It wasn’t bad to be a wrong optimist

From the vantage point of 2019 the Internet is a supreme mess. Elsagate. 8chan. Phone spam at 1/2 of all calls.

But back when the Internet was young I believed in it. It was going to bring democratization, not autocracy; decentralization, not FAANG; anonymity, not surveillance capitalism.

Like how in 1942 nearly everybody in the US was called up to either the military or the home front, most of us in the sunrise days of the web joined the cause in one way or another.

I studied composing and went off to write CGI scripts. My friend Adam got a MA from the super-swanky JFK School at Harvard and became a sysadmin. His wife Mary got a MA in literature and became a website coordinator. This was how we wanted things to be. It felt amazing, not ignominious.

WW II was followed by McCarthy.  The hippie lifestyle illusion was a setup for what happened to poor Sharon Tate, Tarantino be damned. Email was in invented in 1978, and spam was invented in… 1978.

I’m not sorry to have been a believer, by the way. It wasn’t so bad to be a wrong optimist. Maybe the frontier was a better world that came and went. Maybe we don’t know the end of the story yet. Maybe our current world is better than it would have been. I just don’t know. Being so wrong about so much for so long has been a golden opportunity to learn humility.

Personal computers are not computers, any more than automobiles are engines. Just as automobiles’ engines power their movement, the true computers inside what we call personal computers power what they do. Those names, “personal computer” and “smartphone”, are older than the tools they now label. “Personal computer” became popular in the late 1970s, for gadgets that most of us today couldn’t use. The modern personal computer, or PC, took shape in the late 1990s when browsing the Web found a wide audience.

Understand Yourselves Better

White People: I Don’t Want You To Understand Me Better, I Want You To Understand Yourselves

Ijeoma Oluo:

Why do I know white culture so well? Because I’m a black woman. And while I, and just about any person of color who has spent their lives in a white supremacist society, know enough about white culture to write a book or two on whiteness and option the bestseller movie rights, y’all know almost nothing about us and even less about yourselves.

Find yourselves white people. Find yourselves so that you can know what whiteness is. … Find yourselves so that racism no longer surprises you.

Seeing the world clearly takes trouble. It is ongoing work to educate myself on racism, both my own personal racism and the systemic kind.

The hard part is knowledge of my own footprint:

  • self-interest in continuing racism
  • failure to act when opportunities came up
  • fully believing racist ideas

The easy part is that all I have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. Once I learn something it stays learned.


We’re ragging on allies for making us spend money on the military:

Trump said Germany has accumulated an immense lack of investment over many years, according to one of our sources, telling Merkel the U.S. feels taken advantage of for spending so much on defense

But we’re increasing military spending:

Trump has sent guidelines to his Cabinet officials, directing them to boost the defense budget for next year by $54 billion—nearly a 10 percent increase—and to get the extra money by draining the budgets of the EPA, the State Department, and other federal agencies.

This is a staggering sum of money. Not since Ronald Reagan’s first year as president has the United States increased defense spending by 10 percent, and that was during a high point in the Cold War

So are we trying to spend less or not?

My guess is that both issues are entirely political. Trump wants to humiliate and dominate Germany, and he wants to look masculine by affiliating himself with the military.

Growing the US military is posturing with toy money. Needing additional military capabilities is not the point, and managing money wisely is not an agenda item.

MP3s on

When I disconnected the blog for my historical public domain music, I stranded the music I had posted, which is actually all still available. Here are links to every MP3 on Song For Gurdonark/Italian Song for gurdonark.mp3 Song For Gurdonark/LucasGonze-ItalianSong1.mp3 Song For Gurdonark/LucasGonze-ItalianSong2.mp3 Polka on parlor.mp3 Fandango.mp3–I_Love_Paris.mp3 I’m Taking Care Of Mother (While Daddy’s Gone Away).mp3 and Cammeyer – Chinese Patrol.mp3 Baton Rouge Rag – Kitty Gray & Her Wampus Cats with Oscar _B.mp3 Charmin’ Betsy.mp3 Shimmy She Wobble.mp3 Baton Rouge Rag _ interview.mp3 Tanner and Fate Norris – Goodbye Booze.mp3 Beans, Beans, Beans.mp3 I Heard The Voice Of A Pork Chop (Take 1).mp3 The Plum Blossom.mp3 I’ve Got The Big River Blues.mp3 The Light Crust Doughboys’ Theme.mp3 Bald Head.mp3 Goat Stomp — bleeting.mp3 Goat Stomp — hi hat 1.mp3 Goat Stomp — clarinet 2.mp3 Goat Stomp — cornet 1.mp3 Goat Stomp — clarinet 1.mp3 Goat Stomp — band 2.mp3 Goat Stomp — guitar 1.mp3 Goat Stomp — snare 3.mp3 Goat Stomp — horn kicks 1.mp3 Goat Stomp — guitar 3.mp3 Goat Stomp — guitar 2.mp3 Goat Stomp — final 2 kicks.mp3 Goat Stomp — band.mp3 Goat Stomp — man take that goat out of here.mp3 Goat Stomp — cornet 2.mp3 Goat Stomp — hi hat 2.mp3 Goat Stomp — horn kicks 2.mp3 Goat Stomp — snare 1.mp3 Goat Stomp — hi hat 3.mp3 Goat Stomp — guitar.mp3 June.mp3 June – lead sheet.mp3 Weston’s Old Time Jig, March 3 2010.mp3’s Five Step.mp3 Weston’s Old Time Jig, March 3 2010.mp3 Weston’s Electronic Jig.mp3 Solace – A Mexican Serenade (LP Version).mp3 Gladiolus Rag (LP Version).mp3 Breakdown.mp3 Listen To The Mocking Bird.mp3 The Whistling Girl.mp3 Maggie.mp3 Louis Waltz.mp3 Poole – The Mother’s Plea For Her Son.mp3

Ape vs Human Cognition

Other primates are clever and emotionally present like humans. So how do are we different? From There is a moral argument for keeping great apes in zoos | Aeon Ideas:

We did a study with pairs of orangutans in which we tested their ability to communicate and cooperate to get rewards. We hid a banana pellet so that one orangutan could see the food but couldn’t reach it. The other orangutan could release a sliding door and push the pellet through to her partner, but wasn’t able to take it for herself. They did okay (but not great) when playing with me, and they mostly ignored each other when playing together. We then performed a similar set of studies with human two-year-olds. Compared with the apes, the two-year-olds were very good at getting the reward (stickers) when they played with an adult.

Taken together, these studies tell us something about human evolution. Unlike apes, humans are good at pooling their talents to achieve what they can’t do alone. It’s not that the apes don’t care about getting the food – they got frustrated with one another when things were going wrong, and one orangutan in particular would turn his back and sulk. However, unlike humans, they don’t seem to be able to harness this frustration to push themselves to do better.

Feed readers

As a reader, I need an RSS reader that caters to personal-scale blogging. There isn’t one now.

Professional blogs generate a torrential flow compared to personal blogs. In a river of posts where all sources are competing for attention, the professional posts flood out the personal ones. Your reader needs a rate limiter for overposters.

RSS readers need to make it trivial to reply to your friend, with similar gestures to Facebook and Twitter. It should be possible to post a private reply, to Like, to repost/retweet, or to comment in-place in your reader. The software should have sophistication comparable to Facebook, for example there should be a range of Like types that include “wow” and sympathy.

RSS readers also need to provide readership metrics to publishers. Otherwise your friends with personal blogs get close to zero feedback. With a big professional-scale blog there are enough readers for comments to happen. But with a personal-scale blog comments are few and far between.