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User Journal

Journal Journal: Why I'm boycotting Earth Day 6

Earth Day - the day we're supposed to show our concern for the environment by turning off our lights for one hour between 8:30 and 9:30 pm - is just greenwashing.

It's still below freezing here, and I doubt than any of the people who will be turning out their lights will be pulling their main circuit breaker to also turn of their heat, fridge, etc. But if everyone did, it would actually have a negative impact on the environment, as everyone turning the heat back on at 9:30 will create a spike in demand - a spike that will have to be met via peak electrical generator units, which are less efficient.

And everyone driving to some place to hold a candle-light vigil? Come off it - unless you walked or biked you probably used more energy than if you sat at home with all your lights on at once.

The sun sets here today at 7:13 pm. I'm not going to be bumbling around in the dark for an hour like some poseurs. I'm greener than anyone I know. I walk everywhere I can - last Wednesday it was 13 km to go to the dentist and back the day after the 16" snowstorm. Next week it will be 19 km round-trip to the doctor's. I use public transit when I have to. I recycle. But my lights are going to be on tonight. I don't need to fake being green so I can feel like I'm doing something positive.

User Journal

Journal Journal: How the spammers almost nuked Rosetta@home

Not that they meant to. Just more of their collateral damage. Let me explain:

It seems that the DNS problem was ultimately due to increased security for domain registrations. The driver for making the domain registration process more secure is that spammers and various other cyber-criminals need domains to abuse. I'm going to lump all of them under the tag "spammers" because the spammers were the first cyber-criminals and because I really HATE spam. Also, I believe that spamming was the entry point (gateway drug?) for most of them, the first step in losing their souls, so to speak, as well as the source of most of their seed capital.

The abuse their domains in MANY ways. You probably know that 419 spammers like to use bulletproof domains to harvest their suckers. The anti-google PageRank attackers want vast networks of controllable domains for the links they can create.

However, in the case of BOINC the threat of a hijacked domain for ANY project is vastly greater. I know it's hard, but imagine there is a bug in the BOINC client. Imagine that bug allows a downloaded work unit to hijack (AKA pwn) the computer. Now imagine that the spammer hijacks the project's domain and captures ALL of the client computers for his zombie network. This spammer now "owns" the most powerful spam-generation system in the world and could probably DDoS attack the Pentagon with his spare cycles.

As a sort of sick joke, I sort of blame Al Gore. If he hadn't been so competent and effective in giving the nice creators of the Internet all that nice money, then maybe they would have considered real-world economics in the design. SMTP didn't have to assume the world is full of nice people who deserve "free" email. (No such thing, per my sig.)

Solution time? Really hard to get all of the worms and cats back into the bag now, but focusing just on email, I think there are two basic approaches. I used to advocate for a non-SMTP-based email system with tracking that would automatically slow down the spammers so their marginal costs would rise to infinity from the present zero, but now I think it's too much trouble.

Instead, what I would like now is an anti-spammer tool that would let nice volunteers donate bits of their human time towards breaking the spammers' economic models. Actually the same tool could be extended to fight against most kinds of cyber-crime, and I still think most people are nice, notwithstanding how much the spammers seem to outnumber us. One implementation would be as a "Fight spam" button added to an online email system (such as Gmail).

If you choose to be a good Samaritan, then it would parse your suspected spam and let you confirm the analysis in a webform. There would probably be several rounds of iteration, where you would adjust and correct the analysis and help select the best countermeasures and their priorities.

As the joke goes, lots of details available upon polite request. Even better if you have a stronger and more constructive alternative.

User Journal

Journal Journal: In response to a story about the google's AI to recognize objects in videos

Oh wait. The summary says it can recognize a dachshund. Proof enough for me! Everyone knows dachshunds are the most EVIL breed of dog.

Actually every article about the google tends to sadden me. Such a nice little child company grew up to be such a monster. Dare I say EVIL? Yes, notwithstanding finishing yet another book about the google yesterday amid all of the protestations of how much the google wants to be a good and friendly little boy. The tools remain as morally neutral as they ever were, but things have changed anyway.

The "Don't be evil" slogan has mutated to "All your attention are belong to us."

The mission of making all of the world's information accessible and useful has changed in a more complicated way. Information is overabundant, even super-abundant, so the google had to prioritize. Turns out the highest priority information is what the advertisers want to pay for YOU to see and the ultimate utility function became the corporate profits. Yes, they are still throwing a few crumbs at the residual humans who produce the content that carries the ads, but the big winners are all corporations. Ultimate victory of AI?

There are two problem with "shareholder value" as the sole criterion of goodness. The minor problem is that share price is a delusion. The major problem is that it defines an unsolvable problem, even if you don't call it greed. There is NO share price that represents maximum shareholder value. No matter what you did yesterday, the corporation has to work to make the share price higher today, even if it ultimately makes the corporation EVIL.

Speaking for myself, I can't call it super-greed because corporations are inhuman, notwithstanding SCOTUS. Only humans have such emotions as greed.

User Journal

Journal Journal: POTUS Emeritus Alfred E Neuman on Trump 7

Bush's comments came after a prominent Republican in Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, called for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and was in touch with Trump's top advisers during the campaign.

Bush said he would trust Senate Intelligence panel Chairman Richard Burr to decide if a special prosecutor is necessary.

But, Bush added, "I think we all need answers ... I'm not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered."

Indeed our world has now been turned upside-down. Not only does Trump make GWB look intelligent and well-spoken, he even makes him look presidential or diplomatic. While we already knew a while ago that the GOP took such a hard right turn that it would reject Reagan himself as a commie, now they've dove headfirst so enthusiastically into the loonie bin that Bush seems like a born leader and statesman.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Reactions to General will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google 1

Reactions to General will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google by Hiroki Azuma (äèæå--2.0 ãfã½ãf¼ããfãfããfãããf¼ããf)

In summary, a tremendously provocative and rather interesting book, but too flawed and immature to be important or influential. It makes me feel like I have to start with rationalizations about the book's limitations. I think there're three kinds of problems that affected this book.

One is that the translation itself seems somewhat suspicious, Either because the material is so difficult or possibly because the translators own philosophies were brought into the picture, especially if either of them is a libertarian. In my page-based notes I will include a few specific questions about the translation, but I think there's more a general problem manifested in the confusion of proper nouns with generic usages. Quite frequently the book uses terms such as "general will 2.0" that should be capitalized and treated as proper nouns, but which appear in lowercase. It is barely possible that this reflects a feeling that the frequent capitalization would have made the book feel too heavy in some way, but I think it much more likely that it reflects the lack of capitalization in the original Japanese. (There are no capital letters in Japanese.)

The second problem could be described as a kind of trauma due to the disastrous earthquake and tsunami of 2011, immediately followed by the nuclear-power-plant disaster in Fukushima. My own trauma was relatively minor, just that I voided elevators for a few months, but perhaps the author had tighter connections to Fukushima or for some other reason felt the disaster more deeply. He gives the impression in the introduction that he was forced by the earthquake into rethinking many of the points raised in the book in ways that prevented him from merely polishing the original essays. His choices were to present them almost intact from the magazine serialization or completely rewrite the book.

The third problem can be described as a kind of forced extension beyond the original conception, especially as regards Rousseau. He is trying to rework the philosophy of Rousseau in a way that goes beyond the plausible implications of the original philosophy of the "social contract". I think it started as an interesting thought experiment, but he went so far that he at some point even the author understood that the connection to the original was overstretched. Even with the stretching, it's thought-provoking, but I felt it was not a mature conceptualization. There was some additional confusion caused by the layering in of later philosophers and thinkers, especially as regards Freud.

So here are my page-based comments:

On page vii I saw the first thing that made me worry about the translation. Near the bottom he says "I was able to assume the place ..." in a way that sounds quite pompous and assertive, even aggressive. I suspect the original Japanese may have represented a gentler conception that should've been translated into something like "I found myself thrust into a place ..."

On page xii he notes that it is September 11, 2011, which is exactly half a year since the disaster of the great earthquake. As an American I was struck but that the date was also exactly 10 years after the great and similarly traumatic disaster of 9/11 in America. It would have been even more striking as the double anniversary. (The 9/11 disaster was mentioned on page 60.)

On page 6 he talks about the Google's mission statement of organizing the worlds information. My main reaction was negative in light of my reconsideration of that mission statement in favor of giving priority to accessing the advertising information with the new utility metric of the paying advertisers' profits. I wonder if his generous and friendly interpretation was still plausible when this book was written?

At the bottom of page 11 was another sentence that made me wonder about the quality of the translation. It uses a very unusual word, "sublated", in such a way that it could not be clearly interpreted from the context. Perhaps a dictionary-based translation? Following the literal Japanese, but the result was not clear in the actual context. Better writing or a better translation should have made this concept clear. There are other examples in the book where free translation was clearly used. For example the "two heads are better than one" expression is used instead of a direct translation of the Japanese expression about the three men being wiser then Buddha. (ääåãOEãæ-æ®Sã®çY¥æ was referenced in a note.)

On page 53 there is a confusing note about the two Japanese forms of ææ and æå--, which are homonyms with closely related meanings. (One kind of åOEéYç義ã) However my main reaction to this footnote was to realize that all of the Japanese intrusions in the book would have benefited from the inclusion of proper Japanese. The use of Romaji was as usual ambiguous and confusing. If you don't already know the Japanese, then the Romaji is just gibberish, and if you do know the Japanese, then the Romaji is just intrusive.

On page 69 he's discussing the shallowness of conversations on the infamous Nichanneru (2ããfã"ããï¼Y). Reminds me again of Nicholas Carr's excellent book The Shallows.

On page 70 the second note is talking about the creator of the Google's Japanese input system, someone named Taku Kudo. One of my reactions was to wonder if he was might be related to the security expert Kudo-san at IBM Japan, but mostly I was curious about the extra features of Google Japanese input.

What struck me about page 73 was his essential confusion about the nature of freedom. However I think it helped to trigger me to think more about the meaning of constraints based on reality within the context of my own equation defining the most important sense of freedom. [#1 Freedom = (Meaningful - Coerced) Choice{5} â (Beer^4 | Speech | Trade) in my favorite sig.] Not sure if this is when I started wondering about some way to work the word constraint or reality into my sig, but it also reassured me about the usage of "Coerced" there.

My main reaction to page 79 was probably do to his apparent confusion about the you effective use of personal time. This is also another intersection with The Shallows.

Page 81 i talking about island universes from a libertarian perspective, but this is a concept I now map to do-it-yourself brainwashing.

Page 86 represents another other intrusion of libertarian fantasies. He's trying to rationalize minimizing government without considering the essential blindness of masses of people. The kinds of data he is collecting here are fundamentally incapable of revealing what should be done, incapable of dealing with the notion of change itself, but only capture the static conditions. I7m doubtful that the author understands that leadership requires unified vision, though this might be an overlaying of the libertarian conceptions. There's also some confusion with his use of the word "database" throughout the book, where he was probably thinking about something like "big data". Perhaps the use of big data came later, so he was forced to use the approximating word database?

I had two reactions on page 96. The main one was feeling his interpretation of Google PageRank was quite shallow and even inaccurate. I also had trouble with his interpretation of Freud here.

Not certain what caught my attention page 113, but perhaps that is where I realized the confusion between database and big data? The closing paragraph of that chapter was quite confusing to me, though that might be another translation problem.

Page 115 he had me thinking about reality-based constraints in relation to freedom.

On pages 136 and 137 he made me feel like he was confused about how the wisdom of crowds works, even though he refers to that book. The independent perspective of the individuals within the crowd is key to avoiding mob-based decisions.

The third note on page 139 made me think of time-based economics, although that general topic is clearly beyond his thinking in this book. I think that was the main problem that caught my attention on page 145, too.

On page 150 he's talking about the Japanese website Niconico, which has a real-time chat mode similar to YouTube's. He's talking about the problem of an overabundance of comments on the right side. This make me think about an obvious solution. Most of the comments should never be displayed, though perhaps they could be saved somewhere else for later reference. The displayed comments should be throttled to a slow speed to make sure they can be read. After each comment that makes it onto the display there would be some number and buttons. The first number would represent how many comments had been skipped before accepting the displayed comment. This would give a real-time indicator of the activity of the discussion. A thumbs-up and thumbs-down button would let the audience try to push the comment up or down the list, with a number for the net value. If the comment is accumulating a lot of positive reactions, then will tend to rise in the stack of displayed comments, but if it's getting negative reactions it will sink. There should also be a button for "the subject has changed". If enough viewers click on that one, then the comment will disappear to make room for a new comment. This system would then semi-automatically create a time-based list of the most important comments associated with each part of the video. More ideas and details available upon request, but that offer feels like a joke these days...

The discussion of Twitter on pages 182 to 184 was also thought provoking. It made me think of a new way to make Twitter much more interesting and useful. You should be able to sort and group the accounts you are following so that the different kinds of information appear in separate lists. On a large screen computer you would be able to display the lists side-by-side. For example the Twitter feed of your family members and close friends might be in the first column on the left side, while the second column might be for news sources and the third column for celebrities you are interested in. On a small screen device a sideways flick could switch between the columns representing your groupings. Another new idea of the sort I like to think about...

On page 204 he suggests that Google and Apple are influenced buy their shareholders. Seems to me to be a remarkably naÃve statement, based on my firsthand experience as an Apple shareholder and most starkly in a recent interaction with Sony. They are not interested in new ideas or any sort of "guidance" from shareholders. That's part of a more general problem and made me think his economic models are too naÃve by half.

Those are my page-based reactions to the book. They sound somewhat critical, but I'm still interested in many of the topics he raised. Not sure if I can actually recommend the book, but I'm thinking of visiting the coffee shop (or maybe it's more of a discussion salon) that the author manages.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Generalizable comments on Google+ 1

[Just the repost. Mostly relevant to Slashdot with the trivial substitution, but I don't think Slashdot is worth that much effort (and still wrapping up my affairs here before another hiatus).

Is it possible to have a civilized discussion using Google+? What are the rules for most effectively dealing with trolls and other rude people?

Just asking because it appears that the google has changed the rules again. I'm only sure that I don't fully understand the rules. However, I am also sure that I don't want to waste the time playing with trolls or even cleaning up after them.

My own preference would be to avoid seeing their mindless trollage in the first place. I still think that the best tool or feature for that purpose would be an age-based maturity filter. Should be an option, but I would set mine for about 2 months since I believe few sock-puppet identities last that long. A 2-month maturity requirement would render them invisible to me.

A bit of a diversion now, but if this topic has already been discussed (and I bet it has), then I was unable to find those discussions here. There is a search function, but it was not helpful. What if the google took the words and sentiments of my draft comment and used them to pop up relevant discussions for me to consider? Then I could see if my question had been answered, or even better, I could explain what was different about my problem and what parts of the answer didn't fully apply. (Going beyond that, the prior participants could be notified the topic had become active again.) Now back to our irregularly unscheduled discussion of how to have a "deep, thoughtful, and polite" discussion in Google+ (or anywhere on today's exceedingly messy Web of fake opinion).

In the unclear area is the question of long-lived trolls. I don't even know if Google+ has a block function or some kind of kill list.

I actually think the deeper solution would involve reputation-based filtering based on a symmetric relationship to each identity's contributions. If someone rates a comment favorably, then that favor should also accrue to the person who wrote the comment. I actually think it should have an option for higher dimension ranking, and most of the dimensions should allow for both positive and negative rankings.

Lots of details available upon request, but let me confess that I'm NOT anticipating a deep and thoughtful discussion here. Hoping for such, but all my hopes seem increasingly feeble these days.

User Journal

Journal Journal: ACLU T-Shirts... 11

The ACLU is selling T-Shirts with their logo that says "Dissent is Patriotic".

That's adorable.

Especially after telling us over the last 8 years that dissent was racist.
User Journal

Journal Journal: So what was Milo's book Dangerous supposed to be about? 8

On my way home from work I couldn't seem to escape news coverage of the "conservative provocateur" having his book canceled after being recorded praising pedophilia.

What I couldn't seem to figure out for anything though is what his canceled book was actually supposed to be about. The Amazon entry for it only told me its length, title, and author; not a single word about its content - and that Amazon entry is now gone. Some of the news coverage was bragging about how well it was doing in pre-sales - did he really sell a huge number of books based only on his name and an exceptionally vague title?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Interesting ... openSUSE in a VM to the rescue! 6

The last few years, I've been able to read again, but NOT program. Sitting in front of the computer trying to write code, I would just draw a blank. This was the second time - the first being after the whole flesh-eating disease thing a couple of decades ago.

Finally got off the antidepressants a couple of months ago (psychiatrist still wants me on them because I still show signs of anxiety and depression, but ...). This laptop is stuck with Windows 8.1, and there was no way I could get into coding - until I loaded openSUSE into a VM this weekend, on a hunch. I think I'm going to be okay (well, except for 20/300 vision in one eye, and 20/50 in the other, both because of cataracts* - but at least the retinal bleeding has pretty much stopped - no major hemorrhages in 8 months, though I now need cataract surgery and to see a glaucoma specialist).

Things I discovered over the last few years:

1. IDEs have gotten WAY TOO COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. The worst example is android studio. What a piece of shit. 1.6 gigs, downloaded an example program, wouldn't compile, clicked on "install missing libraries", over and over and over, rebooted, no diff. Reinstalled, no diff.

Eclipse isn't any better.

2. The old, simple ways worked, and if it ain't broke, why fix it? gedit/vim, make, and a few perl and bash scripts for versioning, etc. are all I need for c/c++ and java. At least when something doesn't work, I can find why quickly.

3. Which brings up a beef (well, another one) about Android. Material design is counter-intuitive. Horizontal on-off switches??? At least a checkbox, you can tell at a glance whether it's on or off. With a horizontal toggle, is left on or is right on? Takes up more space and is less intuitive. Yet another example of change for change's sake that ends up screwing up simple, already solved problems. We keep "solving" already-solved problems, and I suspect it's pushed by people trying to justify their jobs. Like usual.

4. Ageism. It's been real the last few jobs, and there's no way it's gotten better since I stopped working. Of course, the demand for c/c++/java programmers isn't that great here any more, and the demand for 60-year-old coders is probably zero. I could get away with chopping 10-15 years off my age (most people I've met are kind of shocked I'm that old - "you certainly don't look it!") - and there is NOTHING a potential employer can do if you lie about your age. Age is not pertinent to doing a job, and using that as a reason if/when they find out pretty much proves age discrimination, but what the hell - I'm not going to be looking for a regular job anyway, right? I remember the crappy working conditions - I'd rather work part time for minimum wage elsewhere than go back to working for schmucks. Or as one softie put it - "went lettuce picking."

5. That last point bears repeating on its own : I remember the crappy working conditions. It's just not worth it. Why waste your life explaining why $IDEA is neither great, new, earth-shaking, innovative, or worth pursuing. Or telling them to f*ck off about using Rails, Groovy, $LATEST_FAD_LIBRARY_FRAMEWORK.

6. LINUX TO THE RESCUE (again).

The importance of being able to program again is mostly to restore my self-assurance that the last few years haven't caused any real damage, not to go back into coding.

Should be interesting ... same as the whole cataract surgery thing (not a big deal). I'll probably go the independent, semi-retired route. Spend more time with the little dog, neighbors, etc., and less time trying to justify my existence to the world :-)

* You probably can't blast lasers through the lens onto the retina 4-5000 times per eye without doing some damage to the lens as well. Oh well, (imitate voice-over from "$6 million man" - we have the technology) it sure isn't going to be anywhere near as bad as the vitrectromy.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is the google thrashing? 8

[Published elsewhere including the links, but the likelihood of constructive or even thoughtful reactions here on Slashdot is too small to worry about fixing it up properly.]

Is the google thrashing?

Why does the google appear to be thrashing? There are so many obvious problems to be solved, but (at least from the outside) it appears that the google has stopped moving towards those solutions because of the thrashing.

I do not think it's because all of the important innovations have been implemented. My current theory is that it's because the google has reached the limit of conventional money-über-alles economic models.

From an emulation of Laszlo Bock's head?

[Are the details available upon request?]

Okay, that's the 'teaser' I sent to a Googler of my acquaintance. More likely it should be described as a 'brain fart', but I'm going to try to flesh out some of the details here. Anyway, the 'teaser' has served MY purpose in that it got me to start writing this:

Starting from the back, perhaps this should be regarded as a kind of twisted and consolidated review of the google-related books I've been reading recently. Laszlo Bock's Work Rules! is the most recent, but among the 30 books I've finished so far this year, there is also How Google Works by two insiders and outsider Ken Auletta's book from 2009. I see Nudge and I remember recently reading a couple of other books mentioned in Work Rules! but I think he should have read Rework, too. (Considering the missing bits, he should have included the story about the three masons, too. (That's a weak version of the story, but I can't find a link for a version in which the third bricklayer understood he was glorifying god.))

Distracted again, but I can't help it. The world is overly connected and the solutions of the interesting problems are usually under-constrained. Imagine that the google wanted to create a happier-life search engine? Among other purposes, it would help people find satisfying and rewarding purposes for their lives, possibly even including gainful employment? Oh, wait. Where's the money?

Now I went and jumped a step, so I have to back up to the head emulation topic. (Unless you, the mysterious and unknown reader, have already read some of my writings on that topic?) In brief, a good writer creates mental models inside the heads of his readers. For example, Raymond Chandler can cause your brain to run an emulator of Philip Marlowe. (Serrendipitously, the centennial celebration of his character mentions "googol" on page xiv from a time machine in 1988. (Is the google thrashing again with this false positive? The copy I'm holding here only has 370 + xiv pages.) (This double parenthetic note now reminds me of The Shallows and how the Web tends to divert from deeper thinking.)) However, I think a really good reader does a sort of converse operation on the author's mind, so my goal in reading a book is to think like the author... To a degree, I hope I'm still thinking like Laszlo Bock, notwithstanding?

Okay, so now I can return to the solutions that the google has stopped pursuing. I think the Google Books project (that I've already linked to) is a good entry point. This project was certainly consistent with the google's original high "mission" (or goal) of making the world's information accessible and useful. From here it appears that the project mostly came to naught on the rocks of the publishers' unbounded greed. Their economic models DEMAND more money, and there is no limit on that "more". (This is actually an aspect of the larger problem of the distortion of copyrights, but I've already been diverted too many times this morning...)

The same kind of focus on getting more money has changed the google's perspective of the company's mission. Now the most important "information" that has to be made "accessible" is the paid ads and the ultimate metric of "useful" is the sales figures of the corporations that are paying for the ads. Even the google has to follow the money, and the delusion of the free lunch allows us to think we aren't paying for it. (Another diversion into "#1 Freedom = (Meaningful - Coerced) Choice{5} â (Beer^4 | Speech | Trade)" beckons, but...)

Now I've popped the stack all the way back to the topic of thrashing... Hard to describe what it is... It's the internal chaos within the google that prevents deeper focus on the really hard problems? It's the diverting-but-shallow links that always beckon? (I've been fighting with many of them already...) It's the elitist closure that results from the googlers associating primarily with the tiny intersection of (1) extreme creatives, (2) super-productive engineers, and (3) money chasers?

Time for conclusions? I think there are a number of obvious problems that could be addressed, but I certainly wouldn't look to the google for solutions. At this point I can barely hope that their search results might lead in helpful directions. It also seems that the google itself has realized there is a problem and that they have reached their limits. At least that's my interpretation of the reorganization under Alphabet.

Wish I could go deeper, but my muse is already exhausted. Better luck next time?

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