sex, commercialism and public space in Times Square; there are more but i can't remember them.  Ok so maybe the most daunting thing right now is finishing Deutsche's Beginning of Infinity (it feels like I've been stuck on it for months now).  Unsticking this one should hopefully let the others flow more quickly.  Books that I've abandoned as being not longer relevant or just plain uninteresting: A.O Scott's book on Criticism & Camus' The Rebel.

- ups and downs of having a dog.  i've been a bit down on myself lately for not entirely appreciating the responsibility of having a pet, to say the least.  it is a bit of work, and time and, most prohibitively, a certain amount of guilt inherent in leaving her at home by herself, or not letting her sniff the flowers for as long as she'd like to because i need to get home.  strangely, one of the bigger pluses of having her (besides the companionship and built-in schedule reinforcement) is the removal of the curiosity of what life would be like with a dog. i've been talking about getting a dog for years now, waffling on it you could almost say.  now i rarely have that mental pressure or distraction.  in a way, the relief is a huge validation of the power of doing things and dealing with the consequences than not doing things but forever wondering whether or not *now* is when I should do that thing.  ie: favor action over waffling, because the peace of mind pays dividends a thousand fold.  a strong corollary to this is writing thoughts down -- writing things down and publishing them on the internet has the effect of helping to clear out my mental space, like reducing the pressure in a hose.

May 10, 2016

Killing Your Babies

I've been wanting to write an Erlang serial port library for a very very long time now.  I've probably talked about it, at this point, more than it will take me to *actually* write the thing.  But I've been stymied (forever it feels like) by mental blocks and knowledge-gap blocks and the general dis-ease of not knowing where to begin.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend !!con this past Sunday.  (!!con is a weekend conference that features short, 10 minute talks on things you find fascinating in programming.)  Watching people talk about the things in programming that they had been geeking out about lately made me start thinking about what it was that I wanted to present about next year.  And I realized it was the serial port project I've been avoiding for years now.

So today, I booted up an AWS instance and downloaded the source tree and started compiling the Debian sources. One of the current Recurse Center batchees stopped by to say hello, and I outright asked them if they knew anything about kernel modules -- turns out the answer was very much yes!

In less than 20 minutes we had a "hello world" working kernel module! Pris (the Recurser who was helping out) asked me what it was that I was trying to do with a kernel module -- and when I explained the bigger project (getting Erlang interop-ing with C code), Pris explained that since I was using serial, there was no need to write a kernel module -- I could just write "plain" C code as my driver for an Erlang API.  And actually, a project that does exactly this already exist, and if I wanted to I could probably just use them.

Boy do I feel silly for telling so many people about how I was going to write a kernel module.  And even more silly for avoiding setting up a VM that could do kernel things on it. (I thought it would be hard!)

I'm not as motivated to write all this code as I was, but I might do it anyway because I am still curious about how the serial API works.

I've been carrying this project idea around with me for such a long time; it's nice to have killed so many hangups and misconceptions about the amount of work that would be required all in one go.  This project seems so much more tractable now.  More importantly, it's amazing how much mental energy has been freed up from worrying about how hard this would be to finish, or if it would even ever be finished.  Guilt and unfulfilled desire finally deflated into an actual, tangible body of work that I know how to start.  Or not, since it kind of already exists.

I just wish I hadn't deleted all that Erlang code a few weeks back.  Oh well. :)

May 7, 2016


Prefectionism is a self-hate crime.  It falls into the category of other self-hate crimes like procrastination and passive-aggression.  (There are no self-hate crimes that begin with any letter other than P).

I'm not sure how to get over self-hate crimes.  I'd refer you to my therapist but I quit therapy in a moment of passionate self-loathing.  We (my therapist and I) haven't talked since then.

They say that hate is rooted deeply in fear; that at its root hate *is* love, just love corrupted and inverted by fear.  That it's a desire to love, so deep and so idealized that it loses its grip on reality and fearfully flips into strong, abject aversion.

When I hear talk about how hate and love are just two sides of the same emotion, I know that you don't really know what you're talking about.  Because love, the unidealized emotion, is birthed from the truest living, momentary and unattached.  There is no way to hate and to be unattached.  These are orthogonal states.

Hatred has no hope of perfection. it can never be distilled from the fear that underwrites it.  It is possible to wholly love but it is not possible to perfectly hate.

(this is a fact that i hate).

May 6, 2016

Gostaria saber

as vezes eu
gostaria saber
aonde a vida teria andado
se eu
tinha respondido
se eu
nao tinha desistido
se eu
tivesse ido
a ver voce
naquela banda de

blank canvas

this canvas is blank. does that mean it's time for me to start afresh? that's one of the side effects of blank canvas -- it brings...