A thought on memorization and memory techniques.

Dec 12, 2016

In many memorization techniques it is often taught that you should make use of overly vivid, even absurd imagery to make sure that bits of information stick in whatever organizational technique you might use, be it a ladder of pegs or something as elaborate as the method of loci. Sometimes you have to work to make something stick, and sometimes the absurd makes itself known spontaneously.

Have you ever pondered why there are so many things that you simply can't unsee on the Internet?

Stop and think about all the things that you wish you'd never seen over the years. All the stingers and nasty surprises that gave you a nasty jolt. No, I won't list any, I've no shortage of my own memories that routinely invade my nightmares... the point I'm making is that those things are so far off the beam, so far removed from our daily experience (regardless of what it may be), so... there's probably a word in German for the concept. The best I've got it ho'polis d'l'Byr (Horror of the Other) that it wraps around into Lovecraftian or possibly Gigeresque surrealism or disgust (sometimes with a bouncy, catchy techno remix playing in the background) that it burns itself indelibly into one's long-term memory in exactly the same way that Musashi Miyamoto rolling out pizza dough with a shinai on a wicker papsan chair in the back yard does.

The 2016 election was not rigged.

Nov 27, 2016

There, I said it.

I don't think that votes were messed with, I don't think that any (horribly insecure) voting machines were tampered with, and while jerrymandering is totally a thing I don't think it had anything to do with the election. I think that appealing to people's most deeply held beliefs, the ones that few are willing to talk about openly had everything to do with it.

Donald Trump is everything that USians want to be, deep down inside. Let's be honest: Whether or not Donald Trump is really as rich as he says doesn't matter. What matters is that many people believe he is rich. In the United States cultural mindscape that equates to power. As he's bragged about on television repeatedly, he's done some pretty heinous and ignorant things and gotten away with all of them. That show of power demonstrates that he's effectively above the law. He's on television a lot, which to the USian cultural mindset equates to fame. Fame is a form of power all its own, because to be on television you have to have access to the media somehow, and having access to the media means that he can reach everyone watching a television, listening to a radio, and haunting every social network without even trying. If you follow his Twitter feed you can observe his antics first-hand.

USians love money. USians love power. USians love getting away with things. USians love fame. He's everything every USian wants to be - he's the American dream.

And who doesn't want to be like him? Who doesn't want to be Bruce Wayne, who's stupidly rich, gets away with the craziest shit during the day, and still has time to himself to practice being a badass after dark? Who doesn't want to be Tony Stark ("Genius, billionaire, playboy, philantropist."), hook up with Playboy centerfolds, and kick asses around the world while getting away with it (mostly)? Who doesn't dream of being Lex Luthor, an amazingly wealthy industrialist who just happens to want to kill Superman, the all-American do-gooder?

Donald Trump is all of those fictional characters brought to life (modulo being a hero, though I'll get to that in a second), every badass example of the American Dream that people think they have. Throughout the entire election he showed off all of those qualities writ so large you could see them from orbit, and people ate it up. The hero bit I mentioned? He promised a nebulous effort to "make America great again," which just about everybody who's worried about their lot in life ate up and went back for seconds. Afraid that the middle class is vanishing like spilled water in the desert? Hate "them other folks" but either won't admit it out loud or don't even realize you're racist? Openly racist and hold demonstrations calling for ethnic cleansing in the United States? Want reassurance that anything sketchy you might be up to might get a pass because Trump's promised to make it go away? Just want to watch it all burn? Trump not only validated those feelings but openly embraced them among his constituency and campaign staff. He promised to make the boogiemen under the bed go away. Everybody on the fringe, from the folks who took somebody's attempt at trolling seriously to genuinely scary people sat up and howled when the dog whistle blew.

You don't have to rig an election when you work to be the person that everybody identifies with. When the people of the United States voted for Donald Trump, they actually voted for the kind of people they themselves most want to be.

The bed's made, and bedtime's near. Nightmares are coming.

Vice Reine, Night Club, and Beautiful Machines at the DNA Lounge.

Nov 23, 2016

In October of this year, I once again made my pilgrimage to the DNA Lounge to spend the night dancing at Turbo Drive, the club's monthly (sort of) synthwave dance party. A sucker for the old-school synths as always, I dressed up in my finest to see Vice Reine, Night Club, and the Beautiful Machines perform live. I especially wanted to attend because that particular night celebrated the release of Night Club's first full album, entitled Requiem for Romance (listen to it!) This was one of the few nights where Turbo Drive was held on the main dancefloor of the DNA and not at Code Word, the side club upstairs. All three bands put on top-notch shows; Night Club was enjoyable as usual, and I really got into the Beautiful Machines.

In my photo album, you'll find a couple of photographs of a woman in a hand-made, full cyber costume constructed especially for Turbo Drive. Her name is Mikaela Holmes, and she specializes in wearable art of all kinds, from leather to optical fibre, low-light reflective to hand-formed electroluminescants. Photographs (hers and mine) don't do her work justice, you really have to see it up close to really appreciate it. She even has a bunch of tutorials up at Instructables. If you get a chance, stop by her Facebook page and check it out.

Anyway, here are the pictures I took.

Real life seems like Shadowrun - so why can't I throw fragging fireballs?!

Nov 26, 2016

From time to time I sit down with my gaming buddies, and we both lament and observe how well reading and playing cyberpunk games has prepared us for life in the twenty-first century. I don't think that many people expected real life to track quite so closely with many a cyberpunk world penned by the masters, from William Gibson to Neal Stephenson to Bruce Sterling. Strangely enough, many of the lifestyle strategies depicted in these stories have helped keep our own lives (and those of our families) stable and, for the most part nice to live as human history has gone nonlinear all around us. Sure, we're seeing early experimenting with direct neural interfaces in hospitals, AI research is changing the world around us faster than we can see (and some of it's even open source), grinders are starting to do some pretty weird stuff with their own bodies, and we have stupidly advanced technology available for next to nothing on the street, but let's dig a little deeper.

What's really fucking with me is how much real life is tracking some of the backstory of Shadowrun.

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When using Lastpass with Google Chrome, occasionally it'll automatically log you out.

Dec 01, 2016

Sometimes, very occasionally, when using the Lastpass plugin with Google Chrome, you may find that Lastpass will start acting wonky. Specifically, if you've had Chrome running for a couple of days, you will notice that Lastpass has logged you out, even if you're in an Incognito Window. When clicking on the browser plugin's icon, you will be able to log into it as usual; multifactor authentication will similiarly work as expected. If you wait a few seconds, the plugin's icon will go dark again. If you're quick and drop into "My Vault," you'll see that screen for a second or two before you get bounced out again. You won't be able to log into anything, and you'll eventually start cursing the day you decided to stop using a password manager like Keepass. You might do this a dozen or two times, scratching your head all the while.

To break out of this frustrating loop, clear your browser cache (Chrome menu icon -> History -> History -> Clear Browsing Data, check Browsing history and Download history, uncheck everything else -> Clear browsing data), fully terminate Chrome (don't just close all of your windows), and start it up again. That should fix the problem.

VNV Nation in concert, 25 October 2016.

Nov 23, 2016

In October of this year VNV Nation visited California as part of their Compendium tour, in which they celebrated their twenty year anniversary by performing a five hour set without an opening band that covered their entire corpus of work, comprised of twelve albums (one of which is orchestral in nature, having been recorded with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg). I didn't even try to keep track of their setlist because of how long the concert was. I do, however, recall that they played Perpetual, and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I still get choked up thinking about it.

Here are the pictures I took, doing the best I could because red and electric blue stage lighting do not photograph well on either cellular phones or my full-sized camera (none of the latter came out, unfortunately).

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Nov 25, 2016

It seems there is no end to the number of quotes through history that go something like this: "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." It's been variously attributed to Edmund Burke, Sara Shepard, Santayana... this is not to say that there is no truth to it. Far from it.

I haven't said much about the election of 2016, in part because my personal life has been upside down and inside out for weeks now, in part due to work, and in part due to the fact that there is so much fucked up stuff going on in the United States, in the global media, and in part in many different communities. When you factor in the fact that fake news is not just a propaganda tactic, it's a growth industry, the time requred to research even the simplest article is prohibitive. Pro-trolls and trollbots on pretty much every social media network don't make things any easier.

Maybe that's the point.

I'm certainly not the only person to notice that the media manipulation happening in 2016 isn't using new strategies or tactics even though they're being used on the Net in addition to print media and television. That people are treating this as a wholly novel phenomen, unprecedented in the western world has been driving me nuts. Did nobody pay attention in history class?

Then I got to thinking...

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Charles Stross book signing - 31 July 2016

Nov 23, 2016

This summer Charles Stross went on a book signing tour for his latest novel, the latest book of the Laundry Files series called The Nightmare Stacks. In July his book tour brought him to the Bay Area of California, and a famous bookstore which I strongly suggest that every visitor to San Francisco spend some time at called Borderlands Books. Of course, being a fan of Stross in general and the Laundry Files in particular, I packed up a couple of books that I wanted to get autographed and headed for downtown.

Here are the pictures I took while Stross was reading from his next novel in the series, entitled The Delerium Brief. They turned out surprisingly good given that the entire audience (myself included) were laughing our guts out.