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Author: Bryant

Covid Conclusions

Feeling mostly better other than being a bit more tired than usual. The final timeline:

  • 10/29: almost certainly my initial exposure — I was at a loud crowded event without a ton of mask usage.
  • 10/31: light symptoms.
  • 11/1: first positive test (all my tests were at home).
  • 11/2: Paxlovid course started.
  • 11/6: Paxlovid course ends; maybe a couple of negative tests in the next few days? Can’t recall.
  • 11/11: testing positive again; feeling sick but able to focus.
  • 11/13: negative test (probably because at-home tests are not 100% reliable).
  • 11/15: positive test again; able to focus well enough to deliver budget presentations.
  • 11/19: able to write code again! A surprisingly important milestone.
  • 11/23: negative test again, and this time the negative tests stuck. Haven’t tested positive since.
  • 11/27: still getting a bit tired here and there, as noted, but I feel pretty much OK otherwise.

All told that was three and a half weeks of positive tests, and I felt pretty sick during most of that. Able to focus but definitely not great. Please get vaccinated and boosted.

Let That Kitchen Sink In

In September 2022, the Criterion Channel added a British New Wave collection, which made me quite happy because I’d been interested in those movies ever since I listened to a Filmspotting series on the topic. Wow, back in 2008. I didn’t actually wind up watching any of those at the time, but 14 years later isn’t too bad, right?

I’ve been watching them in order as the spirit moves me since September, and since a few of them are leaving at the end of November — Criterion Channel collections aren’t necessarily permanent — I got into higher gear and finally finished off the collection today. My capsule reviews are here.

It was a really satisfying way to dive into the psyche of a specific time and place. My overall impression was that Britain was well overdue for a bunch of directors to escape their formalist constraints, and that most of those directors weren’t quite as free from the stereotypes of class as they thought they were. The seventeen movies were too varied for any universal statements but an awful lot of them centered around lower class men who badly wanted to be upper class and just weren’t well suited for it.

I enjoyed most of them. Particularly notable: Room at the Top, mostly for Simone Signoret’s performance. It’s the second movie I’ve seen of hers but this is the one where she really registered. She’s been in some great stuff, so I’m looking forward to more of her. Billy Liar was one of my two favorites: I hadn’t felt much emotional connection to John Schlesinger in the past, but wow, this one was good. And Kes was just beautiful and harrowing. I knew it wasn’t going to end well but that couldn’t stop me from delighting in those scenes of Billy training his bird.

A couple of them left me cold. Not to beat up on Richard Lester but wow, The Knack… and How to Get It is a misfire through modern eyes.

I also really liked seeing some of the actors who I think of as aged veterans in their prime. Lawrence Oliver, Albert Finney, Julie Christie, Richard Burton — all wow. And actors who were new to me, too; Dirk Bogarde was really something.

For whatever licensing reason, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner didn’t make it into the collection but I’ve got a date with S. to watch it in, um, looks like March based on our Thursday night date list for 2023.

Words Have Power

I grabbed Battle of the Linguist Mages from the library the other day (thanks, Libby!) and it wasn’t bad. It’s enjoyable reading Ready Player One from the anarchist point of view, even if it’s a bit broad. Don’t look for well-architected laws of magic here or anything — it’s more that a bunch of stuff happens in ways that amp up the fun factor.

But it’s really fun! The role of punctuation is top-notch and had me pausing midway through to do some Web searching.

Lawfare & Ideologically Inconsistent Extremists

I read Lawfare because it represents a place where fairly traditional liberal approaches to national security are meeting (occasionally) more progressive and practical understandings of the challenges before us. Accordingly I read their piece on composite violent extremism with great interest. I Don’t Speak German and others in the anti-fascist researcher sphere have been talking about this for ages, of course.

I think it’s a reasonably good piece. There’s one huge gap, however. The authors define “individuals who draw on a variety of disparate prejudices and grievances but do not adhere to a discernible ideological framework” as “ambiguous” and sort of throw up their hands; this is a failure, because in many cases the underlying similarity is accelerationism. In some cases — Christchurch, for example — accelerationism is an expression of a clear ideology. Often that’s white supremacy, but not always.

For example, one of their sample “ambiguous” extremists is Ethan Miller. In his online writings, he said “I’m going to Kickstart a Fucking Violent Revolution here.” He saw himself as an example for others like him and said so. So it’s true that his ideology wasn’t terribly coherent (although let’s not miss the anti-vax rhetoric, which is absolutely ideological) but if you don’t pay attention to the common thread of acclerationism, you will fail to prevent and you will fail to deradicalize.

Notes: 2022-11-23

Recovery from covid continues. Allow me to express the sentiment that wearing a mask is a very small price to pay for avoiding literally three weeks of reduced capacity, one week of which was complete downtime.

I installed an ActivityPub plugin for WordPress, so if you’re a Mastodon person you can effectively follow this blog at @Bryant@popone.innocence.com. This works very well for me, because it means I can easily put my longer-form permanent thoughts here and everything I post on my main Mastodon account (@BryantD@dice.camp) can be transient.

Tim Bray has an excellent article on practical uses of the blockchain. While he was at AWS, he was tasked with being part of a group that looked into whether or not AWS should provide blockchain services. Spoiler: they found no use cases that require a blockchain over a database. Distributed ledgers (which do not require blockchains) are handy.

The Man of the Hole is an absolutely wild story. He was an indigenous native of the Amazon rainforest whose tribe was wiped out by Brazilian settlers sometime after 1970 or so. We don’t know what his name was, because Brazil successfully avoided disturbing his solitary existence for over two decades. He died this August. I can’t imagine how lonely his life must have been, but apparently he knew there were people keeping an eye out for him and I guess he never showed signs of wanting contact. Read the article. The Wikipedia page also seems pretty good.

Interesting Rian Johnson interview (by Walter Chaw, who is great). I liked what he had to say about the meta-textual layer of an all star cast: what expectations does that create in the audience?

I want to invent a tabletop RPG mechanic around the Go First Dice. Follow the link for a deep dive, but the summary is that it’s possible to number four 12 sided dice such that when four people roll them, there will never be a tie and every possible ordering of the results is equally possible. In other words, everyone has an equal chance to roll highest, second highest, third highest, and fourth highest. (Second place is a set of steak knives, of course.)

Phew. Lots of backlog today.

I knew that Lagos was one of the biggest cities in the world, and growing fast. I did not realize that it’s the east end of a 600 mile stretch of coast that’s quickly turning into a megapolis.

Elder Race

Someone on the Internet recommended Elder Race the other day, and my library had the ebook available, so sure! Adrian Tchaikovsky is almost always a good read at minimum and he does a lot of work at novella length which is exactly right for a bit of reading before bed.

It’s good! It’s much more of a horror story than I expected. From the blurb you’d expect an action-adventure tale with a lot of fantasy trappings disguising high tech, and there’s plenty of that, but there’s also some truly horrific notes that I won’t spoil. I also liked that it avoided turning into a romance, because not everything has to be that.

Tchaikovsky is in the hard SF tradition. In a lot of his work, you get the sense that he’s writing it in part because he wants to work out the implications of an idea. In Elder Race, there’s one very clever typographical bit where the junior anthropologist explains something in his terms and there’s a side by side column showing what the natives think he means. Fortunately he’s a good enough writer so that it’s fun watching him work through the details.

Disney Kremlinology, Part 2

Iger’s moving quickly. Kareem Daniel is out, not surprisingly at all. But what’s really interesting, from his internal email:

I’ve asked Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, Jimmy Pitaro, and Christine McCarthy to work together on the design of a new structure that puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs, and this will necessitate a reorganization of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

Pitaro and Bergman were on my short list of internal candidates for the successor job. I also mentioned competitive tryouts. Huh.

Or, mind you, he’s already decided on D’Amaro and he wants to focus on mentoring while his leadership team works out a new structure.

Disney Kremlinology

Predicting internal politics at Disney: always one of my favorite things. I haven’t worked there in years and I wasn’t in a position to have good internal scoops on this stuff anyhow, so that’s my disclaimer.

What we know for sure: Bob Iger just returned to Disney; it was announced late on a Sunday night. Bob Chapek is completely gone. He just had his contract renewed this summer. Iger has a two year contract and will explicitly be responsible for developing his successor. This is all very sudden.

What I think is probably true based on reporting: this was very sudden internally as well. The Board of Directors made the decision. They thought about a few internal candidates but decided it wasn’t fair to put any of them in that situation. No matter how bad it looks to pull Iger back in, he’s probably the only person who could hit the ground running and the Board clearly needs him.

I’m not really competent to talk about strategy. “Do something different than Chapek.” I don’t expect Iger to stop trying to wring money out of the parks; he did as much of that as Chapek did. He’ll probably sell it better.

What I’m really interested in is who his successor will be. The Board sounds like they’re not gonna let him make that decision all by himself. That’s fair; Iger has made three choices of successor already and none of them worked out. Disney has always preferred to find a CEO from within, but this may signal a change there.

Again traditionally, the next CEO has worked in several types of Disney business. Chapek, for example, went from Home Entertainment (media focused) through Consumer Products to the Parks before becoming CEO. Thomas Staggs, who was in line for the CEO job at one point, went from CFO to Parks to COO before he and Disney parted ways. You need the broad experience. The corporate culture says you should have worked at the Parks, which are seen as the beating heart of Disney.

Riffling through the current leadership team, few of the obvious candidates have the experience range. Josh D’Amaro is an obvious possibility but he’s been almost purely Parks. Kareem Daniel is closely associated with Chapek; his future, as CNBC says, is murky. Alan Bergman has been all Studios. Jimmy Pitaro? Rebecca Campbell?

Iger’s got two years, which is enough time to train any of those talented executives on the aspects of the business they don’t know yet. Everyone expects a reorg, because Iger didn’t like Chapek’s reorg much. They have to at least have a list of possible names for the next CEO. If any of those names are external, it’s going to be a while before they show up at Disney, since negotiations take time. If the list boils down to internal candidates, things may move more quickly. There might be multiple candidates, since Iger has done competitive tryouts in the past.

It’ll be interesting to watch how things develop over the next few months. Watch for people on the current leadership team who wind up managing a very different division.

Afternoon update: Kareem Daniel is gone. That was quick. I think on reflection this’ll be worth a new post tonight or tomorrow, there are some interesting nuggets in there.

Covid Update

One of the ways I knew I was getting sick was that my ability to code dropped through the floor, so I’ve been fiddling with things from time to time as a test.

I’m still veering between faint positive tests and negative tests, but I got a wild hair and wrote some Python today. Credit for the underlying text and mechanics goes to Oliver Darkshire. I have taken the liberty of skipping assassination attempts when there’s no chance of success and decided that you can’t try an assassination attempt after an ending is reached.

./ldor.py
Lions are released onto the streets in an attempt to calm the population.
Flames: 1
Desolation: 1
Relocation: 0

You might want to assassinate the emperor, but there's no chance.

<snip>

Work continues on a house made of pure gold. It keeps melting.
Flames: 5
Desolation: 3
Relocation: 3

You might want to assassinate the emperor, but there's no chance.

There are no goods at market. "If you have no bread, then eat shit" is the word from the palace.
Flames: 5
Desolation: 4
Relocation: 3

Would you like to assassinate the emperor? [y/n]: n

The emperor sits in front of the flame and commands it to obey. It does not.
Flames: 6
Desolation: 4
Relocation: 4

Would you like to assassinate the emperor? [y/n]: y

You failed to assassinate the emperor with a roll of 11, and you are dead.

Obviously my play is sub-optimal. Don’t expect too much from me yet.