Apr 30

Handed down on tablets

Remember how it was common knowledge a few years ago that tablets were fated to completely replace PCs, that by 2016 PCs on a desk would be as rare as ethics in an investment bank?

Yeah, not so much. I was one of the few people pushing back against that idea, and I was right.

The problem with tablets is that they aren’t really all that portable (where a smartphone is better) and you can’t get anything done on them. A real computer is a far better productivity tool.

At least 60% (and probably more) of the fall of PC sales is due to the fact they last longer now — a five-year-old PC is just as good as a new one, which was not true at all for the first twenty years of personal computer history.

But apparently people were shocked that sales fall when the replacement rate declines.

Apr 29

Dual

Not all dualists are interactionists, however. An important alternative version of dualism, called epiphenomenalism, recognizes mental entities as being different in kind from physical ones yet denies that mental states play any causal role in the unfolding of physical events. An epiphenomenalist would argue that mental states, such as perceptions, intentions, beliefs, hopes, and desires, are merely ineffectual side effects of the underlying causal neural events that take place in our brains. To get a clearer idea of what this might mean, consider the following analogy: Imagine that neurons glow slightly as they fire in a brain and that this glowing is somehow akin to conscious experiences. The pattern of glowing in and around the brain (i.e., the conscious experience) is clearly caused by the firing of neurons in the brain. Nobody would question that. But the neural glow would be causally ineffectual in the sense that it would not cause neurons to fire any differently than they would if they did not glow. Therefore, causation runs in only one direction, from physical to mental, in an epiphenomenalist account of the mind-body problem. Although this position denies any causal efficacy to mental events, it is still a form of dualism because it accepts the existence of the ‘‘glow’’ of consciousness and maintains that it is qualitatively distinct from the neural firings themselves.

-Stephen Palmer, Foundations of Cognitive Psychology: Core Readings

Apr 29

Brilliance

What a strange question.

Brilliance doesn’t significantly decrease the tendency to make mistakes, it just allows one a bigger scope of mistake-making. Combine that with the Peter Principle, and then truly brilliant people can make world-altering errors.

Also many brilliant people accustomed to succeeding often get the attitude that, “I’m really good, therefore anything I do is great, so unethical or illegal action X is also just fine due to the transitive property of my awesomeness.”

Not that I know anything about that personally.

No. That was, uh, about a friend. And stuff.

Apr 29

Drum Minor

Could Kevin Drum be a bigger nitwit? I’m sure he could find some method, but it’s a distinct challenge at this point.

Drum minimizes facts that are massive and important because he’s old, owns his own home, has gold-plated health coverage (dude has cancer — someone 25 years old would probably be homeless or dead right now with his same condition) and is terrified of his house price falling a few percent.

It’s like in Drum’s mind we didn’t just have this thing called the Great Financial Crisis that completely nuked the hopes, aspirations, dreams and future of a whole generation of people.

And I benefited and continue to benefit from this crisis myself in several ways! But it doesn’t make me blind. And it didn’t turn me into a goddamn moron. For instance as to personally benefiting, I put money into the market when it was near its lows, and also there is a whole generation of people who will never catch me in the job market (evidence shows those who start working during a recession stay behind their whole careers). That eliminated 20 or 30 million people in the US alone that I will never have to compete against; they will always be behind me.

But as I said it doesn’t make me not see how devastating politics as usual has been to people slightly younger than I am.

How can you be someone like Drum, just so oblivious? I don’t understand. And pretend things are so great when conditions are like this in America.

Another fact. Drum says that, “Yes, two or three percent of the working-age population has dropped out of the labor force, but the headline unemployment rate is 5 percent.”

Here’s the BLS graph of Labor Participation Rate from 1988 to 2016.

labpart

Just the raw numbers from the comparative heyday of the late 1990s, that’s a four percent drop. Some of that though is due to population aging. However, that’s still approximately 11 million people not in the labor force anymore.

Assuming roughly forty percent of that is due to demographic factors, that is still over five million people whose prospects are so poor that they don’t even bother to look for work any longer. Five million people is not minor. Not even in a country of 300 million. That’s a crisis. That’s the entire population of Atlanta, just gone from the market altogether.

Countries have had revolutions over much much less, by the way.

People like Drum aren’t the only problem with the country, of course. Not by a long mile. But is Drum and people like him part of the problem? Oh yes. A huge part.

No, I don’t think Bernie would’ve solved this or any problem, by the way. I don’t even think Bernie would’ve been a good or effective president. But at least Bernie was talking about the issues, about the way the future will play out. About the devastation that has been wrought and why it occurred.

Clinton and Drum are stuck in the past, worshipping old dead gods in a sepulcher where they’ll soon be entombed, unremembered and unloved by a future that finally gets to move on from their amaurosis and self-absorption.

Good riddance to them.

Apr 29

Being nosy

So much hinges on luck, on the off chance, on the serendipitous.

Though I’d been working with computers since literally before I could hand-write my own name, after I left the army I had trouble at first breaking into the IT field.

I interviewed at many places for IT work — helpdesk, network tech, and many others. “No experience,” they said. Even though I’d been doing all the IT support for my Army’s journalism office for four years in addition to journalism duties. Even though I was in many cases vastly better and more knowledgeable at the positions I was interviewing for than the people interviewing me.

So I’d pretty much given up on IT. This was in 2000, after my brief stint as a lead writer.

Looking for work, I had gone to a temp office to seek out a job, just to get experience in any field.

I just happened as I was sitting there to overhear another conversation. A recruiter was discussing with someone that a local company needed a proofreader.

I interrupted (something very unusual for me) and said, “Proofreader? Is there a test you can give me? I was a journalist and editor for years. Proofreading is something I can do in my sleep.”

So she gave me the test and I made a perfect score on it — the only perfect score they’d ever seen.

I literally got the job on the spot. I started the very next day.

But that was only the first step. I had no idea that brief overheard conversation would lead me into the IT field.

One night, though, as I was busily proofreading on the late shift (and managing my team; I got promoted) a server died and needed to be restarted. They had someone on the night shift who was supposed to handle IT matters, but this person was unable to even find the power button to this server to hard reboot it.

Yet another overheard conversation later, I was in the server room, identified the server having issues, powered it off and verified that it returned to life.

It wasn’t much later that I was invited into the IT department on a trial basis, part time.

Then it went full-time, and about a dozen promotions later at various companies I’m still in the IT field — all thanks to not one but two overheard conversations.

Glad I’m a nosy fucker, aye.

Apr 28

Home girl

Homeland isn’t a perfect show, but I really like how Carrie Mathison is routinely extremely rude to and aggressive against men who attempt to patronize and gaslight her.

That’s the best part of the show, IMO.

Apr 28

Schooled

I work in a well-compensated industry.

Associated with that, I’ve noticed that nearly all of my co-workers send their children to private schools, even though the public schools in this area are pretty good from what I’ve heard.

Most of the people I work with are pretty liberal — this isn’t some conservative withdrawal from the public sphere to avoid mixing with “undesirables.” In fact, the people I work with are liberal enough that the anti-LGBT North Carolina law is frequently made fun of over the cubicle tops. (One joke today: “We’ve stationed a doctor at the bathrooms to check your genitals before you can pee. Please place both feet in the stirrups before even considering urination.”)

Despite all that, public schools are seen as harmful, disreputable places that no one who would allow their children to attend if they could afford the tuition fees to avoid that ghastly fate.

While there have always been private schools, what a massive change in my lifetime — when I was young, a private school (even outside of my relatively-impoverished area) was seen as something only the rich would want any part of. Sending kids to a public school was a way of integrating them into broader society, of socializing them into the world in which they would be living.

Now anyone who can remotely afford it sends their kids to private schools, while public schools are in a death spiral of decreasing attendance and then reduced funding therefrom. And of course that we are driving the best teachers right out of the profession.

No real conclusion — just an observation that we’ve rejected the idea of a shared polity, tossed in the rubbish bin the notion that we’re all in this together, and that this is reflected and self-reinforcing now in every arena of society. It’s not a liberal or conservative tendency, but rather a general propensity whose expression differs across the spectrum of both communities.

Apr 27

Falsity

People complain about false-color images — of space, heat maps, the like.

But your whole visual sensory apparatus produces false color images all the time. What is “real color,” anyway?

Read some philosophy. It’ll take a while.

I know what they’re getting at. Sort of. They want to know how it “really” looks. To what and to whom, though? To a tetrachromat? To a dragonfly?

There is no “real” picture of the world. Never can be. False color images are just another way of seeing what’s there, not some fantasy. They are useful tools and no more unreal than any other depiction of the world.

Apr 26

Permitted

The Linux permissions model is very terrible.

The Windows permissions model is only mildly annoying.

But the Linux permissions model is unfriendly, basically unworkable across systems, and not “designed” so much as slapped together from several different incompatible approaches and models.

If I were setting up an enterprise where multiple user access was important, I’d never even consider Linux. Though I am pretty skilled in both Linux and Windows, in Windows I could get 100 users set up correctly with no issues in less than a day.

In Linux, I might be at it for weeks.

Not a good value despite some other advantages.

Apr 25

Command me

The most useful Linux command of the day is xwininfo. After running the command, it’ll show you the geometry, bit depth and other useful info of any window you click on:

xwininfo

Useful for scripting window actions, determining running bit depth and other assorted general nerdery.