Apr 19

Why?

About the below, about all the time spent understanding QM, some people ask, “Why bother? What does that gain you?”

Well, ignoring even the simple joy of understanding something for its own sake, I know why the sun shines. Not just some vague guess – I know exactly why. I know why photons are emitted, and under what conditions, and how a star keeps from collapsing under its own mass.

I know why my hand doesn’t pass through the desk when I “touch” it, even though it’s mostly just empty space.

I understand why an element is an element, and why there are elements in the first place.

Knowing QM enough to reason in its counterintuitive way won’t help you make more money at work, or to repair your car, but when you look out at the universe or even at your own hand, you’ll understand more about the world than most people who have ever lived.

If that isn’t cool or worth doing, I don’t know what is. I know how the sun shines. How many people in recorded history can say that?

Apr 18

QM

I wish anyone – which is nearly everyone – who has no clue what Erwin Schrödinger was actually getting at when he devised the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment would just stop writing about it.

A good idea is that if you can’t explain what spin is in quantum mechanics, to never write another word about Schrödinger or his goddamn cat.

What ol’ Erwin was getting at is that the Copenhagen interpretation of QM is plainly ridiculous, as in the macro world there are no cats who are simultaneously alive and dead.

Nearly everyone writes this up all wrong, and most of those who manage to write it up correctly still have no clue what they are talking about.

I am no physicist or expert on QM, but I have spent many years trying to understand as much about it as a layman can. Even most books purporting to explain it get it wrong, including some written by actual physicists.

The problem is QM is so strange that you can’t think about it using anything in the macro world. It just doesn’t work. You have to give all that up. There is no analogue, no translation. Just think about it as it is, and you’ll be good.

That took me about a decade, though, so good luck.

Apr 14

Why I can never use a tablet for work

Here’s what I was doing yesterday for work.

I had a virtual machine open so I could use my company’s VPN software. In that virtual machine, I was remoted into my work admin box, which I was consulting frequently.

I was also remoted into two different machines that I was using to conduct file transfers.

At the same time, I was remoted into a server that I was transferring files to, to do clean-ups and to run some checks.

I was also remoted into another server that I was using to check some other related things.

In my main machine (outside of the virtual machine), I was using a spreadsheet I was consulting frequently on my secondary monitor while I was consulting my email and writing email on my main monitor, as well as having all the rest of the above visible (mostly) in the background so I could monitor it all.

Additionally, I had my laptop on my desk and booted up so I could do secondary things like use my IM client with a few teammates, and to consult some other documents.

So, let’s see, I was using seven different computers at once. And I had to do so – anything less would’ve slowed me down greatly. If I’d used two or three, the task would’ve taken 2-3 or even four times as long.

Most people can’t multi-task*? Good thing I am not most people, then.

This all took me about 10 hours. If I’d had to do this all on a tablet or on Windows 8, I’d still be working on it. And I’d still be working on it next week, too.

I realize not everyone does the things I do. I know this will sound arrogant (ask me if I care), but most people can’t. Their brains just don’t work like mine.

But enough can, and need to, that switching to a single-tasking tablet or phone OS is not an option.

And yep, I needed to see most or all of this stuff all at once, nearly all of the time. Really.

I literally could not even begin to do 1/10 of my job with a phone OS or on a tablet.

*Scientists who study multi-tasking insist on using an idiotic definition of multi-tasking, then “disprove” something that everyone knows is idiotic. Why do this, I have no idea. Probably something to do with funding that I don’t understand.

Apr 14

Younix

Funny that people at work are very Microsoft-centric and make fun of Linux and Unix as being archaic OSes, but who do they call the moment they run into a problem with a Unix- or Unix-like OS?

Yep, me.

Oh, what is it, the phone system needs to be in by this week and no one including the $1,000 a day consultant hired for that purpose knows jack about Solaris?

Wish I could get a cut of that grand a day.

Apr 12

Escapism and guilty pleasures

I’ve always despised the concept of “guilty pleasures.” Perhaps that is just my native contrarian nature coming out, but when someone asks me, sputtering, “But how can someone like you like rap?” I immediately want nothing more to do with them.

Not that my choices of music, of books, should never be criticized but at the same time I am allowed to critique the critique of me, and also to reject the critic. Which I do with alacrity.

Just like Jo Walton so elegantly does.

Escaping doesn’t mean avoiding reality, escaping means finding an escape route to a better place. Seeing those options can be the file to get through the bars. Anyone who thinks this is a bad thing is the enemy.

It is no exaggeration at all to say that were it not for the music and books I consumed in middle and high school, that I’d be dead now. Tori Amos, Tanya Donelly, Hope Sandoval, Throwing Muses, Faith No More and authors too innumerable and varied to name – these people kept me alive, and showed me a better world that I knew one day that I could be and would be a part of.

And I did become part of, but never would have without their art.

So when people criticize me for reading “bad books” or liking music I’m not supposed to like, I revert to my old Southern ways and lose the eloquence of Walton and say simply “Fuck all ya’ll.”

Apr 09

Panned

Of the many times I’ve been banned from Pandagon, one of the earliest was for espousing the ideas of Shulamith Firestone, by far my favorite feminist thinker and writer, and probably the most underappreciated.

Apparently, in the Pandagonian world of feminism, feminism so radical is itself oppressive to women because they can “never live up to such a standard of feminism.” Who knew our goal should be to aim as low as possible!

Regardless, Firestone’s ideas appealed to me both because they make sense and that I thought of many of them before I’d read Firestone’s work (thought of course she thought of them all years before I was born!).

Pandagon is a site I read but frequently mourn reading as it more reinforces the status quo than attempts to break it down. The reason is that you usually can’t show up on your enemy’s well-prepared and booby-trapped battlefield and expect to win all that often.

Damn, we really need more people like Firestone. She was one of the people I had picked in one of those, “Which three historical people would you like to meet and have dinner with in their prime?” questions. The other two were Charles Darwin and Laura Veirs (hey, no one said they had to be dead or even not current).

I found The New Yorker article over at Sarcozona’s blur blog.

Apr 09

Skep

I am still an iPad skeptic, even though I own one and use it frequently.

Nearly all I do with mine is to read books with it due to the gorgeous screen. It is exceptionally good at that; however, at everything else, like all tablets, it’s a nearly-total failure.

The screen is too small to read webpages very well.

I can type 100wpm+ on a real keyboard. On the iPad keyboard, maybe 4-5wpm if I really get going.

It’s too slow to process photos, and won’t handle raw files anyway.

It’s designed for content consumption, not creation.

Its screen isn’t large enough to do any real work.

It multitasks like crap.

Etc.

It is a really great e-reader. For anything else, it is far and away trumped by a desktop PC. I am glad I got it, but the only thing it will or ever could be for me is a very expensive book reading device.

Apr 03

Yon singer

For anyone who thinks that Beyonce’s “Star-Spangled Banner” was lip-synced at the inauguration you should really watch this:

That’s what a four-octave range sounds like, folks. Notice that even when 10-15 other people are singing in the background she is still easily louder than all of them while still hitting every note. And while sitting down, which is worse for singing.

Apr 03

Bon

Yesterday I realized how rich people get themselves into trouble by saying stupid things. It’s surprisingly easy to do when your life is much different than others who might hear you.

I’m certainly not rich by the American definition, but I don’t spend all that much money and due to certain (legal) things I’ve done in my past, I don’t really think about money much most of the time. It’s just not an immediate and pressing concern in my life these days.

So one of my co-workers asked, “Have you noticed if your bonus has been deposited yet? I’ve been looking for it in my account and haven’t seen mine.” And if I’d thought even for a fraction of a second before I said this and hadn’t been busy at the time, I wouldn’t have said it.

But I said, “No, I haven’t noticed or looked at my account in a long time.”

Then my co-worker kiddingly (we get along well) but understandably said, “Look at Mike, working with us peons — he doesn’t even need that bonus!”

And that’s how rich people easily get themselves into trouble. Not that I am defending their idiocy. I am not rich by American definitions, and unlike seemingly most of the rich I have empathy and want a strong and non-stigmatizing social safety net, etc.

But when your life is very different from those around you, sometimes you don’t even realize how what you are saying or doing might be taken the wrong way.