Apr 18

Piste off

The problem with utopian visions like these is not that they are impossible. No, they are completely possible. There is nothing in an economic system like that incompatible with human nature. (The hunter-gatherer thing is outlandish, but let’s ignore that for the moment.)

The problem is that there is no credible path from here to there. None at all.

We are at a local maximum. There are several very dreadful local minima nearby that it’s easy to roll down into from here — such as climate-caused collapse, or nuclear war, or ecological collapse separate of climate change.

There are better local maxima — far better — but they are up slopes so steep that the chances of climbing them are basically nil. Not now, not ever.

I don’t believe there is a way around this. And perhaps that itself is human nature, that it’s impossible to transition to other much-more-beneficial local maxima without utter disaster.

Apr 16

Beyond space oddities

What’s also supremely bizarre in those infected by some sort of Hillary malady is the contention in previously-sane people that millions of dollars donated to her campaign will have absolutely no effect on her policies — and that even discussing it is absurd.

What are these people smoking? Especially since some of these same people have argued in the past against the corruption that results from campaign “donations” (aka bribes), and have advocated reforming campaign finance laws as the process is inherently corrupt and corrupting.

I can’t understand any of this. Is it really that scary that your house price might fall 5% or that poor people might get something a bit better, or that SSI might be improved?

Apr 16

Elections do weird things

Paul Krugman Doesn’t Understand The 2008 Financial Crisis.

Neither does Kevin Drum — everything he now writes about the financial crisis, NAFTA and trade is either wrong, misleading or an outright and obvious lie.

Hillary Clinton-itis is an chronic and persistent infection whose symptoms include extreme historical retrograde amnesia, disconnection from reality, frequent hallucinations and the tendency to now ignore past shenanigans of an entire class of financial parasites because the status quo might be altered a bit.

It is mostly indicated in older white males, but its etiology being unknown sometimes it appears inexplicably in younger white females. Though the disease is currently untreatable, post-election trauma care such as intensive cognitive behavioral therapy after said candidate turns out to be a Goldman Sachs myrmidon with warmonger tendencies no different than her predecessor and his predecessor can ameliorate and sometimes even completely reverse the effects.

At this time little to no research funding is directed at this life-altering ailment, and further treatments are not expected.

Apr 15

Nom

If I had a daughter, I’d name her “Moniker.” Everyone would think her name is “Monika.” However, her name is actually the name of her name.

Her middle name would of course be “Recursion.”

I am sure she would murder me by her early teens for all this.

Apr 15

Sanders standers

There were hints of it in 2008, but with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy it has become completely obvious that many people who term themselves “progressives” are about as progressive as John Boehner.

Among them are Paul Krugman, Sarah Kendzior, Charles Blow and so many others.

I don’t support Sanders. I won’t vote for him and I think he’d make a fairly ineffective Carter-esque president.

Nevertheless, he’s the nearest thing America has had to a true progressive politician in many years. That his proposals aren’t seen as “realistic” in the current political climate is the entire point.

American progressivism is just a variant of neoliberalism these days.

Not sure why I’m writing about it. I don’t think the current system is tenable or fixable. Sanders won’t and cannot fix it. But pretending HRC is the safe choice is just delusional. She’s the safe choice if you like even faster collapse.

Apr 14

Hard lessons

Things I learned the hard way in IT:

  • If a user claims there is “no vital data” on a computer, never believe them. Even if they insist, even if they claim you are wasting their time. Image the fucking hard drive if you are upgrading. Just image it. Users are completely clueless about where their data resides, or even if there is data.
  • If a department claims “no one uses this server, it can be decommissioned,” first power it down. If no one complains after a month, remove it from the server room (if physical) or the virtual environment (if virtual) but DON’T GET RID OF IT for at least two years. I’ve had servers in environments that are only used once a year (at tax season, for instance). Two years full retention of server image (not just data) is usually enough.
  • If a telecom vendor tells you 30 days, expect 90+. If they tell you 90 days, count on 180+.
  • If a programming group complains about performance and blames infrastructure, learn enough about their code and their databases to be able to read the code and to debug their programming and DB issues. It’s almost never an infrastructure problem, and anyway throwing more hardware at a programming or database issue gets very, very expensive very, very quickly. In some environments, I’ve understood more about what the code was doing at the machine level than the programmers themselves did. (This is not actually uncommon among really good systems administrators. SAs have to know nearly everything about everything — programmers only have to know how to code.)
  • If you have a manager in IT with an MBA, chances are you are going to have a bad time.
  • If a user claims they have rebooted their machine, also never believe them.
Apr 14

Argumentum ad stultus

The argument that adult humans shouldn’t drink milk or consume milk-related products because no other mammal does so past the infancy period is a fundamentally stupid one.

Some other arguments in the same vein:

1) No other animal cooks their food. Seen any wildebeest or kangaroo cooking? No? Then humans should not.

2) No other animal* practices organized agriculture. Therefore humans should not.

3) No other animal ferments their food. Therefore humans should not.

4) No other animal uses utensils to eat**. Therefore humans should not.

The problem is that some people think because they are lactose-intolerant or otherwise don’t like milk, no one else should be allowed to drink it. Some liberal nutjobs even think milk is racist because more people with African heritage tend to be lactose-intolerant.

But here’s the thing: don’t fucking like milk, don’t drink it. More milkshakes for me.

Problem solved.

*Yes, I know about the damn fungus ants. Read about them when I was six or seven. Most people don’t, though.

**Yes, I know about stick-using corvids, chimps, etc. See above.

Apr 13

The box

I hate the phrase “thinking outside the box,” mainly because of its misuse in business environments.

But I have noticed that a lot of people just get…stuck. Inexplicably. Where I work, there is an entire team of people when one thing goes wrong, they get stuck for hours. Irrevocably, until someone effectively reboots them.

Something I’d just skip over and try to find the answer later (or make my own), everything on that team comes to a dead halt, like a car out of gas on the edge of the highway.

Often I’m not even the closest to the smartest in the room but I rarely if ever get halted like that. I’m expert at dodging around, finding another answer, doing something a different way, even charging ahead where someone has told me I could not go. And I don’t care much about rules or breaking them, so that helps too I guess.

Increasingly I’ve observed that people objectively much smarter than me have trouble doing what I do because they just got immediately mired in quicksand that I dance over without even realizing it’s there.

Don’t think any IQ tests can measure that, even as much as I believe they are measuring something.

Apr 09

When you could have

Here’s what something reads like when you could have made a good point, but seem to have gotten lost in your own word salad.

How unsurprising, then, that the infamous 1984 commercial for the Apple Macintosh, which unleashed the personal computer revolution, featured a sexy, skimpily-clad woman shattering the gray political passivity of scores of lonely, propaganda-watching men.

Sexy? Skimpily-clad? What the hell is she talking about? It was just a woman in track clothes. She’s not sexualized at all. And what does any of that have to do with the rest of the article? Of course I could write that about nearly any paragraph in the appallingly poorly-written piece.

The Apple ad was supposed to depict someone athletic, vibrant, free from restraint. That she happened to have breasts was just due to the fact that she was a human female (and the fact that Apple very much wanted to appeal to women, as opposed to other computer companies).

Also, while it’s a myth that female voices are easier to understand, both men and women do find female voices more pleasant and less threatening than men’s.

So for most companies there’s no percentage in making the default AI voice male — you’ll displease far more of your customers.

I think I get more annoyed when an article could’ve been insightful and interesting and was not, than when an article seems to be crap and I read it and turns out that, yep, it’s crap.

So how could this piece have made some good points?

It could’ve examined why both men and women find women’s voices more pleasing. It could have done some analysis on why threatening AIs often have male voices (HAL in 2001, Agent Smith in The Matrix, Sonny in I, Robot, etc.). It could have examined how gender relations will change as both men and women use increasingly-sentient sex robots (and yes, women will use them too — perhaps more than men).

It could have made some mention of how genderless robots (BB-8, R2-D2, Jinx) are assumed to be male, and also why we humans need to assign everything a gender. It might have looked at how the Fembots in Austin Powers is a satire of and pushback against the idea of feminized embodied AI. It might’ve actually discussed the film Ex Machina and its huge relevance rather than just using some de-contextualized photo of Alicia Vikander as Ava, and also used that to segue into the fact that many men do actually want something with free will that nevertheless belongs to them. And then gone into the morality of creating any AI of any gender in the first place.

I could go on.

Article fail. Enough said.