Category Archives: bitterness

hilarious title

On a private mailing list, a novelist asks for suggestions: what technological hobbies might a bright teenager have, in Oakland circa 1975? Chemistry sets were mentioned, among other things.

I may have had a chemistry set at age 8 or so; memory is spotty. A few years later we got an electronics kit, consisting of a collection of elements in Lego-like blocks. There was a booklet, starting with easy things like a light switch and an electromagnetic telegraph relay. (Maybe I thought the latter was easy because Dad and I had made one, about the same time as the possible chem kit).

Then on the next page was an oscillator or something. No explanation of why it was an oscillator. I thought, well, if I can’t see for myself why it’s an oscillator, evidently I’m not cut out for this stuff; so I quietly abandoned it.

My adolescence in a nutshell.

Of course it never occurred to me that perhaps there was no explanation because I was not expected to understand an explanation; I was expected to treat the oscillator as a black box. (Not that I had the concept of “black box”, either!)

Oh well.

a futile protest

Charlie Stross, interviewed in H+ magazine, mentions in passing

. . . the more socially dysfunctional libertarians (who are convinced that if the brakes on capitalism were off, they’d somehow be teleported to the apex of the food chain in place of the current top predators).

I’m curious to see his favorite examples; I hope I, at least, have never (since age ~25) said anything to justify such a crack, beyond indulging in “if I were dictator” daydreams as I assume everyone does.

I can’t imagine a plausible world that would have someone like me at the top of the heap. I’m a libertarian because I’m convinced that the poor and the dysfunctional would live easier in a more open world.

But I can say that until I turn blue, and there will always be someone to call me a liar.

Charlie goes on:

. . . they mostly don’t understand how the current system came about, or that the reason we don’t live in a minarchist night-watchman state is because it was tried in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it didn’t work very well.

For whom? Presumably it disappointed those with the power to change it, before the masses got the vote.

temporary relief

Can’t sleep.

I’ll probably delete this post later, but meanwhile — If anyone is still reading this pathetic drivel, do me a favor and let me know.

I don’t know for sure that such attention would help this mood any, but it can’t hurt.

i’ve had worse days

I had an unusually acute attack of despair this morning, likely aggravated by sleeping poorly. It was a bit of a struggle to drag myself out the door.

Another disadvantage of driving to work is that it offers too little distraction. I miss being able to read or nap on BART.

Finagle’s Law

I hoped to have some new math pictures for you (or at least for me) today, but my attempts to install a code library that I need have come to nothing. The makefile invokes gcc with options that version 3.3 won’t take. I try to install gcc 4, and Fink says before I can do that I need to recompile Fink with gcc 4.

So I’m having a depressive episode instead.

But I can tell you anyway about what I wanted to do. Continue reading


When the FDA banned tryptophan in 1990, it did not get around to restricting tryptophan’s metabolite 5-hydroxy-tryptophan. Since learning that a few weeks ago, I’ve been experimentally taking it; it seems to give my mood a floor. Today, though, I had my first spontaneous despair episode in some time. At least it was brief.