Third Place

“The third place is a concept which identifies places which are not home (first place) or work (second place).

As ‘informal public gathering places’, they are places of refuge, where people can eat, drink, relax, and commune in order to develop a sense of belonging to a place. They are gathering places where community is most alive and people are most themselves.

Third places are important because they act as ‘meditation between individuals and the larger society’ and increase a sense of belonging and community.

-Patricia Mou, “what is the third place (pt.1)” patriciamou.com.

She then talks about characteristics of a third place.

  • Neutral ground or common meeting place
  • Levelers or places that encourage, and are inclusive of, social and cultural diversity
  • Regular patrons
  • Low profile and informal places
  • Places that foster a playful atmosphere
  • A home away from home
  • A place where conversation is the primary activity
  • Places that are easy to access and accommodate various sedentary and active activities

Zuihitsu: 2021-09

Collecting these little ideas has become a major focus. Here’s this month’s installment.

  1. What is the underlying issue of the dispute?
  2. The Internet is a machine for wrecking consensus and trust.—Marginal Revolution
  3. To correct a mistake, acknowledge a mistake has been made and state any new information necessary. Don’t repeat whatever needed correcting. 
  4. The world rewards you for outcomes, not effort.
  5. What would make you change your mind?
  6. You can never go back. Change cannot be undone.
  7. Change tends to effect relationships with everything.
  8. Some goals require being and not having.
  9. Extending our senses also means limiting them. The microscope and telescope changes our view completely and are valuable as alternatives that can be used at will.
  10. Vanity Fair is in our pockets and it is always open for business.
  11. We should be wary of allowing the logic of the market to colonize all facets of our experience.
  12. Only the experience of sharing a common human world with others who look at it from different perspectives can enable us to see reality in the round and to develop a shared common sense.—Hannah Arendt
  13. Codes, even the best codes, can become idolatrous traps that tempt us to complicity in violence.—Charles Tayler
  14. What frames what?
  15. To betray, you must first belong.—Kim Philby
  16. Only the paranoid survive in a computerized world.
  17. You teach best what you most need to learn.—Richard Bach
  18. The best problems are insoluble.
  19. Management is a discipline. When used as an incentive, it becomes something else.
  20. Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.
  21. Sometimes dreams are poison.
  22. The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.—Brandolini’s law
  23. Sing the newspaper.
  24. The point of abstracting responsiblity to policies, algorithms, bureaucracies, etc. is to replace anger with disbelief and resignation.
  25. Talent is the capacity for doing continuous hard work in the right way.
  26. Fan is an abbreviation of fanatic.
  27. The correct value of most of our assets is zero.
  28. No past, no future.
  29. Human behavior is driven by love or want of love.
  30. Do your best, and as you improve, do better.
  31. Escape the sociology of the last five minutes.—cf. Michael Mann
  32. Military veterans don’t laugh at the circus.
  33. Most people are interested in discovering the truth, if it is within walking distance.
  34. Disruption is never one variable, but a wholesale revisiting of all the variables.
  35. Comfort always comes at a cost.
  36. The earth is slippery, slick.—Nahuatl proverb
  37. Write to tell stories, not explain research.
  38. Never a day without a line.
  39. Silence doesn’t allow for difference or self-aggrandizement.
  40. Avoid strain, anxiety and tension.
  41. Misuse of words leads to abuse of people.
  42. Learn to hear what you’d rather not hear.
  43. The sedated cannot be engaged.
  44. Loneliness can be like air, something unnoticed until it is gone.
  45. Intimacy comes when there is nothing left to say.
  46. Reality binds everybody to limits.
  47. Commerce reduces product to commodity.
  48. Be a sound craftsman, in whatever work you choose to do.
  49. If you’re big on the Internet, three likely outcomes: you burn out, you get cancelled, or you disappear.
  50. A weird paradox of the Internet. It amplifies and aggregates, which, in turn, creates new niches.
  51. What’s the lingering cost of life lived on a pedestal?
  52. In the firehose of faces, you need a strategy to stand out. Be unique.
  53. Identify the best tool for the job, and use it.
  54. Hard problems can be made smaller and/or reframed into easier problems.
  55. Always seek to better yourself and your tools.
  56. Volume is just about the number of fools.
  57. The secret ingredient to anything great is love.
  58. All progress runs the risk of bad precedents. No decision worth making is free of potentially bad consequences.
  59. In some games, there is no such thing as overkill.
  60. Do not shit where you sleep.
  61. One with courage makes a majority.
  62. Commitment means compounded returns on effort and creates meaning.
  63. There are no rules; there are only targets.
  64. Technology changes exponentially but our institutions adapt only linearly, if at all. 
  65. Selective with strong citation.
  66. Everything digital is mental representation that can be changed as the mind changes.
  67. Creativity rarely emerges rapidly.
  68. Run away from monoculture.
  69. Having our perception of the world increasingly mediated by proprietary technologies that immerse us in ever more sophisticated realms of digital simulacra is a way of surrendering the experience of a shared reality with others.
  70. The final form of the physical store is an environment where prospective or existing customers just hang out, marinating in the brand without necessarily buying anything while inside.
  71. Our stories fit reality to the narrative instead of the narrative to reality, i.e., they are fictions.
  72. Look for things that don’t make sense.
  73. There is no clean way to enter the heavy machinery of the heart.—This is the Nonsense of Love by Mindy Nettifee
  74. Only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it.–Plato
  75. To be happy, be unashamed.
  76. Very occasionally, it is okay to be angry, even with the gods, but anger as a default mode is poison.
  77. Sigmoid or singular?
  78. Payments is the most frequent and effective means of controlling discourse.
  79. Markets roll over when you least expect.
  80. People often signal left, only to turn right. Turns over signals.
  81. Focus on process over results. Work on multiple problems and rotate them. Discuss with people who perceive it differently and can help.
  82. Pour les encourager les autres.

bash: TOTP From the Terminal With oathtool

TOTP is Time-based One Time Password. Most people use applications on their phone for TOTP, such as andOTP, Google Authenticator, and related apps. But, as we move from using a phone as a second factor for what we are doing on a computer to a phone being the primary way we interact with the Internet, it makes sense to make the computer the second factor. This is the idea behind this script. It is based on analyth’s script, except I stripped out the I/O.

#!/bin/bash

# Assign variables
google=$(oathtool --base32 --totp "YOUR SECRET KEY" -d 6)
wordpress=$(oathtool --base32 --totp "YOUR SECRET KEY" -d 6)
amazon=$(oathtool --base32 --totp "YOUR SECRET KEY" -d 6)

# Print variables
echo "google: ${google} | wordpress: ${wordpress} | amazon: ${amazon}"

This will print:

google: 123456 | wordpress: 123456 | amazon: 123456

However, I didn’t like the idea of my one time password codes only being protected by normal file protections on a Linux system. I thought it should be encrypted with gpg. So, I saved it to a file in my scripts directory, totp, and encrypted it with my public key. If you don’t have a gpg key pair, instructions are available online.

$ gpg -r your@email.com -e ~/pathto/totp

Then, to run the shell script, do:

$ gpg -d ~/pathto/totp.gpg 2>/dev/null | bash

This will prompt you for your gpg password and then run this script. You likely won’t want to remember this string of commands, so you could make your life easier by adding it as an alias under .bash_aliases

alias totp='gpg -d ~/pathto/totp.gpg 2>/dev/null | bash'

Grok the Modern Vision of Blockchains

“…this course will focus on the fundamental principles of blockchain design and analysis, such as they are in 2021 (it’s still early days. . . ). The goal is to equip you with the tools and concepts to evaluate and compare existing technologies (cutting through the rampant marketing crap), understand fundamental trade-offs between the goals one would want from a protocol or application, and perhaps even create something new and important in the near future (because it’s early days, you can have a tremendous impact on the area’s future trajectory).

It’s worth recognizing that we’re currently in a particular moment in time, witnessing a new area of computer science blossom before our eyes in real time. It draws on well-established parts of computer science (e.g., cryptography and distributed systems) and other fields (e.g., game theory and finance), but is developing into a fundamental and interdisciplinary area of science and engineering its own right. Future generations of computer scientists will be jealous of your opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new area—analogous to getting into the Internet and the Web in the early 1990s. I cannot overstate the opportunities available to someone who masters the material covered in this course—current demand is much, much bigger than supply.

And perhaps this course will also serve as a partial corrective to the misguided coverage and discussion of blockchains in a typical mainstream media article or water cooler conversation, which seems bizarrely stuck in 2013 (focused almost entirely on Bitcoin, its environmental impact, the use case of payments, Silk Road, etc.). An enormous number of people, including a majority of computer science researchers and academics, have yet to grok the modern vision of blockchains: a new computing paradigm that will enable the next incarnation of the Internet and the Web, along with an entirely new generation of applications.”

-Tim Roughgarden, “Lecture 1.” COMS 6998-006: Foundations of Blockchains. github.com. September 15, 2021.

h/t Alex Taborrak in Marginal Revolution.

The first lesson is fairly easy to understand. Looking forward to reading more.

Live Long & Prosper

“Behavioral scientists have spent a lot of time studying what makes us happy (and what doesn’t). We know happiness can predict health and longevity, and happiness scales can be used to measure social progress and the success of public policies. But happiness isn’t something that just happens to you. Everyone has the power to make small changes in our behavior, our surroundings and our relationships that can help set us on course for a happier life.”

-Tara Parker-Pope, “How To Be Happy.” The New York Times.

Open Question: What does it mean to be “happy”?

In brief, the author seems to take the ideas of Blue Zones:, i.e., places where people tend to be exceptionally long lived, and flesh these concepts out with “happiness” research. The nine key ideas of Blue Zones:

  1. Move naturally, or have a lifestyle that incorporates movement without doing movement for movement’s sake, a.k.a. as exercise.
  2. Have a purpose.
  3. Downshift, take time every day, week, month and year to do nothing or be contemplative.
  4. The 80% Rule for eating. Eat until you are 80% full.
  5. Eat mostly plants.
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation, 1-2 servings a day.
  7. Belong to a community.
  8. Prioritize your relationships.
  9. Make sure the relationships are with good people.

The New York TimesHow to Be Happy” reframes these into categories: Mind, Home, Relationships, Work & Money & Happy Life. Then, it attempts to provide more detailed advice.

Mind

  1. Become acquainted with cognitive behavioral therapy, i.e., become proficient at managing negative thinking.
  2. Boxed breathing for acute situations and breath focused meditation to cultivate a more equanimical disposition.
  3. Rewrite your personal story, positive without the pedestal.
  4. Exercise.
  5. Make an effort to look for the positive in any situation.

Home

  1. Find a good place to live and a good community within it to be part of.
  2. Be out in a natural setting.
  3. Keep what you need, discard the rest.

Relationships

  1. Spend time with happy people. Conversely, avoid the unhappy and the unlucky, the stupid, Hoodoos, toxic people, psychic vampires, and associated others. Obviously, the negative formulation is a hot topic here at cafebedouin.org.
  2. Get a pet. [Editors note: Pets, children and other people aren’t going to make you happy, save you, etc.]
  3. Learn to enjoy being alone. In this historical moment, with fewer communities and relationships mediated through the Internet, it’s an important skill. If you can’t manage it, find ways around it, e.g., join an intentional community. If you are turning on the radio or television to hear human voices and escape your own thoughts, you might want to think about finding ways of being better company to yourself.

Work and Money

  1. Money isn’t going to make you happy. The more money you have past a certain threshold, the more problems you will have. But, being poor is no virtue and is its own source of suffering. Try to avoid the material extremes.
  2. The New York Times wants you to find your purpose at work. Right livelihood is important, but defining ourselves through our work is a major issue post-industrial age. When surnames became necessary, people chose their occupation. Think of all the occupational last names: Smith, Miller, Cooper, etc. The problem with finding purpose at work is it often turns into our life’s purpose. Our life should be about more than work.
  3. Find ways to reclaim your time, which I interpret to mean work less.

Happy Life

  1. Be generous. Show gratitude.
  2. Do things for other people.
  3. Stop being a judgmental prick to yourself and others.

Conclusion

Something about The New York Times presentation leaves much to be desired. Is it the focus on work? Is it because much of it seems like platitudes? I’m not entirely sure. The ideas aren’t bad, particularly the ones that stem directly from Blue Zone suggestions. But, the focus on “nesting” in the bedroom, volunteering (with the implication that it be the modern form and involve some kind of institution) and so forth managed to rub me the wrong way. But, most of this is good advice, when you get down to the nut of it.

Oddkin

“Here’s Donna Haraway, talking about kin, in Staying with the Trouble (2):

“Kin is a wild category that all sorts of people do their best to domesticate. Making kin as oddkin, rather than, or at least in addition to, godkin…troubles important matters, like to whom one is actually responsible….What shape is this kinship, where and whom do its lines connect and disconnect, and so what?”

Haraway is reclaiming kin to mean not merely blood relatives (“godkin”) but also those whose company [1] we choose to be in (“oddkin”). “Odd” works here to mean unexpected or unusual but also suggests the odd ones out. “Oddkin” brings the odd ones together into kinship.

But what does it mean to be oddkin? To whom are we actually responsible? The nuclear family restricts the answer to that question to the smallest possible unit: only immediate [2] relatives, not other more distant ones, and certainly not friends or neighbors. This isn’t just a philosophical restriction—it’s built in to our streets and buildings and laws with parking lots and bricks and surveillance cameras. But oddkin rewrites those boundaries, opens them wide up. Oddkin stakes the claim that the shape of kinship isn’t a birthright but a choice, that the people we choose to gather with are connected to us in ways at least equivalent to those we were born alongside.”

-Mandy Brown, “Oddkin: A working letter.A Working Library. August 29, 2021.

Zuihitsu: 2021-08

Collecting these little ideas has become a major focus. Here’s this month’s installment.

  1. Calm people live, panicked people die.
  2. Emotions are the barometer of mental health.
  3. Belief is a way to remove the irritation of doubt.
  4. The Internet amplifies variance.
  5. We’ve lost and need to go back to the drawing board and start over is one of the hardest things for people to say to themselves.
  6. Let the bullets fly for awhile.
  7. Approach everything like a curious idiot, rather than a know-it-all genius.
  8. New words are addresses to previously unused embeddings in concept space.
  9. Selling is part of life.
  10. Do not prize originality. It’s easy enough to be original when you stay on the same bus long enough.—cf. Helsinki Bus Station Theory
  11. There is power in mystery.
  12. Widen the limits of what is or is perceived to be possible, and it will come with the cost of lowering your ability, real or imaginary, to discern the probable.
  13. There are no shortcuts; there are no miracles.
  14. A schedule is more important than a to-do list.
  15. Generation, degeneration, regeneration.
  16. Life is a read, eval, and print loop (REPL) process.
  17. Surprise enables seeing with different eyes.
  18. Do not look for a successful personality to duplicate.—Bruce Lee
  19. Do not rule over imaginary kingdoms.
  20. Whenever the law falls short, people find a way.
  21. A fish doesn’t know what water is, until it is beached.—Marshall McLuhan
  22. No risk it, no biscuit.
  23. The most effective debugging tool is still careful thought, coupled with judiciously placed print statements.—Brian Kernighan
  24. Arguing with someone who doesn’t care about the truth is a waste of time. Most people care more about fitting in than truth.
  25. Don’t mind what happens.
  26. Many people’s presentation of self are masks hiding secret pain.
  27. It’s better to whole-ass one thing than to half-ass many.—Kelly Shortridge
  28. Unix-philosophy: (1) design for creativity, not tasks, (2) embrace constraints, and (3) self-host and iterate.
  29. Technology is the art of arranging the world so that you don’t have to experience it.—Heidegger
  30. Where is the taser for the reader’s balls?
  31. The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.—William Blake
  32. Everything’s a flyer for the show.
  33. The world is full of wonder. What are you doing to experience more of it?
  34. What you see is all there is.
  35. Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.—Mary Oliver
  36. Look beyond the default options.
  37. It’s only integrity when it hurts.
  38. Our failure to reach our perceived ideal ultimately defines us and makes us unique.
  39. If force could solve a complex problem, wouldn’t it have done so already?
  40. Real praise is specific.
  41. Stopping the bad is easier than starting the good.
  42. Foster self-realization.
  43. Try to escape the darkness outside and within.
  44. Detailed models and graphics more often explain imagined possibilities than reality.
  45. Marketing of innovation is selling the ideas of five years ago to those stuck 10 years in the past.
  46. If you don’t save your own history, no one else will or they’ll do it badly.
  47. The enemy also gets a vote.
  48. Just another dot in a galaxy of uses.
  49. The difference between water and ice is one degree.
  50. Augment and magnify different types of culture.
  51. If you want to take a good shit, you’re going to have to eat well.—Milos Forman
  52. Instant feedback encourages experimentation.
  53. Nature is not a temple but humanity’s ruin.
  54. A.I. is a technology of extraction not of intelligence.
  55. Forget individualism; life is a collaboration.
  56. Fear fame, wealth and power as a pig fears getting fat.
  57. Some entropies are measurements of ignorance.
  58. The only people who get upset at you having boundaries are the people who benefited by you having none.
  59. Start small. One change at a time. Process over results. Be grateful.
  60. Sometimes the expression of an idea is more important than the idea.
  61. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.—Jane Goodall
  62. Labeling the past is propaganda, not history.
  63. If you want wilder, curiouser thoughts, you have to avoid the Aunties, or recommendation algorithms.
  64. Reject all mass movements.
  65. “[T]he politican is powerless against government bureaucracy; society cannot be changed through political action.”—Jacques Ellul
  66. Nothing escapes technique, broadly defined as methods of efficiency.
  67. The master shapes tools and is, in turn, shaped by them.
  68. Society is made up of countless conflicting forces that don’t cancel each other out but continually give rise to new situations.
  69. Feed your head.
  70. Disposable work, disposable lives.
  71. Don’t let a cop live in your head. Don’t be a cop.

Chances of Dying From an In-Hospital Medical Error

“Errors in medicine include wrong diagnoses, drug dosage miscalculations, and treatment delays. These errors are likely to be underestimated because studies tend to focus exclusively on hospitals and not on the rest of the healthcare system; because some errors may only have debilitating effects years down the road for a patient and are thus harder to trace; and because reporting these errors may not be encouraged by the medical culture. The patient safety movement is important because errors that can be prevented should be prevented…

…A study from the UK reports that 3.6% of hospital deaths were due to preventable medical error; a similar study out of Norway reports 4.2%; and a meta-analysis of the problem published in the BMJ in 2019 concludes that at least one in 20 patients are affected by preventable patient harm, with 12% of this group suffering from permanent disability or dying because of this harm.”

So, let’s do some back of the envelope math. The American Hospital Association says there were 36,241,815 hospital admissions in 2021. The most recent data (2019) I can find is on Wonder that has in-patient hospital deaths was 813,249, which is close to the what was previously reported for a year. So, roughly 28,000 people die in hospitals due to medical error and 56,000 have some kind of disability as a result. If you look look at mortality by condition for 2019, that can look like a lot, depending on what you want to focus on, such as the same level as flu or twice the level of dying from inhaling food or vomit. But, some of that is due to the categories of cause of death and how Wonder reports them. When those get put into official lists, like the top causes of death, the number of flu deaths doubles and more than twice as many commit suicide as die as in-patients in a hospital due to medical error.

So, I guess the lesson here is that any time you enter a hospital, it is not without some risk. But, let’s put that risk in context. Of those entering a hospital, 2.2%, die. The chances of someone dying as an in-patient due to medical error are 4% of the 2.2%, or ~0.88%. If you want to put that risk in some kind of comparable risk category of preventable deaths, its just a little less than dying from an accidental gun discharge or sunstroke. Presumably the risk is higher the more severe your condition and isn’t uniform.