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Liesmith, chapter 9.

Alis’s Note
… we got there in the end!



Sigmund’s dad answered the door, which was about the worst possible way to start the evening. Sigmund could hear murmured introductions as he pulled on his shoes and hopped down the stairs half-in, half-out of his jacket, but by the time he reached the door he was pretty sure words like boyfriend and date hadn’t been uttered and—thank gods—Lain wasn’t carrying flowers or something equally humiliating.

(does that mean this isn’t a date?)

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2020-05-31T11:03:24+10:0031st May, 2020|Tags: books, LIESMITH, wyrdverse|

The death of Economic Man.

Animals seek and respect dominance, but humans put more value on prestige – good opinion rather than fear – which tends to confer the greater reproductive advantage. Heinrich describes the behaviour of prestigious leaders as “prosocial, generous, and cooperative … using self-deprecating humour”. Christakis has a fascinating chapter on leadership during shipwrecks. The effective leaders, such as Shackleton, depended on the authority won through good opinion conferred by their sacrifice of self-interest.

But this process can sometimes go wrong – as it has done in our own societies. Economic and technological shocks, combined with a culture of “you deserve what you get”, have created big winners whose behaviour is disproportionately influential. As these winners turn into Economic Man, bad behaviour becomes prominent: they buy yachts; they dump their families; they brag. In consequence of being disproportionately influential, these people spread immodesty and selfishness: their repellent norms become more prevalent.

Paul Collier on inhuman economics.

By “Economic Man” here Collier means the sort of “self-interested rational actor” used by things like economics and game theory… and which has not only no basis in things like human evolution and sociology, but in most cases actively works against them. Collier probably puts a bit too much emphasis on the biological determinism of human “genes” as pro-social but it’s not exactly wrong, either; humans evolved in groups, and we do terribly when completely alone. It’s literally not in our natures to exist like that—or, more accurately, when it does occur, it’s a terrible pathology—no matter what economists might try and say…

2020-01-29T14:22:33+11:0030th May, 2020|Tags: culture, economics|

Team no-one.

The Section 230 versus Executive Order… thing is such a team no-one situation. Trump is a monster. Big social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are actively harmful monopolies and should be regulated out of existence. Section 230 itself is… fine, if flawed. If this EO actually happens1 literally the only effect it will have is driving social media companies off shore. By which I mean “killing current US-centric on-shore social media companies” and “opening the market to for e.g. ByteDance.”2

On the other hand, this pretty much has the potential to put the GOP exactly where they don’t want to be, i.e. mediating between Cult45 on one side and billionaires on the other. Their voting base versus their paychecks. So, like… again, who knows.

2020 needs to just… not. For a little while. Y’know?

Edit: Also, this. It is literally just a bottomless well of petty, vindictive cruelty…

  1. Normally I would be fairly confident in saying it wouldn’t, but with the Republicans having stacked the judiciary with their patsies… who even knows any more. []
  2. Given that social media has no business model other than “selling users to advertisers” and that the exact mechanisms of how current social media companies do this are illegal in basically every developed nation other than the US, it is… difficult to see how a New Twitter would emerge in, say, Europe. But China is currently deep into its soft power push—ref. TikTok, Fortnite, the sudden explosion of cdrama fandom in the English-speaking world, et al.—i.e. perfectly positioned to move in and take over a lagging market. And, like, all your vaunted “free speech” in that context? Yeah. Good fucking luck. []
2020-05-29T07:34:45+10:0029th May, 2020|Tags: politics, social media, twitter|

That LiveJournal thing.

Denise has a pretty good write-up of the LiveJournal password breach over at Dreamwidth.


We’ve seen several contradictory claims about when the file was allegedly gathered from LiveJournal: one claim for June/July of 2014, and one claim for sometime in 2017. From what we’ve learned from our users who we’ve spoken to about their accounts, we believe the 2014 claim is more likely to be accurate and that the person(s) who obtained the data in 2014 didn’t use it for several years, but we can’t say for certain. Because of that uncertainty, it’s best if you treat any password you’ve ever used on LiveJournal in the past as compromised, since we can’t tell for certain when the alleged breach happened.

(It’s worth noting Firefox, for example, leans towards the 2017 date. Regardless, assume compromise.)

Also, LiveJournal’s official response—specifically the claim the data are “falsified”—is… interesting. More specifically specifically, what they seem to be claiming is that someone has taken account details from other breaches and attributed them to LiveJournal. Given that I know I, personally, use a LiveJournal-specific email address and I still got a breach noticed from Have I Been Pwned? this is, to put it bluntly, full of shit.

Anyway, tl;dr:

  • change your password at LiveJournal and any other place you may have used the same password
  • don’t reuse passwords
  • activate multifactor where possible, particularly high-value accounts like email addresses and anything financial1
  • use a password manager.2
  1. Also, preference hard tokens over soft tokens/apps over SMS codes. []
  2. I use 1Password, which is nice but kinda expensive; LastPass and KeePass are more affordable options. []
2020-05-28T10:09:03+10:0028th May, 2020|Tags: infosec, livejournal|


An esoteric programming language designed to look and read like classical Chinese literature.

For the non-compsci set, an esoteric language is one that’s mostly meant “for funsies”, rather than something intended for wide scale use. Generally they can be used in this way—programming languages are for humans to understand, and by the time the code gets to the computer itself it’s been translated through several other layers of increasing abstraction anyway—but their oddball natures tend to make them, at minimum, difficult to write and even harder to maintain. But they’re pretty popular all the same, because programmers are Like That…

2020-01-29T12:36:55+11:0028th May, 2020|Tags: programming, tech|


Modern recycling as we know it—the byzantine system of color-coded bins and asterisk-ridden instruction sheets about what is or isn’t “recyclable”—was conceived in a boardroom. The anti-litter campaigns of the 1950s, championed under the slogan of “Keep America Beautiful,” were funded by the producers of that litter, who sought to position recycling as a viable alternative to the sustainable packaging laws that had percolated in nearly two dozen states. In primetime commercials over the decades, American audiences met characters like Susan Spotless and “The Crying Indian” (played by Italian-American actor Espera Oscar de Corti) who urged consumers to lead the charge against debris: “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

Keep America Beautiful flaunted a fairy tale logic that demanded little from anyone. Landscapes would be rendered pristine as long as responsible citizens placed their garbage in the proper receptacle. Any unwanted items could be magically whisked away somewhere distant and unseen. In this fantasy world, polluted highways and parks were caused not by giant consumer brands who exclusively sold their goods in disposable packaging, or by raw material producers whose factories leaked toxic byproducts into rivers and lakes; the blame for environmental pollution was placed on the mythical hordes of careless individuals—“litterbugs”—who tossed food wrappers out of their car windows.

Matthew King on the birth of recycling.

The tl;dr here is basically that—and I’m sure you’re shocked to hear this by now—recycling was invented by companies to try and shift blame (and cost) from their own shitty practices onto individual consumers. But the “industry” itself has never been either effective or viable, and was basically a con from the start.

Note that this isn’t to say were should never recycle anything; only that the incentives in the current system are harmful, and that an actual solution is one that combines both scrap-reclamation and robust regulation on single-use items, especially plastics.

2020-01-29T12:24:47+11:0027th May, 2020|Tags: environment|

Delete your Twitter.

Your regularly scheduled reminder that Twitter is a cesspit that actively makes the world worse and that there are significantly better alternatives.

Disclaimer: I still have a Twitter account though it’s mostly a placeholder. I use it mostly for promotion and following a bunch of journalists as a kind of lazy cross-publication newsfeed.1 But all casual/social/personal stuff goes to Mastodon.

  1. And desperately wish there was a better alternative for the latter. []
2020-05-27T10:57:44+10:0027th May, 2020|Tags: mastodon, social media, tech, twitter|