Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
We stopped there for perhaps 20 minutes, and I took a walk along the north side of the stream, upstream. It was still drizzling, and the plants along the stream were wet, so I was soaked from my hips down. I saw quite a few nice things along the way (below), and I came back smelling strongly of plant I walked through – not sage, but with a similar smell.
where the short cut to Eagle Peak Road branches from Boulder Creek Road, and took the shortcut. This turned out to be a beautiful drive, full of wildflowers (especially monkeyflowers and a variety of cheerful, bright yellow wildflowers). The streams all along the road were flowing higher than we've ever seen them.
a rough turnout where you can park and walk south along the bluffs for a great view. The water was pouring over this falls, and in one spot the swiftly falling water was turned 90° to shoot out straight horizontally. It's a most pleasant spot for a little sightseeing.
to the turn on to Pine Creek Road, down Noble canyon. Along the way we had spectacular displays of many different wildflowers, most especially penstemmon, lupine, snow-on-the-mountain, and fireweed. We also saw redbuds about to bloom – lots of them, right where we thought they'd all be permanently killed by the 2007 fires. The wind had kicked up, gusting to 50 or 60 mph, and clouds were scudding by at this speed just over our heads. This made for really interesting and fast-changing lighting effects that we greatly enjoyed.
Here's our remaining crummy cell-camera photos...
The linked article talks mostly about various “fixes” for the Post Office. The most important reform, however, isn't discussed: removing the U.S. Post Office's government-granted monopoly on first class mail delivery. A dose of competition would result in great delivery of services that people were actually willing to pay for – and an end to the subsidization of the things people don't want (such as junk mail).
The challenge is that a half-million member union is a potent political force. Their ability to make political donations means they can (effectively) buy off the politicians who might consider removing their monopoly. So the reform I advocate isn't particularly likely to be implemented. But I can dream, can't I?
So we're switching to our backup plan: breakfast at Descanso Junction Restaurant, and a drive in the mountains. Race and Miki will keep us company. Woo hoo!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Thanking Obama for killing Bin Laden is like going into McDonalds and thanking Ronald McDonald for the hamburger. It's the guy cooking the burger that should get the credit, not the clown.
Friday, May 27, 2011
The British National Museum of Computing has recently finished building a complete, working replica of a Tunny machine. In the course of doing so, they've now documented exactly how it was built (this documentation didn't exist before they started their work).
This is something I would really like to see. Next time I'm over in England, I've got to make a point of seeing this museum (I've never been there)...
This Soviet achievement in 1969 was completely overshadowed by the American achievement of putting astronauts on the moon. The Soviet moon rover was, however, quite a technical feat in its own right.
Clearly, though, the Soviets needed a dose of design talent. Lunokhod's “washtub look” would have made Stalin quite happy.
While Lunokhod's electronics failed a long time ago, the device itself was recently located by imagery satellites in lunar orbit, and a scientist has now succeeded in bouncing light off the retro-reflectors mounted on Lunokhod's back. With its location now precisely known, Lunokhod's retro-reflectors have now become an important part of a modern science effort. Not bad for a 42 year old piece of space junk!
Recycle Your Variables
Wherever scope rules permit, reuse existing unrelated variable names. Similarly, use the same temporary variable for two unrelated purposes (purporting to save stack slots). For a fiendish variant, morph the variable, for example, assign a value to a variable at the top of a very long method, and then somewhere in the middle, change the meaning of the variable in a subtle way, such as converting it from a 0-based coordinate to a 1-based coordinate. Be certain not to document this change in meaning.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
It is not difficult to understand how social, political and institutional power enhances the damaging potential of a stupid person. But one still has to explain and understand what essentially it is that makes a stupid person dangerous to other people - in other words what constitutes the power of stupidity.As I said: excellent!
Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behaviour. An intelligent person may understand the logic of a bandit. The bandit's actions follow a pattern of rationality: nasty rationality, if you like, but still rationality. The bandit wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account. All this is bad, but it is rational and if you are rational you can predict it. You can foresee a bandit's actions, his nasty manoeuvres and ugly aspirations and often can build up your defenses.
With a stupid person all this is absolutely impossible as explained by the Third Basic Law. A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy. Because the stupid person's actions do not conform to the rules of rationality, it follows that:
a) one is generally caught by surprise by the attack; b) even when one becomes aware of the attack, one cannot organize a rational defense, because the attack itself lacks any rational structure.
The fact that the activity and movements of a stupid creature are absolutely erratic and irrational not only makes defense problematic but it also makes any counter-attack extremely difficult - like trying to shoot at an object which is capable of the most improbable and unimaginable movements. This is what both Dickens and Schiller had in mind when the former stated that "with stupidity and sound digestion man may front much" and the latter wrote that "against stupidity the very Gods fight in vain."
Friday, May 20, 2011
America was immediately sympathetic to the underdog. The impulse of every media organization, from tabloid to broadsheet to cable to network, was to side with the powerless one in the equation. The cops, the hotel's managers, the District Attorney's office—everyone in authority gave equal weight and respect to the word of the maid. Only in America (and not always in America) would they have taken the testimony of the immigrant woman from Africa and dragged the powerful man out of his first-class seat in the jet at JFK.Much more, on different topics, in her whole piece...
In France, the exact opposite. There, from the moment the story broke, DSK was the victim, not the villain. It was a setup, a trap, a conspiracy. He has a weakness for women. No, he loves them too much. Hairy-chested poseur and Sarkozy foreign-policy adviser Bernard-Henri Levy sneeringly referred to "the chambermaid," brayed about DSK's high standing, and called him "a friend to women." Jean Daniel, editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, sniffily asked why "the supposed victim was treated as worthy and beyond suspicion."
Why wouldn't she be treated as worthy, buddy? One is tempted to ask if it's the black part, the woman part or the immigrant part.
As David Rieff wrote in The New Republic, to French intellectuals, DSK deserves special treatment because he is a valuable person. "The French elites' consensus seems to be that it is somehow Strauss-Kahn himself and not the 32-year-old maid who is the true victim of this drama."
Americans totally went for the little guy. The French went for the power.
For the past three days, I've been part of the team at my company putting on the Knowledge11 User Conference. It was a fantastic experience, but exhausting. My own participation is typical; over 100 of our employees were there. I gave two presentations on my own, one presentation as one of a group of presenters, and was a moderator in two roundtable discussions. All of these were well-attended, and very intense experiences. I learned a lot, and hopefully so did the customers who attended.
But the best part of the experience, by far, was the one-on-one meetings I had with customers. The roughly dozen pre-arranged time slots were all booked before the convention even began, but we managed to put together about two dozen more meetings ad hoc. All told, I had 38 organized meetings with customers, and probably half that again that “just happened” in the hallways (and in one case, the restroom!). Even after a night of sleep, my head is still spinning with all the things that I learned, and ideas that I got from our customers.
Part of me wishes that these events happened more than annually, and part of me is glad I have a whole year to rest up for the next one. Except...I don't. We have a second event happening later this year in Europe. Woo hoo!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Frankly, I don't know what it is about California, but we seem to have a strange urge to elect really obnoxious women to high office. I'm not bragging, you understand, but no other state, including Maine, even comes close. When it comes to sending left-wing dingbats to Washington, we're number one. There's no getting around the fact that the last time anyone saw the likes of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi, they were stirring a cauldron when the curtain went up on 'Macbeth'. The four of them are like jackasses who happen to possess the gift of blab. You don't know if you should condemn them for their stupidity or simply marvel at their ability to form words.Wish I'd written that!
Monday, May 16, 2011
If you start with a cage containing five monkeys and inside the cage, hang a banana on a string from the top and then you place a set of stairs under the banana, before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.
As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while another monkey makes an attempt with same result ... all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, put the cold water away.
Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the crap out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five monkeys, replacing it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment... with enthusiasm.
Then, replace a third original monkey with a new one, followed by a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
Finally, having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, none of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana.
Why, you ask? Because in their minds... that is the way it has always been!
This, my friends, is how Congress operates... and is why, from time to time, all of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME IN 2012.
Weather balloons had been measuring the atmosphere since the 1960s, many thousands of them every year. The climate models all predict that as the planet warms, a hot spot of moist air will develop over the tropics about 10 kilometres up, as the layer of moist air expands upwards into the cool dry air above. During the warming of the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the weather balloons found no hot spot. None at all. Not even a small one. This evidence proves that the climate models are fundamentally flawed, that they greatly overestimate the temperature increases due to carbon dioxide.Now go read the whole thing!
This evidence first became clear around the mid-1990s.
At this point, official “climate science” stopped being a science. In science, empirical evidence always trumps theory, no matter how much you are in love with the theory. If theory and evidence disagree, real scientists scrap the theory. But official climate science ignored the crucial weather balloon evidence, and other subsequent evidence that backs it up, and instead clung to their carbon dioxide theory — that just happens to keep them in well-paying jobs with lavish research grants, and gives great political power to their government masters.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Probably more than any other event in my youth, this awakened my interest in politics and history. Contemporaneously, very little was publicized about the inner workings of those negotiations; it took decades for it all to leak out. My image of Kissinger is of an extremely bright, motivated, and sincere man – but capable of arrogance and ruthlessness even on large issues that affect millions of people. His advocacy of Realpolitik I found profoundly un-American. He frightened me when he was in power.
One reaction I had to reading the adaptation is that it reads a bit like an insider's historical account, and even if only for that reason I will read the book. I don't know enough about modern China to assess his thoughts about it.
The last reaction I had was to be a bit surprised at myself, mainly for not having thought about Dr. Henry Kissinger for quite a long time. In the '70s and '80s, he and Zbigniew Brzezinski were frequent targets of my reading and thinking. Other than as historical figures (!), neither has been top-of-mind for many years.
Power and influence are fleeting things, usually...
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Then put the bowl down on the floor for your old girl dog friend (in my case, Lea, our 15 year old field spaniel). I guarantee you'll be a happier person after you watch your dog's delight and grunts of sheer doggie ecstasy.
It's so easy to make a dog happy...
That annoyance has been removed. I've replaced the venerable Cisco 806 with a Buffalo Technology model WZR-HP-G300NH (at right, click to enlarge), flashed with DD-WRT (open source router software). This single $80 router replaces not only my malfunctioning Cisco 806, but also a separate Cisco wireless router.
So what was it like to replace that Cisco 806?
Installing the Cisco in the first place is something I remember well. I was already reasonably familiar with the arcane Cisco IOS configuration files before I started that job. Even so, to set up the 806 I had to learn a few new things. It ended up consuming an entire weekend, and involved many failed attempts before I finally got us up and running on the Intertubes. For months afterwards, I tweaked one thing and another until I finally got it all working.
Now contrast the more recent experience of bringing up the Buffalo Technology router. There were just two steps. First, I downloaded the latest DD-WRT version and flashed the router with it. Elapsed time: about 10 minutes. Then I used the built-in web pages to explore and configure the router. Elapsed time: about 10 minutes. Then I plugged it into power and the network, and … it all worked on the first try. I've not had to do any tweaking at all.
Awesome job, DD-WRT folks. Just awesome. And much appreciated...
Let's hope there's no rescue in the works...
The coolness sure is a nice change from the usual summer blast-furnace. Debbie and I are hoping that this continues through the entire summer, though that seems a bit much to ask for...
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
One day long, long ago, there lived a beautiful woman who did not whine, nag, bitch or drink (that would be me).
But that was a long time ago and it was just that one day.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
The solution turns out to be mathematically challenging, and computers were used to figure out the final ordering. The guiding principle used is “meaningful adjacencies”, meaning that names found next to one another are connected in some way (organizational affiliation, relationships, families, etc.). Fascinating stuff.
This morning I read a blog post that purports to explain the phenomenon (which many others have also noted). Some of the links from this post are also interesting. Essentially the notion is that while you're taking a shower, you're not getting a lot of input from other sources, so your subconcious can surface things its thinking about. I'm not sure about the science behind this, but it is the first plausible explanation I've heard yet. The blog post is actually about a product that lets you take notes in the shower, so you won't forget your ideas. That's never been an issue for me – when I come up with an idea in the shower, it's generally for something I've been working on for hours or even days. There's zero chance that I'm going to forget a solution for a problem like that!
Monday, May 9, 2011
After we got done working, we showered and headed for Descanso Junction Restaurant. There we met up with my cousin Mike D. and his significant other Diane. They're from Colorado, and they're taking a grand driving tour of the west. We caught them as they were headed to San Diego for a couple days of sight-seeing. Though we've corresponded quite a bit in recent years, I haven't seen Mike since I was a kid, close to 50 years ago. He's 11 years older than I am, so his memories of that event are better than mine. We had a grand old time, swapping stories and feasting.
Mike and I both chose the same dish: meatloaf and mashed potatoes with green beans, preceded by a seafood chowder. Debbie got one of her all-time favorites, the fried chicken. Diane, the light eater amongst us, got a club sandwich – the look of dismay on her face when she saw the (monster) size of it was priceless. Mike, on the other hand, nearly jumped for joy when he saw the gigantic slab of meatloaf that didn't quite fit on his plate! He finished his entire plate off, then eyeballed Diane's remaining half-sandwich. I suspect that sandwich didn't make it to the refrigerator last night...
We took our separate paths upon leaving the restaurant, but not before we made plans for Mike and Diane to join us for a day of four-wheeling when we're out in Ouray next month. We're going to take them to Yankee Boy Basin for some wildflowers...
No solution to any problem is 100% perfect. Every choice is an exercise in balancing out the pros and cons. Every time I buy a new vehicle I'm reminded of this – there are a bewildering variety of choices available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Imagine how arbitrarily limited your choices would be if (for example) you refused to consider vehicles that came with floor mats as standard equipment. That's roughly what Stallman is advocating here.
SaaS is just one way to buy software. It's got a suite of advantages that I (and many others) think are compelling, and a few disadvantages, many of which can be mitigated or minimized. Refusing to consider SaaS for the reasons suggested by Stallman is just silly...
Saturday, May 7, 2011
But aside from the great (and plentiful!) food, the people there are what really makes the place. Yesterday Milton and Esmeralda (two of Manolli and Rosio's kids) made up my order of soup and iced mocha (for Debbie), while Manolli churned out sandwiches and other goodies. This family is a fixture in the Jamul area – hard-working immigrant Americans full of good cheer and good will. Jamul would be a different – and lesser – place without them.
It just occurred to me to look them up on Yelp, and I'm delighted to see that every review up there is a solid five stars!
Friday, May 6, 2011
If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?Now ... how exactly should I interpret that?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
6714. (a) The standards board shall, no later than September 1, 2012, adopt an occupational safety and health standard for lodging establishment housekeeping. The standard shall apply to all hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments in California. The standard shall require all of the following:Yup, you read it right. Let's mandate fitted sheets in hotel rooms, instead of something important, like, say, getting spending under control.
(1) The use of a fitted sheet, instead of a flat sheet, as the bottom sheet on all beds within the lodging establishment. For the purpose of this section, a "fitted sheet" means a bed sheet containing elastic or similar material sewn into each of the four corners that allows the sheet to stay in place over the mattress.
Some assembly required.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Overhead, the sky was just glorious. No moon, no planets – just stars. The Milky Way arced high overhead, from just east of north to the southeast. It was clear and bright enough that even with just a few minutes of accommodation I could see structure in it. Beautiful, just plain beautiful...
As I walked and soaked in the night, I was thinking about the potential indirect consequences of Osama bin Laden's killing. It occurred to me that if bin Laden had been living in that compound for years, there were probably interesting records there, and possibly even computers. After coming back in and reading the news, I see that the Seals indeed captured a large amount of potential intelligence sources, including computers. The consequences for al Qaeda may extend far beyond the death of their leader. Let's hope that's so!
After transcribing the binary digits, I translated each byte (8 bits) into its corresponding ASCII character with this handy online converter, starting from the direction of the windmill, and working clockwise around the circle and out from the centre. (If you're having trouble following this, see the animation linked at the bottom of the article).
The result was this:
It looked like some kind of equation, and when I looked it up, Google asked if I meant: e^(i)pi)1=0, for which the top result was Euler's identity: eiπ+1=0. This has been called "the most beautiful theorem in mathematics". No surprise that it should turn up in a crop circle then!
Monday, May 2, 2011
Are there any adults in the room up there?
It's very hard to imagine this happening today, isn't it?
I'm sure more details will emerge about the operation. Several helicopters and a couple dozen U.S. personnel were involved. No U.S. personnel were injured or killed. Our forces “took custody” of bin Laden's body, then buried it at sea (apparently to stay within the Islamic custom of burying a body within 24 hours of death).
Here's the only thing that really matters: the mastermind of 9/11 is dead. Woot!