April 27th, 2017
posted by [personal profile] memekink at 08:46am on 27/04/2017
Just so you all know, Dreamwidth posted this on their twitter yesterday, if any of you are available to help out. (Not sure if they still need it though, since it's been over 24 hours.)

jadelennox: Buffy's Xander with an eyepatch: Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, That time would take me. (btvs: xander: lambwhite)
posted by [personal profile] jadelennox at 08:41am on 27/04/2017 under
Mood:: 'curious' curious

Posted by Steve Benen

Republican leaders like Donald Trump and Paul Ryan made specific public commitments about their health care plan. They're now breaking those promises.
calliopes_pen: (sallymn dark and stormy story)
posted by [personal profile] calliopes_pen at 07:20am on 27/04/2017 under
Comment with a fanfic trope and, if you'd like, a character/pairing, and I will tell you:
• how likely I am to write it
• Maybe a few lines of theoretical fic

posted by [syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed at 11:48am on 27/04/2017

Posted by Andrew Brown

This is a novel of ideas which proceeds through pages of earnest conversation interrupted by cataclysmic explosions or scarcely less cataclysmic fucks after which another set of characters take up another earnest conversation until the next explosion. Chatter chatter bang bang – and this time the magic car is taking us back to the late Sixties. The counterculture in Walkaway is a very recognisable enlargement of the world according to the Whole Earth Catalog, in which technology and computers and spontaneous co-operation will combine to deliver us from evil. You reach the better world by separating from the Evil Big Daddy world through a tunnel of music, sex and drugs and when you have made this journey of rebirth you build the new Jerusalem, a shining Shoreditch on a hill.

Since I am going to be rude about the ideas, it’s worth saying right now that the novel, is much more interesting than the world that it is set in, because the novel has a couple of complex and well realised characters, among them the heroine’s evil father. And the consideration of how you deal with the existential dread of a computer program which realises it’s a human being is science fiction at its best.

But the world in which this utopia is worked out has fatal problems.

Getting back to the Whole Earth Catalog is a necessary journey for today’s optimists. The big ideas of late Sixties northern California were the culmination of all the good big ideas of the preceding century, and they still provide our most powerful pictures of what a better world ought to look like. Right now, when we’re living in the first days of some much worse nations, we need to understand what went wrong with the old dreams that wound up with us here.

It was generally true back then that material scarcity was not a huge problem for young white North Americans and still less for Western Europeans. Even without inherited class privilege there was work if you wanted it, and adequate social security if you did not. There seemed to be more than enough of everything people really needed to go round. It turned out, with the oil shock and afterwards, that this was not true. But in the world of Walkaway, the problem of abundance has been definitively solved. There is nothing that cannot be made with the machinery which has somehow escaped the control of the square world – and, logically, once you have a device that can fabricate anything, given the blueprints, it can obviously fabricate copies of itself, which suggests that the end of scarcity must come almost all at once if it ever comes at all.

The model for this abundance is the digital world, where copying is almost friction free, unless friction is added by legal impediments. The consequences of that have not, however, been utopian, unless you regard iTunes and Facebook as part of utopia. Quite apart from the effects on the producers of art and artefacts of no longer getting paid, a world where no one need pay for software could not on its own satisfy everyone’s wants. What’s more, it turns out that software that isn’t paid for is only really good when it is used by the people who make it.

The web would not function for a second without free software; but the stuff which works well is produced by programmers for programmers. When it comes to interacting with people who have no interest in programming, money provides by far the most direct and accurate way of communicating the users’ preferences. To see the proof of this, you need only look at the general quality of IoS (where the writers expect to be paid by their users) against Android software – which makes far less money. For what it’s worth, I use android stuff very happily, but most of the bits that work well are funded by advertising, which brings its own problems. If all you’re doing is scratching your own itch, it is unlikely that this will relieve my discomfort.

This has implications for the Doctorow utopia. Universal fabbing devices would not in themselves solve all the problems of scarcity any more than the ubiquitous availability of computers and high quality free software mean that the normal user can make software that does what they want. The skills of design and engineering will remain choke points even when manufacturing is a mere detail of implementation. The history of the computer industry teaches us that there is a constant battle to commodify whatever is profitable, but that as soon as one thing is commodified, something else begins to yield vast profits to its controllers.

Walkaway is very self-consciously tied to an ideal of the hacker/maker culture which again has its roots in early seventies northern California. All of these ideas – the use of technology for individual freedom and empowerment – the power of the gift economy – the brilliance of lone hackers building things for love – the half-secret networks of those who truly understand and thus become the unacknowledged legislators of the world – can be found in Steven Levy’s Hackers, (published in 1984) and again, ten years later, in the early editions of Wired magazine. Yet look at Wired magazine today. Something huge went wrong and we still don’t entirely understand what. The great failing of this book is that it doesn’t much help us understand what went wrong, nor how to stop it happening again.

The liberal and optimistic idea which triumphed in the Sixties utopia is simple: if people are free to choose for themselves they will make good choices. The simple conservative reply is that in such cases people will choose badly. To quote Grace Slick, they will be “obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent … and we are!”. One problem turned out to be that all these words were not merely satisfyingly frightening to parents. They have real and unpleasant meanings which no one should celebrate. So the conservative concludes that people can’t be trusted with freedom and need wise guardians and to protect them from themselves.

Ah but, the liberal returns: we can learn from our mistakes. We can even learn from our parents’ mistakes. And, in any case, who is going to guard the wise guardians? Human beings may be unfitted for freedom, but they are still more unfitted to exercise power. This is the fundamental argument for democracy and is at least strong enough to ensure that neither side can ever triumph in the long run, however strong their evidence appears to be at any given moment.

But there is another argument against the liberty of desire. This isn’t about the direction of our appetites but about their force. Suppose the problem is not so much that our appetites are disordered because we want the wrong things as that they are too strong and too little inhibited however they are directed. Greed is not good, ever. Insatiable wants cannot be satisfied by any amount of abundance, so the idea that we should satisfy them all is inherently flawed.

One aspect of this is that some of the things I want are positional goods. My possession of them requires you to be dispossessed. The traditional line on that, which I think Doctorow follows, is that everyone should excel at something and then all will have prizes – but this rather misses the satisfaction offered by positional goods, which is precisely that other people think they are enviable. The attention of strangers is perhaps the most obvious positional good, since its supply will always be rationed, and it is satisfying only to the degree that others can’t have it. Being Kim Kardashian must be almost entirely pointless (apart from the money) but try to imagine the still greater futility of being the Kardashian whom nobody knows – Trevor, perhaps, or Beatrice.

I know a man who realised in early adulthood that he was never going to be best in the world at any of the things he was good at, but for a while soothed the demands of his ego by thinking that he was best in the world at the combined event of solving Times Crosswords and playing chess (he was actually a GM at that time) . But even here success requires others to fail, although in a competition they have no idea they’ve entered. And many of the positional goods that people lust after gain in desirability by being more widely desired. So most of those appetites are never going to be satisfied.

Doctorow understands this very well but he confines the problem to the old, square world: the bad guys, the “zotta rich”, are far more vivid and interesting in their insatiable appetites than the heroes are. But the bad guys are all confined to the world outside the walkaway, and this is the central flaw of the book’s optimism, because in our own timeline the zottas emerged from the counterculture rather than the square world it thought it was rejecting. Steve Jobs and Jann Wenner were world class assholes empowered by the idealism around them. The libertarian hacker culture gave rise to Uber, to Facebook, and to Peter Thiel. 1

The important point is that any better culture we try to build will need defences against the rise of such people from among the good guys. This may not be possible. That was certainly the view of John Milton, who knew a thing or two about paradise.

For though it were granted us by divine indulgence to be exempt from all that can be harmfull to us from without, yet the perversnesse of our folly is so bent, that we should never lin hammering out of our owne hearts, as it were out of a flint, the seeds and sparkles of new misery to our selves, till all were in a blaze againe. And no marvell if out of our own hearts, for they are evill but ev’n out of those things which God meant us, either for a principall good, or a pure contentment, we are still hatching and contriving upon our selves matter of continuall sorrow and perplexitie.

But in the spirit of the Whole Earth Catalog, let’s maintain we can do better than that, and we can learn and improve our social institutions. This is a moral and political task, not a technological one, and it looks even larger in Walkaway’s world where all the big technological problems have been solved.

1 Bill Gates is an interesting counterexample, both because he started off rich and because he seems genuinely to have humanised and grown in sympathy as he has aged.

twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] twistedchick at 07:30am on 27/04/2017
All the Disney movies to come through 2020. You're welcome. :)

10 wild true tales from Studio 54.

Managing editor at a clickbait factory -- how your internet gets filled with those stories.

And Ajit Pai on why he's trying to change the way the FCC regulates the net.

The significance of what's really going on when Ivanka fakes Adrienne Vittadini labels on her clothes -- Vittadini was a Cold War Hungarian refugee, among other things. Just the kind of person Trump wants not to come here.

A museum for failures -- to encourage people to try things and fail more. And why not? That's how we learn stuff.

Fox News should learn to fail less. Now they're facing a racial discrimination lawsuit, along with their sexual lawsuit troubles. Old journalism truism: the news organization should not be in the news.

This is what it is to live in third-world Flint, Michigan, now. Post-industrial doesn't even start to describe it.

Advice to young women from women who are entrepreneurs. Not fond of the original title of this --'female entrepreneurs' sounds like someone trying to do drag for money.

Scientists have found a worm that eats plastic.

Trump family values.

At Yale, psychiatritist cite their duty to warn about an unfit president -- discarding the long-held precept of not analyzing people they haven't met in person because he's there, all the time, in the news, lying his head off.

Social media trying to prevent suicide.

"I was tired of conversations about race being framed in black and white, so I started my own conversation."

If you stop thinking you have the answers already, your questions are more powerful.

Dispatches from suburbia -- the important thing is that you're not white. This is where I live. And while not arguing with this viewpoint, I need to mention that being caucasian in this county is being a minority. The small cities here -- Wheaton and Silver Spring near me, for instance -- are vibrantly and wildly diverse, in terms of people from many nations and cultures. Yes, this needs to be represented more in local organizations -- but that's up to the people themselves, to support or create new ones that include Hispanic/Central American/South American, Asian, Jewish (largest Conservative community outside NYC), African, black and European-ancestry people. We all live here, on the same streets. This is the world in my neighborhood.
raisethesail: (Hannu)
Hi! Wondering if I could get a bit of help here.

I'm currently using the Venture layout and I need to position an image somewhere. :)

Ideally I'd like the image to appear at the bottom of my "profile" module, so is there any custom CSS I can use to include it in that module?

If that's not possible, is there a way to remove the header from the custom text module so it will display without a title, so I can stick the image in there?

Thank you in advance ♥
torachan: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] torachan at 01:38am on 27/04/2017 under , ,
1. Day off tomorrow! We're doing stuff (probably) but not until the afternoon, so I can still sleep in and relax in the morning.

2. I played a little Zelda tonight and found three shrines, two stables, and Hebra tower. That leaves only the two Gerudo areas that I don't have the towers for yet. I'm actually kind of sad to have so much of the map filled in. I remember when I first got off the great plateau and realized how huge the world is, it was so exciting, and now it's like, aww, I only have a little bit left to explore. ;_;

3. Somehow I don't have any new pics of kitties, but luckily I have plenty of backstock to choose from. Here's an explorer Jasper from a week or so ago.

drcuriosity: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] drcuriosity at 08:36pm on 27/04/2017
Heh, after years of sending me absolutely nothing, LiveJournal now seems to be trying to market itself to me. It's almost like they've just lost a large chunk of their userbase and they're trying to entice them back, or something.
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
posted by [personal profile] oursin at 08:49am on 27/04/2017
Happy birthday, [personal profile] gumbie_cat!
oursin: Cartoon hedgehog going aaargh (Hedgehog goes aaargh)

Yesterday, bound for a conference. Got the train okay.

About a third of the way into the journey, train stops.

Someone had collided with a train further up the line.

In due course we are informed that train will be terminating at a station not previously on the schedule, where we can change to a train going, presumably by some more circuitous route, to the next scheduled stop, but not, however, onwards to my destination.

When we arrive at designated point, it is chucking down rain. Fortunately the next train is in and we only need to cross the platform. It is, however, rather full, though I did manage to get a seat.

Another, local, and very crowded train at the next change.

My dearios may imagine that all this was by no means conducive to reading a serious academic study for review purposes.

Once at my destination, some 2 hours later than anticipated, there was supposed to be a taxi booked for me - I had been in touch with the conference admin person anent delays - what I had not been told was that it would be round the back rather than the main exit.

Not that it was there when I found the spot, and cameth not as I waited in an increasing state of fume - it would always have been tiresome but after the preceding misadventures this was particularly infuriating - and a chilly wind. Fortunately, what did turn up was the taxi for one of the other participants, so I went with her.

I do not mention the faff over my ticket - got details and booking ref latish previous afternoon.

Inadequate curtainage in hotel room meant undesirably early waking....

And now I have to present a paper, sigh.

love_jackianto1: (Default)
sharpiefan: Sailor firing a cannon (Cannon firing)
fred_mouse: blurry image of cast metal mouse shape in a fruit bowl (pear)
posted by [personal profile] fred_mouse at 03:06pm on 27/04/2017 under ,
First half of question 1 is now done - it was sufficiently done for submission when I went to lunch, except for the minor failing of being longer than the allowed 1 A4 page. Yes, I fiddled the margins (but I changed them to my 20mm on all sides default, so that seems fair to me). And the font is sized at 12 points, so I could probably have dropped it to 11 and been fine (and if I hadn't had time to do a proper edit, I probably would have).

But I did have time, and a proper edit was done. The final paragraph has been mostly reworked and become the first paragraph. The original opening paragraph has been demoted to supporting sentences in a later paragraph, and I've taken out far too many rambling first person commentaries. And even still, I've only just got it on one page. I could trim it further, but I'm not going to - now I'm going to do the one page reflection (and if that takes me more than half an hour it is because I can't work out what needs to be said, because I feel like I've said everything in the previous two sections).
posted by [syndicated profile] maddowblog_feed at 05:08am on 27/04/2017
editrx: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] editrx at 01:43am on 27/04/2017 under , ,
... who thinks that re-reading Neville Shute's ON THE BEACH is like reading nonfiction, right now?

No wonder I'm not sleeping.

And yet I can't stop reading it. I would say at least it's short and sweet, but that would be too sarcastic for our current circumstances, eh?


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