I Stand with Ukraine

I’ve got a couple more writings coming down the pipeline but I want to take this opportunity to announce that I stand with the people and the nation of Ukraine. We in the west should band together to support a country being bullied by the imperialist actions of a violent, expansionist power that is Russia.

From my blog to the people of Ukraine we stand with you. слава україні!

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My Hero Academia and Humanism

This season has had me busy at work but grinding a lot of anime over my lunch hour. Specifically, I decided to rewatch My Hero Academia in order to get current. As of writing, I am a few episodes shy of the end of Season 5 and have watched the first two movies.

I think that as far as Shounen anime goes, My Hero Academia is probably my favorite one. It’s not my preferred genre but I’ve really come to like the story and general feel of the show. The superhero subject matter, bright colors and interesting character designs are compelling and entertaining. They also offer a nice break from bleak media of all other kinds. In that way it really takes me back to being a highschooler.

Something I’ve found very compelling about the show’s narrative is that its universe works well without reference to the supernatural. Now Japan is not very religious in the Western sense. We’re used to people who identify closely with a formal religion and adhere to some form of orthodoxy, however strained. As the figures from Wikipedia show, most people are irreligious while practicing a secular form of Shinto and Buddhism:

I surmise that this cultural, secular view of religion makes religious topics very accessible in Japanese media. I think this is a big part of why supernaturalism works so well in so many animes. The animistic and polytheistic nature of the religions make them very expansive for media settings. However, My Hero exceeds by not having to lean on this concept at all. The simple fact of the MHA world is that while most people have superhuman abilities; they are all still fundamentally considered human.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good.

American Humanist Association

In the world of this anime, we contend with people of all types good and bad. People are not born innately one way or the other but are defined by their environment and choices. The show emphasizes how much justice and ethics matter and symbols of these things such as All Might. It’s focused on heroes building a better world and how that is desirable to encourage growth, flourishing and creativity in humanity. The main characters Izuku Midoriya (Deku) and Katsuki Bakugo are keys to showing this growth but the myriad supporting characters as well, too many to name, all of their own facets that are growing.

My Hero Academia demonstrates that not prayers nor spirits will help you but motivated people can step up to the plate to affect real change. They can do this for the better or for the worse. People are capable of making terrible decisions for self centered reasons. They may act out of drama or a warped sense of ethics, such as the herokiller Stain. They might try to be heroic symbols have broken families or serious physical or mental maladies, such as Endeavor in the former or Twice in the latter case. Not everyone is great, but people are what they are not because they are blessed or cursed but because of their circumstances and their choices and consequences.

Members (and staff) of Class 1-A of UA High School

I find this inspiring because I feel like a lot of anime in particular leans very heavily on spiritual tropes and while I have nothing against that (I think Shinto is cool frankly) it does feel a little bit repetitive. It’s especially prevalent in the Shounen genre that My Hero Academia is apart of. Other genres, it must be said, don’t have quite as much emphasis on this. I would encourage readers to view the Amsterdam Declaration on the Humanist International website to see if I am way off base or if some of these ideals fit the world aims of the author of the series.

I hope this series stays in this vein and resists the temptation to introduce literal or figurative Deus Ex Machina because I am really enjoying it as it is.

For a little bit of fun I’ll list some of my favorite characters!

All Might – How could you not like the man, the myth, the legend and the symbol of peace himself?

Eraserhead – The stoic yet “protective in his own way” trope reminds me a bit of myself. Or so my friends say.

Uravity – My friends and I call her the ‘Cinnamon Bun’, a cute character who has an honest motivation.

Ingenium – At first I thought I would dislike him but rather than being just rules-for-rules-sake he does genuinely care about people around him and he possesses deep convictions.

Froppy – Even headed, rational and casual with a very interesting character concept and design.

Lemillion – Cheery but also very real, a prototypical All Might inheritor whose personality grows on you over time.

Ryuukyuu – Lady who can turn into a dragon? Sign me the hell up, she just checks a lot of boxes for me LOL.

Nighteye – A stern and forceful character whose impact is felt deeply in Season 4. His powers and motivates are very interesting and he leaves and impression.

Mt. Lady – Her power is turning into a giant and she’s a tiny bit of a ditz and a little bit self centered. Very real feeling character, personality wise.

Present Mic – Character who is always enthusiastic and creates loud noise as his power, a perfect analog of a good friend of mine.

Himiko Toga – A yandere villain with a unique quirk and a penchant for chaos. I’ll take it.

Herokiller Stain – A violent villain with compelling beliefs. Hard to ignore his ideological claims and criticism of society. I wish he got more play in the series though.

Principal Nezu – A quirky mastermind who is capable of weathering a storm but able to unleash crazy to teach others. Another perfect analog for a friend.

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Facebook Outage and the Day the World Stopped

Mondays are hard, they’re especially hard if your a Facebook engineer frantically, desperately trying to get your network connectivity back. Little did they know, or maybe they did know: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus are down globally.

Now I spent the day memeing this to death on Discord. Because frankly, there is no love lost for me. Where do we even begin on Facebook’s very numerous, protracted conflicts that are so long I can’t even summarize them entirely but here goes:

Ars Technica: Algorithms shouldn’t be protected by Section 230, Facebook whistleblower tells Senate

Business Insider: Facebook made money from dangerous ‘abortion reversal’ ads that targeted teens and were seen 18.4 million times

Vice: Instagram Is Still Promoting Eating Disorders and Unproven Diet Pills to Teens

Vox: Facebook is working on a new version of its popular app targeted at children under 13.


So naturally, I am not sad to see it go and see Marky Mark sweat for a whole day while in the midst of being grilled by Congress over the whistleblower’s reports. However, the outage highlights a major issue with Facebook owning all of these properties; namely the outage of WhatsApp.

For Americans not in the know, WhatsApp is a Facebook-owned chat service that took the world by storm when data plans became mainstream on phones. The reasoning for this is myriad but in general the lack of free SMS in most countries propelled it into first place globally. It holds its position as an early adopter and because these types of services, by virtue of using a data network, possess a lot more features and security than SMS ever will.


As you can imagine, this global outage has crippled economies globally who rely exclusively on WhatsApp to communicate. It has brought down numerous countries:

DW: WhatsApp and Facebook outage sparks confusion in Africa

NPR: More than social media: The WhatsApp outage affected small businesses worldwide

So it turns out that not only has Zuck managed to ruin the world via Facebook and Instagram but now, since they’re so consolidated, an outage can shut down the world dependent on WhatsApp? I think there’s a real possibility of breakup action being considered to separate WhatsApp from Facebook before we see any hand-waiving regulation of Facebook itself. Countries are slowly going to start to seeing these sorts of outages as national security threats and either in posturing or reality, will push back against the privitization of their infrastructure in the hands of a company who just doesn’t seem to care.

The real question seems to be: How far can their reputation sink before we see something actionable? Apparently not far or fast enough, quickly enough. Facebook, after all, has nearly three billion years.

You want to speak out against them on their own platform? Best of luck on that project!

Slate: Facebook Banned Me for Life Because I Help People Use It Less

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Digimon Metaphysics

In case anyone thought I was normal, allow me to disabuse you of that notion today.

Recently I’ve been watching all of the Digimon series in chronological order, mostly as a time killer while I continue to work from home. This turns out to probably be the right choice as it looks increasingly likely that we are going to go back into lockdown, but I digress.

Today I finished Digimon Adventure 02. This is the second season of the original Digimon Adventure, which made its breakout debut in August 1999 on American TV, almost to the anniversary of this post. If you’re only nominally acquainted with the show, the basic premise is: Young children (the “digi-destined”) get sucked up into a fantastical and mysterious world known as the Digital World wherein they meet, befriend and work with fantastic creatures called Digimon. These creatures are fragments and outputs of the data in this digital world but seem to have consciousness. They can be manipulated to do evil or sometimes they are innately evil. Digimon may also evolve, but not in the linear way of Pokemon, but with a series of branching outcomes catalyzed by their specific circumstances.

The 50 episode second season builds off of the 64 episode first season, set three years later and involving an updated, rotating cast. The dubbing and voice acting is decidedly better than the first one but the storytelling is a little lackluster comparatively. It feels more akin to a sort of “monster of the week” Shounen that would have been popular in this era. The topic of this post doesn’t address the show at large but the implications at the end of this season.

Looking back on these kinds of shows, I always wonder how they would work in their given physical world. I like to figure out how the physics and philosophy come together to make up a cogent world where stakes and powers make sense because its a fun exercise in detail-oriented problem solving. The questions are going to surround the nature of digimon and the digit world and how we interface with it from the physical world.

Different seasonal arcs assert different, sometimes contradictory ideas about what exactly the digital world. Some opt for a more sci-fi “naturalist” conception trying to stick with the idea that the world is an emergent property of the super-complicated internet. Digimon game producer Habu Kazumasa asserts that digimon can be taken in an occult direction. Other content still suggests a fully “dualist” conception of the world where digimon function in a spirit world and are stand-ins for Yōkai or Japanese demons. My conception is somewhere in the middle. I assert that the digital world and digimon are emergent properties of a physical thing (the internet) that are interfaced through occult, mystical or psychological means.

Starting backwards; I think the idea that digimon are spirits from a spirit world weakens the world considerably. Subjectively and critically, it makes it challenging to set it apart from lots of other media in the same genre. Anyone well acquainted with anime from the late 90s or even the modern day is well aware of the proliferation of spirit worlds and journeys through them. Adding on the thin veneer of “computer aesthetics” cheapens the world. If we go with the assumption of a spirit we can assume a Platonic (rather than property or substance) dualism wherein spirits exist on a separate “plane” and do not interact with the material world, we have the classic philosophical problem of how souls interact with the material. That is, if we cannot detect the mechanism through which those spirits interact with the world, what makes it functionally separate from magic? This pushes Digimon too far into the fantasy category and runs up against being just another “spirit Shounen”.

The sci-fi “naturalist” approach appeals to me right away. As a software developer, its hard to ignore the fact that networks and software, while complicated, aren’t at the point of being a true universal mesh that has the complexity of something with emergent properties like consciousness. The digital world is a wholly immersive otherworld sustaining a whole ecosystem yet regularly subject to change by powerful forces. Panpsychism gives us some explanatory power here. We can assert that software, like matter, has some fundamental building block of consciousness that can be incremented to complexity. Once it achieves a certain complexity, that panpsychic result is the digital world and digimon. This is closer but we need to fill in some gaps to make it work.

Let’s say that the sufficiently complex internet of clients, servers and complicated software are so extremely complicated that some emergent consciousness-like properties could emerge from them. I could shamelessly steal the Panpsychism idea as an excuse for the emergent consciousness to arise. I think Neutral Monism could also work here where we reject the dualist split by introducing a unified substance of mind and matter:


In this third substance we can come up with some sort of bridge between the worlds if we assume that digimon act as sort of occult egregores that we can interact with. The visual representation here shows some potential applications of Platonic idealism or Neutral Monism. This opens a question about digi-vices (hand held units the main characters use) and the digi-destined kids. Are they manifesting occult powers? Perhaps they are, and by sharing their knowledge with their parents and others, they also become attuned to the knowledge of digimon and can perceive them.

The graph above suggests Platonic idealism more so than neutral monism but we can see the “idea layer” as the monistic bridge between matter and mind. That is, we visualize digimon in our collective unconsciousness rather than them literally existing in the physical plane. Furthermore, the occult and secret knowledge of digimon can spread like a sort of mind-virus to people who can see them as more than just monsters or weird phenomenons.

Perhaps the digital world is purely a product of the collective unconsciousness, an imaginary world wherein we project our desires and fears into creatures we can relate to. The ending of Digimon Adventure 02 suggests as much where everyone in the world can have digimon partners. The concept of occult psychological projections into monsters has been asserted in Pokemon. I suggest listening to this video by Placebo Magick that dives into the Pokemon application of the concept.

It’s easy to stretch this little thought experiment way past the breaking point. Overall it leaves me thinking about how we can apply psychology, occultism, mysticism and philosophy as a whole to popular media either as a fun party conversation (maybe…) or to deepen our understanding and interests in different subjects.

Shoutout to this reddit thread for inspiring the original post.

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iPhone 12, Two Months On

After I announced my move to the dark side I promised that I’d come back and offer up some thoughts. I’ve had my phone since April 22 and have some opportunities to put it through its paces. Below, I’ll summarize some good and bad points I’ve found in my personal use case.

GOOD: Device runs very smooth on long uptime. After 30 days without a reboot, the phone runs as it did on day one. I brought a reboot to update to the next version of iOS and updates as well are very smooth.

BAD: Due to the device’s physical size, battery leaves a lot to be desired. This probably the largest bad thing for me but its more of a limitation of the form factor. The physical specs of the phone remain the same as other mainline 12 models, but with a smaller battery. Unfortunately this means 8-10 hours of moderate use is enough to nearly drain the battery. I had to really eyeball on my vacation to California and I am annoyed that I am doing that on basically a brand new phone.

GOOD: iCloud. The platform is very slick, its straightforward with a simple and clear web interface and very tight integration with the device. So far I am not planning on buying a higher tier and have considered syncing my files with my Fastmail WebDAV instance because I already pay for it and so I’d get a de facto 10GB instead of 5GB without paying for more service. The cost for iCloud is good though and its a compelling offering.

BAD: Some facts of the device are extremely well hidden in the OS and its a huge pain to figure them out. When I was diagnosing my father in law’s wireless network, I wanted to eliminate a problem with the wireless bands but nowhere in the device could I see if I was connected to a 2.4 or 5 GHz band on wireless. Best of luck finding the right iOS app to see all of this information. Android exposes a lot more information to me and I do miss that.

NEUTRAL/MEH: Adapters. I thought this was going to annoy me more than I expected but mostly the lighting to jack adapters basically “just work” and stay out of the way. I don’t like having to be aware of where my adapters are but luckily I haven’t lost any or been without them yet. That said, I can’t support closing off the garden and eliminating long-held standards. Furthermore needing to buy them produces waste and locks us into a proprietary format.

NEUTRAL: iMessage. It works very well and offers a rich text communication platform right off of the bat, as long as other devices support it. Too bad you cannot customize it at all though.

GOOD: FindMyPhone. Being able to see where other users are is very useful in terms of planning or getting around town or organizing travel. I think Google has a similar experience but its not nearly as tightly integrated.

BAD: FaceID. WHY WHY get rid of the Touch ID? In a world where I have to wear masks during a pandemic, the fact that I have to key in my PIN every single time to unlock my phone is bonkers. It was so bad that even in light of the security concerns, I still shorted my PIN because its such a usage hassle. This works better if you ….surprise, buy an Apple watch, because using NFC it can approximate that you’re the owner of the device but I don’t really find this to be satisfying because they eliminated a superior technology.

SUMMARY: In short, I am decently happy with the phone but I will be honest and say that I am not yet committed to buying another one. I am still living in the Windows/Linux world and I don’t really expect to become a Mac user. I understand why people love these phones but Android 12 is coming right along and continues to modernize the UI in a way that I find pretty encouraging, at least without any deep usage of it yet. I am glad I’ve gone to the effort of trying out the platform so that I can speak more comfortably to it.

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Cloud Conundrums

It’s always an outstanding question to me about what cloud provider to use if any. If you’ve read my previous post, you know that I’ve recently migrated to an Apple device. Thus the temptation exists to move all of my files to iCloud. The prices are cheap, I don’t have to own the servers, what’s not to like? Still, that’s no guarantee of anything. Apple, like anyone else, has to answer to legal inquiries and they still have the decryption keys.

Of course if you’re the target of an ongoing FBI investigation, then no cloud is going to be safe and you should probably not break the law on someone else’s property. Putting that aside, there’s still a possibility that your account could get shut off if the host does not like the content of your files. In my head, Google is an especially bad actor in the space of privacy and Apple might be too much of a walled garden so who does that leave? Microsoft of course with their OneDrive product. After all, its tightly integrated into Windows and very useful if you have a personal Microsoft 365 account. This doesn’t mean you can’t get totally owned by them though. As evidenced by this story floating around that Microsoft is banning accounts with lude material being hosted, even if that content is legal. The blog post’s concern is substantiated by this reference to the code of conduct, section 3a.

All of these findings are pretty disheartening. All of this leads me back to hosting my own Nextcloud instance. Which, I highly recommend if you have the technical know-how and comfort to run your own Linux servers, nowadays its even more trivial to configure with snap packages on Ubuntu. I was simply hoping to minimize my footprint on the internet and have one less surface area to secure against outside threats.

At any rate, I need to come up with a solution to backup my most important files at some point, a decision will be forthcoming.

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Moving to the Dark Side

Well folks, after eleven years of Android usage which began auspiciously with the much hyped Motorola DROID line of phones, I finally did it; I switched to iOS. My Android user friends and Windows/Linux/Android fellow devs (colloquially called ‘Windroid’) gasp in horror as I pay the famed Apple tax for access to their much lauded (or maligned) walled garden.

Why did I make this change? In short, its nothing sinister nor is it a given to be permanent. For starters, Apple’s recent move to crack down on spying applications over Google’s supreme disinterest in reigning in even the worst offenders was a major motivator. The comparatively closed ecosystem allows Apple to say “my way or the highway’ and it frustrates Zuck so much that he took out full page ads in the New York Times to come and complain about it.

Apple’s attitude of selling you hardware fundamentally changes their business model; they make the process about devices. Since you’re paying a premium for the device, this means that YOU are not the product. You don’t need to have your information sold because you’ve already paid for a modicum of privacy. So no, iCloud is not analyzing all of your files and selling the useful bits to advertisers. In fact, iCloud’s privacy policy is strong but is augmented further by the fact that a lot of data never leaves your phone by default including your Face ID or Siri training. This has meant a little bit weaker support AI and voice assistance but that’s a tradeoff I was willing to make.

My hatred of Zuckerberg’s (un)ethics of Facebook is reason enough but I had a few other simple motivators, one being the simplest:

I wanted to try something new.

I’m very familiar with the Android ecosystem so it doesn’t seem fair to criticize a platform I’ve never used. I wanted to try new hardware, new software, new cloud platforms and see how tight this famed tight integration is.

Another motivation is lifecycle: Apple commits to five years of supported updates where Google can barely eke out three years, if you’re so lucky to be a much supported Google device. Incidentally, I owned a Pixel 3a before this and liked the phone but was weary it would even last that long. A fellow coworker’s 4a just bricked three weeks ago and my Nexus 6P bricked after fourteen months of usage. I didn’t want to chance it, so I sought out a different device in advance with that phone being a fallback if needed.

A device that I can own for more than the traditional 24-month cycle is not only good for the environment but is also good for my wallet. Folks often complain about the Apple tax and their relative high prices, but if my device’s cost over its lifetime is amortized over four or five years rather than two, I think these concerns melt away.

A future post is going to focus on my review of the device after a few more weeks of acclimation but for now I wanted to summarize the reason for my transition. It’s not likely that I’ll dive deeper into the Apple ecosystem because I prefer to be cloud neutral and my job requires that I retain Windows computers for work. At any rate, I am open to the bevy of comments these sorts of decisions always result in. Let em fly!

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Pop Culture Metaphysics

Over the years it seems that once in awhile we get something a little unique in our somewhat secular culture: the accusation that pop culture has secret, underlying metaphysical principles that exist to drive god fearing people away from Christianity. The Satanic Panic is archetypal of this fear but its remained extant into the modern day.

In future blog posts I am going take a look at a few of the sporadic claims attacking mostly things I personally like such as Pokemon, Dungeons and Dragons and video games writ large but I am curious to see if there are metaphysical threads that emerge between all of them. I find this question interesting because as society secularizes, we aren’t necessarily hard atheists but rather a sort of vague irreligious but spiritual category. One that is defined by capitalism, globalism, democratized access to information and content creation. I’ve been reading a few books on the subject and I have become profoundly interested in it.

For now I leave you with Seth Andrew’s fantastic talk on the original Satanic panic. Seth has such a wonderful radio-style of communication that makes him a joy to listen to. While most of his talk focuses on the 80s and early 90s its as relevant as ever.

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Extinguished by the platform

What happens if a service you lean on for a key, everyday piece of your life suddenly is wiped away? You don’t need to wonder, that happened to the Terraria developer. Quoting the linked Ars Technica article:

Three weeks ago, the official Terraria Twitter account publicly pleaded with YouTube for some kind of resolution to a recent Google account ban. The Terraria account explained, “We have not added anything new to our only YT channel (RelogicGames) in several months. However, we randomly received an email saying there was a TOS violation but that it was likely accidental and as such, the account would receive no strikes.” The Terraria Twitter account continued, “Three days later, the entire Google account (YT, Gmail, all Google apps, even every purchase made over 15 years on Google Play Store) was disabled with no warning or recourse. This account links into many business functions and as such the impact to us is quite substantial.”

This is eerily similar to tales I’ve heard from friends running YouTube channels. In the case of one friend, their channel was copyright struck after posting a video critical of a work that a media company had released. That media company had wielded the DMCA as a bludgeon against a consumer to suppress opinion of them.

Best of luck if you think that you can reach a human being to resolve issues at Google, by the way. They are pretty notorious for leaving everything to the algorithms of the system which are very opaque even to the people working on them. Andrew Spinks announced the following on Twitter:

It’s unfortunate that a high profile game was pushed to such extreme lengths but what are you supposed to do? If a relative celebrity like the developer of Terraria can’t get his issues resolved, then how could you? What if you needed tax forms or banking documents?

A couple of suggestions I have if you’re considering changes:

  1. Personal Email Domains and hosting
    • This is not a free option but it is a safe option, if you own your own domain, you can always change hosts from Gmail to Outlook to anyone else as needed without giving out a new email address. I use Fastmail and am very happy with them.
  2. Backup your files somewhere else
    • Do not leave your files with the same place you host accounts such as youtube or email, its tempting to unify these things for usability’s sake but like in this case, you may lose everything. Consider for example, if you use Gmail, back up your files on OneDrive or Dropbox.
    • I prefer neither options owned by large corporate partners so I opt to host my own Nextcloud instance on a VPS provided by Vultr. This requires a reasonably high degree of technical knowledge, especially Linux but they also have pre-configured images and a motivated person could get it working. Drop me a line if you need some help.
  3. Decentralize social media
    • I suggest perhaps doing what I do here: blog on your own site and then syndicate the feeds to other social media that way if a single account gets taken down, your site is not totally offline. This option is great especially if you’re running a business.

Rather than overload people with a big long list starting here is a first great start in decentralizing the internet again.

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Patreon Email Reception Struggles

Long story short: I cannot receive emails from patreon.com. This is a tiny problem because Patreon will not let me log in without verifying my login from an email link. Typically this isn’t a problem, except when emails don’t arrive! I use Fastmail for my personal domain email hosting. My ticket with them confirms that Patreon emails never arrive to their systems.

Sporadic checking on the internet suggests this problem happens to other people, and more frequently than I would have imagined. I’ve opened a ticket with them to days ago and bugged them on Twitter but have heard nothing so far.

I need back into that account at some point.

I’ve floated the idea of perhaps temporarily switching my email hosting to perhaps Azure/Outlook.com to see if the problem resolves itself by switching hosts but if my current host isn’t even having an attempt at receiving the emails, I have no idea how that will work.

This is a vexing problem that is starting to irritate me. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.

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