mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I am not at all good with accents: I cannot mimic any and I am bad at recognizing them. Indeed, if they are accents that I am used to hearing then I am even bad at recognizing if they are incongruous for where I am: for example in Dundee I can talk to Americans without realizing that they are not Scottish. I have noticed that I find many foreign accents attractive in women, I suspect because I am somewhat novelty-seeking and like the idea of learning of many new things through them. Still, I wonder if this perception of attractiveness is somewhat random and irrational, especially as I rather like some American accents from the South, not something I can easily explain.

Since returning to Britain one surprise for me has been Irish accents. I notice that some Irish women have an accent that is attractive to me and some do not. The surprise is that when I discover exactly where they are from, it is always that the attractive-sounding ones are from the Republic of Ireland and the remainder are from Northern Ireland. I appear to be able to tell from which side of the border women hail but only by how attracted I am by their voice as I cannot directly perceive the difference consciously.

I suppose that these observations come with obligatory caveats that I invite people to take as read. For instance, I do not suggest that there is any rational value judgement here; after all, the Republic of Ireland has no special place in my heart and I wish I could see more of those people from Northern Ireland whom I know best.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Housing is very expensive in the UK; we still rent because incurring debt many times my annual income alarms me. Perhaps inequality keeps many from becoming homeowners. )

Some parts of the country cannot easily support many more people: anybody trying to commute into London other than by air can testify to that. If more houses need be built elsewhere then I am inclined to support the creation of more cities with mixed-use neighborhoods. )

In contrast to the design of Milton Keynes I would like Britain to depend less on cars, in part for environmental and safety reasons. Sufficiently dense cities make it entirely workable to depend on foot, bicycle or public transport for most journeys and on car clubs and rental agencies for obtaining an appropriate car for one's occasional true need. Government can help to make this viable: for example, in regulating car insurance. )

Many other social changes are needed to enable less car travel. For instance, in not always having to visit doctors, colleges and workplaces in person. )

Trying to reduce travel and increase telepresence raises the specter of globalization: competing in a worldwide labor market. I suspect that there is some inevitability here that is best faced. Nonetheless, with the general liberalization of international trade, such agreements remind me that I favor significantly shortening the duration of intellectual property protections. )

I think that these seven recent entries on my political views have now covered a good range of policy areas. It may have been useful for me to articulate these opinions publicly, at least to throw more light on my other entries on politics, but I do not claim that these views are all sincerely held and well-justified. I am used to differing with friends and sometimes being wrong.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Considering that I am fairly progressive in some respects, I am perhaps unusually conservative when it comes to the Palace of Westminster. People often observe that a government may enjoy a significant majority with but a minority of the popular vote but that may not be so bad. )

I do consider it a significant problem that many people may consider that their vote counts for less. Some elections may not seem worth voting in. )

I am against encouraging absentee voting. People who actually turn up to vote are more likely to have also bothered to find out something about the candidates and parties. When people vote in person the secrecy of their ballots is more greatly assured and the incidence of voter fraud very low. Encouraging in-person voting does require making it easy. )

I wonder about reform of the House of Lords. I like the idea of it retaining some power to counterbalance immoderate populism from the House of Commons. From that point of view, inasmuch as the House of Lords is unrepresentative then I like the idea of its members tending to be educated and conservative: they tend to detect and retard extreme legislation while still supporting progress like the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. I also like that they have much freedom to vote according to conscience. )

I am open to that the House of Lords may do its job at least as well through being selected very differently. For example, from aggregating the votes for members of the House of Commons we know how the nationwide popular vote stands and I wonder if it may be best to somehow select new members of the House of Lords so as to more proportionally balance the legislature in accordance with that vote.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
I have mentioned being doubtful about independence referendums; this entry probably merely summarizes previous ones. The Scottish National Party's portrait of an independent thriving Scotland in which little changes in terms of the relationship with the rest of the UK sounded most unlikely. There may be some more plausible story whereby Scotland leaves the UK, adopts its own currency that falls enough to make remote services like call centers by skilled English-speaking staff a useful kind of export, but with an aging population and finite oil the SNP's story seemed to me like a short-sighted pipedream and I feel that Scotland has enough in common with the rest of the UK that breaking away would be an overreaction.

The UK's breaking from the European Union I am less clear on. I like the idea of the EU and I often appreciate regulations that it imposes upon the UK: I think those laws, for example on food quality or how corporations may use our personal data, are a good idea and I greatly doubt that a wholly independent UK would have acted similarly. More personally, it is sad to see EU citizens feeling unwelcome and leaving the UK as I think we benefit both economically and culturally from their being with us.

However, I do agree that there is a democratic deficit wherein cloth-eared EU governance overestimates its own competence: at least those who lead the decision-making are more arrogant than they are correct. Brexit may harm the UK but perhaps it can help push the EU to improve. )

Even excepting the UK, national or regional politics too greatly affect EU governance. I hope that at least the core of the EU can find its way toward something more like the US where there is more central willingness to redistribute funds among the states by need, becoming more cohesive while still offering diversity. )
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Controversial though it is, I am in favor of Trident, the UK's submarine-based nuclear deterrent. Perhaps I am colored by my years of working for the US Department of Defense because I am in favor of military spending in general, though perhaps of a more Iranian-style self-sufficient form. I do not trust alliances to last and I expect climate change and other coming stresses to make it a bad idea to reduce military capability. )

I consider disarmament a fantasy: nobody will be giving up their nuclear weapons. ) This is one reason why I favor space exploration: it may be imprudent for our species to rely on advanced civilization being sustainable on Earth.

Trident is expensive and in general I am in favor of self-sufficiency not only for strategic reasons but to help retain money and expertise within the national economy. As with the American focus on dual-use technologies, perhaps benefits to related industries can make self-sufficiency affordable. ) Further, I fear that austerity in UK military spending may unconscionably underresource the armed forces given that so much is and may need to be asked of them.

I have little idea how well these supposed indirect benefits would appreciably assist the domestic economy. I would hope that they go quite some way because I am largely against selling weapons systems to other countries. )

In terms of dual-use technologies, while renewable energy is to be encouraged, certainly more than the present Conservative government has, my guess is that the UK needs nuclear power for decades yet. That is another reason to develop domestic capability in nuclear engineering. I thus object to the Hinkley Point C project in which foreign businesses play key roles in the domestic construction of a nuclear power plant of a rather old design.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
I have my doubts about the typical status of corporations. Glossing over the difference between civil and criminal offenses, it unnerves me to protect people from being fully punished for their bad acts. Sure, perhaps most employees and owners ought not be jointly liable. However, often some of them should. )

People also come together via marriage to form another kind of entity which again can receive various favorable tax benefits, which often has some legal notion of community property within it, joint liability for debt, etc., though to various degrees and with varying flexibility depending on the jurisdiction. My inclination is to regard the spiritual and emotional dimensions of marriage as being outside the law: let the churches or others have whatever unofficial ceremonies they like for whomever they like, even call it marriage, leaving the less-loaded civil partnership term for the legal state wherein by mutual agreement people become next of kin, somewhat able to act on each other's behalf and jointly face the consequences, be considered together for means testing, etc.

I do not see any particular reason to limit this legal change of status, what I am calling civil partnership, by sex or even group size. Worrying cases may be few. )

Of course, how things now seem to have settled is that same-sex marriage is becoming another kind of marriage but among only two people, which at least makes many happy; those wanting recognized polygamy must yet wait. )

Speculating wildly: If I am thinking that the corporate veil ought not to have such great power and that the legal side of marriage could be generalized then I wonder if I can workably stretch corporations and marriage enough to become technically the same in law. For example, with the above visa issue, in some circumstances corporations can apply for visas for employees given evidence of adequate support and similar; workers on H-1B visas are permitted even intent to immigrate.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
I generally buy the modern variety of Keynesian economics that allows for stimulus spending when wages are stagnant and many prime-age workers are unemployed or underemployed. A poor economy causes real present suffering and inflicts long-term damage: better to incur the debt now and have tax revenues rise sooner for paying it off. Conversely, when the economy is doing well, the national debt must be aggressively paid down.

Generous welfare benefits fit well for stimulus spending: those who receive them tend to spend the money to help keep others in jobs. While the goverment can incur long-term debt cheaply, economic downturns are also an excellent time for infrastructure investment, anything that is of lasting benefit such as education, transportation and communications. In the service of keeping the economy moving, I am fine with a few percentage points of inflation, focusing specifically on the non-commodity items: if oil is more expensive but wages are not rising then I doubt we are about to turn into the Weimar Republic.

More speculatively, I am all for trying to keep things simple. For instance, I wonder if it would be practical to tax investment and employment income the same and, rather than means-testing benefits and fussing about percentage increases, simply give everybody a sufficient universal basic income as the Finns have been trying, especially if government also guarantees the provision of affordable basic food and shelter for those who ask. If neither the food nor shelter are generously lovely then I suspect that both the US and the UK are wealthy enough to meet citizens' basic needs, the real problems being challenges like mental health provision that require well-qualified staff. These thoughts feel to me like I am moving too far into foolish amateurism, like when I play an unusual chess opening and in the coming moves my opponent then illustrates that my opening is unusual because it is a bad idea.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
Here at the University of Dundee the hourly workers, those up to grade 6, typically work 36¼ hours per week. Up at grade 8 my contract is vaguer: as a salaried employee I am expected to put enough time in to get my work done. Still, I was surprised to realize that I am probably averaging over 43 hours per week which is perhaps more than I ought and could help to explain why I have difficulty also getting as much done outside work as I used to.

For much of my working life I was on Federal cost-plus contracts from the Department of Defense that most easily expect an average of 40-hour weeks which worked fine for me. At my previous job the arrangement was instead a minimum of 40-hour weeks that, given the occasional need to work rather more and their reluctance to count times when their computers stopped working or whatever as work time, felt mean enough to me that I considered it a victory to have averaged under 41 hours over the course of my employment there.

I am not sure what is appropriate in my present position but my sense is that I still ought not average much over 40 hours. I get into work at 8h to snag a parking space and so that my workday better corresponds to when my children are also out of the house; I routinely fast so I need not take lunch; I also do not want to leave my desk before 16h because many of my colleagues arrive after 9h, take lunch and work correspondingly later. I figure that I should thus feel okay about doing some personal things over my workday such as making journal entries here and I should also try harder to not stay well after 16h.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Following the elections in recent times I thought it a good time to summarize my own politics. I do not pretend that everything is thought-through and defensible; I freely admit that what follows includes much instinctive leaning. I thus do not suggest that others should think as I. Expressing my opinions here explicitly leaves them usefully open to constructive disagreement (or helping you decide not to read after all).

On the topic of disagreement, there is so much of it that many of us must be very wrong for at least some of the time. Especially, when referencing kinds of people in political judgments I think it important to engage with them: it is far better to mix with people than to make confident assertions about those one does not even know. Exposure to sincerely held contrary views also helps to hone one's critical thinking skills.

Encouraging engagement with others has policy implications. I do not want different communities to live and go to school separately. )

Integration neatly segues to immigration. Whether via a points-based system or otherwise I generally think the immigration of skilled workers to be good both financially and culturally. )

On the other hand, while I favor permissive immigration rules, my welcome quickly wanes when those rules are violated. When people break the rules then they ought not express surprise at the consequences. )

As for people being able to follow their own culture and religion, I largely do not care what they do in private or within view of others but not everybody thinks as they: ) finding one's place in society involves compromise on both sides.

I recognize that there is some tension between my respect of citizenship and immigration boundaries and my generally welcoming foreign people and cultures. This is likely to come up again when I summarize my thoughts on other topics and may reveal inconsistent thinking. However, the above is already quite enough for one journal entry.
mtbc: maze C (black-yellow)
Back in May I had mentioned, More recently in working on extending our server's permissions system and especially in then fixing the performance issues I thus caused, I have not been at all sure how many weeks the work would take nor how possible I would find it at all, which of course is a stressful uncertainty. I now seem to be back in that joyless realm.

The server permissions work that I am doing was meant to have been released long ago. Enforcing a later hard security requirement caused some performance issues that took me some weeks to investigate and fix or at least work around. The release date was pushed to what is now fairly soon and more performance issues have raised their head, thanks in part to tougher testing that I recently suggested. I noted some ideas that may help but, as has been typical, luck has not smiled upon me which may be par for the course when wrestling complex legacy code, based on an equally complex enterprise software stack, so that it can manage current-scale data such as the Image Data Resource. I still have more ideas to try, perhaps even more to have, but I cannot promise to fix the issues on time nor am I sure that it would take less than a fundamental redesign.

On the one hand, my coworkers understand that I am wrestling with difficult issues and will help where they can. Just today one of them took one another task off my plate and has probably finished it off. On the other hand, being ongoingly at the center of delayed code with significant technical risk does not leave me feeling comfortably relaxed.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
In these modern times the in-flight movie now appears to be delivered via an app that one downloads to one's tablet before the cabin doors close, though I instead spent the flight chatting to a retired elementary school teacher.

I am certainly appreciating my current summer vacation in central Michigan. There are trails for walking or bicycling through woodland, hot sunny days punctuated by thunderstorms, affordable detached homes, a wire mesh screen over the sliding door so I can have breeze without insects. I am speedily and comprehensively reminded of why I intend to return to the US once my children are grown and making lives of their own: I feel very pleasantly at home here.

Update: It may seem trivial but I am also enjoying soft drinks not containing artificial sweeteners.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I am noticing how attractive I find the idea of subscribing to some coherent ideology. That I have not done so may be much more due to an inability to accept such a belief system rather than my reluctance to. The idea of being persuaded of some unambiguous meaning in life, some goal that tells me what to do and what is worth it to get there, especially if somebody else has already done the hard thinking for me and provided like-minded comrades, is very appealing. In this year's elections I had to again research parties and manifestoes and candidates not because I am proudly independent but just because I have a hard time buying others' thinking, certainly as a complex package. I already knew that I am persistently doubtful about everything from theism to capitalism but I do not think that I had properly noticed how much I would have liked more certainty about fundamental beliefs.

A nice thing about having children is that I find I can draw some confidence in action from that I want to serve their interests. That feeling may be an irrational product of natural selection but at least it is guidance that I actually feel able to buy into.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
My dreams rarely feature much emotion. I often dream of perilous situations but, despite the mortal danger, they are not frightening, just excitingly tense. I had mentioned how I often dream of people who are not part of my real life. For example, I sometimes dream of Anna with whom I have a good romantic relationship. I can be sad when I awaken because I thought that Anna existed and now I am awake I realize that she is fictional so there is a sense of loss but during the actual dream I am doing fine and life is good.

I had a surprise last night in dreaming of a different romantic partner where I experienced great sorrow in the dream itself. She was quite different from Anna: more cheerful and energetic, helpful and encouraging, less intellectual and sophisticated, in looks a little darker and heavier with broader features. She feels familiar but I cannot yet think of anybody on whom she is obviously based. Also, she was quite clearly contemporary, English-speaking and we lived in the West; with Anna it is always in Russian and possibly many decades in the past.

Anyhow, in the dream my wife had died quite suddenly, maybe in her late thirties, and I was thus widowed. I was visiting her family and in the course of that visit I was arranging and cleaning something for her grandmother. The grandmother remarked on how my late wife had always kept that item of her grandmother's so clean and nice and this comment felt very much like her, that she would be doing thoughtful but practical things for her family, so that caused me considerable upset in vividly reminding me of how she used to be and how lucky we had been to have her as a positive force in our lives.

As it is, that she had been such a joy to share life with turns out to be entirely fictional; I do not even remember her name. This journal entry becomes her only memorial. How strange our brains are. I did have a headache arrive yesterday evening and mostly depart this morning so perhaps that pain somehow became an emotional discomfort in the dream.

Update: Fortunately the night after I am back to dreams about non-scary peril. The following morning when I awoke, in my dream I had reached my laboratory and was turning my attention to barricading the door after sending one of my students for bottled water in anticipation of having to hold out against the sudden spread of aggressive zombies.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
I realized a little of why I do not make much progress on the projects I want to get on with on computers at home. I am comparing with my productivity at work but there I get to focus for a few hours at a time on a task. The kinds of projects I want to pursue at home take enough thought, and use rusty enough skills, that it takes me an hour's work just to properly get back into them and gain some momentum. By that time it is pretty much time for me to wrap up and come do something with my family, with whom I do want to get to spend time.

This is why I still manage to do jobs like posting entries to this journal: it is the kind of thing I can switch right into with little preparation and handle in a shorter span of time. Yesterday [personal profile] mst3kmoxie kindly handled the children's afternoon visit to Dundee which gave me time at home that mostly went into upgrading our OpenBSD machines to v6.1, a slightly fiddly process. I manage to keep on top of these maintenance tasks, I just don't get to make the additional time around job and family and sleep to really push forward on anything. I do need to do something because my present job is not secure and by this point is not really advancing my own career, though I am likely to soon be learning about Vert.x and at least my paid work helps scientists.

On reflection, there are a couple of solutions. I do not make the progress even with smaller-scale easier-to-start tasks that I should, even if I enjoy them, so there is something to address there; maybe I could better notice what it is that I am doing instead though that may often simply be feeling tired. I also waste time in being available to my family at times when none of them feel interactive: perhaps I need to actually plan family time a bit better and remind of my interruptibility at other times. Further, I might need to more firmly set aside a long solid chunk of some weekend day toward useful ends so that the getting-started time does not dominate.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I am very left-handed: I am not one of these people who does a couple of things right-handed because that's how they were taught to me, it's more like if I try to use my right hand for long for something then it can make me start to feel peculiarly agitated. Except, I've noticed, for trimming my facial hair: my moustache, around the top of my ears, whatever, I am looking in the mirror and using my right hand. It's a fairly brief use, of course. Still, I wonder if others also use their nondominant hand for such.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I have been feeling better over this week. I developed the theory that I perhaps had some low-grade infection that was dragging me down for a while. In recent days I may have had more mild headaches but I have generally been back to usual levels of alertness and enthusiasm.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
I recently mentioned how it had taken all my willpower to get through even that gentler workout. I did not even get that far after work today: I started my workout and was doing as usual physically but I just so could not be bothered with the whole thing and did only a small fraction of it. I felt fed up with doing so many things that I do not want to but feel I ought.

On Sunday I had also mentioned feeling tired. That has been lasting. I have been sleeping fine, well at least solidly unconscious overnight. Still, I have felt tired over the day. In my ongoing effort to familiarize myself with more American literature I am reading John Gardner's The Sunlight Dialogues before bed; last night I forewent that and just laid down to sleep.

I am perhaps suffering some accumulated frustration that my life is not as I would like. I am much more constrained now than I hope to be in the long term but it is the present I inhabit. A lot of what I do with my time is not too bad but is not what I would have chosen. I do try to appreciate how very lucky I am: I have enjoyed sunshine lately, my children are happy and healthy, [personal profile] mst3kmoxie kindly finds and makes us various food, my colleagues at work are nice, the work I do is useful to many, others in my team bear stresses that I am glad in my role to evade, etc. For other personal reasons that I suspect of being relevant, it is an awkward time of year for me so that may simply pass. I envy my children their full-time schooling: yesterday I walked past the Al-Maktoum College advertising courses in Arabic and noted that such has no chance of even making it on to my to-do list.

I indulge a little in pleasant distractions. For example, I enjoy writing in this journal and I watch some television, tonight's being the latest Have I Got News for You (1990). I know that with more spare time at home and less to distract me I would get on with productive things that please me but that is hardly a new thought. My current plan is the usual of just hanging in there and remembering that life is full of surprises.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
When I am in the US I have a strong sense of the state and national identity of my location: I look around and, in terms of what goes on and what applies, local custom and jurisdiction feature strongly in my thinking. I do not have this sense when I am in Britain and I am puzzling over why not.

Scottish law is interestingly different to English law, just as my children now experience the Scottish education system which is unlike anything I knew. I had not been to Scotland before interviewing for my current job. There is no shortage of mention of Scotland on various signs and documents. Both the Scottish and UK independence referenda demonstrate that native residents retain a strong sense of local identity. There are various local customs and foods. It is not as if I am much less familiar with the US: I have spent most of my adult life there and my impressions of it even before first living there were generally confirmed over time.

Still, when I live in, say, Ohio, I am very aware of that it is where I am, as if it brings a welcome sense of extra meaning into my existence. Maybe the difference is that more of one's rights in the US are codified explicitly in a way that conservatives may even regard as being sacred. Or, perhaps Scotland is quite like England and that I spent my childhood in England makes me less conscious of my locality when I am in Britain. It doesn't make sense to me, anyway: I do not see what, say, Scotland lacks that would from day to day make me take for granted that I am here.

I have wondered if civil liberties could provide a clue. The EU has a strong sense of personal privacy from the point of view of confidentiality. The US has a strong sense of personal freedom from tyrannical or even needlessly prescriptive authority. I do not especially notice the UK culturally exhibiting much of either, except perhaps when inventing complaints about the EU, so is that an aspect of what I am missing here? To what extent does it generalize to other social issues? Or maybe it is just about how patriotic people are: after all, for Americans July 4th is a major holiday but in England they do not even get St George's Day off work.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
I am feeling a bit better today. I didn't awaken too early: it was probably 7h30 before I got out of bed. I dropped the children off in Dundee this morning and [personal profile] mst3kmoxie is kindly staying there this afternoon and bringing them home. I indulged in a long bath after I worked out. I don't plan to push myself: I think today I'll just catch up on my filing, trim my fingernails, run some laundry, whatever. If the weather outdoors doesn't seem lovely tomorrow then I may then be a bit more ambitious and do some wiping and cleaning around the house but also take time to relax.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I have been quieter lately through feeling tired and irritable. I am usually at my desk by 8h or so and, in fasting, I don't take time for lunch, but I don't want to leave too weirdly early so I usually stay until 16h30 or so. Sometimes I stay later, for example on Tuesday I stayed beyond 17h because, as I was wrapping up, a series of three people came to ask me things. This is okay, I like to be helpful, but it did mean a longer workday.

Unfortunately, I awoke rather prematurely on Wednesday. I do not make much use at home of unexpected morning time because I am distracted by knowing that I have to leave the house so I just head to work unusually early. Over the afternoon I had a migraine, though not quite bad enough to prevent me from working, and on the way home I had a detour via the doctor's office which added maybe a half-hour to my trip, so that became a long day indeed. Yesterday I again awoke well before the alarm and started my workday correspondingly early.

An early workday makes sense for me. )

I have wondered if, though I do not eat at lunchtime, I could instead use the time well for some other personal task. I am not sure what that might be, though. Especially, I like to keep my own work separate from my paid work, on different computers, but I do not want to risk routinely bringing my own laptop into work. I do at least sometimes take a brief walk, as I did today to the mailbox.

Recently my work has been difficult. )

I have also been unusually busy at home. For example, last Saturday one of my children needed to be in Dundee all day and tomorrow they both need to be. So, that is basically a day of the weekend rather perturbed. I thus wonder if everything has added up to push me a little over a tipping point lately.

Feeling myself to be much inclined to utter screw this and let chips fall, I skipped exercising for a couple of days and have instead treated myself a little: for instance, after exercising yesterday I took a bath instead of a quick shower. Today I felt somewhat better. Not only did I sleep for longer but I also felt a little more enthusiastic. I did well in my exercising. Perhaps I am returning to a more tolerable state of mind but I will try not to push it too far.

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Mark T. B. Carroll

September 2017

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