Words & Phrases, 2022

  • no fixed address, homeless
  • asphodel, Greek land of the dead
  • bioreactor meat
  • food’s comforting inner cuddle
  • pay-triots, money-grubbing grifters exploiting a nationalist cause
  • the death of nuance
  • axolotls, Mexican salamander
  • mononymous
  • moral holiday
  • the holiday from history
  • call of the void, wanting to jump from a high place, hit a guard rail
  • det stora oväsendet, “The Great Noise”, witch trials in Sweden
  • metaworse
  • defecation on doorsteps
  • digital context collapse
  • torment nexus, propose a new technology and people will go to great lengths to create it
  • X accelerationism, or the belief that mainstream industries can be pressured or provoked into adopting X as a way to protect their assets from being ripped off by people coopting their IP for X
  • full recluse and cottagecore
  • …a part of eternity lies in reach of those capable of staring, unblinking, at the sea’s deranging expanses
  • COVID Casablanca
  • the election of the unfavorables
  • the dark throat of seeds
  • tourist investors
  • a little whalesong in the yoga studio
  • incipient knuckleheadism
  • dorveille, or wakesleep
  • HVEs, homegrown violent extremists.
  • DVEs, domestic violent extremists
  • songlines, divine pathways
  • Metamates
  • behavioral activation, the theory that your actions can influence your mood
  • bitter-enders, people who sit all the way through the credits of movies
  • crystallized in your chrysalis.
  • definitional collapse
  • anticipatory self-censorship
  • res ipsa loquitur, negligence can be determined from the nature of the injury in the absence of direct evidence
  • Debts to be paid: once for a simple trade, twice for free-given aid, and thrice for the insult made.
  • pluralistic ignorance, something no one believes, but everyone thinks that the vast majority believes
  • shitpost diplomacy
  • the fandomification of global conflict
  • geometric progression
  • riding-crop belief
  • the faces at the bottom of the well
  • a different slice off the same loaf
  • an endless chain of half-built houses
  • ambisextrous
  • a digital iron curtain
  • signs in the sewage
  • the stone that stirs the avalanche
  • cyberapocalypse
  • a personalist regime
  • the opportunity set, like the Overton window but for opportunity
  • convergent evolution
  • context collapse
  • revanchism, from the French, revenge
  • a dog’s breakfast of contradictions
  • a meaningless farrago of fragments
  • a hard school of danger
  • writing in a language that is at the corners of change
  • an arc of implication
  • cowboy economics: driven by the spirit of the limitless frontier, where we shoot (or drill) first and ask about consequences later
  • Risk cannot be destroyed, it can only be shifted through time and redistributed in form.—Christopher Cole
  • algospeak, changing the words you’re using the circumvent automated platform censorship
  • technowashing, the growing obsession with technological solutions to climate change
  • a dead link, a sign of ruin in an otherwise living space
  • Jammern auf hohem Niveau, high level whining
  • phlogiston, a hypothetical substance once believed to be present in all combustible materials and to be released during burning
  • prelude to the poop
  • the agency of the virtual, that which acts without physically existing
  • рашизм, “ruscism” or Russian fascism
  • jerk-light internet
  • left of launch, peripheral processes before things happen
  • right of launch, is addressing the present
  • hipshitical
  • blasts of complete batshittery
  • the wealthy, the pale and the male
  • endless struggle sessions
  • te voya decir la neta, let me give the truth to you straight
  • farkakte, Yiddish for covered in excrement
  • Mamahuhu, literally horse-horse, tiger-tiger in Chinese but means careless person or so-so.
  • a man of desires and grudges
  • buzzsaw of fandom
  • The devil wears Pravda
  • wicing, Old English for pirate
  • almost a Belter—antisocial, independent and intolerant
  • a kind of beautiful madness
  • bagualu, alchemist’s pot
  • Zeitenwende, end of an era
  • cyborg locust brains
  • Incertus, not sure of himself
  • ungatz, nothing
  • timeless turtle
  • grizzled geezers
  • The reality of the naive
  • metastasizing mind worms
  • ceteris paribus, all things being equal
  • pareidolia, assigning meaning to seemingly random patterns
  • siloviki, Russian literally people of force
  • No hoper
  • a Barbie that burped
  • [pills] a thousand tiny promises
  • Lashes to ashes. Bust to dust.
  • mingle-mangle
  • damned by dollars
  • epistemically foraging
  • umwelt, the perspective of the world and environment unique to a particular organism
  • mahraganat—meaning festivals, a style of music in Egypt
  • getihu, Chinese, individual businesses or sole proprietorships
  • eucatastrophe, Tolkien, the crash of good fortune.
  • subterranean secrets
  • lingxiu, Chinese, leader
  • deli bal, Turkish, mad honey
  • honey hunter
  • a black hole of charisma
  • dickle, dill pickle
  • forget-me-nazis
  • crypto-coven
  • KTLO, Keep The Lights On
  • plein, French, full
  • chicken of the underpass, rats
  • incel retirement community
  • asabiyyah, group consciousness or solidarity
  • counterelite, a heresiarch
  • Kalb al-Akrab, the heart of the scorpion
  • autoptic, based on one’s own observation
  • involution, reduction in size, increased complexity
  • eudaimonia, well-daemoned
  • ankang, Chinese, police-run psychiatric hospitals
  • proliferating varieties of absence
  • bezzle, when prices rise faster than real value.—paraphrasing John Kenneth Galbraith 
  • paralysed by choice
  • baizuo, woke educated liberal
  • legal cynicism, losing confidence in police leads people to resolve conflicts through their own means
  • abattoir, slaughterhoise
  • roué, debauched old man
  • wantrepreneurs
  • China’s final warning, when China warned Russia many times about the Taiwan Straight
  • graveyard of stars
  • Sokushinbutsu, living mummification
  • opportunity neglect, a tendency to reject opportunities with low probability of success even when they come with little or no objective cost (e.g., time, money, reputation)
  • dullahan, or gan ceann, Irish, a headless fairy carrying a swollen, greenish head with large eyes under one arm, and rides a black horse.
  • twindemic, flu and COVID-19
  • narrative creation overdrive
  • crosswalk cock
  • chumbox
  • kaiju eiga, monster-movie
  • inceligence
  • fertig lustig, ready/finalized and funny
  • ихтамнеты, in Russian, they are not there
  • fail whale
  • errorphants
  • randy reindeer
  • kurashi, hygge
  • vaca flaca, skinny cow, hunger times
  • shiterative
  • algospeak — vocabulary meant to skirt content moderation
  • Orang-Pedek, Indonesian, short person
  • wodewose, huge hairy wild men
  • Eyedropper of gravy
  • Less than mediocre
  • kalsarikännit, Finnish, pantsdrinking, drinking in underwear
  • feces thesis
  • JAG, Just A Guy, average
  • turd bird
  • Quintero, town in Chile that makes concrete and is so polluted it is called the sacrifice zone
  • peregrinations, wandering to different countries
  • Iblis, a Muslim name for the devil
  • VVVVVV, Vilket Var Vad Vi Ville Visa, roughly “Which was what we wanted to show” in Swedish
  • полный пиздец, Russian,completely fucked up
  • apanthropy: the desire to be away from other people.
  • sympathy grift
  • the daily death march of sorrow
  • ideology over evidence
  • melon felons
  • pyramid of skulls
  • anomaly cluster

Creative Immiseration

“These tools represent the complete corporate capture of the imagination, that most private and unpredictable part of the human mind. Professional artists aren’t a cause for worry. They’ll likely soon lose interest in a tool that makes all the important decisions for them. The concern is for everyone else. When tinkerers and hobbyists, doodlers and scribblers—not to mention kids just starting to perceive and explore the world—have this kind of instant gratification at their disposal, their curiosity is hijacked and extracted. For all the surrealism of these tools’ outputs, there’s a banal uniformity to the results. When people’s imaginative energy is replaced by the drop-down menu “creativity” of big tech platforms, on a mass scale, we are facing a particularly dire form of immiseration.

By immiseration, I’m thinking of the late philosopher Bernard Stiegler’s coinage, “symbolic misery”—the disaffection produced by a life that has been packaged for, and sold to, us by commercial superpowers. When industrial technology is applied to aesthetics, “conditioning,” as Stiegler writes, “substitutes for experience.” That’s bad not just because of the dulling sameness of a world of infinite but meaningless variety (in shades of teal and orange). It’s bad because a person who lives in the malaise of symbolic misery is, like political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s lonely subject who has forgotten how to think, incapable of forming an inner life. Loneliness, Arendt writes, feels like “not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.” Art should be a bulwark against that loneliness, nourishing and cultivating our connections to each other and to ourselves—both for those who experience it and those who make it.”

-Annie Dorson, “AI is plundering the imagination and replacing it with a slot machine.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. October 27, 2022

Strikes me as another example of the two computing revolutions. One is to make things easy with a touch interface. The other requires having deep knowledge of a complicated topic, such as building machine learning models – not to mention having the resources to do so at the highest level.

The point I would make is that creativity by proxy is still creativity. You may not understand how the A.I. generates its content, but we still can have an aesthetic sense about what is good and what isn’t that the A.I. doesn’t provide.

Xi Jinping Studies

“The Fourteen Imperatives are shorter. They all include the phrase ‘adhere to’ and are essentially a list of what party members must do to implement XJPXSDZGTSSHZYSX. Party members must adhere to: 1. party leadership over all endeavours; 2. people-centred development; 3. comprehensive and in-depth reform; 4. a new vision for development; 5. the people running the country; 6. socialist law-based governance; 7. core socialist values; 8. improvement of people’s lives through development; 9. harmony between humanity and nature; 10. a holistic approach to national security; 11. absolute party leadership over the people’s army; 12. the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ for national reunification; 13. the building of a global community with a common destiny; 14. the full and rigorous implementation of party discipline.”

-Long Ling, “Xi Jingping Studies.” London Review of Books. October 20, 2022

Probably the most interesting thing I’ve read about China in awhile. Maybe something to pair with this discussion with Diana Choyleva. Or if you prefer text, try this piece, also from her, “Xi Jinping Wins Big at China’s 20th Party Congress.”

Matt Levine’s The Crypto Story

“There was a moment not so long ago when I thought, “What if I’ve had this crypto thing all wrong?” I’m a doubting normie who, if I’m being honest, hasn’t always understood this alternate universe that’s been percolating and expanding for more than a decade now. If you’re a disciple, this new dimension is the future. If you’re a skeptic, this upside-down world is just a modern Ponzi scheme that’s going to end badly—and the recent “crypto winter” is evidence of its long-overdue ending. But crypto has dug itself into finance, into technology, and into our heads. And if crypto isn’t going away, we’d better attempt to understand it. Which is why we asked the finest finance writer around, Matt Levine of Bloomberg Opinion, to write a cover-to-cover issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, something a single author has done only one other time in the magazine’s 93-year history (“What Is Code?,” by Paul Ford). What follows is his brilliant explanation of what this maddening, often absurd, and always fascinating technology means, and where it might go.

—Joel Weber, Editor, Bloomberg Businessweek introducing Matt Levine, “The Crypto Story.” Businessweek. October 25, 2022

Probably the most lucid discussion on cryptocurrencies you can read, right now.

Coin of My Realm: Meaning

I’ve been thinking on this tweet a bit lately. How do we determine what is the coin of our realm? What is important to us?

I wanted to expand on this tweet. Isn’t really “what others offer” is a question of what we value in ourselves, and in other people? Lets leave aside the fact that this is a transactional model of relationships. Instead, let’s focus on the value. If we really want to understand what we value, I think the real question comes down to time.

How do you spend your time? With whom do you spend it? Because, when it comes right down to it, the only thing each of us has of any value is who we are as people and how we spend our time. Everything else just expands our agency within that framework.

I have been spending a lot of my time lately doing writing, providing support via Discord & Telegram and doing some minor programming for a cryptocurrency called Ergo. I’ve learned a lot about:

  • How cryptocurrencies work
  • The psychology of people in the cryptocurrency space, which is indicative of people more generally
  • Learning to use new software tools

The last is an interesting development, I’ve never collaboratively worked on a project using git. I have use it to provide back-ups and versioning for my own work, such as configuration files, bash scripts and so forth. But, it’s a different experience to work collaboratively with someone else with it. The collaboration has value, independently of the code being created or the ideas behind it. This is something that is missed in the above tweet.

Things change so fast in the cryptocurrency space, and it is filled with people trying to make quick money. Or, “life changing money,” which normally means they can stop working and do whatever they dream of doing, perhaps driving cross country in a Lamborghini. Wen lambo? This is a question often asked, jokingly, but it is also serious.

Given the environment, integrity is very important because there is such a lack of it. Most people are hoping to strike it rich, which means there is a large pool of people that can be scammed.

Beyond the get rich environment, it is also interesting thing to note how little agency people have in the space. At the level of the cryptocurrency itself, there are wild price swings, and much of the variance is market manipulation. Imagine all the problems of the stock market, without most of the regulatory restrictions.

But, it is also clear that the restrictions that are in place are there to benefit certain people, just as much as they are to protect people involved. So, there’s a distrust of larger governance, particularly governance by a state.

In its place, in cryptocurrencies, you have governance by unelected bodies, software developers, investors and other interested parties. It’s never governance by people using the cryptocurrency, in any form whether it is democratic, the choosing of representatives, and so forth.

Best case, it’s a meritocracy. Often, these meritocracies have a benevolent dictator, and while they may wish for more user input, do not know how to move from where they are at to a system where people using the tool are deciding how it should be used and what capabilities to develop.

Without any kind of real governance and input into the decision-making processes necessary to be a functioning entity, discussion tends to devolve into who has the biggest microphone and who can shout down opposing points of view. You might say this is the defining feature of our times, when people have little agency over the things they care about.

One solution to this problem is to care about different things. If you limit what you care about to the things that you have agency over, then you don’t have to argue about it with other people. You can simply do the thing.

Of course, anything sufficiently large is going to require organization beyond mere individuals. But, moving our scope out that wide quickly limits our agency. Most of us scope our concerns so they are beyond any real action on our part. It’s why we develop what the Unabomber describes as surrogate activities, or things we do that serve as a substitute for real agency over things that matter. It’s why people decide to run marathons, climb corporate ladders, or whatever. We set goals such as these when life is unfulfilling.

Where can we find meaning? Where can we find agency? I think the answer to this question in our age is the same answer Voltaire gave in Candide: Il faut cultiver notre jardin, or tend your own garden. Narrow your concerns to a few people. People that show themselves to be unworthy of concern? Remove them from your garden. Spend your time and energy on projects you control and involve yourself in the lives of people you know around you.

Those people don’t need to be “insightful”. Gardens need shade as well as fruit, and every tree and plant can bring something different to the ecosystem. But, we need to thoughtfully engage with the question: what is the garden for? Is it to grow the biggest, best vegetables? Or, maybe there’s something bigger to be found there, such as meaning and agency.

Herd Standards

“Recently criticism has begun to recognize more widely and to analyze in more detail the ways in which far-ramifying commercial organization makes for the dominance of herd standards. We have been shown, for example, how the syndicating of newspapers and magazines degrades their contents to what will please the majority; how, through the box-office, the majority dominate theatre, moving picture house, even opera and concert; how, in dealing with the careless and the gullible, advertising and propaganda tend to be substituted for intrinsic quality. On Justice Holmes’ ideal of ‘doing a thorough piece of work into which he put all his strength, and leaving it unadvertised’ an Englishman’s comment was ‘Can you imagine anything more un-American?'”

-Daniel Gregory Mason, “Artistic Ideals I. Independence.The Musical Quarterly. v. 12, No. 1 (January 1926), 1-7.

No Comment: Cow Dung Capitalism

“Unadulterated cow urine and dung have always been procured from cow-shelters by the traditional for use at home and in temple pujas. What’s recent is the array of therapeutic and beauty products flooding the market that use these as ingredients. There are face packs, bath scrubbers, mosquito coils and incense sticks that contain cow dung. There are creams, cough syrups, body oils, health tonics, weight-loss tonics, and floor disinfectants that contain distilled cow urine. You name it, they have it. And the names of gau mutra or gau arka (cow urine) or cow dung are not hidden away in long lists of fine print on the packages. It is star-lighted right up front as the chief ingredient in bold letters. You can go to a neighbourhood shop and buy it, or drop by a fancy mall and have it bar-code billed before it’s popped into your shopping bag. And, if you so wish, you can even go online and click—or finger tap—yourself a delivery…

….When Laxmi Rao, a 63-year-old corporate trainer in Delhi, first raised a glass filled one- fourth with a mixture of one drop of gau ark (distilled cow urine) and water to her lips, she didn’t feel the slightest twinge of nausea. She has an interest in alternate forms of therapy and had been suffering from knee pain and acidity for several years. A recommendation from a friend and some quick online research on the medicinal attributes of cow urine led her to give the mixture a shot. “I wasn’t queasy at all,” she says. “I was more like, ‘What the hell, let me give this a try’.” She knocked back the concoction in almost one whole gulp.”

-Lhendup G Bhutia, “Cow Dung Capitalism.” Open. September 16, 2016

Sociology/Psychology of the Last Five Minutes

I used this in conversation, and I had forgotten where I had seen it. I think this might be the original source for me:

Of all the prejudices of pundits, presentism is the strongest. It is the assumption that what is happening now is going to keep on happening, without anything happening to stop it. If the West has broken down the Berlin Wall and McDonald’s opens in St. Petersburg, then history is over and Thomas Friedman is content. If, by a margin so small that in a voice vote you would have no idea who won, Brexit happens; or if, by a trick of an antique electoral system designed to give country people more power than city people, a Donald Trump is elected, then pluralist constitutional democracy is finished. The liberal millennium was upon us as the year 2000 dawned; fifteen years later, the autocratic apocalypse is at hand. Thomas Friedman is concerned.

You would think that people who think for a living would pause and reflect that whatever is happening usually does stop happening, and something else happens in its place; a baby who is crying now will stop crying sooner or later. Exhaustion, or a change of mood, or a passing sound, or a bright light, something, always happens next. But for the parents the wait can feel the same as forever, and for many pundits, too, now is the only time worth knowing, for now is when the baby is crying and now is when they’re selling your books.

And so the death-of-liberalism tomes and eulogies are having their day, with the publishers who bet on apocalypse rubbing their hands with pleasure and the ones who gambled on more of the same weeping like, well, babies.”

-Adam Gopnick, “Are Liberals on the Wrong Side of History?” The New Yorker. March 20, 2017

I probably came across the reference in John Naughton’s online diary, which is excellent and worth using an RSS reader for.