Pinned toot

The thing I would most hate to lose at this point from a Twitter implosion is this:

Some thoughts I’ve been noodling on recently, from books or social media or newsletters:

  • The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has.

  • Streaming services have burned through vast fortunes to come in second to cable+broadcast in watch times. 7% for Netflix? Wow.

  • There is not, and never has been, such as a thing as a “free market.”

  • Current AI models demo well, but are proving to be less useful than most people hoped for, unless you’re a student. Doesn’t mean they’re useless, just not world-changing.

  • I’m starting to think every company with revenue of 50 billion dollars or more is too big, and needs to be broken up just because. As a start.

  • I’m very interested in the idea of a US Federal Jobs Guarantee at $15/hour.

  • If company executives could actually face penalties for their actions that exceed the profits from those actions, the world might be a better place. If they could face prison terms, it definitely would be.

Computers as tools for humans are so useful exactly *because* they can’t think and do tedious work like calculations or information storage and retrieval for humans in a *deterministic* way.

It took like nearly 90 years of digital computers to make them powerful enough to run a wasteful algorithm that pretends to think (but doesn’t) and to deliver bullshit non-deterministic results while using absurd amounts of computational and environmental resources.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe how America generally enshittifies everything over time in ways that other countries don’t, despite other countries also being capitalist. If our economic problems are caused by “capitalism,” then why are we nearly alone in experiencing them? How is capitalism making China better but the USA worse?

I think I’m circling “financialization” as a universal descriptor.

I’ve often ranted against private equity specifically, but in quite times I have to admit that there are good and bad PE firms. The legal and cultural incentives are aligned against the good ones, but they do exist. I think most of our problems are caused specifically by private equity firms financializing everything, but sometimes the call is coming from inside the house. For example, I don’t think Boeing’s current woes are PE-caused. They put MBAs in charge, and those MBAs financialized the company, leading to enshittification.

I have nothing against people with MBA degrees. I just don’t think they should be in charge.

With Tim Cook in charge of Apple, his tendency to financialize things is pushing out Apple’s long history of good stuff in ways that taint Apple and make me glad governments are digging in. It seems like the company has been in tension between good engineering and design on one side, and Tim Cook insisting that Services revenue grow on the other side, and Cook is CEO, so that side is winning.

Financialization. I’m not sure where I first picked up the word, but a search of Cory Doctorow’s site tells me he’s used it quite a bit, so possibly there, or possibly the book “These Are the Looters,” which I–well, enjoyed isn’t the word–appreciated recently.

I’‘m but one quiet voice, feeling slightly uncomfortable as people push for changes to the status quo I think are slightly too radical. I think of myself as a progressive but not a revolutionary, and I think labeling “capitalism” as inherently evil isn’t productive.

Our economic problems in the USA aren’t caused by “capitalism,” no matter how many times people say they are. As evidence, see other capitalistic countries not having the same problems. They’re caused by financialization, relentlessly making finance the ultimate arbiter of everything. That’s not uniquely an American issue, but it’s run amok here like nowhere else, and it has ruined, is ruining, or will ruin everything you enjoy about capitalism unless it is stopped.

My opinion on the current batch of “AI” services based on Large Language Models continues to develop, but I realized today one analogy for how I currently feel.

I’ve begun to feel about LLM-driven AI bots the way I feel about sudoku puzzles.

Most people think of “sudoku” as a 9x9 puzzle with 17 or more given digits arranged so that when a person adds digits to make a finished grid that includes 1-9 in each row, column, and 3x3 box, there is only one possible arrangement. Given that definition, it’s pretty easy to write software that generates such puzzles, and many, many, many people have.

Books and magazines are published filled with computer-generated puzzles, websites generate them on demand or on schedule, and while there is a technical a finite number of possible starting grids (5,472,730,538 without mirrored or rotated grids), the set feels infinite.

While I had discovered a few variants (Killer Sudoku and Sudoku-X) long ago, it was only watching Cracking the Cryptic during the pandemic that I learned there is so much more to sudoku puzzles. Even if one is limited to “classic sudoku” puzzles fitting the definition I outlined above, there is still a vast gulf between a typical computer-generated puzzle and one hand-crafted to lead the solver along a path, finding telegraphed deductions in a certain order the bring joy.

LLM-driven AI chatbots are like computer-generated sudoku puzzles.

They meet the definition of conversational communication, and follow the rules, but they lack the spark and joy of hand-crafted human communication.

I won’t do computer-generated classic sudoku puzzles any more, because once I got into the hand-crafted variety, the generated puzzles seem like a waste of time.

I think reading well-written communication, fiction or non-fiction, provides the same result: once you’ve read a good article or book, the computer-generated stuff just falls flat.

I want to tell a story about banking in these United States. It's specifically about Goldman Sachs, or Apple, but everything about banking in this country has been revealed to me to be awful. 

Since moving to this country, my partner first had accounts at Chase and Bank of America because my normal credit union wouldn’t allow her to open an account without a social security number. That was annoying, especially since Chase and BofA let her open accounts, but I understood it was an edge case. Those banks wouldn’t pay her any interest on deposits, even though income isn’t taxable at the levels of interest she was earning, but fine.

Now, though, she has a social security number, and those other banks were being incredibly difficult, so she closed those accounts and moved things to my credit union. Yay. She also opened an Apple Savings account when those first became available, because the 4.15% interest seemed appealing at the time.

She doesn’t need to access money very often, and never super-quickly, so she’d be happy enough to have a single account somewhere, but life in America seems to be hard if you don’t have both a checking and savings account, so she reluctantly has both. Plus the Apple Savings account, which is controlled by Goldman Sachs.

Occasionally she’d transfer reasonably-large amounts out of the Goldman Sachs account to the credit union to do something like buy a 9-month CD on a promotional rate, or she’d transfer reasonably-large amount in the other direction. She did this in September and October, no problems. Life was something like good.

In December, she attempted to transfer a four-digit sum to the credit union and was rejected. She tried again almost two weeks later, and was rejected again. These were smaller amounts than had gone through in the past, so we called Goldman Sachs to find out what was happening.

After some transferring around, they explained that even though my partner had previously gone through all of the necessary steps to demonstrate she controlled the account, with the two “micro-deposits” and obviously sending and receiving money multiple times, some automated system somewhere had triggered a requirement for additional validation. As they tried to explain it, Goldman Sachs now needed to know that the credit union account was in her name.

They first attempted to verify this with a three-way call, but my credit union doesn’t do three-way calls, and I agree with them.

They then said we would need to establish a link to the Goldman Sachs account from the credit union account, and somehow that was supposed to validate something in ways unclear to me.

I am still wondering why it matters that my partner’s name is on the credit union account. It is, but what business is it of Goldman Sachs? Is it not enough that she controls the account? It was enough for all previous transfers for a total of a five-digit sum of money! Why now?

Nobody can explain it to me. It’s a mysterious directive from The Computer™.

So we attempt set up the Goldman Sachs account as an external account with the credit union. As before, this involves a “micro-deposit,” but in this case we’re to give them a reference number associated with the transaction, rather than just the amount. If you have an Apple Savings account, you can already see where this is going.

Apple reports no details on any transaction. They’ll tell you the amount, the date, the time, and the name of the party involved, and that’s it. They’ll show the party involved on a map if there’s an address, and you can tap to navigate there, but if you want a reference number of any kind, you’re out of luck.

So I called again, and the friendly Goldman Sachs employee read me two very long numbers, saying she didn’t see anything that looked like the four-digit code my credit union was looking for.

And sure enough, my credit union gave me three attempts to enter the first four characters of the transactions reference code, and neither of the two codes the Goldman Sachs employee read to me worked.

So now Goldman Sachs has my partner’s money, and won’t give it to her. They won’t or can’t validate themselves to my credit union, and insist that they somehow need more validation in December than they did previously for much larger amount of money transferred.

We’ve driving to my credit union and gotten a signed letter from the bank validating that my partner owns the account in question, and that’s the next step, but after the third attempt to validate the “Marcus by Goldman Sachs” account failed, I was so upset that I had to take a short walk, so that seemed worth documenting.

Also, I have advice for two companies:

Apple, do better. You don’t need to show every transaction detail up front, but I should be able to tap to drill down and get that information without having to trust a call-center worker to read things off of a screen over the phone for me.

Goldman Sachs, stop. Stop everything. If I’m the victim of a squabble between you and Apple, as press suggests, then stop having executives who aren’t in prison. If I’m the victim of half-baked AI analysis, same. Just stop existing.

And yes, it seems like everything related to banking is worse because of laws attempting to counter money laundering, so maybe I shouldn’t blame the banks? I mean, I recently attempted to deposit cash into one of my kids’ Chase account, and was told Chase won’t let me do that because I don’t have a Chase account. That’s how they’ve chosen to comply with various “Know Your Customer” laws. My credit union would let someone show an ID to deposit cash, but Chase just said no. So is that the fault of the laws? Chase made that decision. Are the laws stupid? Probably. The Panama Papers showed that money laundering is still happening (even though the rich people who were getting away with it are still getting away with it), so the laws seem to mostly just make life harder for honest people. Is it the fault of the criminals doing money laundering? Of course. Those criminals, along with the criminals running the banks, are to blame.

Meanwhile, everything is worse.

With iOS 17, I was really impressed by how well my AirPods were handled. Gone were my frustrations of having the AirPods connect to a seemingly-random device, and having trouble manually switching to the one I actually wanted to use. With iOS 17, it seemed as if the AirPods would connect to multiple devices simultaneously, and just “move” to whichever one of them was generating sound actively. So I could watch something on my laptop while my phone sat inches away silently and my Mac mini sat a half-meter farther away also silently, and if I wanted to interrupt the movie to watch a YouTube clip, I could just hit ‘Play’ on the Mac mini, and the movie would pause on the laptop, while my AirPods started giving me the audio from the desktop. It felt magical!

A few days ago, I updated to iOS 17.2 If I could go back to whatever I was running before, I would.

Now the two computers still work the way they did before, but only if I manually disconnect the AirPods from my phone. Otherwise, the phone grabs the AirPods after about 30 seconds, despite the phone sitting silently in StandBy mode. It will pop up a widget so that I could play music if I wanted to, which I don’t. I have to manually connect the laptop to the AirPods again, which works. Then I have to hit Play on the laptop again, which works. And then about 30 seconds later: BOOM. The video pauses, I hear the tone that tells me I’ve connected to something new, and I see either the aforementioned paused music widget, or a little tiny indicator in the top center of the StandBy face indicating that it has audio output. It doesn’t. It’s silent.

It will do this at least four times in a row, which is how long it took me to give up and manually disconnect them from the phone.

This is worse than it was prior to iOS 17, which I was unhappy with at the time!

I may be one of the last people to finally watch part 3 (aka Season 2) of “Money Heist.” Which means I’m very late with this complaint, but waiting nearly 30 episodes to suddenly drop an English song into the soundtrack is jarring enough, but having it be the very recognizable acoustic guitar of “Delicate” by Damien Rice, that is a gut punch. The death of a major character hits hard enough in any case, but with that song?

An episode later, they rolled out another English song, “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire, in a much more positive moment, but then they undercut that by having another character learn about the aforementioned death and sob like a broken person.

All in all, I feel emotionally manipulated by English-language music.

The NSA now recommends cat ears and programmer socks for all software engineers.

I find myself increasingly frustrated by specific ways the American devotion to capital makes life worse, and today I realized part of why. I invited people to this country to be my family, and now I feel responsible for how I perceive this country’s failing compared to whence they came.

Musing on this, my partner interrupted me to say that things here are better, and I should stop. I needed to hear that today!

Do me a personal favor: Go into the bathroom, lock the door, look in the mirror, look yourself in the eye and say,

"I care about Black people. Their safety and freedom is important to me. They are just as human as I am. I would be comfortable working with, working for, living with, and having personal and intimate relationships with them, and I would be outraged to see innocent Black people be subject to unjust and violent treatment."

If you have any trouble saying that to yourself, in private, with nobody watching you, then you need to ask yourself why you can't say that, but you can keep saying /#alllivesmatter.

If you think we can do better, if you think we can do better together, please share this.

And you don’t have to share my post. Share its spirit. Ask, Which lives matter? Talk to the people in your life about it, ask tough questions, be thoughtful, be civil, and have debate. We must come together, because we are falling apart.



If God wanted us to have unlimited free energy He’d have put a giant fusion reactor in the sky.

Staggeringly, Chase sent me an email I am required to click to receive money electronically from my Chase credit card balance.

An email. With a link. That I must click.

I checked the website and the app, then called Chase. Not the number in the email, of course, but a number I already knew. The person I talked to confirmed that the email was legitimate, but also said that clicking that link was the only way to receive the money electronically. Not via the website, not via the app, only by clicking a link in an email.

I am having serious trouble believing this to be true, but all the evidence seems to be pointing that way.

It’s like nobody at Chase has ever heard of spam email, as if no Chase employee has to take employer-mandated training annually that explains in great detail how you should never never never click links in emails and supply banking details.

I’ll wait for the paper check in two weeks. I will never click that link. Shame on Chase for sending it!

I have spent too much of my life consoling myself. “Things could be worse.”

But you know what? Things could be better!

They don’t have to be, it isn’t inevitable, but it’s possible.

Things are better than they used to be, but they could be better still.

It is noteworthy and totally appropriate that Biden gave an in-depth interview about threats to -- and saving -- democracy to a major US news organization that, unlike almost all others, has made this a priority in its coverage: @ProPublica

Read it, please:

I stopped checking mastodon along with almost every other online endeavor for a while, and checking back in makes me realize: it’s time to get off of qoto. Every time I see certain things, I’m sorry I ever signed up here. I hate losing everything I posted here, but there is no joy in staying, either.

And this is why mastodon’s design tradeoffs, while fine on a technical level, are tragic on a social level. I don’t know where to go, and have no confidence that anywhere I might go won’t end up with the same issues over time.

Most people, faced with this, just stop using mastodon. I’d rather not, but other server options don’t spring readily to mind.

The list changing from three weeks ago makes me think I should note what’s there now, for when it gets better or worse. So…

White Christmas
FTA (documentary)
The Great Waldo Pepper
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Hitler: A Career (documentary)
Slap Shot
Jaws 2
The Deer Hunter
The Wiz
The Jerk
Richard Pryor Live In Concert (Standup)
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Rocky II
The Electric Horseman
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Conan the Barbarian
Rocky III
The Karate Kid
Rocky IV
The Breakfast Club
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The Karate Kid Part II
Stand By Me
The Money Pit
Adam: His Song Continues
Jaws: the Revenge
The Secret of my Success
Strange Voices
Quiet Victory
A Stoning in Fulham County
Too Young the Hero
Midnight Run
Hard Lessons
Coming to America
Uncle Buck
The Very Best of Monty Python’s Flying Circus
The Ryan White Story
Steel Magnolias
The Karate Kid Part III
Field of Dreams
Unspeakable Acts
Rocky V
In Defense of a Married Man
Out of Life
Victim of Beauty
Triumph of the Heart
A League of Their Own
Reservoir Dogs
In the Line of Fire
Groundhog Day
Sinbad: Afros & Bellbottoms (Standup)
Clear and Present Danger
Legends of the Fall
Kicking and Screaming
Sinbad: Son of a Preacher Man (Standup)
The Cable Guy
Sinbad: Nothin’ But the Funk (Standup)
Donnie Brasco
Liar Liar
Starship Troopers
The Devil’s Own
The Negotiator
Monty Python Live at Aspen
One Last Shot
Jerry Seinfeld Live on Broadway (Standup)
The Last Days (documentary)
Blue Streak
Girl Interrupted
Stuart Little

I count 85 English-language movies now that I’ve gone through them more carefully, rather than just skimming the list. That’s all Netflix carries for 1902-1999.

Plus another 68 movies not in English. Some of which are really good! But I’m trying to avoid being tricked by Netflix “stuffing” their numbers by loading a back-catalog of Hindi movies to offset their ever-dwindling collection of English-language movies.

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