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Comment circuit strip (Score 0) 226

The teaser margin caught my eye with a circuit strip (teaser margin = (WU- (pi/4))*XGA on most web sites these days, excluding content viewed through a dancing thumb while traversing Steiner diagrams in a busy urban core with the permanent postural stoop of Vermilingo Erectus).

Props for the big solder blob. No circuit is complete without one. The end.

Comment banish "it can" (Score 2) 543

Some people are surprised to learn that you can also extend Visual Studio with new windows such as those I just described.

This is typical of Microsoft products: obscure "yes it can" capabilities that you can't rely upon for continuity from version to version. Macros? Poof.

Come on reviewers, picking out chopsticks does not count as "playing the piano". Microsoft products in particular needs to auditioned savagely before giving credence to any self-assigned tick marks, or awarding gold stars for limbo dancing under the bar instead of over the bar on standards compliance. Simon says "That's four noes." Especially in the late nineties, the vast majority of Microsoft product reviews were channelling Paula Abdul. Eventually I burned "yes it can" in a Salem bonfire.

I've used Eclipse fairly heavily for C++ and R and I don't find it sluggish. Yes, it's far from perfect. Docking operations on the newest release went a bit insane on my 22" monitor in portrait mode. Hopefully that's just teething pains early in the release cycle.

Comment worms before flowers (Score 1) 1501

The one where the person that now develops a kernel that ships with FUSE and CUSE, and which has its largest install base running on top of the Xen microkernel in cloud deployments or an L4-derived microkernel in mobile deployments, was saying that microkernels are bad?

It was Linus's original goal in 1990 to achieve the largest install base on top of the Xen microkernel? This is news to me.

The most important criteria with any new project is to obtain critical mass of collaborators and users. Stroustrup didn't want to base C++ on C. His largest influence was Simula 67. It ended up being fairly hideous, intellectually, to graft Simula programming idioms on top of C. At the same time, the underlying C language compatibility was the main reason C++ was adopted by most people in the first place, whereas language designers who placed more value on purity and aesthetics now languish in relative obscurity.

One could make a strong case that Tannenbaum's present success is parasitic on the success of Linux itself, since Linux ended up becoming--within a rabbinical epsilon--the most significant force shaping the ecosystem where Tannenbaum's kernel eventually gained traction.

In raw soil, usually the worms precede the flowers. Tannebaum can suck it.

I would also argue that the success of C++ has been good for C, because it released C from the pressure to evolve in a direction less well suited to the niche it presently dominates. C++ is heroine to a language lawyer. From the perspective of the C community, good riddance.

The problem with aesthetics driven design is that there's always some use case that takes it up the wazoo. Aesthetics always moves in the direction of divorcing messy reality. That reality might be your own. One can also describe this as a refinement of the application domain. This rocks when it works. Worst case scenario is when the glass ceiling of aesthetic refinements slam you like a bird into a spotless pane after your project reaches a million lines of code. The culture of C++ is that embracing messy reality is Job Number One and that elegance is subordinated to this goal, which is why C++ is strong in genericity and weak in garbage-collected managed memory.

C++ has a first-growth generalist mandate married to a progressive pragmatism. The Linux kernel has a first-growth generalist mandate married to a conservative pragmatism a mile wide, and a culture to match.

Python has a second-growth generalist mandate married to a reductive pragmatism. It's strange to compare the culture of Postgres, as someone else did, which is the epitome of a paradigmatic buy-in. Once you buy into a relational data store with ACID integrity, you're already halfway to becoming a Mormon church, never again to be bothered by the hubbub of the NoSQL gospel choir on the other side of the tracks. Linux by comparison is a Unitarian church in raw-tongued multi-ethnic Sydney. One chick thinks it should be more like Toronto. You know, Toronto is great and all, but one is enough.

Comment commandment #14: embrace transparency (Score 2) 266

And most adults would agree that being deceitful, mean, vindictive, or heartless is wrong, and yet everyone has done something of the kind.

Funny how you're using the language of original sin rather than treating lapses of personal conduct as lapses. Your verb "has done" makes transgression binary. I recently watched a video about violence among children which informed me that the rate of violent acts towards others peeks somewhere around the age of two, and declines from there pretty much for the rest of your life. The difference with teenage males is that one violent act a week can do significant harm (as opposed to multiple violent acts per hour by toddlers left to fend for themselves among their peers).

Human maturity is a long arc of succumbing to our base emotions less often. Not all adults are on the program: for some, lapses of conduct turn into overt strategies or become defining traits. On the one side you have most telemarketers, in the middle you have Jeff Gillooly, and on the far side Jimmy the Gent.

Transgressions that boil up from a potent brew of fatigue and frustration, or from the EMP of sexual instinct in abrupt transition are a different matter (9 Tesla emotional fields do not collapse gracefully, no matter what anyone has ever said about right and wrong) .

Except for the massive wealth commanded by the Vatican bank, and the peculiar tendency of so many people to trust their children to celibate men in frocks, this would be just another bunch of secretive guys no different than any other rat-hating Masonic cabal or KKK fraternity.

A Humanist Hexadecalogue: Improving the Ten Commandments

He's a dreary narrator, but you have to give props for adopting base sixteen. His list is actually pretty good. I take issue with #14 "pursue education". That's not commandment material. I would roll that into #15 "pursue virtue" by enlarging it to "pursue virtue and self-development". I can handle the Buddhist influence up to a point.

I'd replace #14 with Embrace transparency: Do not embroil others in concealing your defects, misdeeds, and misdemeanours. Paging all men whose appellations end in Roman numerals.

Concerning #7, it's surprising he lumped plural marriage (when consensual, if such a thing exists) in with child marriage and forced marriage (rape with benefits).

Sam Harris- Improving the 10 Commandments

"Consider the second commandment: Thou shall not erect any graven images. Is this really the second most important thing?" So we have this commandment, and nothing at all about transparency. I smell room for improvement.

Comment innovation is not what you think (Score 1) 387

I think it's wrong to cease to listen completely just because it's been over a decade since a company did a single thing that positively impacted your world. In the case of Microsoft I've reached a pragmatic compromise: I read until the first use of the word "innovation".

The reason that "innovation" shows up in the memo title is so that everyone at Microsoft knows that nothing will really change as a result of what follows, no matter how drastic.

Xerox Parc in the 1970s: the kind of core technological innovation most companies claim to do, but actually don't

Apple in the 1980s: paring down true innovation hoovered from Xerox to make it marketable under the "one size fits all" reality distortion field

Microsoft in the 1980s: business tactics for gaining control of the "air supply", which has always been Microsoft's core area of innovation

Apple in the 1990s: black turtle-neck saviour boomerang (makes for a better opera than a business model, but hell, it worked)

Microsoft in the 1990s: extended legacy compatibility through virtualization and non-existent application security model

Apple recently: small form factor integration and aesthetics; walled gardens that actually work

Microsoft recently: cleverly cooked TCO studies to continue locking companies into Exchange Server and the rest of the office documents ecosystem

Google 1995-2005: extracting relevance signals from the web page graph, delivering search results at extremely low marginal cost, underlying mechanics of the AdSense auction (these being the closest to true innovation in the Xerox tradition)

Google since: ripping off Java from Sun (via the open source Dalvik project) for use in Android/Linux; becoming more like Facebook

The reason companies keep repeating the word "innovation" is because they so rarely do it on the product development side of their business (innovation in revenue extraction tends to have longer legs).

Comment margin free RDF (Score 1) 383

Apple should have known they could sell more books if they sold them cheaper

Who said they didn't? Apple also knows that you can't peddle a reality distortion field on Korean margins. If their RDF springs a leak in one line of business, the hole could enlarge by the forces of erosion to engulf the entire company. Rest assured Google and the Koreans are dumping abrasive powders into the Apple watershed. I think it was a foregone conclusion that Apple's RDF business model would eventually strike this iceberg once they departed the safe harbour of boutique appliances. The tactical advantage of breaking the law to limit the oxygen supply to more nimble competitors during the nascent phase of the eBook market likely outweighs whatever legal penalties they now face.

Popular music has a cultural cachet that lends itself to the iTunes business model. How well has that model worked for classical music? The majority of books are more like classical music than a mass hormonal right of passage.

Comment crushed red velvet bell bottoms (Score 1) 1448

Salman Rushdie on Bill Maher discussing "9/11 liberals"

Maher: I've repeatedly been booed [by liberals] for saying that all religions are not alike.
Rusdie: It's not us who changed, it's Islam that changed.
Maher: This is not all Muslims ... clash of civilizations.
Rusdie: Politically manufactured rage, manufactured for political purposes.

Basically they boil it down to a problem not with Islam but with clerical Islam.

Generic old white guy in suit jacket: That's the correct analysis, but the question is how do we respond to it?

Issuing a Mormon fatwa against the gay lifestyle is certainly one response to a behaviour you don't like, but not one compatible with what we think of as western civilization, of which the close-cropped lawns of Utah reluctantly remain a part.

In my view the only legitimate way to "sanctify marriage" (if that is your agenda) is to live a good marriage in your own life, and lead by positive example. In a liberal democracy, the self-appointed guardians of God's will must content themselves with extracting the mote in their own eye.

Majority rule shouldn't become such an oppressive stick that politics by moral recruitment becomes an indispensable battle ground. That's the whole point of liberal democracy: we don't have to engage in divisive politics to shape the majority, because the majority doesn't wield those powers in the first place. Historically, the anti-gay sentiment resembles the anti-Jewish sentiment. If you persecute a population, it will usually succeed in eliciting enough negative behaviour to justify further persecution. The problem is that as soon as society relaxed this persecution, it becomes evident that the persecuted population is just like the rest of us, for better or worse.

While the anti-majority precept of liberal democracy doesn't stop the train completely, one set of brakes is better than none.

Comment Re:Really?!? (Score 4, Insightful) 1448

Well said, but I have quibbles.

Suddenly, "Ender's Game," "Speaker for the Dead," and "Xenocide" were no longer deep books about ethical conundrums, but shallow stories where ethical conflicts just happen with depth given to them by the reader--because there's no way Card's shallow, binary mind could possibly comprehend the many ethical dimensions of the events he describes in his stories.

You depict this as a literary cop-out, but in fact it's no small matter for the writer to create this space where the reader can import their own baggage and make the story their own. The sustained theme of Ender's Game is manipulation and counter manipulation, and how manipulation flows from point A to point Z through various waypoints. It's about how the rationality of the individual becomes embedded in the group and takes on political dynamics. His story is not so hollow that you feel your sitting in a curtained booth having your palms read by some fat, cynical, overdressed, sharp-eyed, post-menopausal woman who sized you up as you took your seat in a New York microsecond.

That said, his homophobic blog rantings rate among the worst drivel I've ever forced myself to wade halfway through.

Agatha Christie's Top 10 Racist Moments. Christie came to mind because I read an account by one of her contemporaries of not being able endure a social dinner in her company.

Tolerance? If he's going to write these things, I hate his guts to the point where I would step up and excuse myself from the dinner table, damn the tuxedos. I don't wish him ill in any overt way. I just hope he self-selects himself into a like-minded coterie of the small minded and is never heard from again, unless he chooses to embrace a different path, placing a higher weight on the fallout of how he proposes to arrange the affairs of others to appease his own spastic bristles.

He's in a bit of a commercial pickle, because much of the audience for science fiction where the driving themes are non-romantic are too sophisticated to appreciate his personal politics. I say most because there has always been the other contingent within our ranks.

Dr. William Shockley on Race, IQ, and Eugenics

Somehow I doubt the Shockleys of this world amount to a driving force behind opening-weekend box office receipts.

Comment I don't get the public furor (Score 2) 658

I became interested in the history of code breaking and surveillance in the late 1970s, even before The Puzzle Palace permanently breached the NSA's public anonymity.

I don't get the public furor because there's nothing new here: what Snowden revealed is just a logical extension of how this program has always operated, as documented since way back for anyone who wanted to know. It has always been part of the anonymity construct that the NSA could purport (or purport by implication) that it operated within the groove of democratic principles, up to a point. The old relationship with the British (I'll watch yours, if you watch mine) was always a burden, but I guess that burden must have been manageable for a time.

Once COTS technology (Cisco, Nortel, Lucent, Alcatel, Juniper) begins to outpace the astrobuck edge, the NSA is forced by brutal practicalities to review and revise their anonymity construct. Just how much can be exchanged through a stiff-upper-lip tea service?

At this point, the NSA's democratic cloak is outright risible: any foreign person, anyone whose patterns of contact with such people is vaguely suspicious (there has never been a shortage of suspicion where suspicion greases operational desires) and anyone who crosses paths in any way with this substantial kernel of the vaguely suspicious, citizenship be damned. We're more than halfway along the spectrum of seven degrees.

Suppose we apply the principles of differential cryptanalysis to this interesting social network. Suppose there is some American citizen not yet trawled by this social graph of chance connection. What's the least amount of suspicion one must inject at some chosen suspicion-coloured node of this graph for a tentacle to slop out of the bucket to engulf the arbitrary citizen of the moment? Once engulfed, does this person ever escape this webbing ever again on principles of liberty and freedom or is this person's only democratic salvation to fall beneath some metric of cost/benefit in keeping his or her node active in the vast suspicion graph? How much easier is it for a person to be bumped back into this mesh once you've been on it before? Does that scarlet letter ever fall off?

I doubt there's anyone in America whose nose is so clean that ten minutes of brow-drenched pretext-manufacture by some nearby NSA staffer with any prospect of future promotion wouldn't serve to lasso this person onto the suspicion list by some ready-to-hand agency criterion (a clean nose for this purpose is mainly established by not getting out much except on Sunday morning, not using email, and never answering your telephone when pestered by a wrong number).

That's pretty much the minimal operation capability they would settle for, no matter which democratic cover story of the day hits the news cycle. I doubt they ever expected that a program as large as this could maintain cover of darkness indefinitely. So the real response and public optics is mainly for consumption inside the Faraday cage: the Snowden meme is not one they wish to see take root among their own.

It's a basic tenant of military or police training to punish the group on the pretext of individual lapses, failure, or sloth until the group is conditioned to self police. Wouldn't be surprised if everyone in the entire agency is working unpaid overtime on invented files (as in The Firm) until Snowden is brought to Faraday justice. I get the internal furor loud and clear.

Comment sarcasm as cognitive burden (Score 1) 167

This whole idea that sarcasm doesn't come through in text needs to be revisited.

I have a reputation in my work environment for being perceptive, thoughtful, and lucid. I also have a reputation for having near perfect recall of anything previously discussed that could possibly go wrong, and for sometimes becoming extremely intense and hard to deter from constantly injecting these unhappy reminiscences into self-satisfied negotiations until everyone else glasses over. Others might characterize this as a geek loss of control thing. I prefer to characterize this as an obnoxious streak where I constantly remind people of just how lazy they are (cognitively).

Drucker says that if there's no conflict around a decision, you should cancel the meeting and come back better prepared. I have this weird capacity to internalize long lists of reasons why anything might possibly not work, and recall much of this years later, the way some people memorize lists of baseball players. Let's put it this way: on the first round of viewing, no one in the room was surprised that I could beat Sheldon to many of his lines. Nor would people have been surprised for me to comment (at an appropriate juncture) that K4 is the smallest complete graph with no Hamiltonian path. So for the purposes of linear screen-writing (essential to the joke), Spock (the punch line) needs his lizard. But why "lizard"? Well, some combination of phonology, meter, and a viable coin-flip vagary of superiorities and frailties, with a subtle invocation of cheesy Gorn action figures (universally possessed among the group, though left unstated in the script through the use of Hemingway silence).

First of all, dead-straight sarcasm mainly plays against personal memes established in the group. If you're widely known as the guy most likely to mention Hamiltonians and Hemingway in the same sentence, your remarks will be taken in a certain light when your sentence is uncharacteristically plain, and you can play off that. No single-utterance algorithm ever devised will detect this (though it might succeed in raising a flag that an otherwise bare statement likely plays off in-group dynamics).

Second, much intended sarcasm is simply bad writing, typically perpetrated by the participants who are better at jostling for attention than presenting a sustained perspective. These people want their successes to be more memorable than their failures and tend to be completely content receiving credit for a remark construed opposite to the spin attempted. These people are happiest when no particular valence sticks to their persona. Misconstrual is half the payload. That's the closest they ever get to a date. (Note that this verbal pun on "Miss Construal" leaves the word "menstrual" partially activated in the subconscious with nowhere to go, which is half of the humour but none of the joke. The other half of the humour, but not the joke, is the unsticky half payload of no particular valence. "There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out to see if it impugns virility." That's also funny on a second level: mocking with a formal nuance of the word "impugn" this entire business of establishing one's virility via assertional discourse. Oops, I did it again.) Summarizing: bad sarcasm is half-assed and, sadly, good sarcasm often lands to scattered applause (someone disaccord me a Kleenex).

Finally, sarcasm is not a quality of an utterance as a whole. The same paragraph can wend through sarcasm, mockery (sometimes self-ish), memes, cues, call-backs, verbal and visual double meanings with all the obviousness of Sheldon's didactic Hamiltonian. Koothrappali gets it, on the first take.

That's a joke itself (from the original script) in how it emphasizes one kind of cognition over another. More typical in human discourse is a litany of ten ambiguous statements. The people who get sarcasm most reliably are the ones who can maintain a larger cloud of ambiguity for longer durations. Rushing to accept the surface implication is a way of reducing cognitive burden for the lazy mind. Lazy minds indulging in an orgy of positive reinforcement is what we know and love as mob psychology. Sarcasm is a way of queering these feedback loops by bifurcating the coefficients. To a first approximation, many lost souls wish to become the least cool member of the coolest club that will take them, so the coolest members have to keep the ramparts slippery.

Comment blaming the government (Score 4, Funny) 287

I watched a Bill Maher video yesterday in which a conservative politician who clearly believed that cleanliness (and short hair) is next to godliness claimed to believe in "adaptation" but not a certain fish story when confronted by a historically unelectable Canadian politician about whether he believed in antibiotic resistance (in which the evolution of the resistance trait was greatly accelerated by careless overuse).

I actually cut the guy some slack. There's no reason why he can't logically believe in the special theory of evolution (local adaptation) without necessarily believing in the general theory of evolution (the ascent of complexity from primordial origins). To believe in one without the other requires a larger than average mental judgement in between. Unfortunately, he lamely fell back on invoking the missing link. Bzzzzt. Thanks for playing.

Clearly he hasn't checked in with the Out of Africa theory lately, which was speculative until we began to read DNA in the early 1980s with all the proficiency of a clever three year old. Right now we're at about year two of a ten year post-graduate program in speed reading for lifeforms with facet eyes. Things have changed. If there were any region of the globe over the past 10,000 years (or 100,000 years) where the genetic lineage of any species of quadruped (Noah being the patron saint of charismatic megafauna) is constricted to a single breeding pair, we'll surely find it soon on the rising flood of sequence data. Dude groomed for rapture should be worrying about the missing crink, not the missing link.

I can't say I have a higher opinion of "blame the government". It's like blaming calcium for arthritis, on the grounds that sans calcium, arthritis as we know it would no longer exist. The problem here is that calcium is just the implementation. The specification is to have a load bearing structure nimble enough to evade and pursue (aka biosecurity). A large branch of the solution space descends from elbows and kneecaps.

One of the major functions of a large population is agreeing on the threat enough to achieve cohesion in the threat response. This is mirrored in the organism by how the fight/flight response is balanced on a knife edge, and how the hormones that prime this metabolic state also tamps down immune response. Guess what, libertarians, that's a centralized response.

You can discard the implementation (government as we know it), but you can't discard the specification. Unfortunately, contrary to the most vociferous howls, the problems are actually rooted in the specification, not the implementation.

Just like replacing an aging software system, while it's absolutely certain that the worst points of friction in the existing system will go away, new points of friction are extremely likely to take their place, unless you stumble upon the "silver bullet" solution paradigm (social media won't let you down). I tend to be fairly reluctant to stick up my hand when a surgeon promises to cure my arthritic knee by lopping off my leg and grafting on a tentacle to replace it. I worry that might bring with it new problems every bit as annoying as the previous problem.

The present state of the NSA and the legislation around it is pretty much an unbroken story since the end of the first world war. (The Germans did not invent Enigma on a fall afternoon in 1939.) I vaguely recall reading in the The Puzzle Palace (or something similar from the same era) that before the U.S. government passes a law preventing secret agencies from spying on American citizens there was already a secret law on the books exempted a certain no such agency from being beholden to any such future law.

Democracy it turns out is a lot like the human immune system. It shuts down on a dime in the presence of an acute threat, as defined by the pulsed secretion of some small gland. Once you get to the place where the small gland sees a lion in every box of Cracker Jack, democracy is reduced to vestigial status, until we're all killed by a disease transmitted by infected telephones. Then the cycle repeats. The general theory of evolution seems to iterate on foolish overreaching. Perhaps evolving toward complexity is a hard problem where nothing useful is achieved by linear enlightenment.

This engineering problem of how to achieve group consensus on when to shut down group consensus remains to be solved. Software engineers who delight in replacing old cruft (whose pains are self evident) with new cruft (whose pains can be only be imagined) need not apply. Dweeb-thought: If only we replaced Oracle with MySQL, life would all be good. Deep-thought: Mutex-free distributed integrity is a hard problem.

Politically, well over 90% of the negativity toward government I see expressed on the intertubes falls into the dweeb-thought bucket.

Comment hands in your pockets (Score 2) 778

Glenn Gould used to take a lot of flack for refusing to shake people's hands even though we all know that you can't go through life refusing to shake hands. Perhaps he had a good reason?

Even if you're less of a sociopathic hypochondriac than Glenn Gould, there's still an issue concerning how automatically one reaches out. I'm a little more hesitant to offer my mitt to a vagrant person who's just popped out a discrete alleyway with flecks of an old newspaper stuck to their shoe. Colour me paranoid. And yet the default on the web is to arrive on every web page in full embrace, even the typosquatters with old newspaper stuck to their shoes.

On my FF I have things pretty locked down. If on first impression I haven't teleported into the worst bathroom in all of Scotland, I'm pretty quick to enable first party cookies. Tracking cookies from the social media paparazzi, not so quickly.

When I get a site coded to misbehave at the first whiff of the end user exercising prudence or discretion, I switch the URL into Chrome where I have practically nothing locked down and visit nowhere important and where the social media paparazzi will observe my click trail as an infrequent user engaged who exclusively visits the wrong side of town, but never never pulls his hands out of his pockets to engage the temptations.

What's in your wallet?

Comment elusive simplicity (Score 1) 381

Something like Ukkonen's algorithm is both hard to explain and a good idea and that's just the first one to come to mind.

Suffix trees and suffix arrays make for a brilliant study of elusive simplicity.

Suffix array

A well-known recursive algorithm for integer alphabets is the DC3 / skew algorithm of KÃrkkÃinen & Sanders (2003).

The paper includes a 50 line reference implementation (excluding comments).

One of the first algorithms to achieve all goals is the SA-IS algorithm of Nong, Zhang & Chan (2009). The algorithm is also rather simple (< 100 LOC) and can be enhanced to simultaneously construct the LCP array. The SA-IS algorithm is one of the fastest known suffix array construction algorithms. A careful implementation by Yuta Mori outperforms most other linear or super-linear construction approaches.

Why wasn't this algorithm discovered thirty years ago?

The concept was first introduced as a position tree by Weiner (1973), which Donald Knuth subsequently characterized as "Algorithm of the Year 1973". The construction was greatly simplified by McCreight (1976) , and also by Ukkonen (1995).

It's not like people didn't recognize this algorithm is an important building block since way back. Thirty six years to arrive at "rather simple". Amazing.

Yeah, and one more thing: Slashdot has been around for sixteen years and still can't render diacritics pasted in from Wikipedia. Who could have anticipated we'd wish to use those? Besides, it's a good American tradition. Right after being awestruck by the Statue of Liberty, Karkkainen steps off the boat and declares his name to the port authority.

Karkkainen? What kind of name is that? Umlaut schmoomlaut. You can have Kirkby or Kirklen. Kirlen it is then. What's that? I missed a K? Whatever, no point starting over. Next!

Comment Re:The power of love (Score 1) 204

It wasn't the work that got the result, it was the work + training + money, without any one of those ingredients he wouldn't have gotten the result he did.

You don't seem to grasp the asymmetry between life and death. I was configuring a FreeBSD jail the other day. The guide I consulted expressed strongly recommended that you begin with a fully featured jail and then subtract until it breaks rather than start with a bare jail and add until it works. There's usually about a 100,000 ways you can yank out a coloured wire and cause something complicated to break. Which one is the God wire?

Sure he started 28,000 feet up the mountain. I've heard the last 1000 feet poses more difficulty than most humans wish to endure. The reason a paraplegic can haul himself arm over arm out of the Grand Canyon is because he has a T10 injury rather than something higher up. Your weird subtractive calculus totally misses the point.

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