Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Interesting, not interesting

I often think I'm not very interesting. This doesn't so much bother me but will probably make it uncomfortable when I start dating. But at the same time I think I'm at least somewhat interesting. The problem I still have though is that what makes me interesting now is the stuff I did in the past, most of which I'm no longer doing.

What am I doing right now? Well that means the recent past, so let's say in the past month or two. Most of my time is spent working. My job's not very interesting to talk about, at least with non-programmers, and with programmers I'd rather rant about the ways my job doesn't satisfy me than what makes my job great enough I'm not seriously looking to quit soon. Besides work, I lift weights, but that's currently very flaky. (I have completed the Strongman 5x5 challenge before (again something in the past) but I'm weaker now than then.) Besides weights, I'm casually learning Japanese. I'm going about it very lazily -- this is a pattern you'll see a lot if you look at my history. I've managed to memorize the kanas and am slowly gaining speed at deciphering sequences of them, and I've started learning kanji (but very few so far), and a few more bits of vocab, and have outlined future lessons and resources, but that's it. My current plan is to learn more kanji -- at least 1000 -- and then make an attempt at grammar and building vocab. It's unconventional, but I'm an unconventional person. I also took 5 years of French and 3 of Latin so I'm aware of conventional ways to learn a language. (Yet again something in the past.)

Besides weights and Japanese, I'm working my way through a bunch of books. My 'tsundoku' grows. Primarily I'm working with a book on Lisp, a few Go (the game) books, and Prof. Hanson's book. I'm also playing video games. I just finished The Witcher 2 and Ys VI and am working on Fallout: New Vegas. I'm only really making game progress because I've been on a work break. Besides that, I'm lazily learning how to play guitar. My birthday present to myself was an electric guitar (since prior to that I've only noodled on an acoustic) and related gear. I haven't been very diligent lately in studying but I'm getting another guitar in the coming months (I pre-ordered it a few months ago) that will hopefully inspire me to put some more time in again.

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Quick remarks for religious people on the 'religion debate'

My general policy these days is to stay quiet with those I know on the subject of religion, unless they take an interest in the debate. And even when they take an interest in the debate, my only thoughts are to present the argument from the atheist side rather than to attempt to persuade them to change their beliefs, or even expect them to change mine in rebuttal. In a situation where me and someone else disagree but both feel confident in our beliefs (as is typical with polarizing issues) I can only present my side in a neutral manner, if I'm going to present at all; I can't take it seriously as something to be 'won' or something to be fruitful in my pursuit of the truth. There is an exception to my attitude, in that I'll treat the exercise seriously and try to stay or get close to the object level, and that's if I know the other person has the same beliefs about rationality and how to actually change one's mind and make beliefs pay rent that I do. Without that common ground, it's pointless to argue seriously, but not necessarily pointless to argue. I think a lot of atheists come to that position not through any one argument but by being exposed to enough material and thinking about it long enough. The best I can hope for when I don't have a common ground in rationality with someone is to seed some ideas for them to reflect on later.

So what prompted this blog is a post a cousin made on Facebook that appears to be a copy-paste thing. In it, the post asks several mostly rhetorical questions and answers or implies answers to them that aren't actually what an overwhelming majority of atheists believe. It was clearly put together by someone who only imagines what people who don't believe in God actually believe, possibly in response to an atheist being mean on the internet. (I can't deny that happens or that I never partook in such activities years ago, but it's no reason to infer beliefs or values of all non-believers...)

I haven't replied on Facebook yet since I ask if the person is actually interested in hearing a rebuttal or not. Again I don't want to waste people's time if they're not actually interested. But I did type up some quick answers to the questions in a separate text editor and thought I could at least put them on my blog for later. Since my blog is a better format than Facebook to write things, instead of the answers all at once (like I'd do for Facebook) for each question I'll post a quick summary of the question on one line and then my quick response on the next line.

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Thought Dump

I haven't felt like writing in a few months, clearly. But I've had some thoughts on what I could write about. Except many of them seem like rather obvious thoughts so to expand on them would be somewhat wasteful. But I'd like to record them anyway, so here we go with a handful. Disclaimer that I have not really thought much about this stuff -- to write is to think, thinking without writing is self-delusion.

New Years resolutions are coming up. I think an uncomfortable truth is that we can't really change ourselves that much, or that quickly. As much as media leads us astray with epic hero journeys and countless self-help books to the contrary, many people still have the same resolution year after year. "This time will be different," they say. And this is even when they have so concrete a goal to go for it! Many other goals are either vaguely defined or just non-existent.

So much is hereditary. It shouldn't be too surprising then that you can't escape too far from your genetic limits and starting point. In the heuristics and biases literature, just knowing about the ways you can be biased is not necessarily enough to guard against them. I like to think it helps, but only marginally. Similarly with knowing the techniques of Persuasion. And to top it off, you can be self-aware of a mental illness and perhaps live with it but that self-awareness can't let you think your way into a cure. Some days I suspect the only real way to reach a goal that is beyond your comfort zone is the old arsenic method.

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Converted AWS T1 instance to T2

Shout out to this blog: Go there for all your concerns.

I've been putting off moving this blog for a long while. It involved upgrading from ubuntu 12 to 14, upgrading apache (had a brief scare where I accidentally exposed everything in /var/www for about 20 seconds, fortunately no requests other than for /...), and following the blog. There was one last step of moving my elastic IP to the VPS, which turned out way more annoying than it should have been since it involved setting up the AWS CLI again. (Why can't it just be in the web console?)

Still, the server should now have a better CPU, better storage, better network, more RAM, and cost me half as much. Amazon really hates their legacy T1.

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If you're going to vote, do it like a horse race

I don't intend to vote this election cycle, though I would enjoy seeing Trump win. Last election cycle I half-seriously voted. My write-in candidates for P and VP were Princess Luna and Twilight Sparkle. The rest of the items on the ballot, which consisted of state and county initiatives, some congressmen, and various state and county officers, I took some time to look into each option and convince myself that one choice was better than another. My choices can be found on this site, though it may or may not be illegal to share them. (shrug)

Anyway I did it more for the fun of the exercise. It's a useful exercise everyone ought to complete at least once, because it doesn't take too much effort, and more importantly it offers a glimpse into the amount of effort it would really take to be the "rational, informed voter" the system pretends everyone is. Now imagine doing that more than once every 4 years -- I get ballot mails for all sorts of stuff at the city/county/state level, I ignore them. Imagine attending local city council meetings. I don't even know their schedule but I hear about them from time to time. I ignore them because I know that in order to have an opinion that's worth anything I would need to do a lot of work. I've got my own work to take care of, and it's not in the business of ruling people. I don't want to be in that business. Hence I'm not an expert in that business, and hence I don't see my opinion as being valuable. Let those who govern well govern as they see fit, not as the whims of the governed see fit. Whether this is done under the guise of democracy (like Singapore) or under a proper monarchy matters less than whether it is done. The People make for a terrible ruler, representatives or no. (Tangent, I once participated in the National Young Leaders Conference, that was very eye-opening as well in getting a glimpse of how the machine that is the federal government operates.)

So this brings me back to the title of this post. If you're going to vote, do it for the reasons you'd bet on a horse race. Now, there are a couple reasons one might bet on a horse race, and lots of reasons why one might make a particular bet. I'm not saying to pick any one of those, only to treat the process of voting in a similar manner.

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Side project energy

As a certain political persona might say, I'm kind of low-energy.

Take a look at my Github. It's gotten better. Take a look at this very blog. It's gotten better. 2015 was a rough year.

Ever since around the start of 2012 (we'll say this post) I haven't really been happy with my productivity. It's been ok for work related stuff, I survived school, but it's still not where I want it to be overall. And my side projects are all on life support, and that's where they've got more to them than just some ideas in a local readme.

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Brief history reminder

Remember the man named

This is basically my response to which I can't help but interpret as hilarious for its framing and sad if there is a shred of sincerity to it. If there is to be another glorious revolution (and we all know what side of the spectrum it will come from) there will be a lot of heads for the block, backs to the wall, and general in-group vs. other in-group killing. And as the bloodlust consumes all not even the ringleaders have a good chance of surviving.

All I'm saying is that if all you have is a paper saying "See?! I endorsed your side!" you in fact have nothing. Make better contingency plans than paper if you're legitimately worried about being a target.

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