Posts

Plot twist!

(Actually, the inspirational quotes did nothing.)

How an essayist and programmer unwittingly helped me hold on

This semester, I've been taking a C++ course. I like programming. I want to suck less at it. So far, it's going okay. My workload is heavy, so I don't write so much anymore. I don't expect it to get easier.

I find I learn programming decently by reading around - by reading documentation and forums and random pdfs I find lying about. I learn about culture and other people's personalities. Even if something isn't directly relevant to me, I still find it useful.

While trawling the internet to fix my current problem, I came across an essay by Paul Graham. It was useful, but not immediately so; it gave me food for thought, but it's not something I feel I have the free time to learn right now (I should really spend it sleeping).

Somewhere in the back of my sleep-deprived brain, I remembered...something. A website very, very similar to the one I was looking at. In fact, the layout was almost identical - but the essays were different. The one I was reading discusse…

Bah Humbug!

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It's two weeks until Christmas, give or take. I could only tell this from a calendar; from my perspective, it's been Christmas since about November. There are things I enjoy about this. I enjoy ambling through the city centre and smiling up at the decorations. I enjoy making fun of the huge, rather unsettling Santa who watches over Albert Square. I enjoy carolling in the freezing cold, strangely enough. I enjoy going round the markets with friends or my partner and picking out nice gifts.


What I really don't enjoy is the pressure surrounding Christmas. There's so much pressure to make Christmas magical; to get everyone the perfect gifts, to cook the perfect traditional meal, to be a perfect happy family, and what usually ends up happening is not knowing what gifts to get, being thoroughly sick of turkey by the end of the month and sniping at each other. And alcohol. So much alcohol.

In my family, Christmas was like any other day and I chilled out on celebrating Hanukka…

"native Britons are bloody stupid" and other shenanigans

Hey! Don't shoot the messenger. Don't shoot Lord Kerr either, since he's the one who said it.

The media is in a tizzy because Lord Kerr called native Britons stupid when defending immigration. I have some poorly organised thoughts about this.

Firstly, Lord Kerr was a diplomat before becoming a life peer. He knows exactly how much shit he's stirring up. Why he's doing this I don't know, but his comments are apparently so inflammatory to the right that Stormfront's cryfest (no links, fascists deserve to be deprived of oxygen) was one of the top results when I googled this. Maybe he's hoping that they get too distracted circlejerking over how racist he is to white people. That's the best-case scenario.

Secondly, I'm actually pretty upset about his comments. Of course I'm angry at xenophobic Brits. Of course I'm even more irritated when they're stupid into the bargain. But he punched down at a lot of the more marginalised people in Briti…

Redemption

I think redemption as a concept is underrated.

I mean, sure, there are these people who will try and sell you redemption if you follow their book, or pay them enough money, or have someone else treat you as their pity porn. Perhaps that's why redemption is overlooked. Perhaps it's just that we live in a society which exalts violence and vengeance. (Seriously - our justice system is based on retribution, most narratives in fiction involve overcoming an obstacle with murder, and we are encouraged to support armies.)

The main argument against redemption seems to be "but this person had other chances" or "but this means that this person gets off scot free".

I'll admit that I don't have good counterarguments. I have blunt statements and a belief system.

Many people have many, many opportunities through life. Some are easier to achieve than others; some are almost impossible. People will make mistakes. People will actively do malicious things. You are one…

Some thoughts about antisemitism and narratives

Now that America is divided over whether to elect a reasonably competent establishment candidate or a creepy orange fascist, the media have stopped pretending they ever gave a shit about antisemitism; instead, they're pretending they give a shit about the US.

I didn't get to do this before on account of having a massive workload, but a lot of the reactions to the antisemitism shitstorm upset me massively. Many of them were pure denial: "I've never seen antisemitism in my community, so it must not exist." Many of them were denial mixed with tokenism: "I'm going to weaponise Jews who don't see antisemitism and use them as a tool to conveniently ignore people who disagree with me." Many fell back on the old chestnut that "anti-Zionism isn't antisemitism." (It isn't, but blathering about "Zionist control of the media" or "Zionists did 9/11" is very clearly an antisemitic dogwhistle. Regurgitating antisemitic rhe…

Data is Wondrous

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I don't know where to begin with this, but I'll try: I am weirdly passionate about graphs. The idea that you can order numbers in space and time, and make them make lines and curves that tell you things, is simple - you're probably used to making graphs (and possibly heartily sick of them). It's so simple that I think we forget how powerful graphs are, that they take millions of experiences and put them in a form we can understand more intuitively.

I'm going to put forward a proposal that will probably make most of you groan in frustration: graphs should inspire people.

Okay, when I write it that way, that just sounds confusing. Inspirational quotes are one thing, but what the hell is an inspirational graph?!

I can't really answer my own question, unfortunately, except to say that an inspirational graph moves you on an emotional level. It reminds you of something beyond the graph, or makes you feel like you had an epiphany, or gives you some quiet satisfaction.

Some reflections on econophysics and the way it's perceived

Neoclassical economics is failing. I would go so far as to say that this is no longer controversial; its flaws have been known about for many decades now. Many, many fields have sprung from this failure - I would say that this is an extremely good thing.

Some readers might wonder why I'm writing about economics at all. Importantly, I'm not an economist and have no formal training in the subject - I'm a vaguely interested party. I'm about as qualified as the pub bore (or most politicians) to tell you about the efficacy of various models; the difference is that I know I'm out of my depth. I am going to be discussing the perception of one particular field within economics, based on my experience with related fields.

A more general concern is: why talk about the economy at all? Everyone talks about the economy. Everyone else is fed up of hearing about the economy, fed up of hearing about why the economy means that the rich have to get richer and the poor have to get po…

Twitter polls annoy me

Obligatory disclaimer: I'm not a statistician or a sociologist. My qualifications come from being a physics undergraduate, where I live and breathe error analysis in the lab, and also from reading around the subject. Finally, I use Twitter far too much; it's really just morbid fascination at this point. Oh well.

Last year, Twitter introduced polls as a thing you can add to your tweets. This was more likely than not done to poke Twitter into being vaguely profitable, since it's stagnant as hell.

Unfortunately, polls are only as good as the people making them and Twitter is a wretched hive. There have been some really good polls not used as polls - for example, a wacky choose-your-own-adventure romp which started with swiping left or right on a famous politician's Tinder profile - but Sturgeon's Law applies and most polls are...well...crappy.

"Why are Twitter polls so bad?" you might ask. Turns out that addressing the how instead of the why is far more usef…

An actual fucking X

Overall, I like situated criticism - the idea that being a part of X group gives you a lived experience inaccessible to those outside X, and makes you more qualified to speak on X than someone who doesn't know anything about it. I think it's a good thing. I think historically lived experience has been discredited as subjective and thus not worthy of attention.

However, I don't like certain ways it's used. Namely, I really, really do not like the fact that it can make someone into a token.

For example, let's say that I'm the only woman in a room full of men (a really common situation for me, because of my area of study). Let's also say that I'm the only woman in a room full of men talking about feminism (this has happened). At some point, one of them will get nervous and ask "as a woman, what do you think?".

As a woman, here's what I think: Think for yourselves. You're grown adults. You can deal with criticism from another grown adult. …