This weekend hasn't been a great one for my mental state. Going in, I was already feeling generally overwhelmed and inadequate in life. Then I had trouble sleeping, and Othercat is off visiting one of their other partners, so I'm home by myself for the entire four-day (for me) weekend.

It's been rough.

That said, today has been much better than I was expecting. It got off to a slow start (I woke up at 10 and finally rolled out of bed at like, 11?), but I went for a nice walk earlier, and I've been knocking some important things off my list. It's nice to feel for once like I'm doing a good job at something.

That "something" is performance reviews for all my folks at work. Yeah, working a whole bunch on the weekend sucks, but in this particular case, I feel like it's worth it. I'm hoping that if I get as many of them done as possible, it will significantly reduce my stress over the next couple weeks.

I rarely have time when I'm in the office to sit, focus, and relax/de-stress enough to get big things done. So even though I'm burning weekend time to do it (at least some of which I'll be able to get back later), it feels like a worthwhile trade-off for my emotional health. I can also feel good about the fact that I'm giving each of my folks the undivided attention necessary to give them proper feedback (rather than scrawling "Good Job!" across the top of all their forms with a purple whiteboard marker).

I'm still not good enough, and I probably need to get back into therapy for that. But today feels like a small victory, and I believe there will be more small victories to come.

I hope, if I string enough small victories together, they will gradually turn into a big one.

— Des

A while back, I took a close look at how I was interacting with Twitter, and set some ground rules to see if I could make Twitter work better for me. It's been a little over a month, and the rules haven't been super helpful—I still found myself getting frustrated or annoyed at my timeline most of the time.

The blanket rule of "don't retweet or engage with politics" has helped lower my frustration level a bit, and kept me out of potentially fraught conversations, so I'd count that as a small improvement. But it hasn't been enough; I've still seen a ton of things in my timeline which made me angry.

That's partially because I haven't been able to unfollow anyone that is primarily political. This hasn't worked out because most of the people I follow post a mix of politics and other stuff I care about (what's going on in their lives, etc.). I would be missing out on a ton of that stuff if I just unfollowed everyone that posted something political.

So I took a different approach: a couple days ago, I turned off retweets entirely. I no longer see anything that anyone retweets. The Twitter FAQ says it's not possible, but you can do it if you're willing to go through and turn retweets off for each and every account you follow.

The result, while not anywhere close to perfect, has been a much more pleasant experience overall. Since I only see original content, I now miss most of the viral outrage that's been going around, but I still get to hear what's going on in my friends' lives.

Moreover, I'm more likely to pay attention to those purely social tweets, since I'm not searching for them amidst the noise of retweets. And, if someone has an earnest, original political thought they want to share, I still get to hear that too (which is way more relevant to me than "U SHOULD BE MAD AT THIS ONE COP IN LOUISIANA").

I also feel generally more informed, because I've been getting most of my news from reliable RSS sources instead of Twitter. That means more fact-checking, and more in-depth analysis. Sometimes there is a delay (often of a day or more), but I think accuracy and depth are more important than timeliness—timely information is actually harmful if it isn't accurate, or is incomplete.

Yes, I miss out on cat pictures and some of, "I thought this thing was cool so I wanted to share it", but I think it's a reasonable tradeoff. I care more about keeping my timeline free of non-actionable outrage that will make me angry to no good end, than I do about missing out on cat pictures or dog ratings.

It's still only been a couple of days, but the results are encouraging—I've been finding Twitter to be a more friendly, engaging place. All of my earlier guidelines are still in effect, though slightly modified:

  • Don't make retweets. Make signal, not noise—if retweets are mostly noise, I shouldn't be making them.
  • Don't read retweets. Turn them off, by default, for everyone.
  • Start or move deeper conversations elsewhere. This rule has been working well so far; nothing to change here.
  • Continue consuming news mostly through RSS. Accuracy and depth are more important than timeliness, which means Twitter is not the place for news.

Let's see how this goes; I'm optimistic these changes will help.

— Des

deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)

Cat Checkups

May. 12th, 2017 10:47 pm

Had my routine checkup yesterday, and everything looks pretty good. Still need to do my STI tests and such, but in general I’m healthy. My blood pressure, in particular, is near optimal, which is a marked improvement over last year, and I think it's due to both eating healthier and the fact that I've started holding walking meetings at work.

I also learned something new about my migraines: some of those things that feel like tension-type headaches (where they start in my neck and move up/forward) are actually more likely migraines. We’ve changed my treatment plan to take the migraine pill first and the standard NSAID painkiller second, even if I'm not sure at first if it's a migraine. The migraine pill is actually probably safer, and it’s overall better for my brain to abort the migraine as soon as possible. (As long as I'm not taking more than 9 per month, which shouldn't be a concern for me.)

I have a newer migraine drug to try, which should hopefully have fewer side effects, and I'm hopeful that changing the strategy will help overall.

Mental health is a different story. My partner has been pushing me to go back into therapy again. I had a discussion with my doctor, and she agrees. I scored in the "moderate" range for both depression and anxiety, despite the previous year-plus of therapy I went through, which ended roughly a year ago.

That's somewhat disappointing, honestly, because it feels like I'm back to right about where I was two years ago. I know that life is a journey, and the road is twisty, narrow, and doubles back on itself a lot, but come on. :^)

I'm more grounded, certainly, but it's also true that I'm still not on solid emotional ground. My excuse so far for not getting back into therapy has been that I'm not sure what it would accomplish—I don't feel like I have a clear problem I can define that I can ask for help with. Plus, I have a lot of good tools for dealing with anxiety and depression, I just don't use them when I should.

But maybe that last bit is the problem. How do I consistently motivate myself over the long term to use the coping skills I have, and maintain the kind/amount of vigilance necessary to realize when and how I need to use them?

Anyway, I'm going to give it some more thought—I'm not entirely convinced it's going to be super helpful for me at this stage, but it can't hurt, either.

— Des

Apparently I like playing with CSS for fun, so I have a new journal style, again. (I knew I was a masochist, but... :p)

As before, S2 isn't really doing much; most of the styling is in custom CSS. I wrote my own S2 layout just so that I could be more mobile- and CSS-friendly, and give myself more flexible ways to group things in the underlying HTML. I also had to strip out a bunch of older HTML nonsense (things like using <br/> to add vertical space, explicit styling on individual DOM elements, etc.).

Hope you like it; the new style is simpler and much less "LOOK AT ME I CAN DO CSS 3!"

— Des

I've never been particularly thrilled with Twitter, but I've been getting progressively less happy with it over time, and I think it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate whether it's really working for me.

Twitter as a Social Tool

I'm mainly interested in Twitter as a way to keep up with the goings-on in my friends' lives. In this case, it largely fills the role that LiveJournal, IRC, and AIM used to fill when I was in college; I would check in periodically to see what was happening, get caught up on discussion, and contribute my own responses as appropriate. For IRC and AIM, those might be one-off/casual bits of conversation; for LiveJournal, they would be more thought-out, detailed, (sometimes not-so-)nuanced discussions of whatever was on my mind at the time.

For both types of interaction, however, Twitter is worse than what it replaced.

For casual interactions, there's no sense of space or privacy like there is with an IRC channel or AIM conversation. That means there's much less shared context, and no opportunity for localized social norms to develop. A vague or otherwise intellectually-lazy statement intended for consumption only amongst friends might get picked up, re-interpreted, taken out of context, etc. Because Twitter is a public forum, one has to be thoughtful and precise in any statement, even something hidden in an @-reply.

Sure, you can sh!tpost, or retweet funny pictures of cats, but express an opinion on something, even in passing? You're opening the door for a more thoughtful, nuanced conversation, and those (literally) just don't fit on Twitter.

Why? The 140-character limit actively discourages any form of nuance. There's no space for prevarication, or qualifying/limiting statements, or further explanation of any kind. Yet those details can provide important context, clarifications, or factual support. They can take a black-and-white statement and turn it into one of those all-important shades of grey.

In my experience, trying to squeeze more deliberate discussion into the 140-character limit can be dangerous, in the sense that it's easy to miscommunicate and misinterpret. For example, Twitter has become something of a political hotbed lately; politics is already a fraught topic about which it's difficult to communicate, and the limit really doesn't help matters.

There are only three ways around the 140-character limit that I know of, all of which are horrible hacks: (1) write something in a text editor, take a screenshot, and post the screenshot; (2) write a really long chain of self-replies (and flood everyone's timeline); or (3) post on another site (like Dreamwidth ;) ) and link to it. There are also DMs, but the point here is to interact with a group of people.

In short: Twitter is designed around the public sound bite. Falling into a deeper conversation, even by accident, carries with it an increased risk of miscommunication compared to other platforms. I've gotten into trouble frequently enough that I now think very carefully before engaging, even with people I know well.

Twitter as a Broadcast Medium

Twitter works much better as a broadcast medium (or at least, a headline dissemination medium), but even there it falls short of what I'm looking for. Most of the "broadcast" type material (news, calls to action, and so forth) that ends up in my timeline is some combination of alarmist, poorly-sourced, or not especially relevant.

It's not hard to figure out why: The easiest way to interact with something on Twitter (short of scrolling past it) is to push the "Retweet" or "Like" button. "Like" is pretty harmless, but because "Retweet" is so easy, the gap between "I saw the thing," and "I retweeted the thing," is exceedingly small—small enough that there isn't much room for conscious thought.

Moreover, it's been my observation that people tend to engage more with things that provoke strong emotional reactions, especially negative reactions. My own posts are a good example of this; in the last week, I've retweeted more political anger than I've written in original content (including replies).

Combine the bias toward strong/negative content with the ease of retweeting, and it's little wonder my timeline is filled with things that make me angry (and may or may not be true).

So what now?

Twitter is failing pretty hard at what I want from it. But there's one criterion I haven't mentioned: all my friends are there. So, I'll probably keep using it for the foreseeable future, even though I'd really like to replace it with something better.

But I do think how I engage with the platform needs to change. I'm going to try out a few guidelines for myself, as follows:

  • No opinionated or political retweets. It's too easy to pass on things that are alarmist or don't reflect my actual thoughts on the subject at hand. Retweets are also a great way to spread unsubstantiated rumor. I may strengthen this to "no retweets at all", if it turns out that I'm still reflexively hitting the "Retweet" button too much.

  • Start or move most deeper conversations in/to another venue. That could be a DM, Telegram, Dreamwidth, or in person, but it can't be in a context with a 140-character limit. I have a hard enough time communicating without cutting down my responses to fit into a tweet, and spreading replies across a series of tweets is generally difficult to write and to read.

  • Move my news consumption entirely to RSS. I've been following political and high-profile figures from my public/semi-professional account for extra color on various news stories, with somewhat mixed results. I think it's more trouble than it's worth to try to parse meaning on complex topics from individual tweets.

  • Unfollow anyone that is primarily political, and find other venues to interact with them. It's fine if my friends want to be political on Twitter. But I know that I won't get a lot of value out of interacting with them in that venue, and chances are high that we'll end up in the communication quagmire discussed above.

Let's see how this goes over the next little bit.

— Des

deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)


Apr. 27th, 2017 08:40 am

I need to come up with some better rules of engagement for Twitter, I think. I've noticed there's a huge variety of situations where it's extremely easy to fail to communicate, and there are some classes of communication the platform just doesn't work for.

Do you have any rules/guidelines for yourself, and if so, can you share them in the comments?


deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)

"Sick" Today

Apr. 10th, 2017 04:16 pm

I slept like ass, so I took a sick day today. I probably didn't need to—I could have gone to work and pretended I knew what I was doing—but it seemed like a better idea to stay home.

And, really, if you look at how little sleep I've gotten in the past week or so, and how disturbed my sleep has been, it's little wonder I've been feeling depressed recently. When I don't get enough sleep, I feel powerless and worthless.

I know I'm neither of those things, but when I'm sleep-deprived, my emotional reality doesn't match my rational reality. It becomes much easier to string together a consistent narrative of failure, of not doing enough. Things at work are way behind and it's all my fault; I don't spend enough time with my partner; I have a million house projects that I've not completed; I haven't seen any of my friends in too long; none of my creative projects are coming together; I can't sit and focus on one thing for more than two minutes.

I'm not smart enough, socially-aware or friendly enough, hard-working enough, politically active in the right ways, sufficiently creative ... just not good enough.

I can't [exercise the modicum of self-control required to] go to bed on time every night. Instead, I stay up and play video games. I don't [have the discipline required to] exercise regularly. I eat poorly because it's expedient and I'm making a tradeoff[I make poor decisions], and then feel bad about it afterwards.

But I know that's bullshit. It's bullshit because:

  • I'm writing this blog entry. That's producing something and honing my writing skills, even on my "sick" day off. [Fuck you, depression. I'm doing something right now, as I type this, to make myself feel better.]

  • I spent a good chunk of this weekend learning Rust by trying to create a game, and I'm forming and writing down my opinions about Rust. I may not produce any shippable software, but I will have learned something new, and I can share what I learned with others.

  • I saw my parents this weekend, and laid the groundwork for a significant conversation later. My parents aren't my friends, exactly, but they definitely count as an important social interaction.

  • I played some Stellaris this weekend, and finished Frog Fractions 2, both of which were things I was looking forward to. Even if they weren't "productive" tasks in their own right, they're still a valid way to take care of myself.

  • I have an OmniFocus reminder to eat veggies and such regularly. I'm even pretty good at following it. I also mostly only drink water (and mochas, but again, tradeoffs ;) ).

  • For my 1:1s at work, I take my folks on walks when possible, rather than sitting in a conference room. That's an extra 2-3 hours of walking per week.

  • At work, I'm pushing myself to learn new social and leadership skills, both of which are areas where I feel I've been historically weak (Boy Scouts notwithstanding). I'm making a lot of progress, and my coworkers have noticed and commented on the difference.

  • At work, my team and I are tackling our most ambitious project ever. Yes, progress is slower than anyone would like, but we're learning a lot along the way, both technically and about project and self-management.

  • I've recently gotten more involved with my local community, since I'm helping our HOA with their newsletter.

So I'm not doing bad at all, not on the whole. I'm not on solid emotional ground, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm not doing bad. Everyone I know, at work or at home, or wherever, needs to take the occasional sick (or even "sick") day. Nobody can be on 100% of the time, and nobody can be expected to deliver creative output, consistently, over a long period of time. (A very few people can, and I envy them.)

There are plenty of things that are legitimate problems I need to work on, like getting enough sleep, or that occasional feeling of dread that crops up in response to various social situations. (That social anxiety-thing really fucks with me sometimes.) And a lot of those things are the seeds for the kind of runaway negative self-talk that leads to me feeling depressed. There's absolutely more that I could be doing.

But I need to take time to explicitly remind myself that even though I spend so much time focused on problems, there's a lot to be grateful for, and there's a lot I can be proud of.

Otherwise, I'll have more days like today.

— Des

I've been feeling pretty creatively unfulfilled lately, and I think that's because my standards might be too high. I start a new coding project and think, "oh, this part would be better if I did it this way or had this other tool," then start building the tool, think, "oh this part would be better if ...", and repeat.

I won't say I'm a perfectionist, but I'm not far off. My standards are calibrated for industrial-strength enterprise software built by legions of engineers, not small projects built in my (rather limited) spare time. In those environments, handling every single corner case matters, as does testing the fuck out of everything. And so I never finish anything, because I need an entire team of engineers to write, "Hello, World!".

I know a lot of you fine folks are in the same boat. Whether it's art, or writing, or code, or music, I've lost count of how many times I've heard you say, "My work isn't good enough. There are so many ways this could be better." And maybe we're even right about that; striving to improve yourself and your work is a good thing.

But it's also really hard not to get sucked into the vortex of perfection, and lose sight of what you're trying to accomplish. So I often have to ask myself: "Is something shitty better than nothing?"

It's so much easier for me to make something when I don't care about the thing itself because either (a) I'm just fucking around, or (b) I need it for a specific purpose, so there is a clearly-defined goal and a desire to expend the minimum amount of effort. In fact, my most successful/complete projects almost entirely fall into category (b), even though those projects are probably the least rewarding.

I need to find a way through that dichotomy. How do I make any progress at all on something I really care about? How do I just write this blog post without worrying about where all the punctuation goes?

I need to make more cool shit, but I need to do it in a way that's actually rewarding and achievable. How do y'all do it?

— Des

I'm continuing to struggle with feeling like I have enough spoons (and so are a lot of other people I know). I feel like I should be able to power through an 8-hour workday, then come home and have enough energy left over to do literally anything else. But, especially over the last few weeks, that definitely has not been the case.

I was talking to Othercat about it, and I think there might be a couple reasons why.

Read more... )

To whom it may concern:

I'm writing to demand the immediate removal of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States. Then-Sen. Sessions lied under oath to Congress concerning his communication with Russian officials. In my view, this raises serious questions about Mr. Sessions's personal integrity, at a time when this country needs strong leadership and non-partisan investigators more than ever.

I urge you to take all necessary steps to remove Mr. Sessions from office immediately.

Best Regards,

I've been spending more and more time lately trying to keep up with the news. Quite frankly, it's overwhelming, and probably unhealthy—spending 2-3 hours a day reading about Donald Trump is enough to drive anyone crazy.

I think there are a few reasons for this: I just like reading, I'm afraid of missing something "important" (which my friends/coworkers/etc. will catch), and I'm afraid of missing something actionable. I don't want to find myself in a position where something Really Bad(tm) happened, and I didn't do everything I could to prevent it.

That said, I also need to make sure I take care of myself, and that means spending time on things that aren't politics. It means having my own hobbies and projects at home, spending time with friends, exercising, eating, sleeping, and generally relaxing.

So how do I balance my fear of missing out with taking care of myself?

The first and most important thing I need to do is limit my time in front of a news reader. I can make the choice that all of the aforementioned self-care tasks are more important than keeping abreast of everything that's going on.

I can also change how and when I check news. I can set guidelines like the following:

  • Always check my RSS reader before Twitter.
  • Sort articles newest-first so I'm starting with the most up-to-date information.
  • When I've spent "enough" time catching up, mark as read everything I didn't get to.

But I'm also thinking about how to best use the time I do spend on news, and the reality is, I'm spending a bunch of time just sifting through headlines looking for things that are relevant. I want to cast a wide net; I have probably 20 newsfeeds that I'm following (not counting "fun stuff" like xkcd), and that means a lot of headlines. Maybe 1 out of every 30-40 headlines actually holds my interest, which is a pretty low signal-to-noise ratio.

So how do I reduce the noise? Can I still cast a wide net and see only the things that are most relevant across all my chosen sources?

By now you're probably thinking, "No, Des! This isn't a software problem!" And you're right, I'm not super keen on letting software decide what I do and don't see at any given moment, at least not without a clearly-defined, easy-to-understand set of rules governing that decision. But I do have to wonder if there's some socially-responsible way to do algorithmic filtering.

What kind of tradeoffs would be necessary? Sources notwithstanding, could we even reach something that approximates "unbiased" and "fact-based" (or at least, not consistently biased in any particular direction)? Can we avoid the pitfall of, "this is popular, therefore it's right"?

I'm not sure much of this is possible without human intervention (and probably isn't possible even with human intervention). But it would be interesting to try.

— Des

First, the full text of the Ninth Circuit ruling on the government's motion to re-instate Trump's executive order on immigration. Predictably (and happily), the Court unanimously decided to leave the stay in place. But there were a few juicy tidbits:

The Government contends that the district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the Executive Order because the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens. [p.13, emphasis mine] ...

There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. [p.14]

Damn right there's no precedent. This isn't a dictatorship.

The Government has argued that, even if lawful permanent residents have due process rights, the States’ challenge ... is moot because several days after the Executive Order was issued, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II issued “[a]uthoritative [g]uidance” stating that sections 3(c) and 3(e) of the Executive Order do not apply to lawful permanent residents. At this point, however, we cannot rely upon the Government’s contention that the Executive Order no longer applies to lawful permanent residents. The Government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the Executive Order signed by the President and now challenged by the States, and that proposition seems unlikely. [p.21-22, emphasis mine]

It's interesting that the White House seems to think an opinion issued by one of their lawyers holds any kind of legal authority. I have to wonder how many other instances of this happened in previous administrations.

On a different note, here's a paper exploring public reaction to various kinds of protest in a lab setting. I think they're reaching a bit with their conclusions; real life is messy and this paper describes a series of tightly-controlled experiments. But I've also seen some of what they're describing, and I'm reasonably convinced they're right: protests need to be just disruptive enough to raise public awareness, but not so disruptive/extreme that the public becomes hostile to the cause.

Keith Ellison is one of the two top contenders to chair the Democratic National Committee. Mother Jones takes a look at his background. My takeaway is he's a fighter more than he's a negotiator, and he understands the importance of individual outreach. I think he'd be a better fit than Tom Perez, if for no other reason than he's willing to kick out the lobbyists and big corporate donors, which would give him room to re-focus the party on people.

Wholesale ethics violations continue, surprising nobody.

And finally, some interesting opposition research, also from The Guardian.

— Des

The Internet, large corporations (even brick-and-mortar stores), your credit card companies, etc. are all collecting and selling your personal information. Other companies are buying that information, aggregating it, and using it to build a detailed psychological profile of you. That profile, in turn, is being used to target you with fine-tuned, individually-tailored ads and political messages.

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to analyze people in minute detail based on their Facebook activity. Did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory? Two reporters from Zurich-based Das Magazin went data-gathering.​

The end result, in at least one recent political race of consequence:

From July 2016, Trump's canvassers were provided with an app with which they could identify the political views and personality types of the inhabitants of a house. It was the same app provider used by Brexit campaigners. Trump's people only rang at the doors of houses that the app rated as receptive to his messages. The canvassers came prepared with guidelines for conversations tailored to the personality type of the resident.

Trump's data-driven approach meant that his people were able to focus on the people that mattered most—the bystanders most receptive to his message. (Compare this to Clinton's failed model-based approach to campaigning.)

Liberal organizations can learn from this—these are powerful tools, and they're available to anyone with the budget. How many receptive bystanders in swing states could we have recruited to vote for Clinton if we had been paying attention to the data?

Individuals can learn from this, too—when you use those loyalty cards, or when you "Like" that post, you're making it just a little bit easier for a stranger, armed with a bunch of data about you, to change your mind.

— Des

I was listening to the radio on my way home from work this evening, and they did a spot on the recent UC Berkeley protests. I couldn't help but notice that most of the airtime was devoted to discussion of the violence that had taken place, and relatively little time was spent on the actual reason for the protests. They even went out of their way to call attention to the fact that a couple Republicans were injured in the protest.

The two articles I could find on the topic from the same news station were titled, "Riot Forces Cancellation Of Yiannopoulos Talk At UC Berkeley", and "UC Berkeley Chancellor Blasts Violence Over Yiannopoulos Speech". Just as on the air, both articles lead with the violence and bury the reason for the protest in the middle of the article.

Looking at a few other (somewhat left-leaning, even) news agencies yields a selection of similar, mostly-negative headlines, with one or two neutrals or positives:

Similarly, on Twitter, the local journalists I follow were tweeting mostly pictures of fire and looting. (I won't link to their posts since there are a lot of them.)

Frankly, this looks bad for anti-fascists. Whether or not you think violent protest is okay in principle, our message is getting lost behind fear and violence.

When people see fire, shattered windows, and smashed ATMs, that's what they're going to focus on. It doesn't matter why people are lighting fires and breaking windows, it just matters that they are. Everything else they see—our message, the downtrodden masses, the police brutality—is colored by the fact that "protestors" started it. (And no, it doesn't matter that the provocateurs weren't part of the "official" protest. [link is to a local journalist])

I have not participated in any of the recent protests (large crowds are increasingly hard for my introverted self to handle). But when I was (non-violently) protesting for marriage equality in college, I would for the most part see three general classes of reaction:

  • From bigots: Scowls and/or heckling
  • From other supporters: Enthusiastic waving, honking, shouting, etc.
  • From unconcerned bystanders: "Why are they blocking the street?"

Presumably we are protesting because we're trying to make a change. To do that, we need to convince everyone we can that our change is the right thing to do. We're not going to convince the bigots, fascists, and so on; they've already made up their minds. We're not going to convince other supporters; they don't need convincing. That leaves people who are on the fence, unconcerned, uninformed, or just plain haven't thought about it much. These bystanders are our target audience.

Protests are a great way to get their attention; a little disruption goes a long way in getting bystanders to sit up and take notice. But when they do, they're first going to wonder, "Why are those protesters blocking the street?" It's incumbent on us to have a crystal-clear answer, and make sure that nothing distracts from that message.

"Black Lives Matter!"

"Women's rights are human rights!"

"Immigrants are welcome here!"

If a bystander's first impression is of fire and broken windows, that is how they'll remember our cause. If people are injured or killed, even if it's not our fault, that will stick in their minds more than anything we might have to say. Our opponents will use this to their advantage—they'll label us "violent extremists", they'll accuse us of trampling on their rights, they'll counter with their own, "reasonable"(-sounding) arguments, and those arguments will resonate all the more for standing in opposition to violent extremists.

Violence distracts from the message, and then—just as it did at UC Berkeley—it becomes the story. The message is forgotten.

— Des

deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)

Jan. 29th, 2017 05:50 pm
Not going to make it to BLFC this year. The room block filled up way back in August while I wasn't looking, and the standard rate is way more than I'm willing to pay, given that they put us in a smoking room last year, and there does not seem to be a guaranteed way to get a non-smoking room.

I'm thinking of putting together a panel for the next FC or BLFC [I'm not going to make it] on how to protect yourself online. Some potential topics for discussion include:

  • What is "security"? What is "privacy"? (threat modeling)
  • What to look for in a "secure" service. (Not all security/privacy protections are the same; how to tell the difference.)
  • Browsing the Web (HTTP and HTTPS, certificates, etc.)
  • Chatting online (Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, etc.)
  • File storage (Dropbox, SpiderOak, etc.)
  • Choosing secure passwords/passphrases
  • Protecting your phone and computer from attack

The EFF has a great resource that covers a lot of these topics. I would be leaning heavily on their material, and supplementing it with additional details that I've learned or researched (e.g. Telegram's over-hyped security).

If you're going to one of these conventions, would you be interested in such a panel? If so, what would you like to see/hear/learn about?

While I have a strong technical background, I'm not a career security expert. If you're an expert, or at least have a strong security background, would you be interested in reviewing my material and/or co-presenting?

Leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

— Des

Posting this here for posterity, and just in case any of you feel inclined to write similar letters. ;)

Dear Sen. Feinstein,

I’m a constituent from the Bay Area. I’m writing to let you know that I was, frankly, appalled by your vote to confirm Rep. Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA. A man who has a long track record of supporting both torture and mass surveillance has no place running an organization with a history of abusing and misusing its powers, even to the point of spying on you and your staff.

A man such as Rep. Pompeo has neither the willingness nor the capacity to bring this rogue agency in line, and I have no confidence in his desire or ability to follow the law and the Constitution when it comes to the privacy and due process rights of American citizens or citizens of other nations.

Furthermore, while I am well aware that you and I disagree on the issue of mass surveillance, you should know that a Pew Research survey conducted in 2015 showed that “65% of American adults believe there are not adequate limits on the telephone and internet data that the government collects.” While I don’t know (and Pew did not publish) the number for California specifically, you are clearly out of step with your constituents and the rest of the country on this issue. I hope you will take these views into consideration in your dealings with Director Pompeo and others in the intelligence community in the future.

Going forward, I expect you to thoroughly investigate all of Pres. Trump’s cabinet nominations, and vigorously oppose any nominees who have a history of (a) failing to recognize the serious threat to global security posed by climate change, (b) advocating for the imprisonment, deportation, or unequal treatment of any protected class (Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, LGBTs, etc.), (c) advocating for the repeal or dilution of the Voting Rights Act or similar provisions of law, or (d) disregarding established fact in favor of “alternative facts”, propaganda or similar fabrications. I expect you to oppose these nominations REGARDLESS of what might be said in their confirmation hearings.

In particular, I expect you to vigorously oppose the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Both of these individuals are unfit to serve for some, if not all, of the reasons listed above.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Best Regards,

Spent the weekend dusting off my Dreamwidth account as a place to be both social AND long-form. (And by "dusting off", I mean I built a custom layout and theme. Hope you like it!)

While I have my website for long-form thinking, it's evolved to be something more formal than I want to use all the time, and it also doesn't really afford me the opportunity to interact with you folks, since there's no commenting system (and I don't want to go to the time and expense of maintaining one).

While I have Twitter, it's just not that useful for discussion of any kind. The tweet length is too short, and most nuance gets lost, leading lots of rage and little opportunity for substantial, thoughtful engagement. (And, to be clear, I'm just as guilty of this—I engage when I shouldn't, or when I should do so in another forum, and the discussion has a way of spiraling pretty quickly.)

LiveJournal used to fill that same social/thoughtful niche for me online, but they're no longer trustworthy as a company for a variety of reasons. So here we are. I like Dreamwidth's business model and if I find that I'm using them regularly, I intend to $upport their efforts.

It's funny to me that after all the "advances" in social media—Twitter, Google Plus, Medium, and so on—I still prefer to be on what is almost the same platform I was in the early 2000s. Sure, you can re-skin and update your UI, or improve/extend your back-end infrastructure, but there's just not much more to be done to improve a good ol' blogging service.

Hope to see y'all here soon.

— Des
deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)


Aug. 26th, 2013 01:33 am
Hello, world!

I think I finally have the theme setup something like how I want it...

But, just in case I don't, here's some Latin:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?


deskitty: Angry pouncy siamese cat head (Default)

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