Expensive empty lot
I always find it weird to see an empty lot in an expensive area.  There's a neighborhood near where I live where a bunch of houses have marble statues and curved stairs leading to their ornately decorated front doors.  But a few lots in, there's an empty lot complete with overgrown grass.  Like, what's the deal here?  No one wanted to build a nice expensive house in just that very particular space?  Is it flood-prone (that's solvable).  Haunted? 

I was at the beach in New Jersey last week, and there's an area with multimillion-dollar houses, interspersed with empty lots, directly on the waterfront.  The property taxes have to be $5000-$10000 per month, so I can't even imagine what the owners of the empty lots are doing.  I get the idea of waiting for the right offer, but come on.  And there's literally no way they're waiting to "save up" $5 million so they can build their dream house.  Either you have that kind of money or you don't. #lifestyle

Twitter alternatives
With Twitter's ongoing demise, there are a few alternatives if you're into that sort of thing (mostly short-form, mostly text-based posting and commenting): 
  • Mastodon.  It has the features and core functionality of Twitter, without all the shit.  Also without all the people, which is sort of the problem.  The other problem is that, like early blogging, it's way too tech-heavy, with lots of unnecessary jargon and new-user friction regarding servers and instances and federation and whatnot.  It's cool to have all that infrastructure, but the overwhelmingly vast majority of users don't care or need to know about it.  Just set up the system and make it easy to use.
  • Bluesky.  From what I've heard, it's great.  But it's currently in closed beta and can only be accessed with an invite code.  This is a cool idea for new products because it can generate buzz while also allowing you to iron out your technical difficulties.  But after a certain point, this is just a walled garden that most people (including myself) don't have access to.  This doesn't make me more interested in it.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  It's like walking by a country club you know you'll never be allowed to join.  People are just gonna find another thing with a door that actually opens for them.
  • Threads.  This is Facebook's entrant to the market.  I'm not a huge fan of providing Facebook with yet another source of my data which they can sell to advertisers.  Plus, I'd prefer to keep my Facebook identity separate from my Threads identity, which is possible but difficult.  Finally, all I've heard so far is that it's missing some fairly critical core functionality, which would maybe be fine for a startup, but Facebook isn't a startup anymore.
Probably the biggest blunder in all this is that Twitter has created a sort of diaspora of weird people who want to interact with the internet in this very specific way, and the fact that there are multiple alternatives that are very much not connected to each other means that the thing Twitter actually created -- community -- is no longer.  Absolute moronic fuckup, or all according to plan, depending on your point of view. #technology

Death of Twitter
Twitter is currently dying.  It was force-purchased by a megalomaniacal troll who is focused on changing its entire essence and burning it to the ground in the process.  Here are some highlights: 
  • Timeline.  They changed the timeline view from a reverse chronological list of Tweets posted by people you follow, to a randomized list of Tweets that have achieved some degree of virality (maybe) interspersed with some Tweets from some of the people you follow.
  • Verification.  They removed the core functionality of verification and replaced it with a paid subscription.  Admittedly, the verification system was sort of spotty and often came down to knowing a person who worked for Twitter.  But in the past, you could generally depend on a verified person being relatively noteworthy.
  • Ads.  There are now sooooo many ads on the timeline, as well as in individual Tweets.
  • Bots.  I was told one of the things Elon wanted to fix was the bot problem, but since he's taken over there are an innumerable number of bots, most of them porn-related which brings a nice touch of elegance (this is sarcasm).
  • Boosting.  Tweets and replies from verified users a.k.a. "blue checks" are now boosted to the top of the timeline and single Tweets, regardless of relevance or importance.
  • Name.  In a final act of breathtaking stupidly, the name "Twitter" no longer exists and what was once Twitter.com is now X.com, which is completely irrelevant and meaningless.
At least part of the appeal of Twitter was the level of access afforded to everyday people interacting with notable people.  You could, in theory, tag or comment with actors, athletes, even the president, and perhaps get a reply.  It's silly, but there has historically been no greater equalizer of access to people in power.  You weren't dealing with a press secretary or a public relations representative.  You were accessing the person or the company or the CEO directly.  Now that's all gone. 

One of the reasons for the hostile takeover had to do with conservatives feeling like their voices were being suppressed, which they weren't.  They were being suppressed because they were spreading racism and hate and promoting insurrections.  But now that any old schmuck can buy a blue check mark, all the worst voices are being equally amplified.  Twitter is just noisy static now, plus porn bots. 

Perhaps the weirdest and worst part is the rename.  It's just so arbitrary and dimwitted.  You don't need to be a business major or brand manager to know you don't change the name of a successful product.  Twitter is a brand name internet property.  It's also become a verb, like Google or FaceTime.  Speaking of Google, they sort of changed their name recently, and so did Facebook.  But in reality, they changed the name of their parent companies, shifting "Google" and "Facebook" into their portfolio of products.  If X.com is a parent company, you don't remove the name "Twitter" unless you're an idiot.  Or unless you're trying to eliminate the legal liability associated with the name Twitter, which is a neat little conspiracy theory. 

Actually my favorite conspiracy theory regarding this whole thing is that Elon lost his government security clearance when he smoked pot on the Joe Rogan podcast.  This jeopardized his ability to do business as a rocket launch provider for spy satellites for the military and intelligence communities.  At the same time, the military and politicians around the world were getting uncomfortable with how easy it was to use Twitter to organize mass protests and uprisings.  So they blackmailed Elon into buying Twitter (something he had said he wanted to do) to retain his government contracts, knowing he'd reduce Twitter to smoldering ruins because he's an idiot and a troll.  And here we are. #technology

House-selling is emotional
Having sold my house and moved recently, I was surprised how emotional the process was.  It's weird because it's essentially just a financial transaction, and if there's anyone who can have zero feelings about something, it's me.  But to work with a realtor who tells you how much money your house is worth, then to deal with potential buyers who try to low-ball offer you 80% of that price, then to haggle with a prospective buyer about all the things you should fix before they buy it, it's just a lot.  Part of it was that we were selling at sort of the tail end of the market high, so prices were naturally dropping.  But to see your neighbor's house sell for one price a month before yours, and they had literally all the same features and upgrades and everything, and then to see your house's price drop for literally no reason other than "market forces" felt like very dumb bullshit.  I almost wished I could've just paid someone to take care of all that nonsense for me and tell me the final price at the end.  But then I would've wished I'd been more involved because of my dumb emotions.  Yuck. 

I think part of it had to do with the fact that that house was sort of my dream house.  It had all the things I wanted in a house, and after moving into it I planned to live there until I died, at least partly because the moving process had been so absurdly unenjoyable.  Moving out of the house prior to that one felt like getting out of a toxic relationship.  Moving out of this house felt like losing something special.  Like breaking up with someone vs. being broken up with. 

The other thing is that a house is a physical structure you live in.  But by living in it and making improvements and remodeling and painting the walls and hanging pictures, it becomes a home.  Home is where you live, it's where you sleep, it's where you feel safe.  It's where you eat dinner, watch TV, and celebrate holidays.  A home is a house with emotions. 

This move sort of came out of nowhere, so it didn't feel like we were ready to leave.  And this isn't to say I wish it didn't happen or that I'm not happy in my new home.  But I think the magnitude of the process, and the shittiness of the experience, plus the accelerated rate sort of amplified the emotions of it all. #lifestyle

Condensed liberal arts program
I went to an engineering school for college -- an Institute of Technology.  The majors they offered were engineering, science, or math.  I took a few mandatory electives, like English literature and whatnot.  I even had a few fun classes on psychology and philosophy, which were a nice little break from calculus and physics.  At the time I viewed college essentially as job training.  Teach me the skills I'll need to get a job in an industry.  And that's what it did.  I remember talking to some friends who went to normal colleges and took esoteric classes on the history of religion and things like that which served no purpose per se, but introduced some far out ideas that were perhaps worth considering.  I thought that sounded dumb. 

Now that I'm a little older, I sometimes find myself wishing I had a broader understanding of general topics of interest that normal people learn in normal colleges.  I sort of wish I could get a condensed liberal arts education in like a week long video course.  Ya know, art history, comparative literature, women's studies.  Things that don't serve an immediate purpose, but are just good things to know at least a little about.  There's value in knowing things, not necessarily monetary value and not necessarily immediate, but still. 

Related:  Economics vs. knowledge #education

Parking economics
Parking is a thing that sometimes doesn't follow the normal laws of economics.  Paid parking makes sense in crowded cities where there's limited real estate and lots of potential users.  Plus the price is roughly correlated to demand.  That's how supply-side economics works.  And the price and availability are a disincentive to use the service; sort of a double-win. 

I went to a minor league baseball game recently, and it was completely the opposite.  The price for parking was constant, so it's completely unrelated to demand.  And the supply was plentiful, so it's not like they were discouraging it.  Plus it's nearly impossible to do anything other than drive to this place; there aren't other options.  I guess it was simply so they could keep their ticket prices low while still maintaining a profit.  A shitty practice. #money

Wet-bulb temperature
Since this has been coming up a lot lately,
The wet-bulb temperature is the temperature read by a thermometer covered in water-soaked cloth over which air is passed.  The wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be reached under current ambient conditions by the evaporation of water only.

Even heat-adapted people cannot carry out normal outdoor activities past a wet-bulb temperature of 32°C (90°F), equivalent to a heat index of 55°C (131°F). A reading of 35°C (95°F) -- equivalent to a heat index of 71°C (160°F) -- is considered the theoretical human survivability limit for up to six hours of exposure.
In other words, if the wet-bulb temperature gets too high, the human body loses its ability to cool down by sweating, so you can simply die from being too hot. #science

Dressing for work
There's that saying:  "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."  I've always felt like that leaves out the middle case:  If I have the job I want (and vice versa), then how should I dress?  We live in weird and modern times (or maybe it's just a function of where I've worked), but my employer has never officially specified a dress code.  They'll say things like "no open-toed shoes" or "no shorts," but that leaves a lot on the table. 

Since I worked at my last job for a while, I became sort of a subject matter expert, so my "work" preceded me in the sense that people understood what I did and what I was capable of.  My attire or physical appearance was completely irrelevant, so I mostly dressed "down" unless I was meeting with customers or whatnot. 

At my new job, I've been dressing "up" because I haven't been there long enough to have a reputation.  I feel like if my "work" doesn't yet have a voice, my outfit probably should. #business

In defense of the southeast
Call it a mid-life crisis or whatever, but I started thinking about other jobs when I turned 40.  Not for any real specific reason, but the thought that went through my head was, "If I could do what I'm currently doing but for a different overall purpose or from a different geographic area, that might be neat." 

So anyway, what this all boiled down to was:  Where do I want to live?  I lived in New Jersey forever and I've seen enough snow for a lifetime, so that rules out anywhere north.  You literally couldn't pay me enough money to live anywhere in the midwest, what with its overarching wet, gray aesthetic and general flatness.  Florida seems cool, except hurricanes.  Plus it'll be underwater in a decade or so.  Texas might be cool, except it doesn't exactly fit my ... vibe (or vice versa).  Utah and Colorado are a little too remote for my comfort.  Arizona is a literal fiery hellscape (which is very nice to visit).  California would be great, but I might not be able to afford a house, plus traffic.  Hawaii would be awesome but I probably wouldn't see any of my friends or family again (mixed feelings). 

What's left is the southeast.  I'm a new resident so this might be a little premature, but the southeast has a lot of good features: 
  • longer summers, milder winters
  • proximity to major cities (Nashville, Atlanta, etc.)
  • access to beaches (4-5 hours away)
  • near some mountains (feels like home for me)
  • low taxes
  • plenty of jobs/industry
  • friendly people
  • college football
I don't want to speak too soon, but I kinda like it here. #lifestyle

Public relations vs. propaganda
I work at a place with a pretty active public relations department.  There's a heavy social media presence and plenty of company-wide emails celebrating events in the industry.  Most of it is pretty benign, but I can't help but question the difference between public relations and propaganda.  They both seem to be about branding and messaging and creating a story aimed at getting people to believe something about your organization.  It's not reporting or journalism, because it's not free from bias.  It's specifically biased to convince people to believe what you're telling them, not what they think they already know. 

One source says, "Propaganda is a deliberate attempt to persuade people to think and then behave in a manner desired by the source; public relations ... is a related process intended to enhance the relationship between an organization and the public."  The ellipsis actually says public relations is "a branch of propaganda," which I think sums it up nicely.  Another source says, "In the 1920's, propaganda renamed itself 'public relations' and is now an important function of every large business."  So I guess there you have it.  They're essentially the same thing, but the propaganda about public relations made us think they were different. #psychology

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