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Quinn Norton is one of my most favorite prose hackers, and she’s described depression from her perspective.

This disease wraps me in gauze. It’s like a layer between me and reality, that makes everything fuzzy and distant. Sometimes I’m sad, but often I just feel like I’m on the verge of throwing up all the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m not real, or dead already.

Quinn, from the bottom of my own broad two-year low, I very much hope you will feel better soon.

I try to remember how much I hate it when depressed people tell me they’re burdens. Of course they are, and they aren’t. It’s not so simple as my broken brain is trying to make it right now. All sick people are burdens, but we’re humans, and carrying each other is where we find the best of ourselves. I know it’s the shame talking, and there’s truth in the shame. I also know that losing my burdens is literally the worst thing I can imagine. So perhaps I will tell people: you are a burden, but a burden I want to carry.And then I will try to remember that for myself now.

Her imagery is always this good. Read her work.

I have what alcoholics call “the gift of desperation.” Say what you will, it keeps saving my life.

All that helps this time is admitting that I’m depressed, and waiting.

I forget what I’m doing a lot in the middle of doing it. I mean, there’s a bit of that for everyone, but this is different. Sometimes when I’m just sitting I feel like I’m falling — not emotionally. I am just sitting, but I’ll get dizzy and feel like I’m falling. I forgot to eat dinner today.

I think about the S word, but not in a dangerous way. I was often suicidal when I was younger, but now I know this cycles, and I have learned to bide my time. I have learned to manage this body and brain — as imperfect as they are — I know them and they are mine. Often when a younger person talks about the chronic urge to suicide, I tell them to wait. I tell them that it gets easier, and that they must learn their body and mind. You can always kill yourself later, I tell people. But with a little luck and a little learning, chances are quite good you won’t want to. Hang on, one minute at a time. Just put it off and treat the pain you have now.

Continued… >

So spot on it hurts.

Here’s another, about talking yourself down.

RIP, Chloe Weil.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 1.46.48 PM 1-IMG_4165-001

That photo was taken late on the night of the first potluck in the apartment we shared in Portland for a few months. I couldn’t really put the solemn and very much true words better than Cassie Ambutter did, so I ain’t gonna try.

I met Chloe at UMass and she was my housemate for a while at my old apartment. I participated in a mix CD club Chloe started at UMass and created one of the mixes I’m most proud of to this day, a concept album based on the novel Bridge to Terabithia. (Edit 2: I wrote a post about MIXISM, this disc, and Chloe which looks much better on Tumblr.)

I was just sitting around a couple nights ago remembering going up to the 16th floor computer lab in the UMass library to test the computer-readable track on a gumdrop iMac – I didn’t have money to print full liner art, so I put the lyrics and pre-ripped MP3s on a data track on the CD. That was maybe 10 years ago.

RIP, Chloe. I wish to G-d I’d been a better friend.

Edit:  Over a thousand hits from search in seven hours since I posted this.  Best wishes everybody.  Do something good for some person or other living creature.

Proposed mods to Civilization 2 for more realistic gameplay.

  1. Regulatory Capture. 60 turns after the establishment of any Democracy or Republic, if Mass Production has been discovered, there is a 1 in 300 chance each turn of Regulatory Capture. Once activated, Corruption (lost gold) and Waste (lost shields) triple. The only way to escape Regulatory Capture is by Revolution.
  2. Consumerism. Under any government except Communism, Fundamentalism or Despotism, after the discovery of Robotics (unlocks Manufacturing Plant), a consumer society develops. Waste (lost shields) grows 1% per turn to a maximum 50% increase over base Waste in 50 turns. In order to escape the penalty, you have two options:
    • You must build a costly Nature Preserve (unlocked by Environmentalism) in every city where you wish to reduce enhanced Waste. Nature Preserves remove the Waste penalty and spare a 1-square terrain radius around their city from Global Warming effects, but are costly to build (shields) and maintain (gold per turn).
    • Your civilization must build a new World Wonder, the Permaculture Arcologies, which grants a Nature Preserve to every city in your civilization. Cost is on par with Cure for Cancer.

I’m tired.

I don’t want to “look forward” to anything any more. I just want a daily cycle: wake, prepare food, work, prepare food, talk, rest, and lay my bones at night frente a frente, until there is no more “forward” to look to.

That’s it.

Dos cuerpos frente a frente 
son a veces dos olas 
y la noche es océano. 

Dos cuerpos frente a frente 
son a veces dos piedras 
y la noche desierto. 

Dos cuerpos frente a frente 
son a veces raíces 
en la noche enlazadas. 

Dos cuerpos frente a frente 
son a veces navajas 
y la noche relámpago. 

Dos cuerpos frente a frente 
son dos astros que caen 
en un cielo vacío.

“Dos cuerpos,” Octavio Paz.

The Fabric Of Reality

Hmm, this is boring. I used Storify for the first time but I can’t embed it here, so I have to screencap it if I want to duplicate the information in WordPress. I’m getting (rightly) more concerned with preserving digital history, since nearly all of it depends on for-profit corporations. the fabric of reality, storify screen capture


Homework in kindergarten?

Homework in kindergarten?

Can anyone present a cogent argument as to why homework in kindergarten isn’t absolute bullshit? Or is it yet another head of the factory schooling “teach to the test” hydra, out there efficiently making kids (and plenty of parents) miserable? Does it teach Valuable Life Skills™ any faster or better and without an added cost to the benefit, or does it teach nothing quite so well as hatred or fear of school starting from age five?

Seriously, who in their right mind gives a five year old fucking homework?[1] Has nobody seen any of the 10,000 films on ennui and alienation in Murrica’s suburban asteroid belts? Does anyone think this might be a piece of that puzzle?

Given Tumblr’s demographics, I’m curious if anyone reading this grew up with homework starting before fifth grade or so. I know my nieces did and I know it did not help anything, in fact very much the opposite.

Did anyone reading grow up not allowed to leave their yard until some ridiculous age like 10?[2] Did anyone reading grow up on the wrong end of a “kid leash?” If so – what do you think of this constellation of social failure?

There was an article a few years back in one of the UK papers[3] with a map showing the limits of where three or four generations of kids in one family were allowed to go by themselves at the same age – the eldest ranged six miles from the house, the youngest was confined to the immediate vicinity of the house.[4]

I believe that raising kids in this bubble produces intellectually stunted adults with poor critical thinking skills, little insight into socioeconomic class, and little capability of having thoughts which do not support the status quo. One thing I know for sure: unstructured play without helicopter parents constantly hovering in arm’s reach is critical for child development. This essential freedom has been in steady decline in Murrica for decades now; it seems to be near extinction in the middle and upper classes. I was lucky enough to narrowly escape the early years by living in a state that lags national trends, bad or good, by about a decade.

As a kid, I grew up with thousands of hours of completely unstructured – or perhaps more aptly and importantly, kid-structured – play.[5] The neighborhood kids built forts (including fairly complicated semi-permanent ones), sculpted extensive dams and water channels out of mud in the gutter[6], ran eight blocks down to the park with the pool almost every summer day without getting abducted or drowning, walked to school with near-zero supervision from first grade on, and played house and doctor under the best hiding trees.[7]

This play taught us not only about the realities of the world – physics, engineering, biology – but about conflict resolution, cooperation, communication, and about the fabric of our social landscape. I was friends with girls and boys, upper middle class kids and fairly poor kids – both white and nonwhite – and I saw how they all lived. My best friend for my first few years in town was a little girl up the street who was a year younger than me, a tough-as-nails tomboy with a male alter ego and zero interest in dolls. I credit her with giving me the early foundation on which I became able to think about gender roles. Some of that foundation came from our games in which gender was just another thing to pretend about – “you were the mom yesterday, it’s my turn!” Some of it came in the form of a bump and a bruise here and there when I pissed her off, since she was stronger than me![8]

To this day I find the concept of a “play date” subtly horrifying, because when my friend wanted to play with me, starting at age five she called me on the telephone, by herself, with no parental involvement, to ask: “can you play?”[9,10,11]

About 12 years after the time I started reasonably being assigned homework, and about 18 years after my friend started calling me every day to see if I could play, I had a back-roads commute in Massachusetts which coincided with school bus drop-off time in an upper middle class area. Every day, regardless of weather, parents were sitting in idling SUVs at the border of their single-entrance subdivisions waiting to pick their kids up from the bus.

People wonder why my biggest political fear for what’s left of my country is a neofascist movement. What better breeding ground than in the invisibly circumscribed minds of those kids – the ones who don’t manage to develop critical thinking skills on their own despite the bubble, despite factory schooling, despite the system working as intended?

1. One parent I know with a five year old burdened with homework suggests it’s a reaction to chronic underfunding of schools and the resulting class sizes which are too large for effective teaching. I hadn’t thought of it that way – it’s a brilliant way to offload the unfunded costs of public school onto overworked parents.

2. There’s never been a safer time to be a kid in the United States than today, but among parents who watch TV, I very strongly suspect most believe the opposite. Fuck TV.

3. I found a copy without the map in the Daily Mail; I’m not sure if they were the original publisher and it was amongst the 3% of their articles worth reading, or what. I could swear it was on the BBC and the text at the Daily Mail looks pasted. Anyway: How children lost the right to roam in four generations.

4. This is also reminiscent of the masses of fear-cultured parents calling for Lenore Skenazy’s head on a platter after she wrote a column on letting her nine year old ride the subway in New York by himself.

5. This was helped along by my otherwise wolfish parents’ unassailable refusal to own a TV until I was 12, five years after we owned a computer. I hated them for it at the time. Now I understand it’s one of the few things they deserve thanks for.

6. I once got a comment from the neighbor who had the best gutter mud and water availability that “boy if you was my kid, you’d get a whuppin'” because I was covered head to toe in mud – like I said, my state lagged trends, bad or good.

7. Another normal and important part of child development which routinely evokes absolute horror and moral panic from adults, causing far more harm than good.

8. Last I knew, she was married with kids and a successful career as a dentist. Not a hygienist, a dentist.

9. I understand “play dates” are “how things are” now among the middle and upper classes, and this isn’t an indictment of parents who go along with it because what are you gonna do, but I reserve the right to continue being fascinated by the concept in the way one is fascinated by a car accident.

10. This was not an isolated occurrence. It happened daily. Because my friend’s family ate dinner at the early hour typical of the area and my parents ate later, my excuse for a mom actually called her much nicer mom to bitch about the phone calls, demanding she not call to ask me to play during our dinner hour. Aside from that, it worked quite well. Imagine, kindergarteners using Bell System telephones to arrange their own “play dates.” Hard to even contemplate in 2014, isn’t it? I think that’s a problem.

11. This would be one of about two times a girl asked me for my number before pagers (yes) and then mobile phones became common, by which time they were asking me for business reasons, not personal.[12] Le sigh.

12. I’ve sold drugs to survive; I’ve also lived in a 1986 Ford Escort, both during my teenage years. Growing up (and remaining) inside or outside the bubble merely changes one’s landscape of potential problems. I argue that growing up outside the bubble is the better option. Imagine a helicopter-parented bubble kid who never had to (or never was allowed to) make a choice in her life trying to live in a Ford Escort when that bubble bursts. Might not turn out as well, eh?

Why I’ve added Atlassian to the “no thanks” list containing SendGrid, HackerNews, and reddit.

Update: Atlassian has found that misogyny is as much a bottom line issue as race hate and the like, and pulled the “satire.” So, I may in the future choose to continue using Atlassian products – after all, Hipchat does pretty much Just Work where Jabber often fails miserably. And JIRA is hovering near the top of the “least worst” category in issue tracking et al. While I find it’s far too hydra-like, I strongly suspect somebody is going to eventually come up with mathematical proof that building a “good” issue tracking system is outside the realm of what’s possible.

Original post continues below.

C Plus Equality rape joke

A rape joke contained in the “C Plus Equality” repository hosted on Atlassian Bitbucket.

Atlassian Bitbucket's response to misogynistic content

Atlassian’s response to misogynistic content and rape jokes on Bitbucket

I gotta tell ya, I’m still just rolling, uh, “laughing” over here at what Atlassian Bitbucket has chosen to host on their private servers.

Their latest tweet regarding the issue is also pictured above.

Of course, we all know that if this had been about black people’s history of civil rights struggle, or gay/lesbian (remember when that gay dude got nailed to a fence? okay, how about all those women killed by their boyfriends every day?), the “satire” would be removed from Atlassian’s privately hosted space – if nothing else, in protection of their bottom line.

If you host content in your private square, you endorse it in the eyes of the public.

Atlassian incorrectly argues that “allowing publication” does not equal “endorsement;” in that case I expect to see them hosting some KKK hilarity and Nazi lulz on their private platform next – but not endorsing it, you see.

As usual, the reddit-type brigade brings up the “free speech” red herring, conveniently forgetting that, at least in the United States, speech is only protected in the public square. You cannot harass women or wear white pointy hoods at your local (privately owned) shopping mall; you’ll be thrown out. While it’s a separate and important problem that we have so few public squares on the Internet right now, Atlassian Bitbucket is a private square, and they are actively choosing to host the content. Thus, they endorse it de facto.

For folks who don’t know who or what Atlassian or Bitbucket is, Atlassian is a company which makes a whole lot of software-about-making-software, which I might add is a quite competitive market with many not-Atlassian choices.

Atlassian may choose to host whatever legal content they wish on their private servers, and techies may choose which software and services they use based on whatever reasons they like; for example, I’ll never use SendGrid. I won’t read HackerNews or reddit any longer. For now, Atlassian has joined that list.

Like I have publicly told Atlassian Bitbucket, de facto endorsement of misogyny by hosting it on one’s private infrastructure is a bottom line issue.

Edited to add: Atlassian has doubled down on their support of, as I referred to it in the related thread on their site, “[providing] service to what amounts to a group of baboons who wish to throw dung at conversation participants, not to mention all women who believe in gender equality.”  They sadly cop out and hide behind their EULA; see below.

Justen Stepka of Atlassian Bitbucket closes "C Plus Equality" issue as WONTFIX

Justen Stepka of Atlassian Bitbucket closes “C Plus Equality” issue as WONTFIX.