7.21.2014

Neal's Fanboy



Just sat down for a re-read of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life.

A long rambling tale.  Definitely worth your time and effort.

Especially in today's brave new world.

7.19.2014

Been Busy

Summer is the worst time to blog.  Life keeps getting in the way.

And if it is a choice between blogging and doing stuff, blogging usually loses.

Anyway.

Having lived through the Gulf of Tonkin, The Iraqi WMD's, and any number of what I perceive as a domineering government attempting to whip up nationalist fervor, you will forgive me if I think that we ought to write off the ML-17 flight.

Look, what was a commercial flight doing flying over a war zone anyway?

Does anyone really know how it was shot down and by whom?

Just because everyone is beating the war drums every day doesn't mean that you should listen.

This is not a time for a modern Cato to start crying "Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam"

7.10.2014

A very short post

If I walk out my front door, turn left, walk three block, turn left again, walk another three blocks and then walk into a small building with the decidedly odd sign "Main Street Marijuana".  I will be allowed to legally buy a joint or some brownies, maybe even some hash.

When I leave the store, should I see a policeman, I can show him my purchase and his only comment could well be "have a nice day" or even "be safe".

I am pushing sixty-one.  I think that I may well do just that.

It is a truly changing world we live in.

7.09.2014

A medium of paparazzi

While the internet is an amazing tool for communication and free speech, we must also be aware of how it can be abused by those in power who wish to whitewash history.

Everyone seems to be bitching about folks pulling stuff off the internet.

Give over.

Look the internet isn't some sacred archive of truth.  It is merely a convenient means of communication.  I definitely isn't graven in stone and the nature of the "records" are as ephemeral as something can possibly be.  Stop acting as though it is sacred

Thousands of references to people have disappeared from the internet because of the "right to be forgotten".  Good on them.  The internet is a sewer, if somebody want to fish out an old turd, let them.

People wanting crap off the internet that focuses on them is not a bad thing.  The internet is intrusive and privacy is impossible.  Why wouldn't someone try to take crap off if there is a method.

No, who yells the most are the people who have enshrined the internet as some kind of technical messiah.  Where all mankind can meet and give group hugs and sell shit to each other.  I would posit that the folks who bitch the most about this "modifying history" crap and screwy references to big-brother and 1984 are the fuckers who want to make money dredging the sewage lines of the world-wide-web.

Look, bloggers like your humble correspondent point this shit out all the time. The shit keeps happening.  There will be plenty left around, and the crap that most folks want to pull off isn't that damn important anyway.


7.08.2014

Cheap Ass Meat

Here in the USA we take our meat seriously.

I eat too much of the stuff.  It will probably kill me.  I will continue eating too much of the stuff.  Meat isn't good for the planet.  There is a lot worse than that going on.  Meat is cruel to the animals.  I never liked cows in the first place, they get what they deserve.  I like pigs, but they have the incredible bad luck of being too damn tasty.

If I were rich, I would eat USDA Choice organic beef, cooked rare, letting me savor the incredible flavor and texture of good meat.

I am poor.  Pork shoulder and brisket are my meats.  High on the hog just isn't available.

Marinade is your friend.

2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin
Six cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons ginger
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper

Now, conventional theory is that you just mix the ingredients together and put it on the meat.  I think that you have to infuse the spices into the liquids.  So I make up the marinade in the morning, let it sit on the stove on the lowest setting for and hour while I write and work.  Turn it off after the hour and let it cool to room temp with the lid on.  Then throw it on the meat in a baggie and let it marinate at least overnight.




7.07.2014

Confessions of a Scientific Failure



There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in "cargo cult science." It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it; other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
Richard Feynman, "Cargo Cult Science",
adapted from a commencement address given at Caltech (1974)

I work at the VA now.  In my past life I spent twenty-five years in the lab.  Doing some pretty good work. But it ended.

Science is now money.  Research scientists do not dare to fail.  The search for money and backers doesn't allow it.  Fail and watch your career fade.  Your papers and write-ups become sale brochures.  Your poster sessions differ little from a carny side show barker.  You end up working for a boss who is more interested in the marketing end of the business feeling that the scientific and technical aspects are at best, minor details.

Sometimes I miss the lab.  But it isn't very often at all anymore.

7.05.2014

Meet the New Boss

Same as the old boss?

Who knows.

I am leery myself.  New VA chief is a ring-knocker with time in as a chief executive in a huge industrial conglomerate.

I am thinking I will be surprised if anything changes.

In the NYT, the praise for him was that he would "quantify the issues and come up with a plan to solve them".  He was praised as a detail guy that "knows how to roll up his sleeves".    I just pray he won't be a micromanager, but those are most certainly the calling cards of that breed

I don't know how to roll with this, I praise the guy for taking on a thankless job. But until we get more doctors (we have plenty of bureaucrats thank you) at the VAspa, we will not solve the problems.

7.04.2014

Bummer Dude



Well, I am bummed.

Seems as though I am one of the IP addresses going into an NSA database after all.

Or maybe not

Shit.

My invitation to this elite group came when I had the nerve to download the Tails privacy system and set up encryption (GNUpgp) on a Linux box that I used for noodling around.  I also downloaded TOR to check it out.

Now everyone is having a hissy fit because

  • Two servers in Germany - in Berlin and Nuremberg - are under surveillance by the NSA.

First, the when you read the rules, the rules only apply to Non-NeoByzantine (1) countries.  But truth be told, when you read the script, there is no reason whatsoever why the Guvmint wouldn't run it everywhere.  I would actually be surprised if they didn't

Now, you may think that I would be angry.  Naw.  In a way, this is just a sad case of confirmation bias for a cranky old man.  I have written extensively about the foolishness of thinking that the internet can be a means of secure communication.  It cannot be made into such a thing.  Silk purse and sows ears come to mind here.

I have no intention of changing my ways.  I will continue to use Linux.  I will also continue to use Windows where appropriate (just to make a technical issue clear, LibreOffice Writer is still not up to MicroSoft Office Standards in the commercial realm).  I have so routinely installed PGP, Thunderbird, and Enigmail that I have a ridiculous number of keysets out there and no one I want to talk with a delusion of security anyway.

I will continue to use Linux for a lot of things.  I like playing with it.

As for Tails and Tor.  I think that I check these out because I am fascinated with the lengths that people go to to create the illusion of privacy in a technology which is structurally insecure.

The NSA and its friends will sift through any communication on the internet.  It is what they do.  If you are doing something that threatens the status quo and wish to announce it to your buddies via e-mail, facebook, or twitter , the intelligence agencies will watch you and they will mark you.  Plan on it.

But I am fairly certain that an cranky old man trying to document the collapse of an empire will not piss them off sufficiently to come after me.

Because, at the end of the day, I think that they know that the walls are tumbling down.  They are just trying to hold things together a little while longer.  They will fail, but they will try.

I can't really get all that angry about them trying.


_______________________________________________________

(1)  I think that I will just start referring to the Anglophone countries that make up the Five-Eyes Alliance as NeoByzantium.  I think that it has a ring to it and really does define the way our end of the world works.

7.03.2014

Victory?

The Supremes have handed down yet another half-assed opinion splitting the hairs between two half-assed opinions.

Now, Fox and their ilk are shouting from the mountaintops the triumph of justice. That in itself should tell you just how fucked up the decision handed down was. Because truth be told, if Fox likes something, you can be damned sure that it is poorly thought out and internally inconsistent.

I don't like ObamaCare.  It is a sad, sad attempt at doing something good which fails miserably in all of its efforts.  It enriches the insurance firms and passes off inadequate coverage to the people who are the least able to adequately assess and control their own health care.

But I don't like the idea of contraception as a "right" to be provided.  Look, I have no problem with contraception, but it isn't a right, it is a responsibility.  I used to buy my own rubbers, I think that the ladies can purchase their own oral contraceptives.  Contraception isn't a medical "need", it is a lifestyle choice.  The government got into the business of controlling that choice back when the "pill" got started because religious shitheads wanted to control other peoples lives and decisions.  Bad decision then, worse decision now.

The other side of the question is what right does a business owner have to shove his religious views down the throats of his employees?  That is what started the whole stupid contraception game.  Religious shitheads like the "Hobby Lobby" worked tirelessly in the sixties and seventies to kill the use of oral contraceptives. This case is just a variation on the theme of fanatics attempting to limit others choices

So what we have here is a Supreme Court trying to split hairs between two fundamentally unsound legal concepts and trying to use the prestige of the constitution to wrap that decision in some kind of credibility.  The case is a choice between two flawed ideas.  The justices cannot seem to separate the issues in their mind, the liberals only looks at womens "rights", the conservatives only look at christian "beliefs".

What this case boils down to is two sets of people trying to make the other party do what they want him to do.  Both parties cannot see a line between beliefs and rights, they speak of both as identical and interchangeable.  Both parties and points of view are almost tragically inept and self-serving.  There is no right answer.  Truth be told, there is no lesser evil in the case.  Just bad and bad.




7.02.2014

An Ecology of Predators


It must always have been seen, more or less distinctly, by political economists, that the increase of wealth is not boundless: that at the end of what they term the progressive state lies the stationary state, that all progress in wealth is but a postponement of this, and that each step in advance is an approach to it. We have now been led to recognize that this ultimate goal is at all times near enough to be fully in view; that we are always on the verge of it, and that if we have not reached it long ago, it is because the goal itself flies before us. The richest and most prosperous countries would very soon attain the stationary state, if no further improvements were made in the productive arts, and if there were a suspension of the overflow of capital from those countries into the uncultivated or ill-cultivated regions of the earth.
John Stewart Mill
Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy
Book IV, Chapter VI
Of the Stationary State

It is an odd world that we have constructed.

Nature appears to be sinusoidal, with peaks and valleys and the bulks of time and effort spent between the two extremes.  We scramble to get to the top of the curve.  We scramble to slow our descent to the bottom of the trough.

But in economics, we appear to have created a cult where negative slope is not allowable, where M is wished to be as large a number as possible and cannot ever, ever be negative without a considerable amount of hair pulling and teeth gnashing.

But at what point does one have to come to the conclusion that an endlessly upward spiral is not available? Is such a conclusion valid?  I tend to think of things mathematically, and if we have used up half of something, and are increasing the rate of withdrawal, it looks to me that things are going to get harder, not easier, and the reality of a downward trending line keeps increasing.

Because everything reverts to mean.  An advance will be met by a downward pressure. A decline will be followed by a rise.  Where we are, the magnitude and direction of the slope and the derivative of the function are what worries us day to day.  Looking back and taking a long view gives us the pleasure of looking at integral calculus.