game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Where are New England and the Midwest?

Who lives in The South? Is Pittsburgh on the East Coast? These are the questions I occasionally find myself asking, any time I see or hear someone name a region but with a clearly different definition in mind than the last person who referred to it. More so whenever I encountered people actively arguing about whose definition was “right” or “true”. Eventually, despite my complete lack of qualifications as a professional statistician or survey-writer, I decided to gather some data. I took the map drawing code used by Bostonography for their 2013 neighborhood survey and adapted it for my needs, then asked a bunch of people to fill it out. That was eight years ago, and rather than let the project sit forgotten I figure it’s time to actually write up some of the results.

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game of life, hacker, cellular automata

You're invited to visit

Unless I’ve explicitly told you that I don’t trust you or that you’re a bad or evil person, if I know you then I want to at least occasionally see you face to face, and I’m willing to help facilitate travel to make that happen if necessary. I drafted part of a much wordier version of this post, but scrapped it for this.


Unless I’ve explicitly said otherwise, when I invite you to visit I am offering you a guest room to stay in, a place to work remotely, use of some of my tools and toys for going on adventures, and food while you’re here. If you’re going to be here for weeks to months there’s a good chance I’ll ask you to contribute to the costs of the house/community, but that won’t ever be an unstated expectation.


I am hopeful of and predict that while you’re here we will do adventurous and/or tourist-y things together. Since I’m writing this in Hawaii those things might include hiking, bushwhacking, swimming, snorkeling, biking, and shopping. When I was in SF it would have leaned more toward museums and art, with hikes more distant.


For some of you, I’m also hopeful that you’ll choose to share my bed and/or engage in some kinky adventurousness while you’re here. The degree of that hope and certainty in my predictions of it coming to pass might be double what they would be in less coordinated interactions we’ve had in the past, if putting a number to it helps you make sense of things as it does for me.


Neither of the hopes above are obligations. The only obligations you have if you accept my invitation are those of a responsible adult human, to communicate when necessary, be honest, and fulfill the commitments you’ve made.


I hope to see you some day, soon or otherwise!

game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Seeking help with big civil court filing(s)

Later this year the statute of limitations will run out on a five figure property damage claim that I need to file, either in small claims or general civil court in Alameda County, California. I have not been able to find an attorney or agency to help me determine the appropriate filing(s) to make, let alone an attorney willing to represent me if I decide not to file in small claims court.

As brief a summary as I think can do the situation justice: I parked two transit buses that I owned on a fenced lot partially rented by a friend with their permission. Friend's landlord told him to tell me to remove them or he would tow them. Before the tow deadline, landlord instead moved the buses (how?) within the lot and hired a construction company demolition team to remove the interior paneling and wiring from the buses, rendering them inoperable. One friend was witness to the arrival and work of that crew. Before I could arrange to sell the dead buses, landlord rented the lot under them to a govt agency (EBMUD) and that agency pushed the buses around with a rented bulldozer causing significant exterior damage. Once they were damaged inside and out, someone (identity TBD?) reported them as blight to the city, so the city towed them and immediately destroyed them before I received notice they say they mailed to me. My administrative claim for damage compensation to EBMUD was denied.

In the condition I parked them, both driven onto the lot under their own power, with interior seats removed and insignificant to minor/moderate exterior damage, in the SF Bay area, I would expect them to have sold for $10-15k each. Equivalent (size, age, condition) replacements are not commonly readily available; I would expect to pay $15-30k for functional replacements without months of lead time.

Left to my own devices, I expect to be naming as defendants some combination of the lot landlord/owner, his real estate holding companies, the construction company, its owner (for whom it is named), its employees involved in the damages (identities currently unknown), EBMUD, the EBMUD employees who had access to the bulldozer keys that day, their supervisors, and the city's blighted vehicle destruction program.

I would appreciate any direct referrals to attorneys who can advise or represent me. Or just any direct advice on naming defendants, how to determine damages, whether/how to split the case into two or more, and whether one or more of them should be in small claims court.

I know that making public posts about a pending civil action is generally contraindicated. If I hadn't already tried half a dozen referral services and spoken to a dozen attorneys and law firms who declined to help I'd be a lot more circumspect. At this point I either find some help through this public outreach or I wade into this ordeal blind and alone.
game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Why do I post about controversial topics?

Why did you post that thing? Why do you keep posting stuff like that? What do you expect to get out of this post? What are your goals in this discussion? … I get these questions a lot. Not as often as I’d like, but still often enough that answering them gets a little repetitive from my point of view. Here’s an attempt to do this once and for all, so I can link back to it the next hundred times I’m asked. I’m sure there are at least a few reasons I’ve thought of before but are not coming to mind right now, or motivations I have that I’m not yet aware of. I’ll attempt to update this post in the future, but for now I think this is a pretty thorough answer to the question.


I post about controversial topics in an attempt to ...

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game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Rapid fire status update

Moved to Hawaii for at least 7 months, got a house with guest rooms in Kailua-Kona.
Shelved the CoDwell project indefinitely, refunded investments.
Started a job at Google as a software engineer.
Working on buying 75-450 acres near Hilo or Pahoa for living, gardening, friends visiting, strangers camping, community building, makery pursuits.
Stepping away from Loophole management permanently.
Learned to snorkel, swam with manta rays, saw volcanos, and did dozens of miles of bushwhacking and at least a hundred of hiking in the last four weeks.
game of life, hacker, cellular automata

A busy day in Hawaii

Last night I van camped at the starting spot for a hike this morning. Got up at 5:30, made breakfast, packed my backpack, and got dressed. Hit the "trail" at 6:30. First and last hour were just walking easy gravel and pavement; I'll bring a mountain bike to skip this part next time. On the way in there was two hours of following wild boar trails. On the way out, an hour of bushwhacking through 3-6ft ferns and grass with progress rates as low as ten feet per minute in some cases. But the middle two hours where I was actually really close to my target destinations was worth it! I saw a bunch of new parts of one of the properties I want to buy, and some neighboring land as well. Sadly my phone didn't survive the trip, so I'm on a temp right now until I can order a real replacement. And of course then I discovered that I also broke my glassed in half. Fortunately all my photos of the hike made it to one of my two cloud storage services before it died, and some wire and epoxy brought the glasses back to life for the immediate future.
Finished the day with a stop by Kehena black sand beach for the weekly drum circle, and discovered that it moves uphill and up the coast at dark for fire spinning and more drumming into the night. I'm glad to finally understand the format of that event so I can plan to meet people there; coordination has been hard since most of us have no phone service on that part of the island.
game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Going to Hawaii for real estate, adventure, ...

A friend approached me about co-buying some property in Hawaii with them and a few other folks, with a goal of building some residences and functional spaces from local materials, growing our own fruit, maybe hosting travelers. We're all meeting up to see properties the last week of February, but I decided I wanted to take more time for this. I'm flying down this Sunday without a specific return date set. I'll have about two weeks on my own to scout out land we might be interested in, do some covid-safe tourist-y stuff, see some nature I haven't seen before, and generally seek adventure and/or relaxation. My plan is to buy a vehicle when I get there, live in it for the duration, then sell or gift it if/when I leave.

If anyone out there wants to join for the real estate shopping, the co-buy project, or just come along for the adventure, get in touch.
 

game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Predictions and Preferences for 2021

A lot of things are changing in the world and my life right now. I’m making a lot of contingent plans based on a lot of predictions, and I figured I might share some of them with you. Maybe you’ll find them amusing, or they will inspire you to make plans, or they will inform your plans related to me. I’ll also be able to look back in a year and see what I got right or wrong. Here’s how I see the rest of my 2021 shaking out. Each category is in order of decreasing preference unless otherwise noted.


  • Residence

    • 30% CoDwell (my 100-200 person coliving project plan)

      • 25% Laurelwood, Oregon, boarding school property

      • 5% Somewhere else

    • 40% Hawaii

      • 30% Land co-buy with some friends and friends of friends

      • 10% Solo purchase of land, maybe house

    • 20% Loophole (my previous ~10 person coliving project in SF)

    • 10% ??

  • Employment

    • 60% Google

    • 10% ??

    • 10% Self-employed

    • 10% Cruise

    • 10% Unemployed

  • Relationships (intimate+romantic)

    • 70% Still involved with Victoria

    • 10% A comet upgrades to local/full-time

    • 20% Get re-involved with someone from the past

    • 10% Get involved with someone new

  • Recreation / Hobby

    • 50% Have regular convenient access to wood and metal shops

      • 10% Start a kinky equipment/furniture business

    • 20% Find or start a regular recurring board game group

    • 20% Become active in open source game development again

    • 10% Pick up something entirely new (paramotor, scuba, ...)

  • Health (sorted by worry, most to least)

    • 1% COVID+

    • 5% Problems develop with the scar on my cornea

    • 5% Another surgery on my right shoulder

  • Legal (sorted by expected gain/loss, worst to best)

    • 10% I get sued over someone’s recreational injury

    • 10% I file a civil suit for five figures worth of property damage from 2018

    • 20% I file a small claims suit for four figures of bad mechanic work from 2020

    • 80% My text message spam class action suit significantly progresses

game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Biggest tax refund

Due to a combination of unemployment, pandemic stimulus, stock income, prediction market income, marriage, going back to school, and other factors, I overpaid my taxes in 2020 by more than every year from 2000 to 2019 combined. In the past I've tried to keep my overpayment, and thus my refund, as low as possible, with $4 being my best year and most years being well under $1000. This year I overpaid by more than 10% of my income.
game of life, hacker, cellular automata

Pedantry vs Substantive communication failures

I recently posted a comic strip in which two people get in an argument to the death over whether “on accident” or “by accident” is the appropriate phrase to use. I tagged my wife in what I intended to be a humorous post, because we are on opposite sides of this particular dialectal divide, having grown up about a thousand miles apart. This led to three people responding to say the argument in the comic is representative of my behavior in general, using words like “stickler”, “pedantry”, and “pointless”. Those people are my wife, a friendly acquaintance, and one of my more active detractors. While it’s possible one or more of them are an outlier, the distribution of this small sample suggests to me that this impression could be widespread. I’ve tried to address this in the middle of various discussions in the past, but this turn of events suggests it deserves its own top level post.

A fundamental distinction between the comic and most of the time I spend arguing about vaguely similar aspects of communication is whether or not there is an inaccurate reasonable alternate interpretation for a listener to apply to a message. The comic strip is an example of the “not” category; to the people who grew up with “on accident”, “by accident” doesn’t have another meaning in their dialect, and vice versa. The other phrase is new to them when someone from the other side uses it. They are almost certain to interpret it correctly, with the most likely failure mode being recognizing that they don’t understand it. There is virtually no chance of the listener getting a message other than the one the speaker intended, and so no unintended and/or inappropriate harm can come of those alternative messages being received. After you’ve learned that some other people, or a specific other person, use the other phrasing, there’s no significant reason other than social conformity for you to try to change dialect to match them.

Then there’s the opposite category, where there is such an interpretation. Consider a word like “coke”. Forget the beverage/drug distinction, context can almost always sort that one out. I’m talking about the “coke vs soda” debate in US culture for the last century, which you should google and be aware of if you aren’t already. The first time you tell someone you want a coke and you get back a can of Sprite you’ll probably be momentarily confused. When someone asks you for an “orange coke” and you bring them an Orange Vanilla Coca Cola there will probably be a round of humorous clarification. Like before, there is little to no harm here, possibly some laughing and unlikely any crying. Unlike before, miscommunication did happen, someone received and believed and relied on messages other than the ones the sender tried to send. Fortunately the cost of that reliance was low. Once you know about this distinction, and especially if you know a particular person is on the other side, there’s some small value to be gained by adjusting your speech to fit what you think their interpretations will be.

Finally, there’s a less discrete but more important distinction, a subset of that second category where the harms grow almost without limit. A laugh and a lost can of soda is inconsequential. Losing a partner, a house, a job, a life... physical harm of the sort people remember forever... financial harm measured in weeks or months of salary rather than pocket change... societal impact across tens to thousands of people... not so much. When you know about one of these distinctions, it becomes of potentially paramount importance to avoid this phenomenon when you can. Further, I feel morally compelled to attempt to reduce the frequency of those miscommunications and their consequences in the society around me.

That is where I focus my effort. Of course we can all engage in a few seconds or minutes of good natured ribbing over something like coke/soda, on/by purpose, etc, and I do that sometimes too, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a significant factor in people’s dislike of me. When you see me spending a hundred or a thousand hours trying to convince people not to use certain phrasing for certain meanings, I am trying to prevent large amounts of significant harm. When you say “consent violation”, even though you can point to definitions of “consent” and “violation” that encompass the scenario you’re describing (such as pushing your way out of a crowded subway car), that is not a relevant response to my concern that other people are going to predictably reasonably consistently misinterpret your statement as meaning the other things that phrase means in our shared dialect and language. If someone reading this says “racism” or “sexism” to a random other person in the US, there’s a pretty good chance that person thinks the word means something different, significantly enough so to cause problems if and when the statement is acted upon. In the long run, across many such instances, those misinterpretations are going to cause significant harm, lead to physical injuries, and ruin lives. If you refuse to recognize these consequences of your choices and adjust your behavior accordingly, that makes the consequences your responsibility. That is what I am usually fighting against, and it has nothing to do with pedantry.

If you disagree with, or don’t see, the distinctions I’ve drawn between these categories, I’d like to talk about that here. If you think what I’ve described here doesn’t match my behavior, ditto. If you ever see me responding to an “on accident” or “coke” situation in the way I’ve said here that I reserve for things like “consent” and “racism”, please point it out to me. I did once have someone point out where they thought I was overreacting and I thought I was having a traditional “what is a sandwich” sort of friendly debate, which was very enlightening.