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Michael Powell
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Michael Powell

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Supporting Anti-aging Rejuventation Research by Donating to SENS

For the fourth year running I renewed my $1 per day donation[1] to SENS Research Foundation as a lump sum to coincide with the annual matching fundraising campaign run by SENS and coordinated by the FightAging! site. 

A Better Approach
SENS isn't just the most sensible approach we have to successfully combat aging; it is also the most sensible approach we have to successfully combat most if not all diseases. The current system we have focuses on combating the very many individual symptoms (diseases) of aging that arise from complex causes and regulatory networks. In contrast SENS seeks to combat the biological damage that accumulates (there are ~7 categories) over the years that, when it passes a certain threshold, causes the diseases we commonly associate with aging.

The current system seeks only to prolong aging and extend frailty and decrepitude; this is a simplistic whack-a-mole band-aid approach that nonetheless is all we have access to at this time. In contrast SENS seeks to fix and remove damage at a cellular level, ideally well before such damage results in disease, and so offers the only rational approach to actually achieving rejuvenation of the human organism and the maintenance of the youth, vigor, and health that we all desire and deserve. 

A mature SENS platform would offer the possibility of indefinite lifespans for people - barring accidents of course. 

In terms of funding SENS is deplorably underfunded. It receives a drop in the ocean compared to the established way of tackling disease and aging and so needs every supporting dollar it can in these early stages of developing proof-of-concept therapies. Success will breed success of course, and as soon as the first demonstrated therapy, even in animals, makes headlines a feedback loop will pull more capital into the approach. But we first need to help boost grass-roots support to help them get to that point. 

If you're passionate about having the chance to stay young, fit, and healthy for well over 100 years and have a few dollars to spare then please consider donating to SENS as part of this fundraising drive. And if you don't have a few dollars to spare then please consider sharing this post to help spread the word to encourage others to do so. 

Learn more about this year's SENS fundraising effort here:

Donate to SENS here: 

Reddit discussion here:

Summary of the accumulating damage that SENS seeks to tackle with links to more information and strategies for doing so:

[1] It's actually slightly more than $1 per day as I index the amount each year to account for inflation to keep at 2012 dollars or above. With the matching fundraising campaign I'm helping to contribute >$2 per day to SENS. 

#sens   #fundraising   #rejuvenation  
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Michael Powell

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I'm beginning to suspect that Peeple is not just a hoax, but a brilliant illustration of the concept of the anger meme. Studies of memes and how they spread shows that memes that focus on different emotions spread with different speeds. Memes that evoke anger spread faster than any other type. They whip people into an outraged frenzy, often without stopping to check whether the thing they're outraged over is at all what it appears to be.

Of course anger memes have always existed, but improved media and information technology serves as a force multiplier for them. The Internet allows outrage to spread at breakneck speeds. You can get half the population whipped into a frenzy over something none of them had even heard of before in a SINGLE DAY.

And that's what happened with Peeple. It's not certain yet whether or not it's a hoax, but I'm really hoping that sometime in the next day or two they'll step up and say "Gotcha!" and we'll all learn a valuable lesson about outrage and healthy skepticism.

And this is a VERY IMPORTANT lesson, because every movement falls victim to anger memes on a regular basis. No matter how noble that movement may be. This isn't just the pervue of obviously toxic movements like GamerGate, neo-nazis, and religious fundamentalists. It's also common among feminists, LGBT activists, anti-racists, and other civil rights activists. And falling victim to an anger meme hurts everybody involved.
Media outlets expressed shocked over the purported forthcoming Peeple app, a ratings system of private individuals.
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Every activist group I've been a part of has had some vindictive bullies. I think it's pretty universal. Groups need to do a better job of handling them because who else would they listen to?

Too bad that anger is the best marketing. Feels like society is being destroyed in exchange for clicks and votes. Then someone writes about the new problems we created and it gets worse.
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Michael Powell

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This year was my first time at Burning Man, and among the many and myraid amazing things I saw and experienced, I also observe that there were hardly any black people. This was a bit strange to me.

This article delves into that, by interviewing a number of black people at Burning Man, to ask them why they think so few black people go, what they get out of it, and how they experience race on the Playa vs. the default world. Their answers are very insightful. It inspire a lot of sadness, in the societal forces that result in black people feeling that they wouldn't be welcome. And a lot of hope, in the acceptance that those who go usually find, illustrating that our problems with racism aren't inevitable.

I met a black man there, by the name of Ashton, and had a great conversation about his experience of race at Burning Man, and why there were so few black people there. He theorized that most black people just didn't know about Burning Man, and said he had experienced no racism while on the Playa. (This is a summary. The conversation went into a lot more depth, but I can't remember most of it now.)

It would be tempting to assert that black people tend to experience so much less racism on the playa because the people who go there tend to be among the most liberal and tolerant segment of white America. And that may be part of it, but I think there has to be more to it. I suspect the biggest element is that burners on the playa tend to have a sense of shared culture.

In the default world, we apply a number of cultural labels to each other. American culture, geek culture, tech culture, hip-hop culture, etc. We even talk about black culture and white culture. I believe a lot of the constant barrage of microaggressions that get directed toward black people in the default world, particularly from white people of a more liberal bent, is not because they actually have any subconscious belief that black people are intrinsically more hostile, dangerous, or intrinsically more anything at all... But rather that they see black culture as being more hostile and dangerous, and assume that most black people are part of that culture.

And note that this isn't just idle theorizing. Like most white people who grow up in America, I've felt my share of racist impulses over my life. I've tried not to act on them, and I like to think I've usually succeeded... But they're still there, and I still struggle with them. And part of struggling with them is analyzing them, figuring out exactly where they come from. And what I described above is my best analysis of the racist impulses I've felt. So it seems fairly likely that lot of liberal-minded white people have the same impulses.

In most circumstances, the difference between this and more overt racism is fairly academic. It's still a form of racial prejudice, as you're pre-judging somebody's cultural values based on their race, and it still spawns many of the same self-reinforcing toxic behaviours.

However, this distinction may explain the Burning Man phenomena. "Burner" is a culture, and when you're at Burning Man, it becomes  the assumed, default culture of everybody there. People no longer see you as a member of geek culture, or tech culture, or hip-hop culture, or whatever other cultural labels they'd normally ascribe... They just see burner culture. And they see themselves as members of burner culture. So they see their own culture, mirrored back at them, and you're always most comfortable with people who share your culture.

The fascinating part of this is that it's likely mostly perception. People don't generally leave their cultures behind in the default world. But the default assumptions about other people's cultures is different, just by the fact that they decided to show up on the playa. And this, I think, makes all the difference in the world.
The famous festival in Nevada has a policy of ‘inclusion’ yet you won’t see many ‘burners’ who are black. Is it unwelcoming, or are there other matters in play?
Michael Powell's profile photoJoel “Excellerator” Watkins's profile photoEileen Koven's profile photo
I think Burning Man is in the 'Stuff White People Like' book.
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Michael Powell

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I'm realizing, as I think about many of the topics I've posted on recently, that I may not be coming off as much of a civil rights ally. I've often been critical of aspects of the civil rights movement. So, I should probably clarify where I'm coming from.

I consider myself very much an ally, of feminism, anti-racism and LGBT, and as such I follow a lot of noted activists and allies. (Mostly on Twitter, as I don't use Facebook and none of the ones I know of seem to be active on here.) I don't see a lot of racism, anti-feminism or anti-LGBT, except as it's linked to from the activists I follow, or on rare occasions when I explicitly seek it out for research purposes.

Because of this, every time the bigots are engaging in something unfortunate, I only see it second-hand in the form of the responses from civil rights activists. So it seems like everybody is already saying all the things that need to be said. I will often retweet such things on Twitter, but only when it really resonates with me do I bother to cross-post it over to G+.

However, when I see some trend among these civil rights activists which I disagree with (which will inevitably happen on occasion), I rarely see anybody saying anything. My feed is possibly a bit of an echo chamber. So I feel the need to step up and say something myself. And that generally means posting on here, because the issue is usually way too nuanced to post in 140 characters on Twitter.

Which means that my G+ posts may bias a bit more toward things that disagree with civil rights activists. And that's unfortunate.

I don't think it would appropriate to stop posting reasoned disagreement when I'm bothered by some trend in civil rights circles. But, I think I'll endeavor to be more vocal about my agreement, in the far more frequent case where I think they're totally right, instead of taking for granted that everybody is already saying these things.

It might be good to also follow some opposing viewpoints, but I'm not sure I have the mental energy for the level of outrage that would regularly induce in me.
Kit Bruce's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoAshton Saylor's profile photo
I for one want to say I've really appreciated the conversations you've started here. I'm in a similar boat, to some extent... I remember learning a curious thing in astronomy back in college, years ago: if there's a certain type of body in space, not a solid body, but a nebula or something, you can identify it because it will appear dark if it's against a light background, but light against a dark background. I feel like that nebula sometimes. Put me alongside the most enthusiastic and determined civil rights advocates, and I wind up feeling pretty conservative. But put me against someone actually conservative, and it's like NOPE. I really am liberal after all. 

I appreciate that you are willing to look at the nuance, rather than just being satisfied with which direction the flag is waving. That's what I try to do as well, because following flags rarely leads to anything good.
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Michael Powell

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So I just started playing Assassin's Creed II.

I played the hell out of Assassin's Creed IV, and enjoyed it immensely, and asking around it seems most people regarded the second one as by far the best in the series.

Unfortunately, it seems that it's a lot less good when you go back to it after playing a later game in the series.

The free running feels horribly awkward. I find myself accidentally jumping off roofs in uncontrolled ways all the time. Also, in AC4 the urban environments had an amazing flow to them. There was always a good path forward along the roofs. Not so much in AC2, where the layouts seem much more haphazard, and I often find myself hitting effective dead ends.

The combat also feels horribly awkward. Blocks and counters don't work well, and when using the arm blade it's really hard to actually get into combat mode, even when I have groups of guards circling me. I'm holding out hope that they'll introduce proper assassination moves at some point, but right now I have to actually just walk up to people and hit attack. I can't jump down on them. I can't pull them off ledges when hanging below them. Basically, I don't have any of the FUN ways of dispatching enemies that I loved so much in AC4.

So unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll have the will to stick with this for the whole story.
Nate Gaylinn's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
It wasn't intended to be a question, so much as refutation. I wasn't asking why they make that assertion (that seems obvious), but rather stating that I think this experience disproves it.

I actually have an extensive rant brewing about why I think accusations of lack of innovation in the game industry are very poorly founded. This point is only a very small piece of that.
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Michael Powell

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So, GamerGate is a terrible, toxic movement. That has been incredibly apparent for quite a while now.

Today, a GamerGater was arrested by the FBI for colluding with ISIS. This is being held up as further evidence that GamerGate is a terrible, toxic movement. I have a problem with this.

See, the problematic viewpoints he holds that lead to his arrest are totally unrelated to GamerGate. As despicable as GamerGate may be, their sympathies do not, on the whole, go out to ISIS. If we are to assign this man's viewpoints on ISIS to GamerGate (which is the only way that we can really say this reflects upon GamerGate at all), then by the same logic we have to assign all viewpoints of any member of any "headless" movement to the movement as a whole.

I count myself as a feminist ally. I like feminism. But feminism is also a "headless" movement. If I had to assign every viewpoint of every self-professed feminist to feminism as a whole, then I would be forced to conclude that feminism was also a terrible, toxic movement.

Thankfully, I know better. And that means, in fairness, I can not hold this ISIS sympathizer's arrest against GamerGate.

Mind you, there's ample reason to despise GamerGate without this.
Nate Gaylinn's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
Hmm... Recent news shows that the guy was pretending to be an Islamic extremists in some bizarre attempt to prove that all Muslims where extremists. And in the process, ended up sharing bomb making details with somebody else pretending to be an Islamic extremists: an FBI agent.

So he really wasn't an ISIS sympathizer. His viewpoints and methods are, in fact, much more aligned with the right-leaning, net-troll-gone-mad signature of Gamergate than I'd realized.

So I guess I withdraw my objection.
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Michael Powell

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This article is supposed to make me, as a Democrat, more amenable to a Clinton presidency. But I'm finding it does exactly the opposite.
Chris Greene's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
The nightmare scenario from legislative stalemate is that it serves as an excuse for the expansion of executive power and the eventual irrelevancy of the legislature, which turns the government into an elected dictatorship. This is the failure state of presidential governments, and the United States is unique in having staved it off for so long.

This article is now advocating for Hillary Clinton to take office precisely because she'll further expand and abuse executive power, rendering the legislature near irrelevant.

At the moment, I'm unsure if it's possible to save our government. But I still have no desire to accelerate it's decay, and the way this article describes Clinton would result in exactly that.
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Michael Powell

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Apple doing it's best to justify my use of Android.
Apple has for many years attempted to project its incoherent definition of decency onto iPhone users, typically when it comes to sex. But as of today, we know that news about killer drone strikes is too hot for the App Store, too.
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Michael Powell

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This looks like a thing that myself and many of my friends on here would very much enjoy. Need to give this a try!
ThoughtSTEM's CodeSpells teaches players coding whilst crafting their own spells
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Dang, spoke too soon, the actual spell construction editor doesn't work. Oh well.
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Michael Powell

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Over the past year or two, there are apparently some noted atheist bloggers who have come out as anti-feminist, and put in their lot with various associated toxic movements, such as Gamergate or the PUAs. As a result, I've seen a few noted feminists start referring to atheists as if they were an anti-feminist group themselves.

This is very troubling. There is no actual connection between atheism and feminism, one way or the other. You can be an atheist feminist or an atheist anti-feminist, or an atheist who just didn't care about feminism one way or the other, and there are plenty of all of these out there.

One of the major struggles with bigotry is that some demographics are considered as individuals, while others are treated as always representative of their demographic. A Christian who sets off a bomb is a disturbed individual. A Muslim who sets off a bomb is a terrorist. A white person who riots is blowing off some steam, but a black person is a thug.

So a Christian speaks out against feminism, and they're referred to as an MRA (probably inaccurately, but that's another rant), with no mention of their religion. But an atheist speaks out against feminism, and they're referred to as atheist, as if their anti-feminist stance is just a natural extension of that label.

That's bigotry, and that's a problem.
Christina Tom's profile photoEmber Leo's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
That actually jives pretty well with the impression I got from just looking at his tweets surrounding this particular controversy.
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Michael Powell

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Imagine that you're in your early teens.

Imagine that you're named after a major religious figure living centuries ago in the Middle East.

Imagine that you're interested in Science and Technology, so much that you try to Engineer things on your own, which then forces you to learn the Mathematics that help you along the way, all that while you're still in your early teens.

At this point, two things can happen.

In one case, your name is associated with Christianity, your skin is white, you live in France. You get encouraged, doors open for you, you get guided toward top education, you'll eventually get amazing jobs, and you'll end up living a comfortable life. That's my story.

In another case, your name is associated with Islam, your skin is brown, you live in Texas. You get shamed, you get arrested, schools close their doors on you. That's Ahmed Mohammed's story. I don't know how that story ends, but I'm really hoping it ends well.

That's a pretty extreme case of privilege. But it is privilege nonetheless. We have to recognize such extreme cases of privilege if we want to be able to fight all forms of privilege. That's the only way we can eventually reach a point where all men are created equal, where we all have certain unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, because clearly we're not there yet.

Ahmed's Liberty has already been seriously infringed, and from this point his pursuit of Happiness is in jeopardy, possibly for the rest of his Life.

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Michael Powell

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Just got myself a flow wand / levitation stick / levistick, after seeing somebody using one at Burning Man. I've been practicing for a couple hours, and I think I'm mostly getting the hang of the most basic motions, but the stalls are still giving me trouble.

This video is a pretty impressive demonstration of somebody who has already mastered the flow wand. I hope I can someday be this good.
Brooks Moses's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
Yea, the other video is also pretty great... But it's a long string flow wand, which is a different style than what I got. There are tons of great videos of long string flow wand.

I actually had to dig a bit to find a good video of short string flow wand. Short string seems to be billed as a more beginner style, but I think it has a rather different flow which is really cool in it's own right.

Both styles have a loop of string that goes through the middle of the wand, just off-center so it tends to balance vertically. The difference is that for short string, the loop extends to just past the short end, and then attaches to a ring, typically with a swivel mount. So it's always closely attached to your hand. Long string, on the other hand, has a loop multiple yards in length, which can be looped around the body and manipulated by the other hand.
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