Radioactivity Art

Greenpeace photographer Greg McNevin has created a beautiful series of photographs based on walking around areas formerly contaminated by the ongoing Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters with an LED stick connected to a geiger counter. It’s unfortunate that most people won’t be able to see the art past the politics, but I think it has value in both spheres.

Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

Somebody (possibly Henson himself) posted Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War over at Kuro5hin in 2006. I had no idea Kuro5hin still existed, and Henson’s paper could use some consideration of group selection, but anyway it’s a worthwhile and controversial read.

It seems to me that if Henson’s basic thesis is right, our current global political situation is not just eerily similar to that of the mid-1930s, it’s actually the same phenomenon – so we better get it under control.

Don’t be a .local yokel

Wikipedia has a nice technical write up that explains why you should never, ever use the .local suffix the way Microsoft has frequently recommended.

But I like this politically incorrect version better:

Microsoft: “Gee, nobody is using the .local piece of the globally shared Internet namespace, so let’s tell all our customers that it’s best practice to use it for our totally super cool version of Kerberized LDAP service called Active Directory!”

Novell: “Oh noes, Microsoft has made an inferior competitor to our flagship technology! It’ll probably destroy our market advantage just like their inferior networking stack did!”

Linux/Unix: “Oh noes, when somebody attaches the new Microsoft technology to an existing mature standards-based network, Kerberos breaks!”

Microsoft: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA we are totally following the standard, lusers!”

Linux/Unix: “grumble whine we will patch Kerberos even though we don’t agree.”

Microsoft: “whatevs. Did you notice we broke your DNS too? :)”

Apple: “Hey, IETF, we have this cool new zeroconf technology. We want to reserve the .local namespace for it.”

IETF: “OK, sure, you’ve filled out all the forms and attended all the meetings and there’s two independent implementations so you’ve done everything correctly. We have no valid reason to deny this allocation.”

Novell: “Hey, we were using SLP already, what did you just do?”

Apple: “Oh, whoopsie, did we just eat your lunch? HA HA HA HA HA”

Microsoft: “Hey, what just happened?”

Apple: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA RFC6762, lusers!”

Linux/Unix: “grumble mumble whatevs. We can do mDNS.”

Microsoft customers: “OH NOES WE ARE SCREWZ0RRED”

Microsoft: “Meh, you didn’t really want Apple products on your networks anyway.”

:TEN YEARS LATER:

Microsoft customers: “How much would it cost to fix this network?”

Microsoft: “What, were you talking to us? Everything’s fine here. Windows 10 forever!”

Walmart closing stores

The Beeb is reporting that Walmart’s going to close 269 stores worldwide.

I wonder if it’s too much to hope that the local businesses that failed when Walmart came to town will re-appear, phoenix-like, from the ashes? According to the Austrian economists, they should. But even if they do, it seems to me that once the wages go down, they are going to stay down, unless labor becomes scarce. And the increasing automation of shopping and stocking means there’s not going to be any shortage of retail laborers any time soon.

Mansplaining manspreading

Jason Kottke referred to this as “hilarious mansplaining about manspreading” but I thought it was interesting.

In an extremely crowded subway car or airport trolley, I’ll end up sitting with my legs at a 45 degree angle to one side and my back curled so that my chest is nearly touching my thighs, or even in a complete fetal position with my feet on the seat and my arms wrapped around my legs. The passages between seats are so narrow in American mass transit that I can’t have my legs stick straight out, because my knees will be battered into pulp by passersby with briefcases and purses, and the people on either side of me (especially if they are men) won’t have room for their shoulders if I lean back in my also-too-narrow seat.

It turns out there’s a reason for this, it’s basically because I’m shaped like most men – I have longer thighs and wider shoulders than the reedy eloi the seats were apparently designed for.

annoying git

I’ve been installing git on some corporate servers with the idea of converting existing CVS and ad-hoc code management systems into something reasonably fast and modern.

It’s been somewhat tedious and painful, but supposedly once I’m done the installation will be stable and maintainable. For an enterprise SCM that’s a lot more important than ease of installation, at least in theory. (I ran OpenLDAP for a decade or more, so I can appreciate the value of putting all the pain up front.)

Today’s annoyance is that the gitolite documentation and web site refer to a “hosting user” but the toolset and other web sites describing gitolite installation talk about an “admin user”. After wasting several hours with Google trying to find out exactly what the difference was, I created a new user account for the admin user and executed the commands – at which point it became immediately obvious that THOSE ARE THE SAME DAMN THING.

Curse you, gitolite. I WANTED US TO BE FRIENDS.

You can do science just as badly as you can do religion

I can’t read the Science Based Medicine website, despite my complete agreement with many of its conclusions, without getting annoyed by the priestly attitude of its authors.

They make broad generalizations that could often be equally well applied to the mainstream physicians the site claims are qualitatively superior. For example, from Scott Gavura, Naturopaths offer an array of disparate health practices like homeopathy, acupuncture and herbalism that are linked by the (now discarded) belief in vitalism – the idea we have a “life force”. I’ve certainly never had any difficulty finding doctors who believe in “life forces” and “souls” and such – the churches are full of ’em, seriously. And I’ve heard at least one physician recommend acupuncture, because it had worked on other patients of his.

SBM’s authors also often seem to promote a Medieval doctrine of contagion when they talk about alternative medicine – if any person who claims to be an herbalist or chiropractor does something wrong, this proves that all herbalists and chiropractors are equally wrong. Such a doctrine, if applied equally harshly to mainstream medicine, would make SBM’s own doctors somehow guilty for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. I can’t abide that kind of sloppy thinking.

I wish I could choose less preachy, more convincing allies. It’s good that SBM names and exposes actual quacks, and homeopathic superdilution remedies truly are outmoded nonsense… but I keep finding myself wondering if perhaps Medieval witch-hunters burned some folks who actually deserved it, occasionally.

NASA Ames

Mercifully, the whole thing is starting to fade, to become an episode. When I do still catch the odd glimpse, it’s peripheral; mere fragments of mad-doctor chrome, confining themselves to the corner of the eye. There was that flying-wing liner over San Francisco last week, but it was almost translucent. And the shark-fin roadsters have gotten scarcer, and freeways discreetly avoid unfolding themselves into the gleaming eighty-lane monsters I was forced to drive last month in my rented Toyota. — William Gibson, The Gernsback Continuum

The photoessay This Used to Be the Future reminded me of a childhood spent reading yellowed 1940s science fiction.

1958 General Motors Firebird III

How many unemployed?

In this post-Reagan era, you can use the Government’s “official” count of unemployment – which is broken up into categories from U1 to U6, but everybody uses the U3, currently 5.3% – or you can check out John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics, with puts the current count at 23%. Williams attempts to use the pre-1990 method of calculation (which is difficult because the government is trying really hard not to obtain anything resembling real unemployment figures) so that you can compare modern unemployment figures with historical data.

James Mickens in Norway

“In this bleak, relentlessly morbid talk, James Mickens will describe why making computers secure is an intrinsically impossible task. He will explain why no programming language makes it easy to write secure code. He will then discuss why cloud computing is a black hole for privacy, and only useful for people who want to fill your machine with ads, viruses, or viruses that masquerade as ads. At this point in the talk, an audience member may suggest that Bitcoins can make things better. Mickens will laugh at this audience member and then explain why trusting the Bitcoin infrastructure is like asking Dracula to become a vegan. Mickens will conclude by describing why true love is a joke and why we are all destined to die alone and tormented. The first ten attendees will get balloon animals, and/or an unconvincing explanation about why Mickens intended to (but did not) bring balloon animals. Mickens will then flee on horseback while shouting ‘The Prince of Lies escapes again!'”

I can have a page named NUL in linux, though.

Excellent article, but he forgot my favorite, CLOCK$. I used to have a web page with a big, shiny red button linked to <A HREF=”c:\clock$\clock$”> and the message “don’t click the button or your computer will be destroyed and all your files deleted”. It didn’t really do that, but it would instantly crash any Microsoft system prior to Win98SE or thereabouts. People did click on it, which still kind of amazes me.

The problem with privilege metaphors

It seems to me that we are all the recipients of unearned privilege. You were formed in the womb of your birth mother, to her great discomfort and inconvenience; and obviously nothing you did yourself made you worthy of this privilege – it was a gift, literally the gift of life itself, that you received for free. You had already been a freeloading moocher for nine months before you were even born!

But not every birth is equal. Recent research claims that poverty diminishes mental capacities from birth. It’s fairly clear that the richer your parents and community are, the more unearned privileges you will eventually enjoy – for example, the children of Barack Obama enjoy vastly more privilege than the children of impoverished Arkansas sharecroppers, or the children of impoverished Native Americans on the Res.

Right Wing radio pundits like to split common people along color lines by screaming of “black criminality” and “black on black violence”, but criminality and violence correlate far more with poverty and lack of opportunity than with any skin color. Left Wing bloggers like to split common people on color lines by screeching “white privilege” – as though privilege did not correlate with wealth, and as if there were no privileged people of color.

These talking heads, Right and Left, are of their own free will servile to the ruling class. The .001% of humanity whose titanic wealth makes them immune to law would prefer that the rest of us split on color lines, gender lines, religion, anything that will keep us from uniting. If we could put aside our differences, it might interfere with the continuing concentration of the Earth’s vast resources into fewer and fewer hands – or even reverse that trend.

The US Government and You

“If you treat federal law the way the secretary of state does, you go to prison.
If you treat IRS rules the way the IRS treats IRS rules, you go to prison
If you treat immigration controls the way our immigration authorities do, you go to prison.
If you’re as careless in your handling of firearms as the ATF is, you go to prison.
If you cook your business’s books the way the federal government cooks its books, you go to prison.”

Courtesy of some guy at Slashdot.