so angry

Right now I make my living by using Adobe products, specifically Flash and Flex.  So it's unfortunate that I can't stand Adobe products.  Flash CS4 is almost completely unusable.  Its performance when editing medium to large flash files is unforgiveable; when I click to select an object, or to edit a symbol, I can wait 10 seconds for the interface to respond.  Not acceptable.

What am I gonna do about it?  Probably nothing.  I only mention it here to record my displeasure, so that I don't forget it, start coping, and forget to be angry about it...that would mean losing a part of my soul--the part that cares about good interface.


Actually, if you've let the wick of your candle be sucked down into the wax as it cools, you can get it out again, if you have a soldering iron.

cs theory question - wrapping inheritance

non-programmers may skip.

I'm curious; is there a language that allows you to extend a class by wrapping it?

That is, a language that lets me type:
class ExtraFunctionality wraps BaseSystemObject
  ExtraFunctionality(BaseSystemObject wrapped_object)

  void do_an_awesome_thing()
  void do_extra_things_to()

  void do_a_lot_of_things()
So that I can then write 
ExtraFunctionality my_obj = new ExtraFunctionality(api.get_base_system_object());
my_obj. do_an_awesome_thing();
I can't simply extend the class because I'm not constructing it myself, I'm getting it from the system, so it won't cast.  If I wrap it using a conventional class, then I either have to override everything myself, or else expose the wrapped object and let the caller decide how to deal with it, which is ugly.  Either way though, I can't pass it back into the system, because it's not the right type.

So, I want to inherit the type in the form of a lightweight, easy to write wrapper.  I think this case is getting more relevant these days as APIs and SDKs are coming to dominate the coding landscape, as opposed to working mostly within code you control yourself.  Comments?


1. chipotle hummus bread with sesame seeds
2. honey pecan whole wheat bread with sunflower seeds
3. purple 'vineyard' scented candles poured into red wine glasses
4. coffee scented candles poured into glass mugs
5. thousands of dead zombies

That's what I did with my day off.  Some of you may get homemade candles as belated xmas gifts.  The chipotle bread came out a bit parbaked, (I took it out early 'cause the crust looked done--this is why I am terrible baker), but it tastes great, so I won't complain.  I haven't opened the other bread yet, but I think it'll be more done.

I've been slightly appalled at my burn rate for money; I really need to cut back, so I'm going to stop eating out for a while, and try to get into the habit of making lunches and saving leftovers and so forth.  Life skills, you know?  Oof.  It's not really that I have expensive tastes or hobbies, it's more that I just don't ever try to save money; if I've got it I tend to spend it, on this or that.  So my resolution, if you care to call it that, is to learn the ways of thrift.  It's all a part of the larger plan...

Ohio was great, even though we didn't get snow.  I felt right at home.  Too, I really, really needed the down time, and I feel a lot better now than when we left.  Time to get back on top of my life, instead of being dragged along beneath it, is how I always think about.  I think I feel a few schemes coming on.

So candles.  I thought, oh, I'll make some holiday candles, it'll be easy and fun and make a great gift.  Mostly true I think, but wow wax is funny stuff.  When it cools from a liquid to a solid it shrinks quite a bit, and so the centers of the candles sink in.  If you've removed the support for the wick already, the wick is pulled down as the wax sinks, and you can't get it back up again without reheating the whole thing so... don't remove the support for the wick!  You need to wait at least like, 6 hours for the wax to cool, and then fill the sinkhole with more wax, and then wait again, and then fill one more time, and then wait again.  Then you can remove the support.

Lesson learned I guess?  I'm sure I could have gotten that advice from somewhere, but I probably would not have listened, that's just how I roll.  Not proud, just sayin.

the (zombie) hookup

Is anyone playing Left 4 Dead on 360?  I've actually acquired some competence at this game, and I'd love to play with friends.

By way of game review slash encouragement:

This game doesn't do a lot of new things, but it is executed *perfectly.* (in this sense it's the opposite of Dwarf Fortress.)  The sound work is amazing, the graphics are cinematic, and the pacing and level design are flawless.

This is a game that rewards teamwork and severely punishes going it alone.  What I love best about the game is the effortless multiplayer communication.  Your in-game characters talk to eachother, and it's always relevant.  Stuff like, "I'm reloading," or "hey guys I need to heal" or "there's a pipe bomb over here."  Also, "why are you shooting me?"  I don't have a headset microphone for my 360, and I find that with this game I don't miss it.  The team notifications, and being able to see where your teammates are even when they're behind walls, means that a whole layer of basic communication is handled automatically, and well.  

Aside from enjoying the genre, there's something about the co-op experience that I find really addictive.  The only other co-op game I've played that hooked me this well was Natural Selection.  I think what the two games have in common is a focus on co-op interface design; NS does it with the commander and hive sight, and L4D does it with frequent in-character voice cues.  Both succeed because the tools allow you to create great little stories, over and over again, that the whole team participates in.

There's something about being a part of a well functioning team that we humans love (and the social tools we use can make or break the experience).  Some people get this team experience from sports, or from a game like Counterstrike or what-have-you, but I think that what Valve have done with Left 4 Dead is lower the barrier to entry.  Now you can have that team experience without having to have first mastered the game, and without having to ACTUALLY TALK TO ANYONE.  That is impressive.

and timing is everything

The timing is perfect to write a book titled "In Defense of Junk."  If this book does not exist in one year I will be severely disappointed.


There's an entire alternative economy of people who don't work jobs, or at least who don't earn their money from their day job.  Not all of these people are are wealthy, but everyone who is wealthy is one of these people.

I'm feeling bitter because I was never taught about this economy.  I don't have any experience with it and it's difficult to know how to start, because by it's nature it is ad-hoc and specialized.  But this is where I am going to try to go.

Jobs are for suckers.  Oh sure, there's dignity to work, and it's not a bad way to pay the rent in the short term, but if you look to your job to take care of you over the span of your life and your children's lives, you will never be free; you will work until you no longer can.

That thought terrifies me.

Every time I meet one of these people, who live outside of the daily grind, I feel simultaneously ashamed and jealous and bitter and indignant.  But I try very hard not to be angry at them, because instead I need to learn from them.  

Swallowing my pride is very hard, but hopefully I can be honest with myself, at least.  I am not currently where I want to be, and I should start learning what I need to do to get there.

alternative currencies in practice


Homegrown Evolution: Time Banking
So what is money but an abstract representation of misery, time spent doing things we'd all rather not be doing? How about an alternative? How about taking all of our hard earned capital away from the Wall Street types? Get ready for time banking.

With time banking, you get together with your local community members, friends and family and exchange hours rather than currency. Time Bank USA describes the concept succinctly:

'For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to spend on having someone do something for you.'

Time banking isn't defined as barter, so you don't have to pay taxes on services or goods exchanged. And time banking is egalitarian--everyone's hours are valued equally--an hour of digging a ditch is the same as an hour of legal services, or acupunture or whatever.
The castle project has a lot of similar ideas, but ties it together with a shared purpose and an xp system to reward long term participation in the system with greater than zero-sum rewards.

Time currency, like dollar currency, may be an important component of the castle building model, and it might make sense to just use Time Bank directly, rather than try to replicate it.

thanks jared

Don’t Play Hurt - Push cx:
"One of the most important articles I’ve read on the c2 wiki wasn’t about a programming technique. It was PlayHurt. The core debate of the page is whether software developers can produce good code even when their hearts are not in it. Because development is a creative mental activity, it’s profoundly affected by the developer’s mental state.


I felt terrible because I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go to work in the mornings and why I had to push myself to fix every bug and complete every feature. I didn’t have the perspective or experience to recognize all the things I just listed that had gone wrong, so I felt like a failure because I couldn’t develop on command. I found some of that understanding on the wiki. I couldn’t Play Hurt anymore. I was just plain tired of being hurt. I quit that month.

If you want to write good code, you can’t play hurt. If you want to be proud of your work, you can’t play hurt. If you want to feel you’re making something of your life, you can’t play hurt. The best work is powered by passion and meaning, not obligation. Play hurt if you’re getting through the occasional frustrations that every job has, if you need to pay the bills, if you’re setting up someone you like to do motivated work. But don’t play hurt if you can avoid it. Find something you love. Create something meaningful. Encourage an environment that allows people to work at their full potential. And take risks to do it."

It sometimes takes me a while to get back to full health, so to speak, but it's always the right decision to move on when you're feeling like this.


And everything goes on hold again while the future sorts itself out. >_>

At least I'll always have you, videogames.

that was fast

I'll be flying up to San Fransisco on Monday to talk to Zynga.

Also talking to Facebook via phone on Tuesday, that was a pleasant surprise.

Relief mixed with fear, and not a little weariness, but I think it's gonna be good.

So, that's two for the Bay Area, and nothing yet for Los Angeles.  The EA thing may have fallen through.  I hope not, because I'm not sure I want to move.  I hope I get a chance to compare a couple of options, but if not I'll live.  I'm looking forward to working at a high paying job for a little while, and putting some money in the bank.

Perhaps I'll be ready to go back to something more speculative in a couple of years (Castle).

but also

I want to write this down now while it's still fresh in my mind.

I've been following this election closely for almost a year now, and I've been invested in politics since early in the 2004 cycle.  By invested I mean I've given money to candidates.  Howard Dean, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Al Franken, and a few others.  I read the blogs and followed the polls.  I followed the issues and I got as angry as I could over a parade of abuses and outrages.  I have had a sense of national pain and shame.

Now, though there have been some disappointments, my side has won a stunning victory.

I don't even know how I feel about this.  I'm relieved and happy, sure, but those feelings are somehow muted, much more than I expected them to be.  Perhaps that's because the grim reality of the national hole we've dug ourselves into is weighing me down.  In 2004 I thought things were terrible.   They kept going along that trajectory for another 4 years, and I no longer even feel outraged.  We have so much work to do, as a people, to correct our course.  I know that president Obama will disappoint a lot of his supporters, even if he really is the best person for the job, the best president we could realistically get.  There is just so much to be done, and undone.

On the other hand, I think there are so many reasons to be optimistic at this juncture.  The internet and other emerging technologies are going to drive change for the next decade.  Green energy, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering will fold themselves into the global network.  It is an exciting time to be a part of the creative class in this country.

From a personal point of view, I feel better about my own future than I ever have before*.  As I get older my goals shift.  Right now I feel like I'm going to achieve them.  I feel good about my next 20 or 30 years, in the same way that I felt good about this election.  Even though it was hard fought, even though there were disappointments, and even though we have a long hard road ahead (I'm looking at you, prop 8), things are going to get better.

I want to be able to look back and read this blog, when I'm old, and remember what I was thinking.  I want my kids to be able to read what I was thinking, when we elected Barack Obama.  I tend to keep a lot of my politics between myself and my wallet, because I feel uncomfortable sharing it publicly, but this is really important stuff.  It has more of a place in my record of myself than many of the things that I do end up talking about.

Today, Wednesday November 5th, I feel drained and dog tired, but very, very hopeful.

*even though I don't have a job!

what's up

I'm in the process of looking for a new job.  Our little company is not going to make it through, which makes me sad.  I invested a bunch of time and a bunch of sacrificed salary in order to work here, and I'm disappointed.

On the other hand, my salary will almost certainly rise by quite a bit in the next couple of months, assuing I can find a job.  I'm pretty sure I can find a job, since I have about half a dozen prospects right now.

San Fransisco:
-Three Rings

-Microsoft games

-Applied Minds/etc?

It's exciting times all around.  At least I don't have to worry about the election any more!
Marty, the guy who does all the sound for our games, sent me this halloween video that they cooked up.


The utter regularity of the weekly work schedule is somewhat depressing.  When my brother IMs me at 12:30 and says, "what's up," how am I supposed to respond?

and then I read this...

That's some nice blackmail you got there...


rehashing some things

(nothing new going on here, just writing it down, and trying to avoid blogging about the election.)

Comparing human beings across time is a fun exercise.  I enjoy comparing myself to a medieval lord.

Owns hundreds of acres of land
Owes allegiance/tribute/tithe to king/church
Has 3-10 full time domestic servants and oversees dozens or hundreds of serfs
Has plenty of kinda boring food, decent nutrition
Is moderately well educated
Is in good physical shape
Is prone to diseases he doesn't understand
Expects to live a total of what, 40-50 years?
Some intellectual freedom
Travels by horse
Writes letters to friends and family

Owns no land
Pays taxes
Zero to 0.05 domestic servants (a gardener comes by every 2 weeks?  I don't service my own car?)
Has a huge variety of tasty and affordable dietary options, excellent nutrition
Extremely/over educated
In ok physical shape
Is not afraid of getting sick
Expects to live 70+ (possibly ++) years
X-treme intellectual freedom
Travels by car, plane, bicycle, train
Communicates instantly with any of his acquantances

So, while I'm a lot poorer in terms of real estate, and in terms of the number of other lives I control, I'm much richer in almost every other meaningful way.  Or, while my relative position in society is much lower, my absolute position, in terms of freedom and quality of life, is much higher.  At least in my opinion.  So, I can scoff at the lord, and the lord can scoff at me.  Scoffs for everyone!

sartre update

Other people aren't so bad. You can work with them and empathize with them. You can develop a shared sense of community, shared purpose, and affection.

No. Hell is other companies.  Other companies see you as a resource to be extracted; they are obligated to their shareholders to fuck you over as much as they can.  There can be no love and no real understanding.


Ok so, of course that's a gross overstatement, but aside from being a gross overstatement, I think there's something there.  Corporations exist to further themselves, and they're implicitly designed to work without compassion or mercy.  That's one of the reasons negotiation between businesses takes the form of contracts.  Within a company, our human tribal instincts tend to hold us together, but between companies we are petty, demanding, and disrespectful.

Or at least, working across company lines has been a horrible, stressful experience for me for the past few months. (years?)  Care to dissent?

uh, only 12 days left.


I used to be full of vitality and curiosity.  Now when I sit at my desk I feel like a lump of cheese.  Luckily, when I'm not at my desk I'm still my regular scheming self.  Clearly I need to spend less time at my desk.  I wonder how I can make that work?

respect the table saw

A lot of the tools I own are relatively safe.  I feel ok drinking a beer or two while using the scroll saw, because in order to hurt myself with the scroll saw, I would need to put my finger on the blade while it is running, and hold it there for a few seconds.  Likewise the drill and dremel tool.  I won't drink while using the Oxy/Acetylene torch, but I generally feel pretty safe with it.  (I did burn myself badly once, but that was by trying to weld overhead while standing on shallow stairs.  Fell backwords.  Really dumb.  Oh and then one time I set the bulletin board (and my sweatshirt) on fire with the MIG Welder, but that was no big deal.)


On Saturday I bought a table saw*.  Of all the tools I own, it's easily the most dangerous.  And the loudest, and the most powerful.  I've been getting a tiny adrenaline rush every time I use it.  It makes a difference to be using a tool that could easily chop your finger off.  You respect it more.  I wonder if I've been missing that...

In any case, the shelves are almost done, I'll post a picture when they're all assembled.  After that, the liquor cabinet is next... I've got to do some joinery for that, which should be a good time.  I really like having a little shop space in the garage, I've been missing working with my hands.  Of course now if I'm not careful, I'll be working with missing hands.

*Nothing's gone wrong yet, and I've used plenty of table saws plenty of times before, and I always wear my safety equipment.  (I will never drink and use the table saw.)  I'm not worried, but I am interested in my own danger response.

this device has changed somehow

I installed WoW on my laptop yesterday.  The intent was to dabble in character creation and early levels with Annie, her on my PC and me on my laptop*.  I wasn't sure if my MacBook would be up to the task, but it was, easily, so that was nice.  We had a good time creating some Orcs to run around and do stuff.  It's great to be able to play online in the same room.

What's funny though to me is that afterwards, when I picked up my laptop and brought it into the other room, it literally felt different in my hands, as if it had a different weight.  I had changed the character of this device by installing a game on it.  I had flashes in my minds eye of me sitting down in a coffee shop or somewhere and killing some time on WoW**.  I don't know if I'd ever take myself up on it, and if I/we keep playing, I think I'll be able to keep it under control, but I thought it was an interesting anecdote of the physiological manifestations of gadget and gaming culture.

*I had a 14 day free trial CD that was eating a hole in my mental pocket.

**This is a big mental departure for me; It's my first laptop and until now I've used it entirely as an email and RSS box, with some SketchUp on the side.  Also, I am not accustomed to playing large games anywhere but at home, in my room.  (DS games being small.)


I'm not there yet, but if I have to find myself a new job, do I want to:

A) Keep working with Flash/AS3, in the casual web space
B) Work with java for a more serious web 2.0 company
C) Work with C++ or something in the hardcore games space
D) Find a job working with my hands, or get some crazy unrelated experience
E) Start an art furniture business
F) Jump straight into web based fundraising for a castle
E) No/Other


Sometimes I wish I had more secrets. Great prop for a stack or ARG though.

I am so glad, also tubes

I'm so glad the debates are over.  It's been a little torturous.  Not just watching them, but anticipating them, and reading all the pre- and post- coverage on the ole RSS.

Also, I've always been disappointed with live streaming on the internet.  I come in to work later than most, so getting off work by 6:00 when the debates are streaming live has not generally been possible.  My eternal expectation, eternally wrong, is that I should be able to start watching at 7:30, and see the whole debate, from start to finish.

WHY IS THIS SO FREAKING HARD?  Tivo can do it.  Why can the internet not do it?  Am I missing something?  Is there some site I don't know about where they do live streaming right?  I tried Hulu and Youtube and Mydebates.  FAIL.  The YouTube uploads kept failing around part 11 of 15.  Which, by the way, having to break the debate up into 15 parts is super dumb in itself.*  MyDebates just had no reference to the third debate video after the debate had finished.  Some time after 11:00 I stumbled upon the Hulu version, but I had to go back to their front page to find it, it wasn't on the debates page that I had been checking earlier in the evening.

Internet TV: still not ready for prime time.  So to speak.  Unlike Sam, I give it a D.  Unlike Phlargo I refuse to accept this limitation.  I'm mad as hell crap.  At least there are no more debates for a few years.


*I hear YouTube is getting better about this, I'll believe it when I'm watching YouTube and my eyes aren't bleeding.


Apparantly you can purchase an acre of land in Topanga Canyon (up the hill from Santa Monica and Malibu) for less than $300,000.  

Now, it's gonna be hilly and rocky, but I gotta say it's still tempting.  Build a cabin, then a house, then a castle.  Grow food.  Raise chickens and goats, grow grapes and make wine.  Oh, and commute 20 minutes to your job in Santa Monica.


With each passing day I get closer and closer to being "that guy," and it makes me nervous.


are expensive.  Specifically, wood.  I want to make a little piece of furniture, but I do not want to spend $75 on wood, and $15 on hardware.  I'd really like to avoid the low grade pine they sell at big box stores, and particle board or plywood is right out.


navigation, also identity

How often do you dare turn the lens of your design methodology on your own life?

As a member of the so-called "creative class," I am paid to make a class of decisions. Most of the time they're small decisions about how to organize and name these mostly abstract concepts that make games work. Sometimes they're slightly bigger decisions about game mechanics or interface direction. At the beginning of a new project I get to make structural and architectural decisions.

I have a decision making process; I steep myself in the language of the problem, and then I propose a solution, and then I iterate on that until the result is beautiful enough for me. Then I execute.

I feel like as I get older I'm more successful in applying a similar approach to the major decisions in my life, but the process is sometimes deeply frightening. Perhaps admitting that there is a choice to be made, is the scary part.

I tried last week to put money into the Intrade system so that I could buy shares of the Obama Pres contract. At the time the price was about 60, and I felt, and still feel, that the probability is about 95%. So, it's a great bet to me, and I wanted to put $1000 on it. I didn't, mostly because I couldn't figure out how to transfer money in from Bank of America.

They had instructions on the Intrade site for calling your bank and wiring money, but the idea of calling my bank puts this feeling of dread in me. It makes me feel like a broke teenager.

Let me be clear: I hate my bank. They take my money, they hit me with fees, and I really have no recourse, because I have no-one to blame, but over the years I've probably given them more than $1000 in overdraft fees, which drives me totally batty when I think about it. So how messed up is it that I am psychologically dominated by an institution that routinely and impersonally abuses me? Don't tell me it's a normal psychological reaction to abuse; I don't want to hear it.

I'm pretty sure I'd rather be a guy who makes $600 by betting on the election, than a guy that saw the opportunity but is afraid to call his bank. BUT, I'm also lazy. $600 of lazy? Maybe so, it's happened before. In any case, the Obama price has gone up, so it's less of a good deal now. :-/

So that's my emo story of the week.

But overall, my life is going great, and I'm really happy about it. I'll get over this financial malaise, maybe even soon.


I'm constantly fascinated by the concept of productivity.  

For much of human history, and most of human pre-history, we've been more or less on a break even basis.  You produce enough crops and houses and clothes and furniture to get by, with a little surplus.  The surplus is taken up by periodic wars or famines.  Life goes on generation to generation, maybe a little better, sometimes a little worse.

It's not really true anymore.  Our standard of living is on a steep upward slope.  One farmer can feed what, dozens or hundreds of people?  One small team of workers with modern tools can build many houses a year.  I can build all my own furniture and grow a lot of my own food, and it's not even the most efficient use of my time (I'm a rank amatuer at this stuff).  The most efficent use of my time might be writing business sofware or something.  I produce physical goods purely as a hobby.

The point is that even if scientific and technological progress came to a screeching halt right now,  each successive generation will still be richer than the previous.  In time, because of the productivity surplus, every child could have an iPhone, every teenager could have an electric car, every house could produce its own solar power.

The only thing that keeps us poor is the pace of progress of technology (no gadgets are heirlooms) and the pressure of population growth.  That is frickin crazy.

What's almost crazier though, is our response to it.  Never have we said, "that's enough, let's just work 20 hours a week and relax the rest of the time."  Instead, the average number of working hours per family per week has risen dramatically over the last 50 years.  I'm not one to argue agaisnt progress, but consider.  The promise of technology has always been to make things easier, but to what end?  I guess I always assumed, growing up, that the point was to have more leisure time.  I had this concept of, oh, machines will do all the work for us, so we can spend our time learning or playing or whatever.  WHATEVER.

I mean, I make casual games for a living so maybe we're already there, it just doesn't taste like I thought it would.  I want my freedom.

nap time

I'm supposed to be working but I can't stay awake.

but I still hate java

Installing the latest version of java should not cause the Flex compiler to break.

WTF all around.


I realize now my essential mistake in the process of porting this game.  I played it and looked at the code and formed an opinion that it was a moderately polished but essentially uninteresting thing.  So I proceeded to port it by distilling the intent behind vast swaths of code, and writing that intent in AS3 instead of Java.

What I did not realize, but probably should have, is that the client looks at this game entirely differently than I do.  They see it as a highly polished flagship of their online community.  What they wanted was for me to make the game's Java code run in AS3, exactly the same.  I completely misjudged their level of caring by projecting my own distaste for the product onto them.

So, I direspected their game, and I did a bad job porting it as a result, and now they have called in the original programmers to detail every feature or non-feature that the original game had that I optimized out, and are telling me to put them back in.  Fine.  We need the money.  But the work grates, and the game is still exactly as sucky as it used to be.

I don't like being the guy who does a bad job, and I ESPECIALLY don't like being the guy who works really hard but still ends up doing a bad job, so this entire situation is extremely uncomfortable.  A polished turd still smells, but if that's what the client wants you better damn well give it to them, or don't take the job.  I wish I had figured that out sooner.

national software foundation

Why isn't there a public institution whose mission is to create free open source digital infrastructure for everyone?  A free version of Photoshop, a free version of Maya, Free video and sound editing software, etc?

It would be analogous in execution to PBS and NPR, in that it would hire professionals from the private sector but would focus on producing software for the public good instead of for profit.

In mission it would be more similar to the Interstate system, the point is just to give everyone good free tools, and then get out of the way and let commerce happen.

To some extent the open source movement is filling this niche, but as a mostly volunteer effort they lack the focus and accountability that a publicly funded organization would have.  A Digital Infrastructure Foundation could prioritze usability and documentation in a way that the open source cannot (no-one volunteers to do things that aren't fun).  The DIF could focus on just a few projects, instead of forking out to thousands of tiny efforts.  One high quality image editor.  One text editor, one 3D architectural program, etc..  All free, all open source.  In fact the DIF could start with existing open source projects where appropriate.

There's a lot of thousand-dollar-software on the market today that sucks.   If there was a good, supported, free alternative, companies like Adobe would be forced to innovate and compete.  This is what Google did with search and email, and what they're trying to do with the browser, but Google as a company has a mission that includes making a profit.  The DIF would have a mission of empowering citizens.

The US is (probably?) the leading exporter of creativity in the world; it is currently our competitive advantage.  In order to maintain and expand this advantage, we need to get more and better tools into the hands of our citizens.  Digital infrastructure is going to be nearly as important as physical infrastructure in the near future, and so it makes sense for government to start investing in this public good.

this is relevant to my interests

I should read up on this and understand it, it's relevant to the Community Builder software.

Complementary currency - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

dehumanizing paperwork

I know I'm not the only one who hates filling out paperwork, but what I find really infuriating is the way that bureaucracy tries to fit you into a box. You can sometimes see through the form you're filling out to the committee that wrote it, and the committee invariably stares back at you with a cold dead expression of utter contempt. You lowly form-filling-out person. How can we best put you in a box so we can do math about you?

Filling out a form is an act of submissiveness to the Beast, a subtle reminder that you are being processed, chewed, just like everyone else. It hurts my ego, sure, but I'm also afraid that I'll get too used to the feeling, that I'll forget why I find it offensive, and that I will have lost something in the process.

I keep saying I'm not an anarchist; maybe it's just that as a humanist, I think that we can do better. Like, WAY better.

Good paperwork, like a clean interface, respects the citizen. It requires no duplication, and requests no unnecessary information. If a piece of information can be looked up in a database, it is not requested. If a piece of information is an irrelevant invasion of privacy, it is not requested. Optional fields are clearly marked. The reason you might want to provide this information is clearly noted. You don't have to print your address on every page. Why do we even need your address? It should say why you might want to give it to us, right there on the form!

The truth is, most paperwork is about exercising power. The organization has power over the individual, and forcing the individual to fill out paperwork is a way of exerting this power. The reason that some paperwork feels like torture is because it is. Just like poorly trained prison guards invariably abuse their prisoners, poorly trained bureaucrats invariably abuse their constituents, because they are in the same position of asymmetrical power.

Until we start calling this mental abuse what it is, we'll never escape the prisoner/guard emotional pattern that defines bad paperwork.  Solving this problem requires imagination and courage, but organizations that tackle this problem will find themselves, I predict, universally beloved.


If you're looking for one, here is an interesting--if biased--explanation of the current financial crisis. It's long but readable.

In 1982, the same year John McCain entered the Senate, a bill was put forward that would substantially deregulate the Savings and Loan industry. The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act was an initiative of the Reagan administration, and was largely authored by lobbyists for the S&L industry -- including John McCain's warm-up speaker at the convention, Fred Thompson. The official description of the bill was "An act to revitalize the housing industry by strengthening the financial stability of home mortgage lending institutions and ensuring the availability of home mortgage loans." Considering where things stand in 2008, that may sound dubious. It should.

Seven years later, the S&L industry was collapsing. What was the cause? Garn-St. Germain handed the S&Ls a greatly expanded range of capabilities, allowing them to go head to head with full service banks, but it didn't give them the bank's regulations. Left to operate in an anarchistic gray area, S&Ls chased profits, indulged in amazing extravagances, and cranked out enough cheap mortgages to fuel a real estate boom. They also experimented with lots of complex, creative -- and risky -- investments, even though they didn't have the economic models to really determine the worth of the things they were buying. The result was a mountain of bad debts and worthless "assets." Does any of that sound eerily (or nauseatingly) familiar?


Even so, by 1999 Phil Gramm ... put forward the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. ...

This act repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act. This may sound like a bunch of Congressperson soup, but the gist of it is that Glass-Steagall was put in place in 1933 to control the rampant speculation that had helped cause the collapse of banking at the outset of the depression, and to prevent such consolidation of the banks that the nation had all its eggs in one fiscal basket.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley reversed those rules, allowing not only more bank mergers, but for banks to become directly involved in the stock market, bonds, and insurance. Remember the bit about how S&Ls failed because they didn't have the regulations that protected banks? After Gramm-Leach-Bliley, banks didn't have that protection either.


In allowing financial institutions to grow to Godzilla-sized proportions, Gramm-Leach-Bliley helped ensure that we would have financial entities that were "too big to fail." Rather than choosing to enforce rules that kept these institutions apart, the deregulators chose to create monster bankeragasurances whose downfall (and existence) was enough to threaten the whole system. [hence the taxpayer must bail them out if they make bad decisions]


Credit default swaps did allow the banks to share risks. So much so, that banks raced each other in an effort to find more risks. They made it possible for the down payment on homes to become 3%, 1%, 0%. Skip the credit check, avoid the employment requirements, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! We've got a credit default swap, we can do anything!


How big did this market become? Here's business correspondent Bob Moon and host Kai Ryssdal on American Public Media's Marketplace from back in the spring.

BOB MOON: OK, I'm about to unload some numbers on you here, so I'll speak slowly so you can follow this.

The value of the entire U.S. Treasuries market: $4.5 trillion.

The value of the entire mortgage market: $7 trillion.

The size of the U.S. stock market: $22 trillion.

OK, you ready?

The size of the credit default swap market last year: $45 trillion.

KAI RYSSDAL: That's a lot of money, Bob.

As in three times the whole US gross domestic product, Bob. And the truth is that Moon probably underestimated. The unregulated and poorly reported credit default swaps may have actually passed $70 trillion last year, or about $5 trillion more than the GDP of the entire world.


Then a funny thing happened. After years in which banks had handed out loans willy-nilly, guarded by the indestructible swap, people and companies started to really default on those loans. Credit slowed, home prices fell, and the whole snake started to eat itself tail first. Suddenly, credit default swaps were not sources of limitless cash. It turns out that an insurance policy -- even a secret, unregulated policy -- is occasionally expected to pay. Speculators started to look at the paper they were holding and for the first time realized it could all be worthless. Worse, it could (and did) represent a massive debt; one that no one had the funds to cover.


It may come as a surprise to the champions of deregulation, but nobody likes regulation. The restrictions that were placed on banks, S&Ls, and other institutions in the 1930s weren't put there because someone thought it would be fun. They were put in place because they addressed problems that had just been clearly and painfully revealed. They were put in place because they were necessary.

celebrity jeopardy of economics

Ever notice how FDIC looks really close to EPIC? You just have to extend the F and D downward a bit, like so:

It's like a visual pun. Aren't I clever?

holding pattern

I'm feeling unsettled about work stuff, and that tends to cascade down a bit, making me less likely to start new projects or commit to spending money.  Frustration ensues.

i smelled the brine when i saw this image

Join me at Machine Project in Los Angeles on Saturday September 20, 2008 for Picklefest 2008!
FREE, but bring pickle jars, and produce to pickle and/or swap with your new pickle buddies.
In collaboration with Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne from and Mark Frauenfelder from, we’re excited to be hosting our first ever pickling festival and produce swap.

It might be fun to meet the Homegrown Evolution peeps, I enjoy their book. You know what else I enjoy? Pickles.

just for my sanity

embedding fonts in AS3 is just slightly more complicated than it appears to be.

[Embed(source='../asset/fonts/CENTURY.TTF', fontName="embed_CENTURY", mimeType="application/x-font-truetype")]
public static const FONT_CENTURY:String;
var EffectTxt:TextField = new TextField;
var format:TextFormat = new TextFormat("embed_CENTURY");
EffectTxt.embedFonts = true;

I always forget that last line, because if you have the font installed on your system, and if the font name you use for the embed is the same as the font's system name, it will use the device font and it will look fine.  Cost me about 2.5 hours today.

grumpy face.

nothin like livin

It's nice to have a day off.  I took care of a lot of the little things that were nagging me.  Bills, laundry, shave, haircut, yard work, that sort of thing.  Nice to have a little bit of time to reflect.  I went and saw my brother Isaac at his new place.  It's tiny, but it ain't in Newbury Park.

I have so many plans and ideas that don't even have time to stew properly, and I'm not about to go into them right now, except to say that I hope I'll get to consider some of them a little more seriously in the next few months, and maybe even execute one or two.  There's nothing like living.

What I mean is... sometimes we get so busy we forget our dreams.  And sometimes our dreams get so busy they forget our lives.  I think a big part of my growing up has been the convergance of the two... my dreams get more realistic and my life simultaneously gets closer to what I want it to be.  I used to feel sad about changing my dreams, but let's face it: when I was young I didn't know how to live, so clearly my dreams were going to be a little bit off.  Improving our dreams perhaps, is just as important as striving towards them.

Maybe I'll have more time to think now.


I've been looking at real estate prices in the South Bay recently, and it's incredible how much they've dropped since two years ago.  Right now there are a lot of houses one the market for under 350k, which means that the monthly mortgage payment is under $2000, which is a lot for one person, but is way cheaper than rent for say, 3 people.  So, why not buy a 3-bedroom house and sublet the rooms?*  I've always liked the idea, but in the California real estate market it's never really been... imagineable.  Now it is.  That intrigues me.

*srsly, why not?

wednesday is bring your crowbar to work day

On wednesday the CERN Particle accelerator goes live.  Bring your crowbar to work in case something goes wrong.*

*kids, always remember to wear your HEV suit.

AS3 shortcomings

The lack of block-scoped variables in AS3 is really killing me.
for(var i:int = 0; i != 5; i++)

for(var i:int = 0; i != 7; i++)
throws a compiler warning for duplicated variables, but ALSO,
var i:int = 4;
does not throw a compiler warning, since 'i' is defined in the function scope.  This can lead to unexpected behavior.

In porting from Java, one of the most irritating non-regular expressionable tasks is finding all the duplicate variable definitions and moving them to the beggining of the function, because AS3 doesn't respect block scoping.

AS3 is a huge step up from AS2, and there's a lot I like about it, but this omission is really glaring, and frankly amatuerish.

on porting

Maybe I'm a big elitist, but I really dislike porting bad code. I'm always torn between wanting to rewrite and restructure it, and wanting to just push it through. I feel like it makes my brain dirty every time I read it.

It does hurt me...the code duplication, the completely extraneous code, the badly named varibles... I understand that it's just the nature of a large project like this, that just accrues code, that sometimes it's easier to copy and paste than to encapsulate, but... it still hurts me. 

It's the missing sense of pride, I guess?  Like, in porting this, I'm not really on the line for algorithm design or anything, the game already works... but I still feel bad passing on these terrible tangles to whoever else will have to work on them.  I feel bad putting my name at the top of the file, I want to put a disclaimer next to it.

Basically, I've been spoiled this past year by only working on our in-house code.*

*elitist fist bump, mabreu.



chrome architecture ftw

Admittedly, it might be the browser's fault that flash crashes, but I don't really care; I'm just happy that a browser is finally taking stability and responsiveness seriously.

you are what you read?

Funny article about selfish economists.  I've always wondered how much your profession influences your personality, and vice versa.  If you study optimal selfish behavior for a living, it's no wonder that you tend to make choices that way.  What's really messed up, in my opinion, is that you then project that decision making math on everyone else.

this and that

Jonathan Coulton does an Obama fundraiser in NYC.

Google Chrome is my new browser.

Sarah Palin's rollout is EPIC FAIL.

Everyone is talking about a Coffee Shop and Game Store.  Percolate away, tiny dreams.

coffee cartel ftw

Our search for a great local coffee house is now over. It is this place.

Open to 11 on weekdays and 12 on weekends, free wifi, plenty of couches and comfy chairs, not Starbucks*. Done and done.

*I still love you Starbucks.

i love wikipedia

from here
When Xerxes was crossing the Hellespont in the midst of the first Greco-Persian War, he built two bridges that were quickly destroyed. Feeling personally offended, his paranoia led him to believe that the river was consciously acting against him as though it were an enemy. As such Herodotus quotes him as saying "You salt and bitter stream, your master lays his punishment upon you for injuring him, who never injured you. Xerxes will cross you, with or without your permission."[2] He subsequently threw chains into the river, gave it three hundred lashes and "branded it with red-hot irons".[3]
It's the semi-snarky use of quotation marks that really puts it over the top.

magic beans

may be just what I'm looking for.

From the story:
  • Traded in parallel to conventional currency
  • Undervalued by muggles.
  • Actually pretty awesome.
Seems to fit the bill. We'll use 'beans' for short and 'Bs' for even shorter.

alphabet songs

The experiment is, sing along with whatever song is playing right now, but instead of the song lyrics, sing one letter of the alphabet for every note.

I found it really disorienting, and I had to think hard about each note. I think it's because I generally remember the alphabet by singing it, and without that melody and rhythm to fall back on it takes a while to pull up the knowledge.

Also, I've never been that great at alphabetization, my secret shame!

replacing money*

Money has worked pretty well over the years, but it is best suited to zero-sum trading (where, for example, I give you a chair and you give me $50, and then we are both happy.) Money is not so great at modeling other situations though, like chore distribution in a household, or volunteer efforts in a community. In fact there are lots of things we would like to do where money really isn't appropriate, because the nature of the transaction is just different. For instance if I watch a video online, I've gotten entertainment, but I didn't take anything away from the author, not time, not a physical good, so the interaction is not really zero sum.

Charles Stross writes about this topic in the early parts of Accelerando, where Manfred Manx is trying to escape the old zero sum economy altogether by simply doing favors for people and letting them reward him as they see fit. Clay Shirkey talks about large groups of people coming together for non-monetary projects in Here Comes Everybody, but what is missing is a currency... The good will and social capital that is built up within a micro-community is inherently non-transferable to another community, and without the security of being able to quantify and transfer this social good, incentives are low to produce it, and trade remains local and conservative.

In the early days of physical trade, local bartering systems gave way to communal, interchangeable currencies. What we have now is a similar problem, where we have a billion tiny economies of sharing, but no currency to tie them together, no liquidity of volunteerism. In the same way that your net worth in dollars is a measure of how much you own and control, your net worth in the currency of sharing will reflect the strength of your ties to the community, and the community's ties to you. Similarly to money, it will confer real-world benefits. Unlike money, it does not go away when you use it.

*I am not an anarchist or a communist, and in fact I don't think that money will ever quite go away, but I'd like to see a parallel system of currency that is better suited to the future.

future memoirs

It was a strange time... Our access to information about ourselves had gotten ahead of our ability to deal with it... We had outgrown our cultural immune system temporarily, and so we were sneezing all the time. Everyone was afraid of pedophiles and terrorists. We had mostly shaken off the simplistic corporate parasites of the 20th century, but we were still stuck in the lifestyle they had created... It was an exciting time to be thinking about the basic questions of how to live.


This is the first thing I saw when I got out of the cab at the Red Lion in Seattle.
what can I say.

another domain name is also available. Seems like a strong contender.

database design and game design?

It occurred to me today that one of the reasons I'm so indecisive when it comes to database design, is that my brain is used to a totally different set of problems.

In game design, interface, algorithm, and efficiency are first considerations, and data structure generally conforms to the solutions chosen to those problems. When I sit down and try to design a database, I fail, because designing a database answers none of the questions that my brain is asking.

From my perspective, databases only exist because we don't have enough RAM to store everything in memory. They are an artifact of way computers grew up: processing power is expensive, slow, massive storage is cheap. Databases exist to be robust and permanent houses for large volumes of data, their design philosophy presupposes that data in a computer is fragile and volatile (which it is.)

So when I'm thinking about a new app, maybe I don't need to nail down the database first. After all, a database is just a bit bucket. That's not to say database design is trivial or unimportant, it's just to say that it's secondary to application design, which is really what I'm interested in anyway.

So let's get to it then.

steepled roofs

I'm frustrated with modern house construction.

Modern American houses were effectively designed hundreds of years ago by people in other countries with different tools, different requirements, and different constraints.* Land was cheap, material was expensive, labor was cheap, and everything had to be made by hand.

Just by rethinking some of those basic assumptions, we can start to make much better use of the space we have.

Steepled roofs are good for shedding water and snowfall, but in Southern California these things are just not concerns. Why not have a gently sloped, accessible roof with space for a garden, sunbathing, barbecuing, or stargazing? Land in California is amazingly expensive, even in the housing crunch, but when will we start using the space we have?

*Also people were shorter. What is the deal with 8 foot ceilings and 6 foot beds?

zeitgeist - vertical farms and airships

A couple of my favorite ideas keep popping up. Do I love them because they are hip, or are they hip for the same reason that I love them?
Architects' renderings of vertical farms — hybrids of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Biosphere 2 with SimCity appeal — seem to be stirring interest.

(Article, via boing boing)

As the cost of fuel soars and the pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, several schemes for a new generation of airship are being considered by governments and private companies. "It’s a romantic project," said Mr. Massaud, 45, sitting amid furniture designs in his Paris studio, "but then look at Jules Verne."


On reflection, this is probably just what I get for reading boing boing. What is the deal with those guys.


Give your love freely;
take ownership;
don't be afraid to let go.

another code editor feature

As I try to avoid carpal tunnel, I'm using the mouse scroll wheel less, and the page up and page down keys more. But pages are not logical separators in code, so I'd rather that the page up and down keys paged to previous function and next function, instead.

Does any code editor do this?

Maybe it would get annoying if your function were more than a page long and you wanted to scroll within them, but really that should* be rare--your functions should almost always fit on a page.

*that's right, "should." As in, "the universe would be a better place if."

domain name

The idea is that each sub-project is a subdomain, so we have and and

I'll start with basic membership, level progression, tasks, and claiming, and start to layer on more tools, including conflict resolution, project rules, voting, etc., as they become necessary.

The idea is not build a complete stand-alone social network, but rather just the tools that don't exist anywhere else, and that external tools like emails, forums and wikis will carry the brunt of the actual interaction and work, until it becomes clear that a tighter integration is required.

agile issue-specific citizen driven lobbying

I just got an email from that goes like this:
Let's Escrow Our Money to Keep Obama Progressive

[...]we are asking you to use your money to ensure that Barack Obama lives up to his promise to deliver "change we can believe in. "

How? By creating a progressive "escrow" fund that you control.
This particular email is focusing on the FISA bill, and is trying to get Obama to put his weight on the telecom immunity issue. The idea is that sure, he's probably going to get our support anyway, but by tying a large amount of money up in escrow to a general behavior or a specific policy, diverse groups of citizens can have a big impact.

This is called lobbying, and it's generally associated with big organizations, trade groups, and corporations. Seeing it spread to the grassroots like this is illuminating, and it makes me hopeful that we're at the start of an era when concerned citizens can compete on an equal battlefield with concerned corporations.

Why not create an escrow fund for your issue, and allow any politician who champions your issue to earn those donations? It's all personal donations, under the cap, totally legal. Want to dismantle the DMCA or 100 year copyright? Start a fund, and the congresscritters who make it happen can claim the support of your grassroots group.

We spend a lot of time wishing politicians would ignore the money and follow their hearts and brains, but money will never leave politics, because getting elected is expensive. Maybe we just need to change the way it flows.

By the way, this is exactly the model of the NRA, and they have been enormously successful. The promise of the internet is that this model can be used instantly, on any issue that people care about, not just long-term cultural issues like guns and abortion.

...In the end, money is speech, and rich people have more access than poor people, but by leveraging superior numbers and distributed organization, poor people can have more of a voice now than they did before.

learning about plants

I keep learning things about growing things in the ground. Step One has been learning how much I don't know, which is practically everything. Basically, the crows eat my tomatoes, and the snails eat my sprouts. I can do better. I've started following this blog by an Angelino couple, which is a good way to get the flavor of insight I'm looking for.

Also, today's DrMcNinja is particularly choice: "You need me to tell you how to hack a Draculabot so that you can ride it safely to earth from the moon."

internet famous

Josh Marshall* cites me in a late update:
Late Update: TPM Readers NA and CS both note, very cleverly and aptly, that this is pretty much the plot line from The Producers.

*My journalism hero. Dude was featured in GQ.

thoughts and progress

Here are the ground rules for a system to build social capital by collectively generating and fulfilling tasks. Imagine that these tools exist in a web app, and are supplemented with comments, forums, news feeds, and customizable email notifications.

  • members have an xp count, which is 100 for new members, and 1000 for community founders
  • members have a level
  • members have membership information
  • members have a history of every xp event
  • maybe some stats that relate to the types of tasks claimed
  • members have a public message board that they control
  • members may have additional 'stats' specific to the community

  • tasks have names and descriptions
  • tasks can have deadlines(default is none)
  • tasks with deadlines can be urgent(default is no)
  • tasks have a quantity, and the quantity must be finite (default is 1)
  • tasks can be repeatable by a member, or not (default is yes)
  • tasks can request verifiable proof, or not (default is no)
  • tasks have owners and sponsers
  • tasks remember their histories
  • tasks may have associated stats
  • tasks can have comments

  • owners create tasks and edit them
  • any member with positive xp can create a task. That member becomes the owner of the task
  • sponsors invest xp to sponsor a task - invested xp temporarily lowers a players total
  • sponsors can alter their sponsorship amount at any time (before a claim)

  • tasks can be claimed by any member with non-negative xp
  • when a task is claimed
    • the reward is granted to the claimant
    • the sponsors are refunded 120%
    • claiming your own task fully refunds the debt, but only grants a percentage of the claim amount, this percent starts at 0 and increases to 20 over time. (the vesting time is longer for larger rewards (constant xp rate per time, up to 20%)
  • a task cannot be urgent with no deadline, but can have a deadline without being urgent
  • tasks that have a deadline and are urgent start off cheap and increase over time until claimed
    • the sooner it is claimed, the higher the kickback for the sponsors
  • a claim can have comments
  • a task can be un-claimed within 1 week of claim
    • re-activates it,
    • rescinds the refund to the sponsors (including additional award)
    • rescinds the award to the claimee

owners can deny claims within 1 week of claim
  • rescinds award from claimant
  • debits additional 50% of award as well.
  • rescinds refund from sponsors
  • temporarily destroys 50% of sponsored xp
  • task is re-activated
  • denial can be 'blessed' by members, each blessing restores sponsored xp to the task relative to the level of the member
  • there is a time frame, after which no further blessings may apply
  • (denying a claim is much more destructive than getting the claimant to un-claim it)
members can rebuke other members - committing 1 xp to destroy 1 xp
  • rebuking can drive a player into negative xp, at which point they are effectively suspended from posting or claiming tasks
  • a rebuke can be blessed similar to claim denials
  • there is a time frame, after which no further blessings may apply
members can squash tasks by spending 1 xp to destroy 1 xp
  • a squash can be blessed similar to claim denials
  • there is a time frame, after which no further blessings may apply

members can transfer xp to other members at a cost of 2 xp for every 1 xp granted.
  • xp spent in this way cannot be restored by the community

as members gain xp, they advance in levels
  • level progression requirements grow geometrically (or exponentially?)
stats improve independently as corresponding tasks are claimed
  • stats improve along a similar curve to levels.
the community can place stat requirements on level advancement

members vote with their levels, but have to choose where to commit their votes.

here is an example of a stats system that a community might implement:
  • Strength - physical tasks
  • Dexterity - personal development, training, skills, and certification
  • Constitution - dirty, boring, or unpleasant tasks
  • Intelligence - technical tasks
  • Wisdom - artistic tasks
  • Charisma - communication tasks

there are tools for scheduling many tasks
  • such as one task per day for "make dinner"
there are report pages to see interesting activity
there is maybe a web service to allow web tools to auto-claim certain tasks


The first thesis is that this set of capabilities can foster a community to build something big, for free.

Positive interactions quickly multiply the communal xp pool (claiming a task creates 120% of the invested amount of xp, for a total of 220%), negative interactions deplete it; the second thesis is that the total xp of the community is a good measure of the social capital of the group, and represents real-world value in itself.

...I still need a good name for this system.

the backyard

I want to clear out the bushes around the eucalyptus tree, and put in a deck and an outdoor kitchen. Maybe do some landscaping also, and maybe plant some blackberries with trellises along the east wall. Paint the shed, add some lighting.

Maybe I should ask the landlord first?

in search of the next code editor

What about hyperlinks?
class Hello
public Hello()
print("Hello World.");

when you've got the ctrl key held down, becomes:
class Hello
public Hello()
print("Hello World.");
When you click the link, keywords and library functions bring up help, symbols navigate to declaration or definition, as appropriate.

Note, this does not replace good tooltips, which are also requisite. The difference is that hyperlinks denote navigation, whereas tooltips bring the help to you, in context. We should have both, and there should be a back button for reversing all navigations. Some editors already have this.

don't open that email!

The New York Times reports today that White House officials simply refused to open an email from the EPA last year because they knew it contained a policy recommendation they didn't like -- part of the Administration's on-going battle with scientists at the EPA over global warming issues. (TPM)
The hallmark of this administration, to me, has always been their willingness to break every rule and ignore every convention, if they felt they could do so without facing consequences. It seems to be a deliberate policy: exercise every avenue of power that you can, to prove that you can, in case you need it later. Establish every precedent you can get away with. You see this time and time again in the scandals over the years: signing statements, war propaganda, politicizing the Department of Justice, politicizing science, and warrantless wiretapping... The administration will ignore laws it does not like, and will defy congress and the courts in an attempt to define its own reality.

Ignoring a policy email is childish and dysfunctional, but if no one will hold them accountable for it, it is ultimately an effective tactic. By taking impeachment off the table, and by refusing to enforce its subpoena power, and by ratifying telecom immunity, the Democratic Congress has shown that it is unable or unwilling to enforce discipline. So apparently we just have to ride it out. My prediction is that Congress will remember its oversight powers as soon as the next president takes office. Sucker.

the meta game of castle construction

There's a site called Chore Wars where everyone in your household can create a character, and their character in game earns experience and goes up level every time the player does some housework in real life. You have to trust the players to self report accurately, but for small households that's not a problem. Not only does it wrap a metagame around the (questionable) game of housework, but it provides a reward and accountability system at the same time. If everyone in the house is level 20-25, except John who is level 5, you know who's been shirking.

I think this idea could be applied to castle design, development, construction, and maintenance. It would require maintaining a database of tasks (quests?), allowing users to create accounts, tracking completion of tasks, assigning XP rewards. Generate a list of obstacles to overcome on the path to awesome communal castledom, and create a reward system for individuals who help the community overcome those obstacles. Designing a room is worth 1000XP, creating architectural drawings is worth double, building a wall is worth a 5000XP, making dinner for the crew is worth 70XP, feeding the fish is worth 20XP, etc.. Every dollar you donate to the general fund is worth 1XP. Community administrators and moderators edit the XP values of all tasks, and tasks that go undone accumulate XP, so that eventually they will be picked up by someone, and the system self-regulates.

Then layer a system of IRL rewards for achieving levels. Castle priveleges are the main reward. Level 50+ contributors can live at the castle for the rest of their lives, level 5 contributors can stay free for a few days, and so on. Even (and especially) the founders are bound by these rules, and the rules are voted on by all contributors with voting rights (level 10+?). The community gets the benefits of crowd collaboration, and evades the tragedy of the commons. There's palpable status, not to mention material rewards for participation. The many kinds of participation all funnel in to a common community reward system that's not primarily monetary, which is key for a system built primarily on love.



I'll be downloading the trial soon, and I'll probably post some pictures of the results.

media bias: drama

Check this out:

Obama McCain Net 304 221 Obama +83 300 238 Obama +62
Real Clear Politics 238 190 Obama +48
Rasmussen Reports 260 240 Obama +20

MSNBC 200 200 Tied
CNN 190 194 McCain +4

The media's bias is in favor of drama, so the race is always tied.


They got a lot of nerve, ignoring that sign.

rampage, cont'd.

This is our patio, now with lights.

I think it mostly worked out.

The steel cables keep the lights from hanging down and annoying me. The lamp isn't perfect, but it's a kinda fun.

Now it's party time.


These capacitive switches were hard to find.

our extended identities, and implications

I read an interesting article that goes like this: It really does hurt to sell one of your possessions, independent of how much monetary value you put on it.

I am certainly a frequent victim of this effect; I almost never sell anything, and I find it very difficult to throw things away. Some members of my family* have it even worse than I do. Instead of getting into the neuroscience of this though, I'm going to riff on the broader implications. This result implies that we, as individuals, have a sense of self that extends well beyond our physical bodies, and well into the things around us that make up our daily lives. And, I would argue, also to the people around us, and also to their possessions. This expanded self-identification allows us to empathize well with our friends and families and neighbors, because we literally do feel their pain, or a shadow of it, when something goes wrong or something is lost. If my friend sells his car, I feel sad.

The degree to which my mood tracks the well-being of my car and my computer can be a bit disturbing, frankly, and I think that as we integrate more and more technology into our lives, more of our identities will become digital, and we will identify more with digital 'things.' We already identify strongly with our blogs, our online avatars, our email inboxes, our weighted companion cubes.

Is this effect exploitable? Why yes! Give someone a free gift, where the gift ties them into continuing to pay for your services. If they accept the gift, they will be far more likely to pay monthly fees than to find a cheaper service provider, because parting with the gift will cause them pain. See: cellphones, MMORPGs.

Anyway, I love the idea that our selves are not sharply defined by the borders of our physical bodies, but extend in very real, physiological ways, far out into the world we care about. Overlap in self-identification creates community and shared responsibility. Good times.

*Ahem, K.

home improvement rampage

I'm on a roll.
  • I replaced the showerhead with one a new one that I removed the flow regulator from, so that our shower it has good water pressure now.
  • I found and installed the bug screens for my bedroom window.
  • I replaced a couple light bulbs.
  • I replaced the ceiling fan in the bathroom (!)
  • I made a little shop space for myself in the garage.
  • I reorganized my closet/pantry space in the hallway.
  • I finished working on the nightstand.
Next up:
  • sand and paint the bathroom ceiling?
  • replace or refinish the bathroom lights (they're all rusty and gross)
  • outdoor lighting, or shade, or decoration for the patio area.
  • other mysterious projects?
Basically, I decided that I needed to take some ownership of my space. I've been kindof upset at how dingy the house seems, especially the bathroom, but it's hard to know where to start sometimes. It's a lot like that Dido song, Life For Rent... I mean, yes, I am renting here, but nevertheless. If I wait for the landlord to do the upkeep, the place is never really going to be up to my standards, and more importantly, it will never really be my space. Even if I don't own the house, I can still own the space, and that's what this past week has been about.

Replacing the ceiling fan was kindof a big leap for me, in this regard. I had to crawl up into the attic, remove the old fan, wire up the new one, expand the hole in the drywall ceiling, mount the new one, and then clean the whole thing up. Our attic space is cramped and dirty, just fyi. I mean... it's not the worst thing I've ever done in hyperspace (space above or between rooms); I once spent several hours with a hammer drill removing several hundred pounds of concrete from above someone's closet. But it comes back to the ownership question. I've never put that level of commitment into a place that wasn't in some way my responsibility, so that me feel good.

please knock to be entered

The people in the office next to ours are guilty of some truly world-class bad signage.

Let's go through them one by one, from the point of view of a customer, walking down the hall looking for these people.
Ok, so there are three companies in this suite. Sure, no problem. One of these companies is probably the one I'm here to see. I'll just--

Whoa, okay, that's a little strange for a office door. Am I welcome here? Maybe they've had problems with delinquent teenagers or homeless people? Let's see...

Okay, now I'm confused; I can come in, but only if I'm not trespassing. Well at least this seems to imply that there is a business here that wants customers. Since I'm here to see these people I'll probably be fine. The sign says I should just come in, so I'll just open the d--

Oh, a doorbell. Well, maybe I'll ring the doorbell then, instead of walking in? Maybe then they can determine whether or not I'm trespassing... Here goes, ringing the--

Wait, what? Okay, I don't even know where to begin unpacking this one. First of all, I came here to talk to you people, not to be probed or penetrated IN ANY WAY. Second of all, if I did want to be entered, whatever that means, should I knock or ring the doorbell? Maybe the doorbell is for people who don't want to be entered? It's pretty ambiguous. I know one thing for sure: I am not walking through that door. I am leaving and driving home.

Here it is all together, in all its glory:

The cognitive dissonance of this display is startling. Why does nobody talk to the manager and say, "look, your signs are awful and they are scaring us." I... just... the... HOW CAN THIS BE THE PUBLIC FACE OF YOUR BUSINESS? IT'S COMPLETELY SCHIZOPHRENIC! WHERE IS YOUR SENSE OF PRIDE?

I mean, how hard is it to create a display that doesn't argue vigorously with itself?



...I like to try to give people the benefit of the doubt wherever possible, but this just kills me. The grammar issue with the paper sign is probably the funniest, but it's honestly just the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. What really, really bothers me about this door, day in and day out as I walk past it, is it's blithe ignorance of its own conflicting messaging. The concepts conveyed by the signs on this door are in direct opposition to eachother, and its left to the reader to sort it all out. Thus the signs more than cancel themselves out, they leave the reader with a vague uneasiness about the entire business. These signs are almost certainly driving away customers, and I guess that bothers me.