The Internet Only Deceives. Free Speech Online is a False Idol.

Some years ago, I had a friend who was a fashion photographer. He, with his wife, a stylist, had a contract with a local modeling college to do portfolio shoots for the students. I helped them sometimes. It was fascinating to see some completely ordinary looking girl (mostly) or boy come into the room and walk out with pictures that made them look wonderful and lovely. 

The appearance of people you see our side of a camera lens is completely false. Our society would lose absolutely nothing if every single one of these pictures never, ever existed. They are pernicious. They are a lie that make people feel badly about themselves and present a fake reality for us to live in.

Nobody my age really gets TikTok. Really, none of us really get 'social media'. Young people do and it leads them to eat Tide pods. It causes suicide. Depression is occurring at record rates and it is clear that social media is an important reason for it.

Also, riots on Jan 6. Death threats for election workers. Skyrocketing incidents of antisemitic behavior and harassment. Mass shootings.

It turns out that young people leaving isolation are 'romanticising' their work lives. I don't know if it's harmful but I do know that it's false. I don't get TikTok but I have seen it and it's always, inevitably, intrinsically false. It's entire point is to edit, ie, change, video so that it is quick and fun, ie, not like anything real.

Elon Musk and the Republicans are calling for Apple to be prevented from curating its App Store. He fears that, when Twitter achieves its goal of attracting Donald Trump and the Proud Boys back to Twitter, they will not let him distribute the Twitter app.

I no longer have any friends, even distant ones, who doubt the necessity of gun control. Most think that both the American fetish with guns and the modern absolutist interpretation of the second amendment are dangerous.

I'm here to tell you that our absolutist interpretation of the first amendment is equally dangerous. Just as the founders had no idea of armor penetrating bullets and machine guns, they had no idea of TikTok and Twitter. 

Their freedom of the press was a laboriously created page or two of text in print. Freedom of speech was someone preaching to fifty people, occasionally a hundred, who mostly had to walk a couple of miles to the meeting.

In 1984, Orwell envisioned a world where the the people in power suppressed individual communication and supplanted it with official lies. We have come to that world. He thought it would be the government. Turns out it's corporations. 

It's not muzzling the truth, it's drowning it out. We leftists tend to laugh at the right over the meme that Fox News listeners believe a ton of laughably, demonstrably false things, stolen elections, anti-vax, etc. The NY Times publishes the truth, the rubes just can't see it behind the gish gallop of awfulness.

Apple has power. It says it disagrees with the absolutist view of the first amendment. It says hate speech, pornography and calls to violence are unacceptable. Elon Musk, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz say it is.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/28/technology/elon-musk-apple-twitter.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/27/business/tiktok-office-influencers.html

Mastodon!!

Let's face it, Twitter is morally bankrupt and participating in it is a morality problem. That said, I don't expect I will give it up before it dies of its own accord. It's bad but it's just too big and interesting to leave behind.

However, I find no community there. People are impolite and uncaring. I've hard harsh arguments about fine points of topics on which me and my interlocutors agree. I long for something more congenial. Also, I very, very much like the idea of a federated system based on the idea of like-minded people participating on a server with the ability to communicate with others. I think it's cool technically and I think it's the way of the future.

So, I'm now experimenting. I am active on https://counter.social/@tqwhite, a Mastodon variant that doesn't seem to join the federation, and https://mastodon.social/@tqwhite, which does. I've had good experiences so far on both and look forward to having a place where I can exchange some ideas and some news with nice people.





Some Practical Advice

5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazingly competent product, nicely square, makes for a tidy refrigerator
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2022
Size: 2-PackStyle: Large (9.6 Cup)Pattern Name: Container Verified Purchase
For me, the main purpose, aside from containing food, is to stack nicely and not waste space. Other containers have big flapped lids and sloping sides that leave inches between containers.

These [(Rubbermaid Brilliance Plastic Food Containers)] do not. The walls of the container are very close to vertical and the flanges around the top and lid are minimal. The geometry lets differing sizes stack on each other in even multiples.

They are airtight and leakproof, amazingly so. I have never trusted containers full of soup before. With these I do.

I didn't think I would care about the crystal clear plastic but it's great. With my previous translucent ones, I could usually tell what was inside but this is much better. Also, the plastic is very hard and is more reliably clean.

The price is, of course, much higher than the Ziplock disposables they replace but, after mourning that company's decision to change and ruin their products (which I loved), I am now almost glad.

Because of my kitchen management practices, I bought a ton of these things, a couple of hundred dollars worth. My life is much better now. My refrigerator is organized. My food kept fresh. And, I can rely on the containers staying completely sealed. They are pleasant to look at and easy to use.

One extra bit of advice: The lids are substantial and, in storage, a bit cumbersome. Accidentally, I kept the boxes the containers came in and ended up using them as stacking organizers for the lids. Word to the wise.

4.0 out of 5 stars
100% Good. Thickens, emulsifies and has no problems at all
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2022
Size: 8 Ounce (Pack of 1) Verified Purchase
The package is good. The product is good. There is absolutely no reason not to use this.

PS, Xanthin dissolves in oil, not water. Stir it into the fat first.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Big enough package of perfectly good cheesecloth
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2022
Material Type: Grade 90Size: 5Yards Verified Purchase
When you buy cheesecloth in the grocery store, it's about a million dollars a square inch and the package has enough cloth to use like four times and two of those times your compromising how much you use because your at the end.

This stuff is reasonably priced but almost more importantly, you get enough at once that it's always enough on hand. If I want to strain something twice, no problem. I have plenty of cheesecloth.

The cloth itself is smooth, fine and strong. I like it a lot.

4.0 out of 5 stars
Pleasant versatile product adds umami flavor and not too much saltiness
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2022
Flavor Name: NaturalSize: 16 Fl Oz (Pack of 1) Verified Purchase
I put Liquid Aminos into almost everything savory. It's especially good for creating fake meat gravy when there are no pan drippings. I am very enthusiastic about it.

4.0 out of 5 stars
I use this as a weight, not as an anvil
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2022
Size: 4''x6''x3/4'' Verified Purchase
I have a couple of these [(steel jewelers anvils)]. One I use to stabilize my iPad stand. It's tall and wants to fall over. This compact, five pound beauty makes it sit nicely.

Also, I have found that many sandwiches are made better by setting them under pressure for several minutes to blend the flavors and cause the ingredients to adhere. I used a cast iron skillet for awhile. I bought one of these and use it, with a small cutting board, to compress sandwiches. Works a charm.

In both cases, I bought rubberized paint (of the sort used for coating plier handles) to coat them. The steel is not stainless and before I figured this out, the first one got rusty and pretty nasty looking. Now they both look great.


5.0 out of 5 stars
As a Cheese Lover, I put this tasty stuff in all kinds of foods
Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2022
Style: 1 Pound (Pack of 1) Verified Purchase
On pasta, in meatloaf, mashed potatoes and a zillion other things, this [(Anthony's Cheese Powder)] provides additional richness to the flavor that makes me very happy. Also, I use it for both quick and elaborate cheese sauces. If I want some cheesy flavor on broccoli, I will quickly microwave it into some cream or milk. Thinned béchamel with a ton of cheese powder forms the base for a nice cheese soup.


Twitter and Why People Hate Elon Musk

Twitter was a major component of the right-wing (and Russian) manipulation of Trump's first election. It is an active vector for huge amounts of hateful speech, organizing to abuse people and misinformation. In recent years, Twitter has done things to reduce its negative influence. Now it suppresses (very few, imho) posts that are hateful (n-word, nazi, anti-semitic). It labels factual assertions that are false as false. And, importantly, people that abuse its terms of service can be punished. The most famous case being Trump's lifelong ban.

Musk has made clear he opposes these things. He says he wants Twitter to be conduit for free speech and has at various times made clear that he thinks Twitters content moderation and terms of service should be eliminated. Most people who are not him and Trump think granting the ability for evil people to send messages to hundreds of millions of people at once results in terrible changes in our society.

Outside of his attitudes about Twitter, Musk is a garbage person. For example, you may recall the youth group caught in a cave in Thailand. He called one of the people who helped a pedophile for no reason. He denigrates people in public and private.

He has shown himself to be on the side of haters of various sorts, tweeting things about trans-people, allowing racist behaviors in his companies, comparing the Canadian prime minister to Hitler, speaking about Liz Warren in nasty, sexist terms to his hundreds of millions of Twitter followers.

He denied the value of COVID vaccines and reopened his factories while it was still very dangerous, has done stock market manipulation, cheated in cryptocurrency markets, allows his companies to use suppliers with child labor, he fired his longtime (dozen years) secretary for asking for a raise and produced an endless list of dumb, cruel, nasty tweets, comments and anecdotes.

To be clear, he has also made huge contributions. His professional accomplishments are amazing and important. Many people, including me, admire him as much as I hate him. I have long understood that people who change the world are not like you and me. To do such things requires personality and attitudes that are not good on a personal level (Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were both horrific assholes).

Because we live in an era where he can literally talk to a hundred million people at a time, we get to see his pernicious influence more clearly. Personally, I can mostly live with him being an asshole if he keeps doing the very important things he does but, when he applies his megalomania to the nervous system of our already shaky society, I am pissed. There are a lot of people who feel that way.


American Values: Ding Dong School was replaced by The Price is Right


Ding Dong School, which I thought had the magic mirror until today, and certainly watched, was a much more serious enterprise than I realized. It was created to be a literal pre-school. At the end of the show, Miss Frances asked the children to bring their mothers to the set where she would tell them about the lessons and let them know what (mostly art) supplies were needed for subsequent shows.

It was cancelled after four years and replaced by a show that was bound for infinite success, The Price is Right. It seems to me to be an absolutely perfect expression of the essence of American culture.

You can almost hear the management saying, "The best education for pre-school children is about the joy of knowing how much things cost and reveling in the thrill of the only worthwhile thing in America, consumer goods made by our advertisers!!"

That a public interest education show was specifically replaced by a show run favor of a show length commercial, tarted up as an intellectual exercise that could only be won by people whose main skill was shopping is just too 'on point' to bear.

But this isn't the most emblematic thing. Miss Frances had a veto over advertisers. The reason the show was cancelled is that she would not allow the show to be used to advertise BB Guns.

Childhood education eliminated because it did not promote gun love and replaced by a showcase of "shopping skills". America in a nutshell.




https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ding_Dong_School

Shelley, Atheism, Life and Afterlife


RE: This...


(HERE)

There are many things about these three essays that amuse me. The first is that this is claimed to be philosophy but is actually polemic. Shelley starts to try to deconstruct the problem into clear and fundamental ideas but, in each of the three segments, devolves into arguments about how society functions relative to these ideas and how that's bad. Nothing wrong with that but it makes a substantial part of the essay mere opinion and disagreement and, thereby, not so useful.

One thing I like, though, is his distinction between "creative god" and "theological god". This is a dichotomy that serves as a foundation in my own view on the matter, though I call the former "an independent, willful entity that can violate the laws of physics" and the latter, "cultural god". I believe that the latter is a real and important thing. The former, pure fantasy.

Even though, however, that last assertion suggests atheism, I do not include myself among people with that view. I define atheism as an assertion that the non-existence of god is a fact. A fact being something known for certain, eg, something like the fact of gravity pulling toward the center of the earth. No one who is not insane can doubt the reality of gravity on earth. I do not think it reasonable to claim the same certainty for the non-existence of god. Further, facts can be tested. The existence of god cannot.

I claim to be an agnostic. This word is used in several ways but, for me, it means that I believe that the existence of god, positive or negative, is by definition beyond the ability of humans to determine. It is my view that certainty of god's non-existence is every bit as ridiculous as certainty that it exists. The reason is that god, I'll use the shorthand, creative god, is a thing that can generate the entirety of reality. To do this, it must somehow be outside that reality (a creator that creates itself is too goofy for me to credit). A thing that is outside of reality is, in my view, outside our ability to perceive or correctly reason about.

That said, I am extremely skeptical of the existence of a creative god. I agree with Shelley's assertion that postulating a creator merely complicates the problem without answering anything. Where did god come from? If it has knowledge of creating a universe, does it create new ones every day? If not, what caused it to create this one? And, crucially, what caused the inspiration to do that, ie, what created the inspiration to create is no less a question than what created god or what created reality. None is any more satisfying than science or mystery.

He does pique a little interest in his opening evaluation of what causes "belief" though I think it would be more accurate if he had set up a structure distinguishing the ideas of agreement, belief and faith, not least because he is using the word 'belief' in reference to ideas that I would call 'faith'. In my taxonomy, belief straddles the two others. I believe in gravity. My view is more than mere agreement with the arguments in its favor but is not the same as a Christian's belief in the virgin birth but not entirely different, either. Were anyone to try to convince me that gravity is not real, I would not even consider the proposition. My perspective is nearly faithful.

I spent eight years in dedicated Torah study, hours each week, with real interest. One of the topics that especially interested me was the comparison of Judaism with Christianity. I concluded that the most important difference is that Christianity wants faith and Judaism wants performance. Do the Mitzvot and you are a good Jew. Do Good Works without Faith, and a Christian still goes to hell. Because I am a scientist at heart, I have thought a great deal about faith and what it is.

One thing is for sure: I am incapable of it. The love of my wife or children? I believe it exists. There is enough evidence that it is impossible to convince me otherwise. Evidence to the contrary that I cannot explain is ignored. I believe they (and my dog) love me. Period. But the views do rest on evidence, lots of it for a long time.

Fear is a sensation generated by a lump of meat in your head, mostly the amygdala. That is the part that calculates the difference between your current mental state and your expectations and generates some level of alarming ideas based on the difference. There is another lump of meat, the anterior cingulate cortex, that does sort of the reverse. It compares your current state to expectations and generates calming ideas based on the similarities. (Note that I am not only simplifying the explanation to the point of stupidity but I also know almost nothing about neurological topics.) The yin and yang of these two lumps seem to me to be important in figuring out what you believe or disbelieve. (Where something else entirely seems to be involved in 'agreement'. I claim that agreement is basically arithmetic about a topic.)

It is less clear what governs faith but I have read of brain surgery where they stimulated part of the brain and the subject reported feeling religious. The hippocampus, prefrontal lobes and anterior cingulate cortex are mentioned in this context. To me, it seems fairly obvious that there is some lump of meat or system that generates the sensation that Christians report when they talk about their belief in Christ. It is one that, in me, is fairly diminutive. In others, big and juicy.

So, what does it all mean? 1) We can never know if there is a god or not as a matter of fact. 2) Shelley is right. The idea of god does not offer any answers that are useful in understanding reality. 3) Faith in god is an explainable mental state. If you think it is divine inspiration, see point number 2.


A Personal Note

The other thing about Mad Men is that my father *was* Don Draper. He was an artist who did graphic design for packaging of grocery store products. Like Don, he made a boatload of dough in the second half of the sixties. He was universally recognized as a brilliantly intelligent and creative marketing graphic designer. He was attractive, well-liked and often hated. He was self-made and mostly tried to hide his very working-class roots.

He drove away the mother of his children with ego and condemnation. He arranged his life so that his children were unable to touch him. He married and then ignored a beautiful young woman making her feel insecure and unloved - much as he did with his first wife.

My mother didn't die young, but as far as her children were concerned she may as well have (I could write a similar comparison of her to Betty Draper). I was Sally. My sibs probably knew how to make toast but, we had to form a self-protective team as children and, I realize in recent years, I have spent my life feeling somehow responsible.

The comparison breaks down eventually. Don Draper turns his back on the money and seeks redemption. He has a fundamentally generous nature (which is so interesting and sort of surprising but, if you think about the advice he offered, the occasions where he stood up for people, his insistence on treating peoples' aspirations respectfully in the ad campaigns, it makes more sense) that, if it was present in my father, who did die fairly young, never was realized.

But, Don's journey to enlightenment is a lesson my dad could have used. Perhaps we all can.

"It's the real thing."

A Unilateral Conviction: Pardon Trump When the Hearings End

I have had many conflicted discussions with friends over my contention that Gerald Ford was right to pardon Richard Nixon. I agree with his reasoning that damage wrought by a prolonged trial outweighs the value of proving what everyone knew to be true.

Reading this, I am moving in the same direction for Trump, with some reservations. Basically every sane person in the country now responds to pollsters with agreement that Trump committed crimes. The House committee is doing a great job and will have produced a damning and detailed record of them.

I now think that Biden should, once the House hearing is over very quickly announce a pardon.

A pardon is an ambiguous benefit. It removes the possibility of punishment (which I consider 100% impossible for Trump) but it also removes the possibility of a trial. It eliminates the possible forum where Trump could parade his lies and showboating for literally years.

The announcement should be made with high-minded justification. It is important to bring the country together. We do not want the precedence of subsequent administrations prosecuting each other. Etc. Etc.

But the real message is: The President and the Justice Department join Congress in the belief that he did it.

I imagine Trump screaming that the Jan 6 riot was "PERFECT". With huge recriminations about his stolen election and how weak Mike Pence is. None of that will matter to anyone except that 38% of deluded shitheads.

For the rest of, it means that we can stop paying attention to him and his shenanigans. We can take him and his crimes and potential prosecutions off the table. When a Republican whines about the persecution of Trump, it will sound mighty hollow.

And it will be in the better interest of the country.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/20/opinion/trump-merrick-garland-january-6-committee.html




We Are Enough. You Don't Need Anything Else to be Worthwhile.


I read this passage and disagree. Well, I don't disagree with the final point. It is true that nothing matters to the universe. There is no 'god' thing watching us all. Our universe, I am convinced, is one of zillions constantly popping into existence as the physics of dark energy and virtual quantum particles continue their work.

But contrary to the implied bleakness suggested by this Weinberg guy assertion that it's "pointless", this vast multiverse idea seems to me to give our lives even greater meaning. The infinite course of the multiverse might not care about us but we still exist. Our lives matter to us and to those around us. 

That there is no grand external 'meaning' says to me, that our actions are the only thing that really do have meaning. It tells me that what we do is the only thing that is really important. 

The reality we construct, our actions in our society and culture, our reliance and support for each other, are not pointless. With the realization that we are less than a speck in the grand reality where nothing is any more important than anything else, we become the most important thing in the universe. 

All the rest is nothing, vast and empty. Only we are full of life and joy and love and hate and humor and meaning. As far as we can tell, that's all there is. That makes it infinitely more than pointless. It is everything.

It makes me think about those who say life can have no meaning without a god. In their view, their god has meaning. Our meaning is purely derivative, just as our liver cells are important to our getting an award. We just come along for the ride. Our liver cells didn't kill us by getting cancer and we didn't stop the god's glory by failing to worship it. 

This reality of the universe says that our glory is not subsumed by anything else. No other meaning is greater than our own. Our meaning is all there is. For twenty thousand years, humans have been fabricating meaning from whole cloth. With luck, we will continue for twenty thousand more. 

The multiverse might not care but we do and, apparently, that is everything.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/24/science/scheinert-kwan-film-multiverse.html

A Brief Discussion About Light

Not me:

"From my limited understanding a photon is a photon. What it passes through gives it’s color. Pure light is white and cannot be detected. When something absorbs every wavelength of something except for a certain color value that’s what is reflected back. For instance a green leaf on a tree… it absorbs every color except green and bounces green light off. Same with infrared except we need special equipment to detect it because it’s not visible to the human eye"

Me:

You are correct in the idea that the photons that are reflected and not absorbed is what causes us to see color. The idea "what it passes through gives it its color" is not right. The color of a photon is determined by the amount of energy that goes into its creation and it never changes.

Absorption and reflection aren't exactly what they seem to us, though. What actually happens is that a photon hits an atom and is absorbed. The energy of that photon puts the atom into an unstable state. This causes the atom to spit out a new photon to get back in balance.

Sometimes the unstable energy state does not result in a photon being re-emitted and, instead, the energy participates in some other chemical reaction. Sometimes, there is energy left over from that reaction.

That energy is re-emitted. The new photon will have that remaining amount of energy, ie, it will be a new color. The original did not change. It contributed to the creation of a new one.

This is what happens with photosynthesis.

Roughly speaking, chlorophyl molecules in plants absorb the light that hits them. That puts each molecule into an unstable energy state but, instead of re-emitting (reflecting) all of the energy, it keeps part of it by changing in ways that are part of the photosynthesis process. The part that is not used has the amount of energy to re-emit a green photon.

You mention white light as "pure". This is not really correct.

White light is not actually a color of light and it's sort of the opposite of pure. It is always a combination of photons with different energy levels contributing to a sort of illusion created by the chemistry of our eyes.

Our retinas have three chemicals that absorb photons. That means the the energy they absorb with the photon participates in a chemical reaction. That reaction causes nerve signals to our brains that we interpret as color.

Each of the three chemicals responds to photons in a narrow range of energies (which are also, btw, equivalent to wavelength). We call the experience we perceive from those chemicals, red, green and blue.

When all three chemicals absorb roughly the same amount of photons, ie, equal amounts of reg, green and blue, our brain interprets the signal as white light. The photons are not white, there is no such energy level. It is a bunch of different photons that our brains interpret as 'white'.

We cannot see infrared because the chemicals in our eyes do not absorb infrared light in a way that creates a nerve signal. Instead, those photons cause the molecules to vibrate in a way that we interpret as heat. That's why warming lamps in restaurants shine infrared on the food.