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Comment hacking on humbug (Score 1) 82

As I read it, Turing's paper was entirely about hacking on humbug human attitudes: if flesh and metal both give the same answers (or similar enough that you can't tell the difference) isn't it a just distinction without a difference to describe one as alive and conscious and the other inanimate and unconscious?

This paper really had very little to do with computers at all.

Comment in no particular order (Score 1) 312

  • The Stuff of Thought (2007) by Steven Pinker
  • Algorithms to Live By (2016) by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
  • Bread Baker's Apprentice (2001) by Peter Reinhart
  • Fat Chance (2013) by Robert Lustig
  • The Hacking of the American Mind (2017) by Robert Lustig (on order)
  • Democracy to Live By (2016) by Christopher H. Achen
  • Taste of Persia (2016) by Naomi Duguid

Democracy is a textbook in drag, but has some worthwhile chapters near the end.

Taste of Persia is interesting, but this isn't the easiest cuisine to crack into. Managed a reasonable tahdig on my first attempt. I will probably try a flatbread, then call it a day for this pass. But the weird thing is, I'll probably use Reinhart's recipe, because his book has a good one, too.

Bread Baker's Apprentice is awesome. He adapted his Pain a l'Ancienne in a later book (the recipe is online), and I'm already getting amazing results (but I had been making high-hydration pizza dough for several years, so it wasn't the biggest stretch, har har).

Lustig has some interviews on YouTube. I like the guy, but he can lay it on a bit thick at times. He recently took time off from his medical research to pick up a law degree. Honestly not sure what to expect from his newest book.

I've long had a love/hate relationship with Pinker, but eventually I read everything he writes.

Algorithms to Live By would be a great book if they weren't so busy shooting down their own strawmen.

What's the real value of an "optimal" solution, as N races upward in a combinatorial space? First, it ends argument. Second, well, there is no second. So many good solutions are almost identical in many of these problem spaces at scale. Pssst—that's why there's no fucking gradient inside the good solution disk for your clever algorithm to exploit. Man that was getting on my nerves at various points. Then they get half of another chapter explaining that many optimum isn't necessary at the end of the day after all. Oh, sheesh. Why didn't you say this long before I threw the book at the wall for the third time?

A fairly typical random cross section, though a bit heavy on cooking lately.

Comment Re:Restroom Break (Score 1) 98

And this is well in line with my going to the restroom to jack off once or twice an hour to "release stress"

Regular pipe maintenance is also associated with a decrease in all-cause male mortality.

Way up in the sky /
Puzzling to my tiny eye /
Ablation of my risk to die.
Only now I ponder why /
Lofting spunk lifeboats spry.

Also, be sure to order the self-winding activity tracker rather than the regular coin cell job—unless you're a dab hand with small tools.

Comment Re:We covered the dosing morons in an earlier arti (Score 1) 305

The modern age of coffee-fueled offices is entirely a product of Maxwell House's 1950s advertising with the slogan, "Take a coffee break."

Folklore is a giant wax museum of intrepid historical figures flipping the bird to the domed dinosaur diorama while cracking open a champagne magnum against the nearest tree (do forgive my small anachronism) or throwing a giant streaming parade minutes before the world changed of its own accord by a rapid cascade of barely perceptible degrees (perspective: sweltering NBA reptile with small, sticky fingers) in the inexorable march of exploration, exploitation, and delinquency (subtypes: fungus, resin, coca, cocoa, coffee, erbium, tantalum, palladium, niobium).

Comment Re:Sadly he became a Trumpist in his last days (Score 1) 221

Pournelle was extraordinarily intelligent. Many extraordinarily intelligent people learn early on that people who disagree with them are usually wrong, and for the sake of efficiency should be ignored or their arguments discarded without due consideration.

Mind blowing.

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
        — Mark Twain

To begin with, I wouldn't bet my life that this quote originated from Twain (for that matter, I would be hard pressed to bet my life Twain ever said "Twain, Mark Twain") but let's ignore the ironic recursion.

The smarter you are, the more exposed you become to the final sliver of error.

And then, if you shut down the feedback loop of last resort in the name of efficiency then the final score is Hubris: 1, IQ: 0 for any value of IQ (which is anyway a set of measure zero, despite here and there a flirtation with numbers—180, 190, 200—that might almost boil water by sheer mental exertion).

How about we set Pournelle beside Pournelle squared?

According to E. Wigner and S. Ulam, von Neumann was an extremely open person. He was ready to help anyone who needed advice. His good sense of humor and remarkable gift of storytelling made him being adored even by strangers. He was never pompous, always driven by his flawless logic and very profound understanding of morality.

Despite his acknowledged outstanding intellectual capabilities, he was free from arrogance and he was very interested in other people.

According to Norbert Weiner:

Neumann is one of the two or three top mathematicians in the world, is totally without national or race prejudice, and has an enormously great gift for inspiring younger men and getting them to do research ... Neumann is not high-hat in any way, and is most accessible to young students

I got that impression originally from a David Hoffman documentary (since taken down from YouTube), the above are similar sentiments recounted on Quora.

I was never a huge fan of Pournelle's fiction. Had it not been that Niven's Ringworld was somewhat thinly plotted—plot was always Niven's weak underbelly—I doubt their collaboration would have ever happened.

Niven with a thin plot was still ten times better mind food than anything Pournelle ever wrote.

For anyone mentioning that Ellison also had a prick gear, check out the documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth (2008). He comes across as a bristly guy with a prick gear, but mostly tolerable the rest of the time.

If I had to choose one or the other to be stuck with on a destroyed island paradise, it would be prophetic Ellison over Pournelle all the way (though definitely Pournelle over oracular Ellison). At the end of the day, I did continue to read Pournelle's columns, something that can't be said for John C. Dvorak.

Comment credential theft (Score 5, Insightful) 401

It will be very hard to top this. In this case we have half of a population with personal info detailed enough to effectively steal identity in multiple ways ...

Hackers aren't stealing identity, they are stealing credentials (so as so assume an identity, if the world makes this easy for them to pull off).

Institutions want to pretend that credentials = identity, so that if they give your money to the wrong person, it's your fault (your identity was stolen, what else could we do?) rather than their fault (their chosen system of credentials sprung a leak, causing them to misidentify some loser as the real customer).

Finally, a big enough leak that maybe some people will begin to comprehend the distinction here.

Comment Re:urgent: mouse wanted to baby bell the word "new (Score 1) 71

Slashdot mainly serves to keep my severed finger wet.


Somewhere inside I just knew I was one word away from the perfect ending. I stared and stared at the video replay until I finally got it. Damn. Two beautiful bumps from Chomsky and Harris, and then I flubbed the spike.

And no, it wasn't an accident that team Chomsky, Harris and Will were lined up against Hannity, Limbaugh, and Carlson—those shrill wind-up drawls that blow nobody good—(Frum Jr. must then, perforce, be the odd-man-out stripe-swapping zebra).

You can bet team CHILL has a frostier bench—true meteorology is rarely a pleasant lark on a bark through a park (Houston, we're short of birch slabs).

Comment urgent: mouse wanted to baby bell the word "news" (Score 1) 71

There are many places on the Internet where I stick a wet finger in the air, to assess weather conditions.

Where I "get" my meteorology is from professionals over a broad spectrum (I actually prefer Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith over Joe and Mika when Chris and Shep are taking their jobs seriously). And then I often cross-check the professionals against Wikipedia (mostly for leaving important shit out) and Google Scholar (for careful treatment of what they chose to include).

Where it comes to meteorology, half of these social media bumpkins couldn't even write down the ideal gas law (though for many, it's surely Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson in a perfect storm of Hurricane Beangeflato).

For me, the continental divide—between swamp and non-swamp—is approximately George Will: I find myself on board with exactly half of what he says. David Frum is also a fairly reliable coin flip: I just never know if I'm going to agree or not, sentence by sentence.

By way of contrast, I only agree with about 1/3 of what Chomsky says, though it's a pretty important one third. From time to time I nail myself to a cross and drink his vinegar (no, I'm not self-aggrandising—this was, for the most part, a thoroughly plebeian pastime in ancient Rome).

By way of contrast again, I agree with Sam Harris 75% of the time, but it's the least important 75%, so I pretty much stopped tuning him in.

Slashdot mainly serves to keep my finger wet.

Comment Re:"With the rise of Islam in the 7th century..." (Score 1) 164

Hmm, hand-wavy tone, entirely unlike Wikipedia. What could possibly go wrong?

Populations collapsed from their Roman and post-Roman levels.


The prolonged and escalating Byzantine–Sassanid wars of the 6th and 7th centuries and the recurring outbreaks of bubonic plague (Plague of Justinian) left both empires exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Arabs.

Now the stool has three legs of decline, and two of them are inside jobs.

Comment Re:a deeper depth of sad self-chaperonage (Score 1) 195

To add a tiny dollop of credibility to that long personal screed, the game I played most was unusual in that while you would normally be pursued by two dozen soon-to-become claustrophobic objects, probably 15 of those objects would have a future trajectory that was deterministic based on your own movements (one little Z80 can only do so much ...)

I actually don't know any other game of that intensity where you can glance away from your present task with such relentless foresight.

There was another game a few years later with about sixty objects in constant pursuit—amid a veritable blur of fireballs and grenades—but they tended to clump together, and you could settle for blindly taking out any three of five, before glancing back to assess the precise statistical mechanics.

Eye management was a valuable skill in many games I played later, but only these games rewarded it quite so ruthlessly as described.

Comment a deeper depth of sad self-chaperonage (Score 1) 195

It's not just shiny object affliction. This chick apparently has a stack depth of 1.5 items.

Even after fifteen consecutive distractions, I still usually know I left the kettle on.

To begin with, I have about a five-task planning horizon. This isn't even a stack. On a good day, I can be actively pursuing three tasks in parallel, while sizing up two more off to the side (and maybe grabbing utensils soon to be needed, if in my other flurry I discover them near to hand).

I originally learned to do this playing too many arcade games in my early twenties. I played one game with two joysticks for so many hours, that my cognition perceptibly split in two. I became completely aware of one planning horizon for navigation (mostly evasion, some targetting) and a separate planning horizon for aggression (the weapon stick) and some kind of mutual constraint optimization going on between these (this sometimes in the heat of the moment fell by the wayside, and my two hands would simply continue to function independently, each hand sort of making guesses about what the other hand might do—there was often a point in those old arcade games where the game would decide you had already played long enough, and it was time to terminate you with extreme prejudice; often I managed to beat the game nevertheless, but good luck keeping both hands on a fully coordinated, shared page for the death-defying duration; this was back during the Miller's Crossing "ethics" phase, where game designers felt obligated to give you a real chance, however slim).

I also have a sleep disorder, and regularly in the thick of my sleep disorder, my elite, simultaneous planning horizon shrinks down to a single task (or portion thereof). Damn is that annoying. And there's this voice that follows me throughout the whole day: "You know what? If you had your real brain, you'd have dunked that basketball three times just on the way to the bathroom to take a piss. And today you haven't managed to dunk that basketball even once in the past hour, sitting in your work chair, occupied with nothing else."

And I go, "thanks for the vote of confidence; and, oh yeah, ba da bing for reminding me where I was heading just now".

On the squirrel front, I have a somewhat different problem than the chick of the moment. My verbal intelligence is like Uncle Buck. Once he enters the room, it's very hard to send him packing again so I can return to working on math or code: 300 immobile lbs of curtain-ring Velcro. Consequently, I've also subjected myself to this kind of sad self-chaperonage, but for a different reason: to try to keep my word-brain at bay for long enough to accomplish other things.

Ideally, I would get through three two-hour blocks by mid-day and that would be the end of my technical obligations. But even ten minutes of Rachel Maddow (is the world still here? huh? is it? huh?) while I consume my morning coffee and jot a few notes in my journal is sometimes enough to compromise my entire morning. My squirrels are mainly verbal notions; they are generated internally, from the very first meagre sign of a toasted bread crumb, all the way until the sun goes down.

When I was feeling up for it, I used to sometimes cook a five course meal, with five unfamiliar recipes, selected from an unfamiliar cuisine (one time it was Korean, another time some country in Africa), involving maybe a dozen unfamiliar ingredients, while aiming to serve all of these dishes hot more or less at the same time. Usually I managed four, while shunting a problem child into "maybe tomorrow", or "maybe next time". Which should make it obvious why I clipped the following paragraphs on first encounter:

Time Is on Your Side — 7 October 2015

Bread is dough's destiny, and bread-making is like being a parent: Just as a child can be spoiled by too much interference with the natural processes of time, to make good bread you must leave the dough to its own self-creation.

The challenge is internal: Can you suppress your need to fuss and fiddle, to make myriad tiny adjustments to a dish before you're satisfied? It can be hard for some cooks (like myself), who feel like they're not cooking unless engaged in a frenetic, four-burner free-for-all.

But if you can achieve some measure of mastery over this inner, kitchen-destroying Tasmanian devil, you can make excellent, bakery-quality bread, be it boule, baguette, or batarde, that you wouldn't hesitate to purchase from a professional baker.

Oh God, the blissful flurry of my epic cooking sprees (unwanted inner dialogue doesn't stand a chance). My wife says there are moments were I appear to cook with four arms, rather than two.

Back in my arcade days, my internal cognitive splitting didn't stop with my hands. There was an additional split in both hands where they each independently computed optimal eye trajectory (and tussled for control). I was better at this one game than anyone else I knew (including several who could play the machine hour upon hour on one quarter), and I suppose they all suspected that my advantage was raw hand speed, but it was actually the sequencing efficiency of my visual saccades.

In the heat of an extreme moment, there's usually an exact sequence and pacing that the eyes must dart around the screen to provide the necessary input for the four or five tasks queuing up separately on each hand. My hands became almost entirely autonomous (unless I deliberated interceded). But the conscious calculation of eye motion never did. The key thing here is that the timing of the eyes and the hands were semi-independent. I might glance in a direction during a micro-lull, in service of some action four or five steps away in the queue, and when the time came to exercise that action, it was conducted blind in the moment, on the basis of what I had previously seen. And I could sometimes have three or four blind actions queued up, at priapic peak pre-peek.

Sometimes my eye cognition would send a panic signal: "overloaded! no can cover off!" and my tactical priority would briefly shift to lowering the net visual burden—eye lag is a body bag—perhaps sacrificing a total kill of a regenerating threat (then you have kill it all over again from the beginning, but them's the breaks).

This whole internal cognitive system was weirdly co-dependent, and yet semi-autonomous. At the height of my game playing, it was also quite the drug. Somehow some part of you just can't believe you're keeping this giant shifting shower of fleeting micro-initiatives airborne all the while.

When I'm writing, it's actually not that different. I have something like a fifty entry buffer for recent words associations and sounds on the page, and that buffer shuffles slightly with every new word I type. And there are at least two separate stacks of agendas that I'm processing in parallel the whole time (one to constructively guide exposition, the other to subvert/queer said exposition).

I don't think it's so different for other intense writers, but I do suspect I have a larger observation deck window between my conscious cognition and my semi-conscious cognition than most people, almost entirely because of youthful my video game history. The difference with me is that I can sometimes almost observe the 15 Hz shuffle-queue industry going on behind the scenes. (Nabokov surely had a bay window of unusual semi-conscious aperture—different from and weirdly more powerful than my own—or he simply could not have done what he did. Nabokov! A human 15-gallon tureen of humble soup.)

So I do kind of get this chick's squirrel thing, but I sure don't get her shallow planning horizon.

Or at least, not until my sleep degenerates.

Then I'm a pancake person, too, but pathetically even more disabled than that (why am I trying to achieve this again? my sharpest motives from the previous day become dim to me, and yet another part of my brain remains entirely trim, and finding myself stuck with scant capacity to employ my trimmings otherwise, the damn thing sits there and constantly harangues me—with florid precision—about my various mental incapacities all the live-long day).

Ironic coda: my sleep is presently on a scheduled program of degeneration, so as to reset a failed sleep program; a tiny portion of my mind is already unglued (right on schedule), so I'm letting Uncle Buck roam free (today only: the whole couch, instead of half the couch). Three days from now, Uncle Buck will become a tiny bit tongue tied and somewhat unreliable; about a week from now, my sleep reset will have been completed, and once again—with sufficient sad self-chaperonage—I'll have the mental capacity to bend my nose back to STEMmering along wordlessly.

Comment the tread mill tread mill (Score 2) 267

"Always be on top of your game, she says. "If your industry is becoming more digitally focused, get schooled on specific skills. Instead of being lax about your career, always stay ahead of the curve, keep your resume in circulation, ask yourself where the industry is headed and most importantly where you and your skills fit in."

Welcome to the 2020s, where having a job is a job.

It always goes like this. Whatever the Chicken Littles of the world are screaming about don't exactly come to pass, but something else changes, and not for the better.

The sordid underbelly of stagnant wages? Now you're working even harder in the margins to maintain your claim on the same dollar. This is yet another form of outsourcing to the employee, and I bet you can't even claim your office space at home devoted to all this "job upkeep" as a valid tax write-off.

Yet you are now 20% revenue-zero independent contractor, just to keep your day job in good standing.

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