Thought Overflow…Golda’s BlogIf memes are like genes, then having a conversation in which you share ideas and come up with new ones is like…?


Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

starting some daily journal entries – these will mainly not show up on the front page, but still saved and findable. I want to pin and record more things. Today, Vancouver, taking the long way around to the AAAI conference…glad i did.

Seen and heard on the way
a woman walking on the rocky shore, i said hello, lovely shells. She answered yes, and every rock is a painting, art is everywhere. well put.

a ‘people’s castle’ but the stairway blocked, it seems a fight with city council brews

later, two Bald Eagles and a nest that a local said they come to every year. last year at eth denver i saw one, flying low over the river there.

Wandered and walked about 5 miles, took a seabus and a rented bike, then finally the venue. The views from the Vancouver Convention Centre are breathtaking. Don’t know when i used that word before, but it fits here. The conference itself wasn’t bad either…

installed neogpt between sessions, so i could feel legit, and worked on a little wrapper to have it represent a did. quite simple and hacky but its for a short workshop so, about right. a good paper about human-guided moral decision making in text-based games. glad we can still use that word, ‘moral’. it should mean something, and its a good thing to be thinking about how the agents can incorporate and measure. dinner with women in aaai (and one guy who tagged along) at a tasty Lebanese restaurant, and back in the sparkling cold along the water. Not a bad first day.

this piece makes me happy every time i reread it. it was born out of frustration with fintech bros

A Darwinian Argument

“You must die.” The woman spoke dispassionately, her face blank.

The jowly man chained at the ankle squinted across the room at her. His glasses had broken in the struggle, so were there subtle clues to read he might have missed them anyway. His face betrayed a racing chain of emotions, flickering from fear to contempt to calculation. Which of his enemies sent her? 


So my writings here are sort of musings, on the personal side as opposed to the what-the-hell-is-going-on-in-the-world side.  I also write as gvelez on medium; as wordmonkey on dailyKos; occasionally on Blog for Arizona & Hacker Noon; and once on impakter, LA Progressive and TechDirt should you wish to subject yourself…

walking over a bridge in san jose, costa rica after talking to an Israeli ex-pat in the hostel and preparing for RightsCon tomorrow, i realized why i haven’t been writing, at least one of the reasons

the work is not so much to pull a thread of sense out of my tangled thoughts – that is work, but its the good part

(oh wow as a side note wordpress has gotton so awful about interrupting while i’m trying to write, i may switch but all my things are here. moving this to a plain text editor)

the bad part, or the hard part, is framing thoughts for an audience, in particular an audience that in my opinion has actively harmful frameworks and assumptions embedded. its exhausting trying to think of how they are thinking, being bothered at it, and then trying to talk in a way that will be convincing or compelling. that is why i do not write more, i think. also where to do it and probably no one in particular wants to read it anyway! the part about voice and personableness might have not a little to do with it as well!

but back to the frameworks. the one that exhausts me most is this assumption of a “state”. i realized, to talk to someone about Afghanistan, for instance, i would say first – hold on, lets back up. the words you are using in shorthand are actively harmful constructs in my opinion, or at least not useful. lets see if we could agree on some others, to make it easier to talk without constant battle over assumptions behind terms

“government” – lets agree this no where near applies. please don’t use that word unless there is some organization that represents people and where harm has recourse. words have to mean something. i met a historian at the book festival in tucson who wanted to say it meant “control on the ground”. there is so much wrong with that.

lets start with, there are a lot of people there, many of them right now have guns and steal from and hurt many women. lets call the ones with guns who fight and work with each other to take things, lets call them mafias. the women, lets call them ‘the unlucky women’ because that is what a group called themselves who i was working with and i love that. so now, here we have a problem, some of the unlucky women are having to hide from these guys with guns, some have trouble getting enough to eat, and also they don’t have a way to cooperate safely and organize and get recognition from other communities to, you know, work and live

so lets look at this problem, that the unlucky women don’t have a safe way to deal with the orgnanizations that have resources, to have jobs and maybe “aid” – that thing that people cooperate to make available to other people in unlucky situations. and when one person is hurt or disappeared there isn’t any system to tell someone about it and make it stop – that’s called accountability, that is a good word not often misused.

if you are trying to solve this problem, then i want to talk to you. lets figure out the words, the phrases, the systems, to solve it.

and sometimes, i will try to write for the people who don’t see it this way, who see other shapes and ghosts and maybe see the world in some geopolitical calculus of moving weapons. but most of the time i dont’ want to talk to you, if that is you.

0 Thinking in the Open

Golda to Writing  

You write notes down first, then write them up.  So, this is writing down, threading out thoughts to sift through later.

Joy in work comes from meaning, and teammates – and most when colleagues share the meaning and core values, enough of the deep context, and share a level of professionalism and skill to make work fly. It is common enough to find shared professionalism or skill, harder to find the shared meaning, and a treasure when all come together. If in addition it pays something, well, it’s a plus but it makes little difference to the moment, as long as bills are handled somewhere.

Transactional markets are never going to capture this. Nor do they try to – but why do economists find it legitimate to handwave away the real reasons many of us do work?

Money, according to Economics 101, is useful as “a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a store of value, and a standard of deferred payment.” And so it is. Economics, however, if measuring real change in the world – something equivalent to the concept of work or energy in physics – should not limit itself to those patterns measurable by scalar and liquid values. I have written more about this from a values perspective in Can’t Buy Me Love. But even as a brick-and-mortor economist, wanting to explain why the buildings are built and how the code gets written, non-scalar functions are essential.

Not all patterns map to each other. A map on a flat surface cannot map to a map on a donut, no matter how you stretch it – the paths will not be the same. No matter how you change the constants in a polynomial it will not behave as a sine wave. Some things have different shapes, different dynamics.

No matter how much you pay me, you cannot create the joy I feel from creating meaningful things together, and I am not happy if I compromise a principle for money. If I define myself as a set of values, say a value equation that includes a high value for keeping my word, for caring for my children and friends, for expressing my own truth and doing work that matters to me – none of that is transactional. And therefore most of my efforts, that hopefully build things and create value, are not correctly modelled.

I do in fact work for pay, and am paid well; market forces are not irrelevent. But most of the time I am able to choose my work rather than it choosing me, without a sacrifice or transaction for the value. And fortunately my minutes are not regulated by an Amazon style timeclock ensuring that every drop is squeezed out. I hope I do my work well, as professionalism is one of my own values. But the choice of how my hours are spent, especially the working hours outside of working hours, I assert is not predictable by a model where everything has a price.

If your model is not predicting reality, it is flawed. And if your model is actually influencing rules and policy that allow for exploits that cause great harm, it is even more flawed – but that is another essay.

0 Eyes Out

Golda to Writing  

something I wrote in 2007 and just found now

Swoosh! The thrilling sound of a near-miss filled Hal Bjordman’s ears as he wrestled against the G-forces pinning him to his seat. Nothing like a game of Supersonic Pursuit to get one’s blood moving! Not really dangerous, either, if everyone obeyed the rules.

Hal turned his small craft into a nosedive out of his opponent’s likely flight path, angled into a cloud bank and reversed direction, nearly cutting his jets as he did so. It was a daring move and succeeded in surprising his opponent and best friend, Skag Elmore. Skag had done just what Hal thought, hovering
over the cloudbank in wait. Hal’s craft emerged angled perfectly, straight towards Skag’s and just below. Less than a second later, the nose of Skag’s ship was shot off, and Hal’s friend was floating ignominously down in a large white puff of chute fabric.

Later in the bar, Hal crowed gleefully while buying drinks for the two of them.

“Pure skill, I tell you – and the luck that follows. That turn in the clouds – you never even saw me coming!”

Skag smiled ruefully into Hal’s infectious grin. “You got me all right. And the last fight of the year, no less.”

“Don’t worry, Skay – not all seniors are funless wimps. We’re still ourselves, just smarter. I know for a fact that Srs. Helbourg and Gorman played Supersonic just last month.”

“Yeah.” Skag’s face was morose. “But I don’t think they enjoy it like we do – and no Senior ever would do that turn you were so happy about. Too much sense.”

“Ahh…Well, who cares! If we want to, we will – no one will stop us. And from what I hear, running the world has its own advantages.” Hal grinned lewdly.

Further conversation on the last point was dropped as a well-dressed woman came into view, by her clothes clearly a Senior but still young, in her early twenties.

“What a touching sight – two Juniors bemoaning the impending loss of their youth. Making plans for a last night’s fling, boys? The Festival should give you ample opportunity.” Sarcasm dripped from perfectly adorned red lips, literally oozing with the latest fashion in moving cosmetics.

“Hold your fire, Lady Doris – we get enough of it from your little sister. She’s jealous, what’s your excuse?”

“Civil tongue, Junior Hal. You may be Senior and Ruler-apprentice in a year, but up to tomorrow morning I’m still your better. And I can forbid you from Festival if I see fit.”

“My apologies, Lady. Cm’on, Skag – lets get outta hear before we get in more trouble – there’s no way I’m missing tonight. With your permission, Doris? No offense meant, really.” Hal’s youthful grin and sincere-looking chagrin came to his aid – for the last time? I hope not. Can’t be – though I’ve seen some
changes I never would have expected.


Festival night turned out to be, not exactly a disappointment, but not what Hal had anticipated for his last full-blown revelry as an admittedly-irresponsible youth.

It had started out well enough. Hal, Skag, and a handful of their gaming buddies joined for an early round of sense-enhancing Gira drinks in the late afternoon. After downing the clear liquid his friends’ faces seemed to glow with camraderie, and he felt immensely close to each of them. They all agreed to experience the Festival together, and to share whatever pleasures they found. Toasts were offered.

“To us – the best Rulers this world is gonna see!”

” ‘To Rule is To Serve’ – and be served!” Laughter followed the common twist of their training motto.

“And serviced!” Cheers and laughter.

“To all of us – may we never forget th’ purity, sincerity and loyalty of our youth” – this from a friend whose name Hal had forgotton, who almost never drank. He looked solemnly unsteady.

“Let’s PARTY!!” Hal shouted, afraid someone would pass out here and put a damper on the whole Festival.

They took off towards the bright lights and loud music that marked the yearly revels. They had been to Festivals before, but never as the honored graduates, for whom the whole revelry was thrown.

Hal had few clear memories of the rest of the night – though Gira enhanced the senses, it did nothing for the memory. Which was probably a good thing. He did remember bits here and there: he and Skag surrounded by five beauties from the provinces, all smiling and eager to please. They should be! For one night, a girl lucky enough to be selected for Festival made more than she would a year in the factories, or even in the low-class whorehouses.

One image disturbed him slightly. It was almost dawn, and the four of them who were still awake were searching for a final fling. They found it – or her – towards the edge of the Festival grounds. Great body, and young too. But she hadn’t been properly instructed, or something – her eyes showed fear, and though she didn’t resist, she left them all with a bad taste, like eating an unripe fruit. The eyes were still with him.

Well, that was that, anyway. His youthful frolicking was at an end, or at least was about to change character. Hal had been woken with the rest of the graduating Juniors, after an hour or two of sleep, and was now proceeding down the hall to their pre-indoctrination review. It would be nothing new. Hal was
well versed in the process of mind-immersion, having studied it in training school. He could probably give the talk himself.

The speaker started way back with the history of Praal, how there had been centuries of instability before the current Rulers came to power; how it was determined that the fault always lay with the lax younger generation that did not understand the complexities of ruling a world; and how the wise Third Ruler had come up with the brilliant idea of passing wisdom onto the young, while they still had time to use it.

“How many times,” intoned the speaker, “has a wise old man wished with all his heart: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now. Well, you Juniors won’t have to wish that, if you pay close attention with an open mind this next year.”

Hal yawned. He wished this guy would wrap it up already. Actually, if he wasn’t so sleepy, he’d be excited – he was to enter the eyes and mind of the Eleventh Ruler’s right-hand man, Elder Senior Rojan.

This was a major coup. He’d risked a lot for it, too. Juniors could list up to ten desired mentors, and most times they would get someone on the list. But Hal, the top of his class and with record-breaking aptitude results, put down only Rojan. It was even more of a risk because he knew Rojan had not wanted
to be a mentor at all, in fact only some unknown political struggle had forced him into it. But what a prize! Seeing and hearing everything old Right-hand Rojan did for a year. Knowing, if not his thoughts, then at least his emotions. Hal would emerge knowing more than anyone about the inner workings of power on Praal. Anyone, that is, except Rojan and the Eleventh Ruler himself.

The speaker was droning on, explaining the technical aspects of the process in detail, presumably for those who had ditched the entire last semester of training school. He explained how, with the body in stasis, four receptors were implanted in each Junior’s brain: one for the optic nerve, one for the olefactory bulb, one for the auditory area of the neocortex. The last one gently encircled the thalamus, emitting the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, feeling and emotion. Tactile sensations were not received directly,
but an overall sense of pain, pleasure or exertion would be experienced through the bath of chemicals flowing through the brain.

Each receptor was sensitive to a specific frequency, emitted by the matching transmitter placed in the mentor’s brain some months ago. Essentially, the mentor’s optic activity was reproduced in the Junior’s optic nerve, and the same for the other senses. The chemical detectors and emitters reproduced waves of feeling rather than specific activity. It was supposed to take some time – a week or so – for the receiver’s brain to adjust to the new signal topography, but they didn’t bring you to consciousness until then. So you
“slept” for a week, then “dreamed” for a year – except that your dream was your mentor’s reality.

Finally the lecture ended. A few last questions were asked, including one that had been bothering Hal.

“So, you have no control over anything that happens for a year? Can we contact anyone on the outside?”

“Do you control your dreams? No, of course not, the transmission is one-way. But your mentor knows you are watching, and all of our Elder Seniors are responsible individuals. Just think of it as a long, pleasant nap – and keep a receptive mind”

The Juniors groaned at the pun, and asked no more questions. Time to go.

Despite all the preparation he’d had, Hal’s palms sweated profusely.

They shuffled single file into the tank room, to be given a tranquilizer, a mild hypnotic suggestion, and to “sleep” for the next twelve months.


Urine. Stale urine. Hal’s eyes felt like they were open, but he could see nothing. What’s going on? This place stinks, it can’t be Rojan’s chambers.

A crack of light appeared. Hal wanted desparately to look around, figure out where the hell he was, but his new “eyes” barely looked up from some kind of straw pillow.

A voice spoke, seeming to come from inside his body. A short, harsh noise. A short, harsh, high-pitched noise. Oh my god. Something’s got to be wrong. That’s not any Elder Senior I’ve ever heard. Maybe this is a real dream, a first-week dream like we were warned.

Hal’s new body sat up, arms around its knees. A large hairy figure appeared in the doorway shouting some kind of invective. Hal felt a dull fear, deep weariness, and hate. Why do I hate this guy? I’ve never even met him before.

His body rose, eyes towards the floor – and he noticed he could not see his new feet, because two bumps on his chest were in the way.


Hal’s brain manufactured enough of its own shock, rage and fear transmitters to knock him from his fragile consciousness, and he blacked out.”


Golda to Writing  

I will post this. Although it may ramble, be warned – this morning I have given myself permission to simply write, a sort of private-public diary, to try to tease one noodle out of the bowl, or to follow one twisted path of thoughts up to the root.

Reading Virginia Woolf helped, I think. Though it also made me discontent again in the routine I have accepted, the one where most of my life and day goes into work for something that I don’t fundamentally care deeply about, that is not core to me. How did that happen – something to do with rent, bills, children I think. Yet it also has a benefit, this discipline, I have learned valuable patterns from it. The question is, can I find time to apply those patterns to what is core to me, before my mind becomes more fuzzy than it already is?

I have found, this past year, some threads that do feel deeply central, some possible solutions to the world that I want to try, that can be tried by a single person or a small group, that I believe can grow and live and combat some of the cancers that are so rampant right now. Pursuing these fully leaves even less time for a wandering mind, but I cannot complain – perhaps I should instead read again Child of the Dark, in which the protagonist manages to write in the early hours of darkness while spending full days gathering paper to keep hunger from her children – not always successfully.

That said, where does this thread go, if not simply in a circle?

Tied to the real world after all, which is the only anchor to keep the tangles from simply becoming clouds of worms, or utter foolishness. People. A_, G_ the families who I have made connection with in their deep pain this last year. My children, of course, my husband. But when thinking about the world, it behooves one to connect to it in a real way. And making that contact, directly with the reality of fear and grief and loss under these authoritarian regimes growing like cancer with their disgusting front philosophies that greed is somehow good, or the shallow paper tigers of ‘fighting terror’ or ‘fighting corruption’ – but not by exposing it to the light.

That contact, for a while it made it difficult for me to have normal conversations, to deal with petty issues, even to take pleasure in silliness or lighthearted play or music.

Now that has changed, and somehow the minor inconveniences and small pleasures live side by side with the feeling of being in an epic battle for freedom, truth and cooperation against greed, lies and violence.

I still worry about letting people down, not doing enough to help, or forgetting my own family in the bigger picture, or just forgetting to feed the fish. But it feels more like a flow of some kind, now that I am swimming more than thrashing, or at least I hope so.

I find I feel love for my foxhole-mates, all the others that I know and do not know, who are engaged in this same struggle one way and another. I don’t feel any need to be in charge of others, but I do think that I have some insights that I want to share – about the patterns, that its not enough to say, here are the victims, A, and the perpetrators, B, and all we need do is kill the B and give weapons to the A. Because being a victim does not make one moral, or a leader, or necessarily know all the solutions! Even very innocent victims, may envision solutions that would produce a system that can be easily gamed or taken over, or misused, by oversimplifying and directing force without feedback.

Feedback, transparency, truth, openness – these are a general pattern that protects. Simply allowing others to see, and to comment, and to say the impact they have felt, is perhaps the most general and powerful corrective mechanism. This is why, in fighting I focus on openness, of the DHS camps, or of campaign donations, and at least contact into the secret prisons.

And, telling people who do not see, who do not realize, the level of hidden violence in the world, is another thing I want to find a way to do. Not sure how to do that, the talks that I see given seem mostly insufficient, but I don’t know that I’m prepared or qualified to do better. Perhaps I’ll try anyway.

Wrote this for BlogforArizona:

How can we get the story out to enough of Arizona to vote these judges out? If everyone really understood, they would be gone…

Maybe one, maybe a handful of them, but I don’t think I’ve ever followed all of them. Even posting this here seems to break the key idea that readers are the most important part of writing, because if it were posted somewhere else maybe it would have more chance of finding readers. But I’m stubborn and like to post on my own blog.
25 Commandments for Journalists

This looks useful:

(though all the links appear to be output with the ‘:’ following the http, as of 1/6/2012)