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  • Ra•kl (Raquel) 21:34:24 on 2015-11-30 Permalink  

    Hmmmm… Matcha green tea latte. Much needed. (at Urth Caffé)

  • David 13:30:50 on 2015-11-30 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    Heading for Home 

    Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo. I’m not done, but I’m close. Just 2,748 words left to go to…
  • Ra•kl (Raquel) 00:55:29 on 2015-11-29 Permalink  

    Spicy ramen goodness (at JINYA Ramen Bar Studio City)

  • davidw 16:02:18 on 2015-11-28 Permalink
    Tags: death, heidegger, phenenomonolgy,   

    Heidegger on living aware of death: Maybe not 

    O’m on a Heidegger mailing list where I get to lurk as serious scholars probe his writings and thoughts, and, not infrequently these days, his politics.

    Recently, a member of the list I highly respect suggested that “Heidegger’s phenomenology of ‘Sein-zum-Tode’ [Being-toward-death] amounts to living each day of our lives with a sense of our finitude, our mortality, that unifies and heightens the meaningfulness of each and every moment.” He equates this to Michel de Montaigne saying that “it is my custom to have death not only in my imagination, but continually in my mouth.” This is great wisdom, said the list member.

    I don’t want to argue against those who find wisdom in living “with the taste of death” in their mouths. But I also wouldn’t argue for it.

    My understanding, such as it is, of Heidegger’s idea of Being-toward-death is that our temporal finitude is constantly present as a horizon: we look before we cross the street because we know we can die — “know” not as an explicit thought but as the landscape within which our experience occurs. We make long-term plans within a horizon of possibility that we number in decades and not centuries.

    But that’s not what I take Montaigne to mean. And if that’s what Heidegger’s concept of authenticity entails (as I think it might), then that’s just another problem I have with his idea of authenticity.

    Why is keeping explicit the awareness of my impending death preferable, wise, or phenomenologically true-er? Because only I can die my death, as Heidegger says? I’m also the only one who can eat my lunch or take my shower. [Frivolity aside: these are both instances of “Only I have my body.”] Because it makes our experience more precious? It doesn’t for me. For example:

    We have a four-month-old grandchild, our first. (Yes, yes, thank you for your good wishes :) When I am caring for him–playing with him–my death is always present, but as an horizon. I’m aware that I’m 65 years older than he is, that I am in my waning years and he is just beginning. That is part of the deep joy of a grandchild, and it is definitional: if I thought I were immortal, the experience would be very different; if I didn’t have the concept of one life beginning and another ending, my experience of children would be incomprehensible. So, phenomenologically I think Heidegger is right about our death (finitude) always shaping our experience as an implicit horizon. Our stretch of time only extends so far before it snaps.

    But, beyond that implicit horizon, do I need to keep a taste of death in my mouth to make the experience of our grandson more precious? On the contrary, the explicit thought, “Wow, I’m really going to be dead someday” would distract me from my grandson, and keep me from letting the adorable little phenomenon show himself as he is.

    That’s a charged example, of course. But here’s another: I’m eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake. I do so within the horizon of my finitude, but that horizon is probably quite implicit. Perhaps it’s a bit more explicit than that, but still horizonal: I’m only eating half the slice for health reasons. But then I have a vivid taste of death alongside the chocolate: “Crap! I’m going to be dead someday.”

    Does the cake taste better? I guess maybe for some people. For a lot of us, though, the realization that death is surely a-comin’ would make the cake turn to ash. Who cares about cake when I’m going to be dead sometime, maybe in a minute or a day? We’ve been pulled out of the experience and out of the world by the vivid intrusion of what is undeniably a truth. Why do you think Roquentin can never enjoy a nice slice of cake?

    We can complain that such morbidity is inauthentic, but as far as I can tell that’s a value judgment, not philosophy and certainly not phenomenology.

    My intention is not to argue against Montaigne on this. If keeping the fact of death explicitly present helps some of us appreciate life more, who am I to say otherwise? Seriously. And if someone goes further and seeks out death-defying experiences because she feels most alive when she is most at risk, who am I to judge? That works for her. Good! (I feel bad for her parents, though.)

    But valorizing keeping death explicitly present seems to me to be more personality than philosophy.

    I understand that Heidegger’s putting death front and center was a radical and healthy move for philosophy. Western philosophy, after all, has spent so much of its energy pursuing deathless wisdom and eternal Reality as the only truths. But as a reader of Heidegger, I put much of what he writes in Being and Time about death into the same bucket as what he writes about destiny, das Man, authenticity, and German peasant romanticism: It’s (to put it mildly) phenomenologically non-disclosive for me — part of the price of reading an ontologist whose methodology, at least initially, was phenomenology.

  • Ra•kl (Raquel) 03:15:04 on 2015-11-27 Permalink  

    Rick and Rogen. Ahh the look of love. Happy thanksgiving!

  • Ra•kl (Raquel) 19:24:30 on 2015-11-26 Permalink  

    Rick prepping the bird. Gobble gobble

  • David 14:00:37 on 2015-11-26 Permalink
    Tags: , , Thanksgiving   


    After Happy Thanksgiving!
  • davidw 18:03:02 on 2015-11-25 Permalink
    Tags: compulsion, diet, , , soylent   

    My fling with Soylent, the scientifical “food” 

    I think I have some odd eating quirks. I don’t mean the fact that I’ve been vegetarian for 35+ years. It’s that I don’t like vegetables and I exhibit some possibly compulsive behavior about food.

    Maybe 7 or 8 years ago (which probably means 10 years ago) I had put on a ton of weight. I had weighed 165 lbs. when I got married, but about 20-25 years later I had fattened myself up to 220+. My blood sugar control system was responding in the predictable way. My doctor diagnosed me as pre-diabetic.

    So, I stopped eating things with added sugar and went on a low glycemic index diet. Over the course of maybe six months I lost about forty pounds. Even at 183 lbs., I was fat, but I was no longer a fat fuck. More like “Oh, he’s an American.” The weight loss, change in diet, and intermittent exercise dropped my blood sugar levels, and for at least the past five years they’ve been well below the diabetes threshold. I am no longer pre-diabetic. My doctor counts me as a success story.

    “I got fat by eating with a child’s tastes and an adult’s permission.”I got fat by eating with a child’s tastes and an adult’s permission. Worse, if left at a table with a food that can be consumed in small amounts, I will eat one peanut or bread shred every 90 seconds until nothing’s left. Compulsively.

    On the other hand, I am also very disciplined about food, which I think is just another way my compulsiveness manifests itself. So, I’ve eaten the same breakfast every day since my diagnosis. Every day. And it’s a fine breakfast: no-fat unsweetened yogurt with walnuts, sunflower seeds, and a little cut-up fruit stirred in. Every day. (I do allow myself exceptions during our two weeks of vacation.)

    Dinner I eat with my wife. Weekdays she cooks. I cook on weekends. There’s a relatively small set of things we like, and that’s what we eat. A lot of it is carb heavy, but it’s just one meal a day, I eat in moderation, and my blood work says I can afford it.

    But lunch has been a problem for years. I work at home these days, which means around noon I’m poking around the fridge. Egg whites have been one go-to meal, but I don’t like them all that much and they’re not very filling. A sandwich has too much bread. I like leftovers, but they’re often too carby.

    So lunch is always a problem. It is why, I believe, I’ve gained back ten pounds over the years. That’s not bad given, well, everything. And I weirdly thought that I’d gained about twenty-five pounds until I finally weighed myself six weeks ago — so I apparently suffer from body dysmorphism also.

    I needed to address lunch.“ I decided to use my compulsive personality as my secret super-power.” I decided to use my compulsive personality as my secret super-power.

    I had been reading about Soylent, a perfectly engineered food replacement (or thus is the goal). I like the idea of a community of food hackers arguing about exactly which micro-ingredients are needed. Soylent is a commercial company offering its version. With version 2.0, it comes in convenient liquid form, shipped in plain white bottles. Four hundred calories. Glycemically ok, according to the site.

    I have found my lunch.

    You can apparently live on Soylent. Five bottles a day gives you 2,000 perfectly-balanced calories. (That’d cost you about $12.50/day, although you could make your own for far less.) But I’m just looking for a repetitive, never-think-about-it, healthy-enough lunch. So, “I’ve been drinking a bottle of Soylent every day”I’ve been drinking a bottle of Soylent every day between 12:00 and 12:30 in the afternoon.

    Someone on Reddit, I think, described the taste well: It’s like the milk after you’ve eaten the Cheerios. I hate milk because it comes from inside cows, and Soylent is a little too close to how I remember milk tasting. So, I’ve been mixing it with a tablespoon of Hershey’s dark chocolate baking power (10 cals) and one packet of fake sugar. I actually look forward to it.

    Yes, I know egg whites come from inside chickens, which makes me squeamish both because of the cruelty with which even “free range” chickens are treated, and because it is a slimy fluid that comes from inside a chicken. But I am a hypocrite, so shoot me. (I like honey even less because it comes from inside a bug. I’ve seen the insides of bugs. How does anyone eat that?)

    Soylent is not intended to be a weight-loss product. A bottle has more than twice the calories of a Nutrisystem shake. But I have in my life done Nutrisystem and it’s deeply unsatisfying. One of their shakes doesn’t last long enough, and it’s jacked with fake everything. “Nutrisystem is jacked with fake everything”Soylent is, I’m pretty sure, actually good for me. And it keeps me going until around 4pm, when a half an apple will take me the rest of the way to dinner. Since starting on Soylent, I’ve lost 8 pounds, getting me close to where I plateaued when I did my big weight loss after the pre-diabetes diagnosis.

    Although Soylent is definitely not a low-carb “food,” my blood sugar seems to be doing well with it. I’ve seen no spikes in my home tests after a Soylent lunch. Obviously, your blood sugar mileage may vary.

    I’m not tempted to replace more of my meals with Soylent. One a day seems to be doing the trick for me, keeping in mind that I was looking for a way to be more compulsive about eating.

    Soylent: The perfect non-food for compulsives! (, you can have that tagline for free.)

    No, I will not be having Soylent tomorrow, Thanksgiving, for lunch. I may be slightly compulsive, but I’m not crazy. (Of course, I won’t be having turkey either.)

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, y’all!

  • Ra•kl (Raquel) 04:48:39 on 2015-11-25 Permalink  

    I think my belly just reached out and gave me a hug. (at Carneys)

  • davidw 22:05:38 on 2015-11-24 Permalink
    Tags: , climate change, , ,   

    [berkman][liveblog] Robin Chase 

    Robin Chase is giving a lunchtime talk at the Berkman Center.

    NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

    There is a totally new organization paradigm that exists next to the Internet, she says. She calls it “Peers, Inc.” It changes how we shape the economy. It’s happening now. Her explanation will be in three parts:


    First, platforms for participation that leverage excess capacity. E.g., Facebook, Skype, Meetup, YouTube, MOOCs, open source, Blockchain, etc. For example, Skype is a telecoms company built on the excess capacity of its users systems. Working with excess capacity means sharing.

    Bed-sharing (couchsurfing, AirBnB) uses excess beds. “It took four years for AirBnB to have more available beds than the largest hotel chain”It took four years for AirBnB to have more available beds than the largest hotel chain (InterContinental): 650,000. Couchsurfing has more than a couple of million.

    We invented big institutions to do things that we can’t do as individuals. E.g., large investments, projects that require intelligence in lots of different areas, standardized contracts. And there are things that individuals do better: customization, specialization, creativity, trust.

    These two coexist, and the Net enables them to collaborate. She calls this Peers, Inc. (“Institutions and governments are also Inc’s in this world view.”) The Inc’s provide a platform for participation, and the individual provides creativity and specialization.

    Robin “adores excess capacity” because it’s green and efficient. Excess capacity is something that’s already been paid for but contains unused value. How do you harness it? 1. You can slice it so only pay for what they use (e.g., ZipCar); this lets you avoid buying more car than you need. 2. You can aggregate (e.g., AirBnB, Waze). 3. Open up these assets, e.g., and GPS.

    The Inc side builds platforms for participation. They organize lots of small parts. “They “Platforms give the power of the large to the small”give the power of the large to the small.” They can scale. She points to a French car-sharing company: BlaBlaCar. Four million people use it every month.

    Peers bring diversity. E.g., smartphones and apps. Smartphones are far harder to build than the apps they enable. Over 2M apps have been developed since smartphones were invented in the past seven years. “We’ve seen more innovation than throughout all of human history” because people can build apps that are relevant to their own situations. App creators are free-riders on top of the $600 people spend on their smartphones.

    2. Peers Inc give us new powers, which she thinks of as miracles.

    “The most depressing thing I know is climate change.” By 2100, we’ll see a 4-6°C increase unless we take dramatic action. What does that feel like? “The last time we were minus 7°F was the last ice age.” Warming the planet that amount transformed the planet. We should expect the same level of change if we boost it another 7°F. By 2060, it will be really awful. So we have to address this.

    “Banny Bannerjee says: “You can’t solve exponential problems with linear solutions.””Banny Bannerjee says: “You can’t solve exponential problems with linear solutions.”

    The “miracles” give her some optimism:

    a. “We can defy the laws of physics” by leveraging excess capacity. If she had proposed building 640,000 rooms in four years she would have been told that that’s not possible. But AirBnb did it by leveraging existing excess capacity.

    b. “We can tap exponential learning.” Platforms can get millions of iterations in and can do a lot of learning. E.g., learning a language. A semester is 130 hours. Rosetta Stone teaches the same in 54 hours. But it’s expensive. “My new favorite company is DuoLingo.” They do a lot of A/B testing. They now can teach you a semester in 34 hours. They have 90M people using it. A year and a half ago DuoLingo opened up its processes: Russians learning Balinese, etc. Now 45M of the 90M are learning language pairs DuoLingo did not create. (DuoLingo makes money because they have humans translating sentences from organizations that pay them incrementally.)

    c. “The right person will appear.” E.g., Obama raised the prospect of normalizing relationships with Cuba. Six months later, AirBnB had 2,000 listings there, thanks to the Net.

    Her only hope for climate change is creating platforms that will address climate “at scale, speed, and locally adapated.” E.g., a platform for a house will remember to turn off the light when there’s been no movement. We’ll get smart cities through the Internet of Things. Distributed energy. Autonomous vehicles, which will arrive in force in the next 5-12 years. We’ll only need 10% of the cars because we’ll be sharing them. “Public transportation will be at the cost of a bus but the speed of cars”Public transportation will be at the cost of a bus but the speed of cars, transforming job opportunities. (But the Internet of Things means that everything is tracked.)

    All of these miracles only happen because of both sides of Peers Inc.

    3. “Everything that can become a platform will become one.” Old-style industrial capitalism put thick boundaries around companies. Today, what’s inside and outside is blurred.

    Four reasons Robin is convinced we’re moving into the collaborative economy:

    1. Shared networked assets always provide more value than closed assets

    2. More networked minds are smarter than fewer proprietary minds.

    3. “The benefits of shared open assets are always larger than the problems associated with open assets.” E.g., yes, some people put scratches in ZipCars, but the company nevertheless is doing very well.

    4. What I get is great than what I give.

    We are in a time of instability. “Peers Inc is the only structure that can experiment, iterate, evolve and adapt at the pace required.”Peers Inc is the only structure that can experiment, iterate, evolve and adapt at the pace required.

    So, how can we structure things so we give up the least privacy necessary? “What is the least privacy loss that delivers a habitable climate”


    Q: For me it’s not privacy loss but who we’re losing our privacy to. What about platform accountability? Aren’t we pushing out power into more abstract systems that we cannot see or address?

    A: I was on a panel at the Platform Cooperativism conference. I pointed out that these platforms are incredibly expensive. ““He who finances the platforms creates the rules of engagement.”He who finances the platforms creates the rules of engagement.” “I want these platforms created by a distributed, autonomous us.” We don’t have time to just hope this happens. “I have real anxiety.”

    Q: [me] Suppose we build protocol instead platforms…

    A: I’ve put all of that into the same bucket.

    Q: Shareable cars disrupt ZipCar. There will be user agreements. How do we disrupt that?

    A: “He who creates the data owns the data.” Autonomous vehicles have a middle space, e.g., around safety and learning issues. It’s in the deep public interest to have this data. But we need to make the privacy issues understandable and parseable by ordinary users so they can choose.

    Q: Isn’t privacy gone already?

    A: We can still do some structuring.

    Q: Why does trust work over the Web, which is mostly anonymous?

    A: Ebay was the first to figure out you need ratings and commentaries. We use other people as our proxies for trust.

    Q: iRobot’s Roombas currently don’t upload what they’ve learned about the layout of your house. But Nest knows everything. What should the rules be?

    A: That’s what I’m asking you. We have to figure this out.

    Q: It’d be great if we had more choice about which pieces of info we give to platforms. Is there any work on standard ways of parceling out pieces of our identity?

    A: I know people are working on this. “It comes back to the amount of money, time, and marketing it takes to push great ideas into market.”

    Q: What are we doing to educate the younger generation about privacy?

    A: Maybe you can push Harvard to do appropriate role modeling. Maybe students here could push for an icon system that tells us what data you’re taking from us, etc.

    Q: [me] What would you tell a student about the dangers? And would you consider addressing this by putting restrictions on how the data is used, rather than on its collection?

    A: How about doing some pilots to see what works? You have to inform people about the dangers as well regulating the industry.

    Q: How will we embed public safety concerns into software for self-driving cars?

    A: Self-driving cars will always follow the rules. No speeding. No parking in no-parking zones. All the existing rules will be embedded. So we’ll embed the appropriate behavior for ambulances, etc. No siren required. Also: The auto industry always brings up autonomous cars having to decide which person to kill in an accident. But why would you bring up this stupid case? One in a million trips this might happen? There are more deaths than that now. “Right now, 80% of cars are single occupancy. We need to put a high price on that.”Right now, 80% of cars are single occupancy. We need to put a high price on that.

    Q: It sounds like you’re describing a train: get somewhere, not park…Why not public transportation?

    A: We’ll see how it plays out. It’ll be a complex ecosystem. It’ll be decided city by city. More important than who owns it are: Will they be electric? Will it be 10x more expensive for single occupancy? Will we have pharmacy cars or liquor cars that deliver their wares without having a storefront? Who will design the software?

    Q: Practically, how do you combat zoning for selfishness, e.g., my own one-person gas guzzler?

    A: I don’t spend a lot of time on local issues. When I have, logic and data haven’t had much effect.

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