I announced this on twitter a while back, but tomorrow I'm flying out to Nara Japan. I'll be out there all week for ICFP and all that jazz. It's been about a decade since last time I was in the Kansai region, and I can't wait. As I've done in the past, if you want to meet up for lunch or dinner, just comment below (or shoot me a tweet, email, etc).
Lots of yak shaving to work around issues with iuthesis-alt.cls. One in particular is that that class overrides
\title to do gross stuff with the raw value you give it, but that gross stuff is necessary style for the final pdf. The big problem here is that that gross stuff means you can't use
\@title anywhere else like for setting the pdftitle. Originally I was using my entitlement.sty package to get my hands on the raw input to
\title; but there's a bug where entitlement.sty also overrides that macro rather than hooking it properly. Changing it to hook properly has proved surprisingly difficult, so I just inlined the relevant parts. Still ran into issues because AMSmath's
\uppercasenonmath (used by iuthesis-alt.cls) doesn't evaluate things far enough. Managed to fix it with judicious use of
Another yak shaving issue is that the final pdf must be double spaced (okay fine) but certain chunks need to be single spaced. I've been using setspace.sty to switch the line spread as appropriate, but kept running into issues where there'd be way too much spacing whenever switching the line spread. Finally dug into the source of setspace.sty to see how it works, and managed to find out where the extra spacing was coming from. Things look much better now.
In non-yakshaving work, I wrote up the section on strong normalization of type reduction. This is the easiest of the proofs, but at least I got some content written! Also, I think I did a better job of motivating why this proof matters than in my qual paper.
This year's self-improvement goal was to get back into blogging regularly. Part of that goal was just to get back into writing regularly; the other part was specifically to publish more regularly.
I've done fairly well on the first half, actually. I'd hoped to do better, but then all year I've had to deal with spoon-draining circumstances, so I've probably done about as well as I can without sacrificing my health. One of my other self-improvement goals has been to take my health seriously, to listen to my body rather than pushing it beyond its limits. I'm on-track for improving at both of these, I just need to stop beating myself up over it.
For the second half, the publishing bit, that I've done poorly. I'd like to blame the spoon vortex here too, but really I think the biggest problem is my perfectionism. Perfectionism greatly amplifies the problem of lacking spoons: both the editing itself, as well as the emotional fallout of missing the mark or of having taken the entire day to hit it, both of these cost spoons. The real aim behind my goal to publish regularly wasn't to have more words to my name, but rather to “get out there” more, to be more productive in-and-of-itself rather than to have more products. So I've started thinking: the real target for this self-improvement goal should not be publishing regularly, but rather should be (working to) overcome perfectionism.
If perfectionism is a problem of fear, then the thing I must address is that fear. So how to do it? One of the suggestions in that article is to let yourself fail. Not to lower your unreasonable standards (the party-line for what to do), but rather to allow yourself to not meet those standards. One of my standards is to be thought provoking, and hence to focus overmuch on essays. To try and break free from this, I'm thinking to start posting summaries of my daily dissertation progress. A nanowrimo sort of thing, though without the focus on word-count per se. I've read a few articles suggesting one should start their day by summarizing the previous day's progress, but I've never tried it. So here goes nothing :)
Over the last few weeks I was interviewed for the Identity Function. The process was quite nice and got me thinking on a number of things. Some of them I may well flesh out into blog posts once I get the time. Of course, that likely won't be until the autumn given everything else going on the next couple months.
I'll be in New York from 28 June through 10 July. The first couple days are for a PI meeting, then I'll get a four-day weekend before LICS, NLCS, and LOLA. Originally the plan was to take a quick trip to Sacramento that weekend for a friend's wedding. (The wedding's still on, but plans changed.) At least this way I'll get a chance to relax, rather than running all over the place. Of course this also means I'll be spending the 4th in NYC. Historically the 4th has been one of my favorite holidays, because it was one I've always spent with friends. I don't know that any of my readers are in NYC, but if you'll be around drop me a line. Or if you used to live there and know fun things to do that weekend, let me know! (Especially any quiet end-of-Pride things.)
Me and L set the date for our final move to the Bay Area: 20 July. And then I start at Google on the 25th. Between now and then: dissertating!!
I was emailing with a friend last night, telling her all these happy stories about me & L: our engagement, the courthouse wedding, all that jazz. And I got to thinking how I never seem to share happy stories online. Whenever I feel compelled to put stuff out there it's all doom and gloom, whether it's dealing with my personal issues or addressing political problems. And all that is important. My writing is all about trying to make room for me to exist in the world —but unfortunately that means bringing up the ugly I'm trying to survive and get space from in the first place.
But y'all must get a really skewed perspective on what I'm like in person. And that's sad. I mean, yeah, this stuff is always rattling around up there, but there's also all the good stuff. I sketched a few paras on why I talk less about the good stuff, but that's what I'm talking about. Once you get good at critical analysis, it can be hard to turn off. Like anything, you gotta beware of it taking over the way you see things. I gotta practice turning it off more often.
So, I’ve been doing this interview. They’re about ready to post it so, understandably enough, the interviewer asks for a head shot. Cue the panic.
I… I’m not so good with pictures. I love taking them, love seeing pictures of other folks, but when I’m in front of the lens… it’s not good times. I often tell folks, only half-joking, that I believe cameras steal souls. Not the whole thing at once, of course. (Of course!) Just slivers and shards, which grow back in time, or chips and chunks, which maybe don’t. When you tell it right, people don’t pry for details, don’t get upset and bully you into the shot, don’t tease with that dagger in your ribs all “friends” here, don’t chastise for ruining their fun; they know it’s a joke (they know it’s not a joke). But only when you tell it right.
But they do. Steal souls, I mean. If you’re ever in doubt, just hold a camera up to my face. Watch the eyes dull, the jaw slacken, rosy cheeks go sallow, the breathing still— not stop, stopping is abrupt, rupture is resistance, and resistance is a lifewell. Just still like an unused balloon discarded on the floor, no impending movement, no impeding movement. Deflated ragdoll corpse. Might as well take the fucking picture now. The soul has already gone. You better get what I paid for.
For the longest time I never quite knew why I hated pictures. By which I mean: I knew. In that way the body knows what the mind can’t admit.
There’s the family gatherings, the unending demand for circus performance. Stand up tall next to angry father! Show your smile with abusive mother! Oh you can stand closer than that! Ooh, ooh, hug your rapist! Yeah, like that, let’s see an embrace! Now for the group shot! And the solo shots! Did we get the pairs? Let’s do another set, why not! Now with Aunt Judy’s camera! Wait no, we forgot the hallway shots, gotta do them all over again! A soulless enumeration of all possible positions, like much of Marquis de Sade. Rolls and rolls of film, back when film was a thing. Like cellulose can replace the real family with something else. The day the first in our family bought a digital camera I cursed their invention, cursed the ever-hungry void of their unending memory. But no, that’s not where it started. That’s just the acid in an already raw wound.
I’d always supposed it started with mental illness. Danielle Vintschger talks about mental illness as becoming invisible, symptoms as a way of demanding to be seen. Her article resonates strongly within me, though I find her own in/visibility skewed at queer angles to mine. Growing up in that family, the last thing you want is to be visible. Being visible means being a target. The only way to survive an abusive childhood is by learning to become invisible. Pictures are dangerous. Pictures get you noticed. Pictures risk letting out the demon of truth you hide inside your flesh. Pictures risk showing something real. The most dangerous thing in a toxic environment is to expose anything real. The real is where you keep what’s sacred to you; and anything you value is a vector of attack. You must remain phlegmatically disinterested in all things. As soon as someone guesses what’s important to you they’ll break it. They will destroy it piece by piece, in front of you to make sure you watch, to make sure whenever you think of that shredded joy you think of them and their victory over you. But not just joy, any weakness any illness you must also hide. Muffle your tears into a pillow. Cut where it can’t be seen. When you have to break down, dissociate, divorce from reality, do it somewhere else, somewhere you can leave the body safe in your absence, somewhere noone can see those disquiet moments when you leave and when you return. Never leave pictures, pictures are evidence, and all evidence will be used against you.
There’s something else too besides visibility, something evil in pictures, some contagion that leaks out and seeps in through your eyes. Muslims know this. Or perhaps the evil is already inside you, and the image merely beckons it to surface. Wherever it is, you instinctually know you must not look. But you can’t keep others from looking, so the evil gets in them. It wasn’t until a couple years ago I began to question. Maybe my problem with pictures wasn’t only from mental illness. I only began to question because I began to look.
The evil lives not just in photographs but also in mirrors. It started slowly, unintentionally, out of the corner of my eye a glimpse. You can go thirty years without looking in a mirror. Shaving, brushing your teeth or hair, you never need the mirror. At most you only ever need parts not whole, like a masseuse uncovering singular limbs to avoid seeing the body. You notice the reflection because you can’t remember the last time you saw one. Did you know bathrooms contain mirrors? The first few glimpses you turn away, pretend not to see. But it’s startling, this other person in that tiny room with you. They seem to be ignoring you too, so that’s good. In time you make peace with your bathroom double. Some days you sit with them, both not looking, becoming used to the presence. Other days it’s easier: you each go about your business, not talking but knowing how to stay out of the other’s way. Until one day you forget the rules, you turn to talk and see… someone else. She’s a girl, your bathroom double. Kinda cute, you never expected that. How strange. You could’ve sworn she’d have a different face. Something more masculine, something more hideous. As if on cue her face begins to droop and swirl, bits melting into other bits, all come undone. You look away before it’s too late. The next few days she isn’t there. You kinda feel lonely, but also kinda feel relief. Eventually she comes back, in furtive glimpses. When she seems calmer, you sit silent with her, apologizing without words. The second time, you ask before you look. Over years —and it does take years— you build a tentative trust. You can look at her now. You’re not sure where the evil went, but you no longer need to hide from mirrors. You’re not sure anything requiring such powerful trust can ever be called “safe”, but maybe safe is something you can build.
It all makes sense now. Of course my hatred of photos is all tied up in dysphoria. (Of course!) But as I said: the body knows how to hide the things your mind can’t admit. Like it hid all those mirrors I never noticed.
Yes, I came to terms with being trans years upon years ago. But acceptance does not cure dysphoria. The longer I accepted being trans the deeper my dysphoria got, until the day I started correcting the hormone imbalance destroying my body and mind. The dysthymia and depression lifted immediately, but the longer-term psychological damage takes more time to recover. I was on HRT a year and a half, or so, before I started catching those first mirror glimpses. At three, I can look without the image going all melty. Sometimes, (sometimes,) I can look at photographs and not see the hideous thing I grew up with. Sometimes, (sometimes,) I think maybe pictures don’t always have to lie.
It is a mental illness this dysmorphia, this problem with reflections, this inability to see the self as others see it. It’s a hallmark of schizophrenia, the fear of portals consuming souls, the fear of what dangerous things lie beyond the looking glass. But it’s not just the schizoid, it also shows up in anxiety. My wife sometimes has problems with windows at night, they reflect you see. But it also shows up with eating disorders. But it also shows up with so many things. Which is why I cite Islam. The justification for the interdiction against images of humans is avoidance of idolatry, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s some other reason, something more they know. Islam also requires the immediate disposal of hair and fingernail trimmings; things which are uncanny, things which disturb and disgust when encountered unexpectedly.
The dysmorphia goes beyond dysphoria; which is to say, it’s not just being trans. I follow plenty of trans ladies who post the most gorgeous selfies. And while I do not know their minds, many post without comment so I can’t help but to think they do not suffer the same demons. But then, many others do post with comment. Selfies can be a form of radical self-love, an act of reclaiming the body that has been denied us so long, an act of resistance against the perpetual bombardment of messages telling us we’re ugly, telling us we’re not good enough, telling us we don’t have the right kind of shape. This need for self-love is not just for trans women, but also black women, but also disabled women, but also all women.
Sometimes I think, “I want this love. I deserve this love.” Then the world reminds me: pictures are dangerous. Living as a woman online is dangerous; especially as an outspoken woman, a difficult woman, a challenging woman. Clades like GG and 4chan seek out women like me for destruction. Pictures are evidence and all evidence will be used against you. I’ve spent my whole life trying to break away from my family, from the invisibility they instilled in me, from the perpetual need to annihilate the self. I need this love, but I know not where to find it. Taking pictures at all is hard enough, the idea of sharing them fills me with terror. I’ve spent my whole life breaking away from how others see my body. My whole life breaking away from the pain that body caused my mind. I know not how to love the body. Know not how to see the body as more than mere possession, how to see the body as the very self. Growing up I was taught the greatest sin is the love of self. And though I’ve discarded Christianity, it’s much harder to discard their commandment to hate thyself.
Sometimes I think, “I need this love.” But how does one overcome the terror?
Got depressed for a week or so just recently. Doing better now. No reason motivating the episode, just came out of nowhere— like the last time, a couple months back. Having lived with depression my whole life, there’s usually a reason; I mean, not an actual reason necessarily, but my mind will always find something to fixate on and call the reason. So the fact that it hasn’t these last couple times is strange in the extreme. As is the fact that the episodes have ended just as abruptly as they began. The first time around I was thinking the differences may be because of transitioning; depression is biochemical and changes as we age, so of course things’ll be different after upending your hormones.
But now I’m almost 100% certain it’s “because of transitioning” for a different reason. A while back I switched to a form of estradiol where you get a pellet implanted every few months (as opposed to taking pills twice a day or patches/injections every few days). You’ll notice this “couplefew months” bit sounds familiar… How long the pellets last varies per person, with a prior expectation of three months. The first time around I went that three months; and was depressed for a bit over a month at the end (which is absurdly short for my depressive spells). The second time around, this time around, I went 10 weeks; and was depressed for “two” weeks. I put the two in scarequotes because a week into it L suggested it may be hormonal, so I started taking some of my leftover pills. And began feeling profoundly better after a day or two. Got the new pellet today and can already feel its effect above and beyond the irregularities of pills. Next time I’m aiming for 8 weeks.
So, yeah. I’ve known T / lack of E is a major component of my depression. When I first started HRT I almost immediately started feeling happier than I’d ever been. I often joke how HRT is the best antidepressant I’ve ever tried. (Which is a lot funnier when talking to my psychiatrist, who knows how many I’ve tried and saw how quickly & effectively HRT worked.) But yeah, apparently it’s far more integral than I ever realized. The effects are just so immediate and drastic. They set in long before the hotflashes, headaches, and other symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
So for any other ladies out there on pellets —whether trans or on HRT for other reasons (and I’m sure this applies to men too)— if your depression returns in the vicinity of when you’re due for a new pellet, do be sure to consider that as a possible cause and adjust your schedule as appropriate.
Life’s been really hectic lately, but I’ve been getting (slowly) back into working on my Haskell packages. In particular, since the switch from darcs to github I’ve started getting more comments and feature requests, which is nice. Over the next half-year or so, here’s what I’ll be up to in my free time between work on the dissertation and work on Hakaru:
containers — I’ve been appointed one of the new co-maintainers of our favorite venerable library. I prolly won’t be doing any major work until autumn (as mentioned when I was appointed), but I’ve had a number of conversations with David Feuer about where to take things in terms of cleaning up some old maintenance cruft.
bytestring-trie — A few years back I started reimplementing my tries to use Bagwell’s Array Mapped Tries in lieu of Okasaki’s Big-Endian Patricia Tries, but then got stalled because life. I’ve started up on it again, and it’s just about ready to be released after a few more tweaks. Also, now that I’m working on it again I can finally clear out the backlog of API requests (sorry folks!).
exact-combinatorics — A user recently pointed me towards a new fast implementation of factorial making waves lately. It’s not clear just yet whether it’ll be faster than the current implementation, but should be easy enough to get going and run some benchmarks.
unification-fd — This one isn’t hacking so much as dissemination. I have a backlog of queries about why things are the way they are, which I need to address; and I’ve been meaning to continue the tutorial about how to use this library for your unification needs.
logfloat — We’ve been using this a lot in Hakaru, and there are a few performance tweaks I think I can add. The main optimization area is trying to minimize the conditionals for detecting edge cases. The biggest issue has just been coming up with some decent benchmarks. The problem, of course, is that most programs making use of logfloats do a lot of other work too so it can be tricky to detect the actual effect of changes. I think this is something Hakaru can help a lot with since it makes it easy to construct all sorts of new models.
All this stuff is "well known", but I want to put it out there for folks who may not have encountered it, or not encountered it all together in one picture.
The Damas–Hindley–Milner type system (i.e., the type system that Algorithm W is inferring types for) is propositional logic extended with rank-1 second-order universal quantifiers. It is interesting because it is so particularly stable with respect to inference, decidability, etc. That is, we can come up with many other algorithms besides Algorithm W and they enjoy nice properties like the fact that adding type signatures won't cause inference to fail. (It's worth noting, that Algorithm W is DEXPTIME-complete; so while in practice it's often linear time, for pathological inputs it can take exponentially long. However, if we put a constant bound on the depth of nested let-bindings, then the upper bound becomes polynomial.)
The extension of DHM with rank-1 second-order existential quantifiers is strictly more powerful. It is interesting because it allows unrestricted use of both of the quantifiers in prenex position; thus, it is the limit/top of the alternating quantifier hierarchy (à la the arithmetical hierarchy) that starts with DHM. Surely there are other interesting properties here, but this system is understudied relative to the ones above and below. Edit: Although GHC gets by with encoding existentials away, it's worth noting that MLF allows existentials where the unpacking is implicit rather than requiring an "unseal" or case eliminator (Leijen 2006); and also that UHC does in fact offer first-class existentials (Dijkstra 2005).
The extension with rank-2 second-order universals (i.e., where the universal quantifier can appear to the left of one function arrow) is strictly more powerful still. Here we can encode rank-1 existentials, but my point in this whole post is to point out that rank-1 existentials themselves are strictly weaker than the rank-2 universals it takes to encode them! Also, one little-known fact: this type system is interesting because it is the last one in this progression where type inference is decidable. The decidability of rank-2 universal quantification is part of the reason why GHC distinguishes between
-XRankNTypes. Alas, although inference is decidable —and thus of mathematical interest— it is not decidable in the same robust way that DHM is. That is, if we care about human factors like good error messages or not breaking when the user adds type signatures, then we don't get those properties here. Still, the fact that this system is at the cusp of decidable inference is important to know. Edit: Also of interest, this system has the same typeable terms as simply-typed λ-calculus with rank-2 intersection types, and the type inference problem here is fundamentally DEXPTIME-complete (Jim 1995).
Things keep alternating back and forth between existentials and universals of each rank; so far as I'm aware, none of these systems are of any particular interest until we hit the limit: rank-ω (aka: rank-N) second-order quantification. This type system is often called "System F", but that's a misnomer. It is important to differentiate between the syntactic system (i.e., actual System F) we're inferring types for, vs the type system (aka: propositional logic with second-order quantifiers) in which the inferred types live. That is, we can perfectly well have a syntactic system which doesn't have explicit type abstractions/applications but for which we still ascribe rank-ω types. It so happens that the type inference problem is undecidable for that syntactic system, but it was already undecidable way back at rank-3 so the undecidability isn't particularly novel.
I’ve been trying to write a post. Been trying to write a hundred posts, but it’s all a tangle, whenever I try pulling one of the threads the whole ball knots up. Don’t know where to begin, because where can you start when the disease began before you entered the world, because what can you say when you’ve spent so long convincing yourself you have nothing to say? That tangle of where to start, seems like it’s the sort of thing that only ever goes away after you’ve already been talking. I never knew where to start with my psychic pain, back when I joined Bodies Under Siege, I only learned the words for everything I felt after talking so long with other survivors. But back then I had the luxury of anonymity. Had the freedom to explore the boundaries of myself in that anonymized community without worry for repercussions.
Having spent so long convincing myself I’ve nothing to say, it’s like I can’t speak my current mind without first unleashing that backlogged torrent. But I think, really, it’s all ableism. It’s this,… this,… we spend so much time denying the voices of the disabled, I feel like I’m not allowed to speak, feel like before I can claim that mantle I must first earn my street cred. Like, before I can write my post on living with chronic pain, first I must quantify for you what that pain is like lest you don’t believe I have it. Like, before I can write my post on invisibility, I can’t tell you how I’ve been trained to invisibilize myself without also first convincing you there’s something to be hidden beneath that cloak. Like, before I can write my post on internalized ableism, I have to have already told you my whole story —a story over a third of a century in the making, but also a story tangled up in so many other things that aren’t disability but which intersect with my disability. But I can’t tell you that story, not the way I see it, without telling it through the lens of the ableism of which I wished to speak.
But all this inability to speak before having spoken, I know it’s just ableism. Know it’s a tool of the able-bodied system, a tool they beat into us when we’re young, to make sure those who don’t fit the mould stay silent. It’s why I don’t comment or complain about a daily level of pain that’s high enough that OTC painkillers no longer help. It’s why when I do bring up out of the ordinary pain, I’m never believed; doctors are all, “it can’t be that bad if you’re only just mentioning it. Try some advil.” Just exactly like the police to a survivor of rape, “it can’t be all that bad if you’re only just mentioning it. Try not wearing slutty clothes.” And it’s not even the pain that worries me. It’s the feeling of inadequacy. Ableism is the belief that everyone already meets some standard specification of ability and productivity, that anyone who doesn’t measure up is just lazy, is cheating the system, isn’t shouldering their allocated duties, is a burden on the good responsible people, that those who truly “through no fault of their own” can’t reach those specifications are so rare that if you were one you’d already know and you’d never question so why don’t you just suck it up already. It’s the Protestant work ethic that says no matter how hard you work it’s never good enough. It’s why we feel like frauds, why we work so hard it breaks us, for fear of falling behind, for fear of losing everything because of a bad day. It’s that other impostor syndrome, the one that no matter how bad things get you can’t ever shake the worry that it’s all “in your head”, that you’re “making it up for sympathy”, that “it’s really not that bad”.
And all of this is why I can’t even begin to speak. For my experiences of ableism are all filtered through being a survivor of rape, being a survivor of a conservative Christian childhood, being a survivor of psychological torture and gaslighting, being a woman, being queer, and I can’t but draw the obvious and necessary parallels, but those parallels only elucidate if you too have survived these things.
Usually whenever we think about gradschool we think about the switch from "doing classwork, quals, etc" to "dissertating" is a single-step process, which we call "becoming a PhD candidate" (as opposed to being a PhD student). In practice there are over half a dozen steps. Filing the paperwork declaring your completion of classwork, quals, etc is just the first few. (Okay, easy enough) Then there's the prospectus, for the graduate school. (The what for the who now?) Then the forming of your research committee. (Right, okay) Then the proposal. (Wait, how is this different from the other thing?) Then the proposal defense. (Um, okay, but not every department requires this?) Plus a few other steps I'm surely forgetting.
As of yesterday, I am officially finally totally completely absolutely done with all the paperwork, and can finally get back to actually working on the thesis itself!
A lot’s been happening this last month. I’ve started at least half a dozen posts, but can’t seem to find the time/energy to finish any of them. Whence the radio silence. So, in lieu of interesting content, an update on life:
At the end of February I solved the hard problem in my thesis!! I’ve been banging my head against that problem for well over a year. So how’d it happen? I had a meeting with one of my advisors to talk about coalgebras for a different project entirely, and something in there got me thinking. (ProTip: always think more about coalgebras.) That weekend I decided to take a whack at the problem again and managed to get everything to work out. Ultimately the solution involves a novel extension to the standard approach for proving strong normalization via logical predicates. On March 4th I gave an impromptu talk at the local PL seminar about the technique. And was planning on spending the next week and a half cranking out an ICFP submission detailing the technique (since it’s of interest outside my thesis), but then...
I’ve mentioned before about how my mother’s been dying. Near the end of February she went to the hospital again; since which my dad gave me and my siblings daily updates on what’s happening. Then on the 6th my dad called and said I needed to come out. So me and L booked a last-minute trip out there for a couple days. It was... stressful, to put it mildly. But I got to catch up with two of my nieces, so that part was cool. On the 30th it was official. The funeral is in the next couple days.
A week after getting back from the last-minute trip to Maryland, me and L went on our anniversary holiday. Last year we rented a cabin in the woods, and it was pretty awesome being woken up by cows and going for hikes. So we decided to do it again this year, though this time we went to Brown county here in Indiana (last year it was in Ohio). OMG this state is misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic! I mean, I’ve known this; but Bloomington is a lot better about hiding it than the rest of the state. Plus, there wasn’t really anywhere good for hiking. The cabin itself was pretty nice, but the rest: ugh. We ended up deciding to head home a day early; just couldn’t deal with how awful the people there were. At least we got to bond over how terrible it all was ;)
And then going on a week ago, my kidneys decided it’s time to murder me again. I’ve gone to the ER three times already for kidney stones, so I’m pretty clear on what the symptoms are. Figured this time I’d try to see a doctor first, to get some pain meds before I need to be hospitalized again. To which I got to revisit that fabulous experience where doctors refuse to acknowledge my pain let alone do anything about it. Gotta love it when you’re nauseous, experiencing visual artifacts/hallucinations, completely out of it, and barely able to carry on a conversation but the doctors have already decided before even seeing you that they’re not going to prescribe anything. I never actually get sick from my pain-nausea, no matter how bad it is; I only get sick from the anti-nausea meds they sneak in with major painkillers. But I wish I could/did get sick, dirty up her office a bit: historically that’s been the only thing to make drs take me seriously.
At the beginning of the year I decided to try writing more regularly. For a while things went as planned, but the last few weeks have been sparse. Been dealing with some stuff, and since announcing I’ve accepted the job at Google —or actually, since announcing I was on the job market last fall— I’ve been reluctant to talk about my crazy. I feel hypocritical about it. I know I shouldn’t; most folks don’t talk. But of course, that’s why I feel like a hypocrite. I go on about being open and trying to normalize mental illness, but then when it really matters I go and hide in the closet like everyone else afraid for their jobs. Plus, part of me is all I don’t want to be just another whiny brat on the internet. I know this comes from internalized saneism and puritanical stoicism and all the other repressive shit that makes me want to speak out in the first place, but still, the knowing doesn’t help so much as I’d like for deconstructing that internalized selfhate.
Aside from the internal turmoil, things’ve been going well. (Which, again, makes me feel like shit: for bitching when “I have it good”.) Me and L have been getting shit done in prep for moving out to Mountain View or wherever thereabouts. Been making progress on getting my dissertation rolling again. And finally completed my old task on Hakaru, so now I can move on to new / more interesting stuff with the overall project. Our anniversary is coming up, and we’ve planned our trip. We got our taxes done last weekend and’ll be getting a sizeable return, which’ll help for covering all the incidentals with moving. (Google does cover moving expenses, but those’re payed out on the first paycheck which will, of course, come after we’ve moved.) I went and saw an OT last week re getting splints; got some plastic ones to try out for a bit to be sure they help / are what I want: they do, and are. The followup appointment is scheduled this week for taking measurements to get them ordered, will post pics once they arrive :)
Talking with my therapist last time he asked an interesting question, asked about my experiences of “loss”. At first I didn’t have much to say, couldn’t really think of any. But the more I thought the more came out. I’d never really reflected on loss before. When something pervades so much of your life, you stop noticing it after a while; what use is reflecting on a word that describes the ubiquitous? But I’ve had a lot of it lately, stupid little things mostly (there I go minimizing again) but stupid little things that’ve stirred up bigger beasts from the past. I could say more, but what would it help? I've already talked a bit about my drawing (and my mother, and mortality). Suppose I could spend the next couple posts fleshing out other bits, giving them more time than I really feel up to today. We'll see.
It's official, I'm heading to Google at the end of July to work with Mark Larson on the Chrome OS security team (of all things!). Seems an unlikely match, but Mark was pretty keen on my background (including the gender stuff!) and wasn't put off by my fusion of linguistics, type-theory, constructive logic/maths, et al. I guess the security team is more concerned with semantic models and constructive correctness than the other teams I talked with. Makes sense, I suppose, but it's sad that these are still thought of as "security" concerns rather than "everything in programming" concerns.
I'm totally looking forward to it, but I am still thinking of it as a bit of an experiment. I'm an academic at heart, so I could see myself heading back to academia in a few years. (Wanting to be a professor is, afterall, what motivated me to start gradschool in the first place.) Then again, I've never really thought of industry as being interested in the sorts of theory I work on. In any case, I'll still be around at the various conferences I've been frequenting; I won't just disappear into industry.
I know a bunch of y'all are in the bay area. I'd love to hear any pointers you have on apartment hunting or on what neighborhoods (nearish Mt View) are nice— i.e., places an artistic disabled radical queer woman might like. Feel free to comment below or get in touch by email, twitter, etc.
One of the things that intrigues me most about the rise of the internet is the ways in which it fundamentally alters social structures. Virtual and physical reality afford different forms of interaction, differences people are only beginning to acknowledge. These affordances don't make one aspect of reality "better" than the other, just different. That difference is unavoidable, but my real interest lies in the ways these aspects of reality co-define one another. Events like GamerGate expose how violence can fulminate in virtual spaces until it spills over into physical spaces. But I believe that an understanding of how virtuality and physicality reinforce each other can also be used to construct a safer and more just world.
Over the past week I had a number of conversations with folks about these differences between physicality and virtuality. On tuesday I talked with Rob for a few hours about how economies of information and economies of material are incommensurable (tangled up with a discussion of the systems- and game-theoretic roots of why capitalism is fundamentally flawed)— an interesting topic, but one for another post. But I also talked with S, and later briefly with Lindsey, about an anthropological concern I've been meaning to write about for some while.
There is an unavoidably accidental nature to physical reality. Physicality has an immediacy that cannot be ignored, and the inability to freely reroute through other pathways means we are constantly bumping into one another. Asking a stranger for directions or if this seat is taken; overhearing conversations on the bus; running into that little-known would-be-friend on the street; and yes also the ill-met accidents. In contrast, virtuality is —for now— inescapably intentional. You can't just stumble upon new friendships, but must go looking for them. You can't foster relationships through the familiarity of a quiet presence, but must speak out to maintain them.
To reiterate, neither intentionality nor accidentiality is inherently superior— especially for those of us on the margins. Most of my relationships have started out accidentally. To pick a few: I met K when I happened to audit a class she was in, and she recognized me from the comic store she works at; I met S when she caught me checking her out in a busy hallway; I met L when her boyfriend at the time was ignoring her at a mutual friend's birthday party. None of these interactions are the sort that avail themselves online. We may recognize handles seen elsewhere, but that seldom leads to a "where do I know you from? let's have dinner" moment. While we can flirt online, it's much harder to feel out the other party for whether they're receptive. And we cannot readily see those sitting silent in dejected corners. But despite whatever accidental beginnings, my deepest relationships have always been grown online. Relationships are always forged in a shared vulnerability, but the experiences of us on the margins are often too vulnerable to speak aloud. Exposing the details of a life of violence and minoritization requires the emotional safety of intentional spaces. The abilities to edit, to wait, to breathe, to digest, to scroll through history; for those of us who have never had safety in the physical world, these abilities provide a structure that permits us to to be vulnerable without risking our health.
But while intentionality can be used to construct spaces in which to open ourselves, it also constructs spaces which trap us into ourselves. To find safety in online spaces it is necessary to be able to block out those who would cause us harm; but the intentionality of this blocking out makes it easy to block out too much, and so to lock us into our ways of being. A key example here is the possibility for reconciliation. In any relationship there is always the threat of breakage. When a relationship breaks we block the other out, but in physical spaces these blocks seldom last forever. At first we may avoid places the other frequents, but in time this fades from memory. When living in physical proximity there is always the possibility for an accidental encounter, and in that accident the possibility for reconciliation. Walking down the street we can bump into ex-friends and ex-lovers, and depending on the circumstances of the break, these bumps can provide a means for renewal— to wit: a chance for growth and change. However, in virtual spaces we have no mechanism for such accidents. Once we block or mute others, there is never an incentive to revisit these choices. Ironically, the less we recall the slight —and so the greater the chance for reconciliation—, the less likely we are to revisit the choice, since doing so requires an explicit intention to reconnect, and that intention risks renewing the rupture since it's explicitness calls to mind the reason for the separation.
I think the possibility of reconciliation is necessary for healthy communities. (E.g., the inability to reconcile is, imo, part of why politics in the US have grown ever more polarized.) But it is unclear how to develop a virtual society which affords reconciliation. Simply having blocks expire in some timely fashion is unacceptable; most blocks stem not from broken relationships, but rather from the need to defend oneself from violence. The locality of physical space provides a strong defense against certain forms of violence: you can (at least in principle) move away from bigots and abusers. Whereas the non-locality of virtual space precludes this defense: there is no "elsewhere" to go. Of course, this non-locality is also one of the greatest strengths of virtual spaces, as it enables marginalized peoples to connect over long physical distances.
I don't yet have a conclusion. It's just something I've been thinking about off and on for a few years. And was reminded since bumping into an ex-friend; though, alas, we didn't get the chance to try and reconnect.
Many of us with disabilities have more than one. This multiplicity is invisiblized by the abled community. When our lives are already assumed to be defined by disability, admitting multiplicity risks the hazard of letting the complexities of disabled lives enter one's mind. But even among the disabled, there's a tendency to focus on the one or two things which most obviously impact our lives. This is a coping mechanism. To cope with lacking spoons, we are always prioritizing our energies, and there is never enough to solve all the things. But also, ableism being what it is, we must be careful never to "complain too much" lest we loose whatever ears we've gained; so we consign our suffering to silence, that we might grasp at crumbs of compassion for hope that when things worsen there may still be someone who'll listen.
I have my "one or two things": depression and cPTSD. And I've mentioned my migraines on occasion, though they're seldom of bloggable interest. But there's one I've never talked about, one I've still not come to terms with myself. That's the thing about chronic pain. Noone ever teaches us about all the things that shouldn't hurt, about all the pains most people don't have. And consequently we come to normalize them, to unsee the ways they make us choose —in small ways at first— to restrict our lives. Last week I met a fabulous girl and we got to talking about disability. And with one sentence she cut through me like a thunderbolt, cut through a silence I hadn't even realized I'd been spinning for years. Her words, so simple:
I have a connective tissue disease
I've suspected it for a couple decades, known it for nearly a decade, but it's never been something I've been allowed to talk about. When a teen complains about joint pain, it is dismissed as an insignificance. When a twentysomething does, everyone older jests and jeers; "just wait till you're my age," they say. Sit down. Shut up. Respect your elders. If you're resilient enough to keep at it, to endure the shame and go to a doctor... well, doctors have ways of silencing things they can't cure. When I first saw a doctor for my knees, he acted like it was nothing, like I was a stupid kid bitching about nothing— despite saying, with surprise in his voice, how my x-rays looked like someone 15–20 years older. When I pressed, when I refused to be cowed, he told me there was nothing modern science could do: I could use a splint, but that'd weaken the muscles and exacerbate the problem; I could try working out to strengthen the muscles —at least, for as long as I could stand the pain— but that'd only slow the inevitable by a couple years at best; it wasn't bad enough for surgery, besides that'd just cause even more damage. "You're young," he said in flat monotone, like words rehearsed without meaning. Like pointing out something broken or left behind, when you really don't care if they hear you. Your coffee. Your wallet. Your tail light. You're young.
The thing about genetic issues is that they pervade everything. It's never a singular problem, it's a cascade of them, a death by ten-thousand papercuts. In my childhood, my mother always had issues with her knees. It was almost a joke how often she went in for surgeries on them; the kind of joke people only mumble and noone laughs at but they tell it anyways because they don't know what else to do. During my early college years, her shoulders started going out. A few years back my sister died spontaneously, and within a few months a cousin joined her. Aortic ruptures. In the last year or so, my mother had an aortic dissection. She survived, but more from luck than anything. I happened to be in Maryland when she was in the hospital, and I visited. She'd also been having catastrophic spinal problems. My parents didn't even bother mentioning it until she went in for the first surgery. It didn't go well. Three followup surgeries later and who knows if any of it did any good. Sitting next to her as she lay in that bed, her hands all locked up in pain, held in mine, I could barely look on her. Because I know I'll live to be crippled and die twisted in pain. She's had enough in-patient PT to be released, and is back home now on out-patient PT. Noone talks about it. But at least noone jokes anymore.
I can't say if it was her heart or her back that somehow managed to convince some doctor to take a closer look. He'd thought she had Marfan syndrome and ordered a genetic screening. Tests came back negative. Followups found it's actually Loeys-Dietz, something that wasn't even discovered until ten years ago, and the docs only knew of it because she'd been admitted to the hospital where they discovered it. There's no point in testing the dead, but there's little doubt about what did my sister and cousin in. I've been checked for aortic problems, and show no symptoms as yet. I'll have to get checked again every couple years.
(One of the funniest things about transitioning is how it's been the healthiest decision I've ever made. If I'd've known all the minor health issues it'd cure, I would've fought harder to do it when I was 18. Among the things it helped was my back. While uncommon, HRT can cause corrections in one's hips and lower ribs. Thanks to the changes in my hips and my center of gravity, I no longer have chronic back pain. Growing up I could never attain correct posture: it caused pain and felt unnatural; whereas now it comes freely and without thinking.)
But the litany of little pains isn't what hurts the most. I used to draw. It used to be my life. The fire in my heart, as maths is the breath in my chest. I'd do it when I wasn't thinking. I'd do it to focus my thinking. I'd come home and spend hours at it. I'd ignore eating to finish a piece. I won awards. I thought I'd make a vocation of it. By halfway through undergrad I could barely finish a small sketch in the margins of my notes. Many of my friends are artists (e.g.), and while I love their work, a hateful demon grows in me every time I see their successes or hear them praised. These days I can barely hold a pencil. My script an ever more illegible shorthand as I try to eke out a few more pages before I resign to sitting behind a computer. (The most creative parts of doing math, for me, needs being written. It is only once I have the sketch of a thing can I put it to pixels.) Just bringing up my art, acknowledging it as something lost rather than as something I lost time for, crushes me.
That girl, that blessed fabulous girl. A few days after we'd met I asked her about her ring, a beautiful curious thing, like two rings locked together at an angle. Turns out it's a surgical splint for preventing hyperextension. She told me where to get one, and on the bus yesterday I decided to check out their website. Reading through the descriptions of the rings they offer —I don't even... How do you name that emotion when a pain you've had so long you've forgotten it exists is suddenly eased, that lift, that release, that letting go. Like when you find someone who shares your very same marginalization, that feeling where you can just talk, can let words free without censor knowing they have already been understood before they are spoken. That sudden finding oneself not alone. That slow creeping into existence of a future worth looking toward. I had to turn off my browser. Can't be crying on busses. Can't be weak in public.
The next week+ I'll be in St. Petersburg Florida for PEPM, PADL, POPL, PPS, and PPAML PI (also CPP and OBT). Would've mentioned it sooner, but it's a bit of a last minute thing. I love reconnecting with old friends and meeting new folks, so feel free to come say hi. If you want to meet up for dinner or such, leave a comment with when/where to find you, or just look for the tall gal with the blue streak in her hair.
It's a new year, and the new semester starts next week. To be honest, the last semester ended on a down note: the week of Thanksgiving, depression hit again. It'd been about five years since the last major episode, so better than usual if by just a bit. The last week or so thing's've started looking up again, but who knows how long that'll last or how long till it really clears up.
A bunch of friends, fellow academics with mental illness, have given newyears posts on how they're dealing with their MI; posts I've found somehow more uplifting than I would've expected. And so, thus inspired, I'm hoping to return to blogging regularly. The plan is to post regularly on tuesdays and (prolly irregularly) thursdays. (Edit 2016.01.13) Let's make that regularly on thursdays and irregularly on tuesdays.
So, with that said, I'll see y'all again on tuesday.
Last time I talked a bit about ABTs; in particular, I introduced the notion of strongly-typed ABTs (or "GABTs" if you prefer) and showed how we can extend the basic idea of ABTs to guarantee well-typedness in addition to well-aritiedness. However, I also made a note that ensuring this sort of well-typedness runs counter to what Neel and other CMUers often do. One of my colleagues here at IU noticed the reason, so I thought I'd write a bit more about it.
The issue at stake here is how general we can make our ABT library, to minimize the amount of boilerplate needed whenever inventing a new language. By encoding object-language type systems into the kinding of the ABT, we restrict the the possible object languages we can use the ABT implementation for (namely those object languages with type systems that can be embedded into whatever kinding the ABT has). To put a finer point on it, using the kinds presented in the previous post you cannot have binders in your type system. (Edit 2016.02.29: actually the details are more complicated.) This means no System F, and no dependent types. This is unfortunate as the whole point of ABTs is to capture binding structure once and for all!
However, I'd like to reiterate that, for our purposes in Hakaru this limitation is no restriction. Hakaru is simply-typed, so there are no type-level binders in sight. Moreover, we do a lot of program transformations in Hakaru. By using GABTs we can have GHC verify that our program transformations will never produce Hakaru code which is ill-typed, and that our program transformations will always produce Hakaru code of an appropriate type (e.g., the same type as the input term, for things like partial evaluation; but we have a number of type-changing transformations too). Thus, even though our GABT library could not be reused for implementing languages with type-level binders, it still provides a substantial benefit for those languages without type-level binders.
Although our GABTs cannot handle type-level binders, that does not mean we're restricted to only working with simply typed languages. For example, intersection types are not usually thought of as "simple types"; but they do not require binders and so they're fine. More generally, Larry Moss is engaged in a research project where he asks, "given infinite time, how far could Aristotle have gotten in logic?" By which he means, given the Aristotelian restriction to syllogistic logics (i.e., ones without the quantifiers introduced by Frege), what are the limits in what we can cover? It turns out that we can cover quite a lot. Some syllogistic logics go beyond the power of the "Peano–Frege" boundary: they can handle comparing cardinality of sets! A good pictorial summary of this line of research is on slide 2 of this talk; and a bit more about the complexity results is given in this talk (the requisite picture is on slide 39).
Edit 2016.02.29: In actuality, there's nothing inherent in type theory that prohibits having type-level binders for our object language; it's a limitation in GHC. In particular, GHC doesn't allow lifting GADTs into data kinds. If we could lift GADTs, then we could simply use ABTs to define the syntax of object-language type expressions, and lift those to serve as the type indices for using ABTs to define the syntax of object-language term expressions. This stratified approach is sufficient to handle System F and any other non-dependent quantifiers. To go further and handle dependent quantifiers as well, we'd also need to be able to define the object-language's terms and types in a mutually inductive way.↩
I'm sick. I shouldn't be online. But just wanted to prattle on about a thing that'd take too long on twitter. A day or two ago I came across a linguist being cited somewhere in some article about celebrity couple name blends. In it they noted how certain syllables like "klol" and "prar" are forbidden in English. They phrased the restriction as forbidding CRVR (where C means a consonant, R means a liquid/sonorant —I forget how they phrased it—, and V a vowel).
There's something of merit going on here, but the specifics are far more complicated. Note that "slur" is perfectly acceptable. So, well maybe it's just that the C has to be a plosive. But then, "blur" is perfectly fine too. So, well maybe it's something special about how "-ur" forms a stand-alone rhotic vowel. But then "trill" and "drill" are just fine. So, well maybe...