01 January 2025

Where to get my books

There are two options; Google Play, or the Draft2Digital publication targets. Google Play isn't available globally (though they intend to be, based on how the publisher interface sets up billing regions!). So you might need to try one of the Draft2Digital targets. Kobo seems to be a good fallback choice for availability though not for avoiding DRM.

Title Google Books2Read
The Human Dress on Google Play via Books2Read
The March North (Commonweal #1) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Succession of Bad Days (Commonweal #2) on Google Play via Books2Read
Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3) on Google Play via Books2Read
Under One Banner (Commonweal #4) on Google Play via Books2Read

Commonweal Book #5, A Mist of Grit and Splinters, is expected to escape into the wild sometime in 2019.

Update 2019-01-29:  Amazon changed their agreement with Draft2Digital to require a whole lot of information transfer to Amazon.  I have removed The Human Dress from sale at Amazon. Still up everywhere else it was available.  (And has been added to a bunch of library services.)

13 July 2019

Not all the ideas in your head are on your side

So there's this thread where Blair Braverman talks about how having multiple dogs to care for made "everybody's different" emotionally real.

Somewhere down in that thread, someone talks about how they are getting that their body is part of a diversity but it's still hard to think of it[0] as good.

Thing is, good is always and in all things and in all times and all places contextual.  (Got the job? you might think that's good, if you wanted that job; all the other applicants who need and don't have jobs likely don't think it's good.  Maybe you really wanted the job, but it's in the antipodes; your parents don't think this is good, they won't see you from one year to the next.  And so on.)

Someone trying to impose a context on you so they can say good or bad is not your friend.  An internalized axiom about what constitutes good or bad is not your friend.  The social system that insists there must be a good and there must be a bad absolutely is not your friend; it's a tool of control exercised by whomever gets to make up the definitions for good and bad.  (Because of the way people learn axioms, it's quite possible whoever that was is dead this long while and the world has changed.)

(You can try Zhuangzi if you want a philosophical pedigree for this.)

"Does this serve my present purposes?", "Is this annoying enough to alter?", "What purpose does this serve?", "Is this consistent with the Settled Peace?", "Is this consistent with (my understanding of) my duty?" (that is, will future-me find it easier or harder to like themselves if I do/don't do this?); those can be useful questions.

"Good" and "bad" are not useful questions.  They're a control mechanism, and when trained into it at a young age, you wind up controlling yourself on the basis of objectives maybe no one living still has.  And which are never yours of your own will.  It's a really effective and horridly persistent way to produce social power (directly) and material power (indirectly), but it isn't a system in which you are obliged to participate.  (It will try to hurt you until you agree that you do.  Highly likely it already has.)

There has to be a system; living together in groups creates necessity about having a social system.  It need not be one built on "good" and "bad" and the imposition of context.

[0] you are the meat; the notion of mind-body duality is not obviously helpful, either.

11 July 2019

Science and Authority

There's a certain "why the hell would anyone do that?" around cuts to education or children's programs.

We know with great confidence that relatively teeny social investments in child care and education have big valuable consequences; more education, greater economic success, mass escapes from poverty.  Even awful rich people ought to want a larger economy; that's more for them.

Universal education is inherently inimical to the rich.  The "harder to control the vote" part is something of a red herring.  It's really really easy for the rich to control who there is to vote for, even when you can't control the vote at all.

What isn't easy is the fundamental issue with education, which is that you're going to wind up teaching science.  The idea of falsification is everywhere; history, modern languages, the study of any of the classical antiquities, all of these have acquired notions about falsification and statistical methods.  Once you've got falsification you get the Hard Part, which is the idea that anything you think you know can be wrong.  It's not very likely something like quantum (where we've got a lot of decimal places and many many working machines) is wrong, but you can't actually assert that something is Correct.  It's 'our best understanding'.

This is indeed the Hard Part; it's not easy to do, it's interesting historically in the notable failures more than the notable successes, it's just generally a struggle.

It's a hugely productive struggle; it's a philosophical position worth striving for.  It's also utterly corrosive to the authoritarian "because I said so!", and the rich are all authoritarian.  (Certainly in the statistical mass.  If you're seriously rich, you make decisions outside your competence as a consequence of your wealth, so to a statistical first approximation to be very wealthy is to be incompetent and to need protecting from the consequences of that incompetence.)  They just can't allow a productive, powerful idea that, no, no, not because you said so, and not even; all knowledge is provisional, subject to falsification and revision and the increase of knowledge.

"Coming for the right to vote" is just the start; they're coming for anesthetized dentistry.  Because you can either have the idea of falsification -- facts are what you arrive at by a multi-person public process -- or you can have personal authority.  And the very rich must have the personal authority.

23 June 2019

This Ravelry thing

Ravelry has banned pro-Trump anything on the grounds that the Trump administration are white supremacists.  Various people are declaiming that this is an obvious failure of tolerance.

Just in case someone is suffering from a sincere confusion on this point; an expectation of tolerance on your part -- you expect to be tolerated -- required the exercise of tolerance on your part.  You have to extend to others the tolerance you expect to receive.

White supremacists definitionally don't do that.  As an ideology, it's about imposing a strict hierarchy, enforced with violence.  ("I might not murder you this time" is not tolerance.)

There's a much longer description about acting to constrain other's choices and how the material goal of justice is to expand the scope of just treatment to all people, but it really isn't necessary.  An expectation of tolerance is isomorphic to an agreement that you're not special.  Anything with "supremacist" in it fails that agreement.

21 June 2019

Death cults, self-image, and goodness

https://twitter.com/KashannKilson/status/1141876248563474433

has in other places people making remarks to the effect of "the Right has become a death cult".

Of course the right has become a death cult.

It's the only way they can think of themselves as good people.

This is why you don't think of yourself as good.  This is why you try to avoid good and bad as labels; think about the material consequences directly, because good and bad elide all sorts of stuff into what you got taught before you were five.  In a stable benevolent period, that could perhaps be responsible, but in the times we live in, it's not responsible whatsoever.  Everything will change and there will be both great trouble and no status quo for centuries.

As far as the right is concerned, if they look at material consequences -- we're headed at something between the Eocene Thermal Maximum and the End Permian nine-tenths-of-all-life extinction -- they've been advancing unwise policies by not-especially-licit means for forty critical years, from 1980 to the present.  It turns out greed is still a sin, value cannot be measured with money, and that wealth is not virtue.  If those facts are accorded the status of facts -- things incontrovertibly of the material world, independent of belief or unbelief both together -- then it's impossible for the people whose policies created the disaster to be good.  (It calls into question the utility of any moral frame as a basis for decision.)

If they're not good, they get to have a severe existential crisis; it doesn't even need to be a religious existential crisis.

As it gets more and more difficult to keep from noticing that, nope, not good; it has to be from the viewpoint of hypothetical insect survivors in a million years to even suppose this could be good, the bad insecurity management -- which is always about trying to disdain facts in some way or another -- gets more and more violent because primates.  The larger the pile of skulls, the greater the vehemence and conviction.  Maybe they just have to bring about the End Times, there's a theology for that.

This can work on fellow primates; the wetware doesn't distinguish correctness and conviction. 

It doesn't work on the rain.

16 June 2019

Uncertainty

People in general cannot stand an uncertain future.

If you have no power, you invent rituals and do what you can to create a belief that it will all work out somehow.

If you have power, you use that power to create the closest approximation of a certain future you can get.  This is where the organization of society around making wealth generationally persistent comes from; wealth is the tool to produce a status quo and through that status quo a predictable future.

Today, no certain future is possible.  We don't know what the climate is going to do; any honest person is going to tell you that it depends a lot on what we do for the next year, the next five years, the next ten, but also that we're in a future of large error bars somewhere between the Eocene Thermal Maximum and the End Permian.  (That's between "a third of ocean life" and "ninety-odd percent of ocean life" going extinct.)

This is intolerable; people deal with it generally by insisting it isn't happening.  But it obviously is happening, and the conflict between what is endurable and what is factual is destroying the mechanisms of government.

The fix is to create belief in a plausible reliable future.  There is a plausible reliable future, if we can manage to both remove the tiny number of extremely rich people blocking access to it in favour of the doomed status quo and to all work hard to enact it.

The first critical step is to require elected representatives to publicly agree that they will indeed destroy the status quo in favour of the reliable future.

04 June 2019

Capitalism destroys value

I've said this before, but it's been awhile and @GreatDismal had a short thread reminding me of it.

Value is the ratio between benefit and cost.  It's contextual; five hundred dollar shoes that let you walk without pain (unlike all those other shoes) are great value.  Maybe not for someone else, but for you.

In general, if a business is trying to deliver value, they're competing to sell you something that gives you greater benefit per unit cost.  A value-delivering business needs to be making a profit -- they want to stay in business, and using profit as a measure of value-add if you're not making a profit there's no general agreement that you're adding value -- but must not be, cannot be, motivated by profit.

A profit-maximizing business -- the point is to make as much money as possible -- has to do at least one of reduce the benefit or increase the cost.  That is, they deliver less at a particular price (increasing their profit margin) or charge more for the same delivery (increasing their profit margin). 

Once you accept profit maximization as a legitimate objective, this is systemic; intent doesn't much enter into it.  As a result, you get people lamenting that it's no longer possible to buy a new-made pair of pants of the quality that was generally available in 1980.  The drive for maximized profit -- capitalism -- has destroyed the ability within human civilization.  (This is far from the only example!)

Think of profit-maximization as a virtue is analogous to a fungal parasite, slowly pulling all the nutrients out of its living host organism.   It's not markets, it's not exchange; it's about the destruction of value to capture a greater share of the money.  (Money which is useless after the inevitable collapse.)

Greed remains a sin.