Clear Linen Tea Sat, 20 Mar 2021 21:57:44 -0500 Sat, 20 Mar 2021 21:57:44 -0500 Jekyll v2.5.3 The Parable of Firewood <p>Two servants were sent out on a journey to make a delivery to a town that lay two days’ travel away, and were provided by their master with food and water and tents for the journey.</p> <p>When it came nightfall, they pitched their tents, but could not agree on whether to light a fire to keep them warm against the chill of night. One of the servants said that the supplies given them by their master were sufficient, and that he would have given them all that they needed. The other servant said that their master knew that they would find firewood on the road, and trusted them to make use of what they found.</p> <p>In the end, the second servant made a small fire and slept warm, and the first servant froze to death in the night. Because the goods which were to be delivered were too many for one person to carry, the second servant was forced to leave the first servant’s goods behind at the campsite.</p> <p>So it was that the second servant, who built the fire, completed the task that the master had commanded; and the first servant, who did not build the fire, failed.</p> <hr /> <p>I don’t know if there’s anyone reading my blog that didn’t already know this, but I’ve recently converted to Christianity. Before my conversion, I had not been planning on being <a href="">cryopreserved</a>; now, I’m reconsidering.</p> Mon, 01 Oct 2018 19:00:00 -0500 christian fiction religion Libertarian and Non-Libertarian Policy Checklists <p>Libertarian (private sector, free-market) and non-libertarian (public sector, government intervention/‌regulation/‌oversight) policy proposals tend to have different types of failure modes. Here are some things to consider before implementing a proposal of each type. Additions and other feedback are as always more than welcome.</p> <p>Checklist when considering a government-intervention approach:</p> <ul> <li>Is the free market insufficient?</li> <li>Is the intervention sufficient?</li> <li>Is the inherent moral cost of infringing on individual liberty justified?</li> <li>Is the economic cost justified?</li> <li>What is the opportunity cost of the money being spent?</li> <li>What market distortions (inefficiencies) will this create?</li> <li>How will this be misused?</li> <li>What moral hazards does this present for ordinary people?</li> <li>What opportunities are there for intentional abuse by members of the public?</li> <li>What moral hazards does this present for the officials implementing and enforcing it?</li> <li>What opportunities are there for intentional abuse by officials?</li> <li>What precedents does this set for future legislation?</li> <li>What opportunities does this present for regulatory capture?</li> <li>How can ordinary people circumvent these regulations/interventions?</li> <li>How can wealthy individuals and corporations circumvent these regulations/interventions?</li> <li>How harmful is this if it turns out <a href="">you’re the baddies</a>?</li> </ul> <p>Checklist when considering a free-market approach:</p> <ul> <li>What negative externalities exist?</li> <li>What moral hazards exist?</li> <li>Does this enable abusive monopolization (as in company towns)?</li> <li>Does this enable/encourage artificially creating inelastic demand (as in hard drugs)?</li> <li>What related regulations exist that might tend to distort the proposed market?</li> <li>Is this an <a href="">isolated demand</a> for free enterprise that disproportionately benefits companies receiving monopolies, subsidies, or other advantages from the government?</li> </ul> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 12:00:00 -0600 politics New GPG Key <p>I forgot my GPG passphrase, so I’ve generated a new key.</p> <p>If you’ve been communicating with me securely, you have every reason to be paranoid about this. If you’ve been communicating with me insecurely, please take this opportunity to change that.</p> <p>The new key is ID <span class="crypto">656B-D34B-5263-42BC-EC9A</span> and can be found at <a href=""></a>. The revocation certificate for the old key can be found at <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>(Update 2017-03-15: I somehow managed to paste the ID for the <em>old</em> key. Fixed.)</p> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 23:45:00 -0600 security The Privilege of Charity <p>Or, <em>In Defense of Telling People to Shut Up</em>.</p> <p>Being able to extend/exercise the <a href="">principle of charity</a> is a privilege. Specifically, the ability comes from the privilege of mostly interacting with reasonable people, or at least people with interesting and varied arguments. It’s easier to take time to engage with people when there are relatively few people engaging with you.</p> <p>It’s tempting to think, “but I’m reasonable and intelligent! people should listen to <em>me</em>!” There are two problems with that: (1) due to the <a href="–Kruger_effect">Dunning-Kruger</a> effect, you should always doubt yourself when you think things like that; and (2) even if you’re right, that fact is not immediately obvious to your interlocutee. You are <a href="">Schrödinger’s Idiot</a>.</p> <p><em>Even if you do not deserve to be dismissed</em>, the person dismissing you is <em>still</em> right to do so, in the sense that they are responding rationally, ethically, and morally to their situation.</p> <p>If you want to criticize someone usefully (usefully <em>to them</em>, not just for the benefit of bystanders), then you must <em>first</em> and <em>separately</em> earn their attention. This is harder than you think, <a href="'s_law">even after</a> you take into account this statement.</p> <p>Sorting through respondents takes <a href="">real effort</a>, drains finite resources that very likely could be better spent elsewhere. <em>Even if</em> it’s incredibly easy to distinguish junk comments from good ones.</p> <p>(Which it often isn’t. And a rougher distinguishing algorithm is cheaper than a more accurate one, and engaging a bad comment is usually more costly than missing a good one…)</p> <p>“But they’re ignoring criticism! They’re refusing to change your mind!” No. They’re judging that, <em>on an expected-value basis</em>, the benefit of the good comments divided by the cost of sifting through to find them is less than the benefit/cost ratio available through other activities.</p> <p>Just because they’re ignoring <em>you</em> doesn’t mean they’re ignoring <em>everyone</em>. There are more places to encounter contrary ideas than your favorite internet nattering point.</p> <p>“Then I’ll send them email / PM on another forum / etc. !” NO NO NO NO NO. If someone is ignoring you in a particular internet venue, then switching to another venue in order to get their attention? Is the action of a <em>stalker</em>. Not that you’re necessarily being a stalker; but they can’t readily distinguish you from one, which <em>necessarily</em> makes you Creepy <em>whether you deserve it or not</em>. (There’s that Schrödinger again.)</p> <p>If it helps, imagine that you’re courting them romantically instead of intellectually. That should help put the whole “signs of disinterest”/”deserving attention”/”why are you so cold to me” thing in proper perspective.</p> <p>And, speaking of perspective, remember that you are only one of <em>lots</em> of people they interact with. Your interaction with them is not symmetrical. <a href="">You are less important to them than they are to you.</a></p> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 16:40:00 -0500 discourse rationalist social justice Gender, Adoption, and Faith <p>A person is adopted. Who are their real parents?</p> <p>Some would identify their adoptive parents as their real parents, especially if they have the good fortune to have a loving and supportive adoptive family. Others would identify their birth parents as their real parents, especially if they dislike, distrust, or resent their adoptive family.</p> <p>It is generally understood that the correct answer is the one chosen by the adopted person. To tell them that their <em>real</em> parents are the ones they didn’t choose – that would be beyond rude.</p> <p>Therefore, it is (and should be) a social rule that one’s <em>real parents</em> are defined by self-identification.</p> <hr /> <p>Transgender politics can be understood as promoting a social norm of <em>adoptive gender</em>. A person’s birth gender may differ from the gender they chose to be a part of, and just as society supports and acknowledges family transition (adoption), so also trans advocates call for society to support and acknowledge gender transition. Just as a person may declare their adoptive family to be their real family, so also they may declare their adoptive gender to be their real gender.</p> <p>(It is rare for a person to declare their adoptive gender to <em>not</em> be their real gender, because coercive gender transition is rare. Adopted people who reject their adoptive family are usually not adopted with their consent. However, coercive sex/gender [re]assignment does occur when an infant presents as <a href="">intersex</a>, and many intersex people find that they disidentify with the gender assigned to them.)</p> <p>This framework also provides a way to judge the validity of <a href="">transracial</a> identity claims. An adoptive family derives its validity from the consent of all its members; if Alice identifies Bob and Carol as her real parents, but Bob and Carol do not agree, then Alice’s claim is suspect. Similarly, the validity of transgender identity claims depends on the support of cisgender advocates of the adopted gender, who welcome and acknowledge the transitioner as a full member of their gender. In this framework, then, the validity of transracial identity is to be judged by the existing racial community of the adopted race.</p> <p>This is also how religious conversion works. The rules for who gets to call themselves Jewish are defined by the Jews. Likewise Hinduism is defined by the Hindus, Islam by the Muslims, Buddhism by the Buddhists, Christianity by the Christians, and so forth.</p> <p>In full generality, membership in a community is defined by (1) the existing members of that community, and (2) the individual who is to be considered a member. If either of those sources dispute the membership claim, then the membership claim is most likely invalid.</p> <hr /> <p><em>(Note: this section deals with details of religious beliefs that I do not personally share. If I have misrepresented these beliefs, then I apologize and would welcome any corrections you see fit to <a href="&#109;&#097;&#105;&#108;&#116;&#111;:&#115;&#111;&#110;&#097;&#116;&#097;&#103;&#114;&#101;&#101;&#110;&#064;&#121;&#097;&#104;&#111;&#111;&#046;&#099;&#111;&#109;">send me</a>.)</em></p> <p>There is another parallel between gender transition and faith: <a href="">transubstantiation</a>. During the Eucharist, the bread and wine are held to become, respectively, the flesh and blood of Christ. It is generally acknowledged that the physical properties remain in place – the color, smell, taste, texture, nutritional content, and so forth are as one would expect from bread and wine – but these materials, once consecrated, nevertheless <em>constitute</em> Christ’s flesh and blood.</p> <p>This strikes me as being very similar to the way in which (for example) the body of a pre-transition trans woman may be medically indistinguishable from the body of a (cis) man, but due to the choice and intent of transition, that arrangement of matter nevertheless <em>constitutes</em> the body of a woman. A trans person’s body is transubstantiated into the body of a person of their correct gender; the Eucharist transitions into the flesh and blood of Christ.</p> <hr /> <p>The common thread here might be cynically described as wanting to believe in something regardless of its factual basis, and being willing to fudge definitions and ignore facts in order to make that happen. But that definition applies equally to adoption – the choice to identify one’s adoptive parents as one’s real parents results in no medically detectable change, no rewriting of genetic markers – and yet adoption is widely regarded as legitimate. So the process of redefinition by will has clear precedent, and is capable of being valid. It remains only to determine whose consent is required for the redefinition of which terms.</p> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 11:40:00 -0500 philosophy politics religion Sunlight <p>I made <a href=""><strong>sunlight</strong></a> for the <a href="">#LOWREZJAM 2016</a>. It’s released under the GNU Affero General Public License, version 3 or later.</p> Sun, 03 Apr 2016 07:00:00 -0500 game software Friendica <p>I’ve talked about <a href="../this-is-why-we-need-free-culture">Diaspora*</a> before, when people were annoyed at tumblr doing something stupid and/or evil. (I’ve forgotten the details; this sort of thing happens often enough that the individual incidents tend to run together.)</p> <p>This time, the culprit is Twitter, and my recommended alternative is <a href="">Friendica</a>.</p> <hr /> <p>I discussed federation in social networks in my article on Diaspora*, but for context, a summary review is in order.</p> <p>Social networks have very strong <a href="">network effects</a>: the value of a social network scales with the number of users. Since the big players are all <a href="">walled gardens</a>, users generally have little choice but to congregate on a few major sites.</p> <p>Federated social networking platforms such as Diaspora*, StatusNet,, Gnu Social, and so forth attempt to address this by allowing the various servers to interact with each other. Just as you can send email from a Gmail address to a Hotmail address, so also a Diaspora* account on can follow and interact with an account on</p> <p>Facebook and Twitter and tumblr and Google+ aren’t primarily competing on <em>features</em>, so much as on <em>culture</em>: which one has the community of users that you want to be a part of? They act as <strong>monopolies</strong>: fundamentally anticompetitive. Even if another network might be better in an objective sense, you don’t really have the option to switch unless you’re willing to lose all your contacts – which defeats the whole point of a social network!</p> <p>Federated social networking, by contrast, actively encourages competition. If you like a particular server – whether for its features, content policy, UI scheme, whatever – you can just use it, and you can still connect to all your friends.</p> <hr /> <p>That’s the theory, anyway.</p> <p>For all its virtues, most of the federated social networks – Diaspora*, StatusNet,, Gnu Social – have one major flaw: all your friends are on Twitter/tumblr/Facebook/Google+. “The federated social web” is <em>internally</em> very democratic, but it still has to compete with the monopolists on the monopolists’ terms.</p> <p>There have been some attempts to correct this. Diaspora* allows crossposting to Twitter and (buggily) tumblr; I think it might also do Facebook as well but I haven’t tried. Unfortunately, this is only one-way: your Twitter friends can see your Diaspora* posts, but their tweets don’t show up on Diaspora*.</p> <p><a href="">Friendica</a> solves this problem.</p> <p>Friendica can, like Diaspora*, post to traditional social networks. Unlike Diaspora*, though, Friendica can read from them as well. This two-way connection means that, using Friendica, I can engage in conversations with people on Twitter and tumblr and Diaspora*, all through a single unified interface on a single site that I control.</p> <p>Furthermore, these different networks aren’t just collated – they’re <em>integrated</em>. Because my Friendica is connected to both my Twitter and my tumblr, this means that my Twitter and my tumblr are – through Friendica – connected <em>to each other</em>.</p> <p>I can retweet to tumblr.</p> <p>Friendica is the one social networking platform to rule them all, one platform to bring them all and bind them together.</p> <p>Switching to Friendica doesn’t mean switching away from your existing social network. It’s not a sacrifice, but an upgrade.</p> <hr /> <p>(Edited to add: The tumblr integration is currently somewhat limited, but my impression is that this should be a temporary situation.)</p> Sun, 21 Feb 2016 08:50:00 -0600 free culture security software Jekyll <p>I’m migrating my blog from <a href="">Wordpress</a> to <a href="">Jekyll</a>.</p> <p>Jekyll is much more lightweight than Wordpress, and a better match for how I blog. It compiles from Markdown, so it’s totally frictionless for me to write my posts in <a href="">my favorite text editor</a>. In addition, because it produces static sites, it’s compatible with publishing to <a href="">IPFS</a>. (You can see this site on IPFS at <a href="">/ipns/</a>.)</p> <p>The aesthetic overhaul shoud be obvious. The main functional change, aside from pages hopefully loading faster, is the loss of the comments section, which in practice didn’t see much use. My contact information is in the footer, if you want to talk to me.</p> <p>One change that may be more easily missed is that the bitcoin address in the footer can now change on a per-post basis. I haven’t gone back and added individual addresses for all of my old posts, but going forward I intend for each post to have its own address. This should make it easier for me to track what sorts of things are most popular, so that I can give you all more of what you want.</p> <p>Let me know what you think.</p> <hr /> <p>(The old blog is at <a href=""></a>, for now.)</p> Sat, 10 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 meta software GEOCON <p>I propose the following five-level system for describing the current global ecological threat level. As with DEFCON, higher numbers represent greater safety.</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong><span style="color: #0000ff;">GEOCON 5</span>: Ecologically Stable</strong><br /> <em>Net emissions are neutral or negative, and current concentrations are at safe levels.</em><br /> (Catastrophe not predicted)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong><span style="color: #008000;">GEOCON 4</span>: Future Ecological Risk</strong><br /> <em>Current concentrations are at safe levels, but emissions are positive. Emissions must be reduced to zero in order to prevent ecological catastrophe.</em><br /> (Catastrophe predicted if emissions stay above zero)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong><span style="color: #ffc000;">GEOCON 3</span>: Temporary Ecological Risk</strong><br /> <em>Current concentrations are at potentially unsafe levels, but emissions are sufficiently negative and concentrations are projected to return to safe levels in time to prevent ecological catastrophe.</em><br /> (Catastrophe predicted if emissions rise to zero)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong><span style="color: #ff8000;">GEOCON 2</span>: Imminent Ecological Danger</strong><br /> <em>Current concentrations are at unsafe levels, and emissions are either positive, neutral, or insufficiently negative to recover in time. Emissions must be made sharply negative in order to avert ecological catastrophe.</em><br /> (Catastrophe predicted if emissions stay at zero)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong><span style="color: #ff0000;">GEOCON 1</span>: Current Ecological Catastrophe</strong><br /> <em>Runaway global warming has made large areas uninhabitable.</em><br /> (Catastrophe has occurred)</p> </li> </ul> <p>As of this writing (October 2015), the <a href="">current concentrations</a> are about <strong>400 ppm</strong>. Based on my reading, the best-supported estimate of the maximum safe level seems to be <a href=""><strong>350 ppm</strong></a>. Global net emissions are currently positive, so this puts us at:</p> <div style="text-align: center; font-weight: bolder; font-size: 150%; background: #ff8000; color: black; font-family: sans; padding: 0.5em; margin-bottom: 1em;"> <span style="font-size: 300%;">GEOCON 2</span> <br /> IMMINENT ECOLOGICAL DANGER </div> <hr /> <h2 id="this-post-is-released-under-the-cc0-public-domain-dedicationhttpscreativecommonsorgpublicdomainzero10">This post is released under the <a href="">CC0 Public Domain Dedication</a>.</h2> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 politics Fall Making 2015: Post Mortem <p>I'm not going to make my wordcount target.</p> <p>Sometimes people fail at things. The thing to do in such a case is to make sure you learn from it. So: what happened? How was this year different from last?</p> <p>First and foremost, I think the flexible target was a mistake. I work best with short deadlines. Last year, I repeatedly came down to the wire, putting off writing until late in the evening, and often going over the deadline by half an hour or so. This year, I wrote a little toward the beginning, and once (this post) at the end.</p> <p>In future, I think I should go for even shorter deadlines than a day; possibly a <a href="">pomodoro</a>. I'm also trying out <a href="">Floobits</a> as a sort of text-only screencast, so that people can watch me write in realtime.</p> <p>Second, I think the target was too large. Last year started with a 250-word day; this year expected a 1000 words/day average. I chose that rate because it was the average rate over last year's targets, but it still came out to be enough to feel intimidating. I bit off more than I could chew; I need to cut my goals into smaller chunks.</p> <p>I suspect that breaking into smaller parts will enable me to write more in total. If a writing session doesn't drain me, I should be ready for the next one sooner. If you want to run a marathon, alternating between sprinting and resting is less efficient than a steady jog.</p> <p>I think that 250 words over half an hour to an hour is a perfectly respectable target. This post is 278 words, and it's only taken me fifteen minutes.</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This post: 278 words</em><br /> <em> Final total: 2004 words</em><br /> <em> Final target: 10,000 words</em></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0500 pico jam writing