Whose side are _you_ on?

Free speech and state power: Americans shouldn’t feel complacent about French hypocrisy
Yeah, the French look like merde arresting a comedian for a Facebook post. But we’re free-speech hypocrites too
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/17/free_speech_and_state_power_americans_shouldnt_feel_complacent_about_french_hypocrisy/

Another thoughtful article on Salon; though to be fair, Salon is really a liberal Fox News and tend to spew hysterical left-leaning nonsense (as opposed to the right-leaning nonsense of Fox). Since Greenwald left (he is currently at the Intercept) I have to admit that I don’t spend much time there and often scroll through the Salon main page and don’t even read a single article. However, this one caught my eye as something that gets right to the heart of this ‘free speech’ matter. I will toss out a few quotes in an effort to get my reader(s) to take a deeper look…

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans eagerly surrendered a wide range of constitutional rights and liberties in the name of an imaginary security. We have accepted a subtly restricted zone of free speech – where we “watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,” in the Rumsfeldian phrase — and have entirely abandoned our traditional conception of privacy rights. It’s not entirely coincidental that the censorious jingoism and groupthink of the Fox News right finds a faint echo on the left, in campus speech codes and similar phenomena designed to purge public discourse of sexism or racism or homophobia. Both sides accept the premise that suppressing undesirable forms of expression is a valid use of power.

We, as a nation of sheeple, neither have, nor deserve security. This goes for ‘free’ speech as well. When the only ‘free’ speech is speech that identifies with those in power (“watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,”) and the ability to be critical of the government or any institution within or without it (hello religious right wing!) is absent then there is no free speech. ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’

What we have here in the good old USofA is just a half step from being the French way of ‘free’ speech.

I have no desire to revisit the tiresome debate among leftists and liberals about whether or not to embrace Charlie Hebdo, which was always a distraction from more urgent political issues. But this was precisely the question: What was Charlie Hebdo’s relationship to power? Was it an equal-opportunity, anti-authoritarian gadfly, as its defenders professed? Or did it consistently “punch down,” by mocking the faith of a despised and marginalized minority on behalf of a racist power structure? Implicit in the question lay the idea that, if the latter theory were borne out, Charlie Hebdo’s so-called freedom was not freedom at all and not worth defending. In the utopian society that lay just over the horizon it would be banned by righteous edict, or at least shamed into nonexistence.

Everything I have read about Charlie indicates he is (was) a frothing-at-the-mouth islamaphobe and was far from an ‘equal opportunity’ gadfly. As such, his ability to rant about the “despised and marginalized minority” has nothing to do with freedom of speech. I also find incredibly hypocritical “those prominent politicians who marched for freedom of expression in Paris”. However, since sheepleness seems a state of being human, I guess it shouldn’t be unexpected at all.

Beneath the complicated and contradictory debate over free speech lies an essential philosophical conflict that doesn’t get discussed openly enough. In American terms, it is often depicted as the division between wild-eyed right-wing libertarians (and a much smaller number of wild-eyed left-wing anarchists) and the normal people who want a normal government. But here’s a telegram from Captain Obvious, or maybe from Mr. Orwell: We don’t have a normal government, people. The conflict over the nature and purpose of state power cannot be boiled down to conventional binaries like right vs. left, or Islam vs. the West, or democracy vs. terrorism, or capitalism vs. whatever-can-be-said-to-oppose capitalism, although it intersects with all those things in unpredictable ways. Either you embrace the idea of state power – the power of your own state, or somebody else’s, or an imaginary state yet to come — as a tool for purifying minds and hearts, encouraging good speech and driving out the bad kind, or you don’t. It’s time to be clear about which side we’re on.

So, whose side are you on? The police state or the people?

Posted in Government, Law, Politics, Psychology, Society | Leave a comment

Free speech is a sham in the ‘free’ world

France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s “Free Speech” Celebration
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/14/days-hosting-massive-free-speech-march-france-arrests-comedian-facebook-comments/

I really don’t have much to add, so much like my previous post I just want to ‘retweet’ it. It never ceases to amaze me that people can be so completely two faced and (apparently) not even realize it. ‘We’ are never at fault, ‘they’ are always at fault.

BTW, wasn’t it just a few years ago that ‘french fries’ were renamed ‘freedom fries‘ in our Great Nation’s Capital?

Posted in Government, Law, Politics, Psychology, Society | Leave a comment

Steadily chipping away…

The Most Important Trial in America
The federal government’s case against the proprietor of a ‘darknet’ website could forever alter how we all use the Internet.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/14/the-most-important-trial-in-america.html

This is something that deserves higher visibility, so I will do my small (tiny (infinitesimal)) part to widen the scope. I agree with this statement:

I have no idea if he is innocent or guilty of all or some of the charges against him, but the manner in which his prosecution is playing out should disturb anyone who cares about justice.

When the government is allowed to break laws willy nilly and the justice department stands idly by, we are no longer a nation of laws. Of course, this has been a reality for quite a while, but sometimes it is hard to convince the sheeple that these things are important. Perhaps one day the government will finally reach a point where they take on someone who isn’t successfully demonized and the sheeple will rally. Or perhaps not…

Posted in Business, Economics, Government, InformationTechnology, Infosec, Law, Politics | Leave a comment

Another stupid sheeple rant

I guess this would part 2 of my earlier sheeple rant. I just got to whine/bombast a bit to feel better and my dear reader(s) get to take the brunt (my wife gets tired of hearing me run over the same subject over and over (and over) again).

In case you are interested, this specific post was triggered by this particular article:

Ivy League’s meritocracy lie: How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent
“We are credentializing a new elite by legitimizing people with an inflated sense of their own merit”
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/11/ivy_leagues_meritocracy_lie_how_harvard_and_yale_cook_the_books_for_the_1_percent/

Not that it really matters, this has been bugging me for a while…

Really, I am asking for an explanation: how is it that the human species has advanced so far technologically yet is seemingly entirely populated by cretins, hooligans and charlatans? If I didn’t have to look at myself in the mirror, no doubt I would have turned to fleecing the sheeple decades ago, yet despite being a misanthropist for some reason I just can’t abide with the idea of taking advantage of these credulous idiots.

As discussed in my previous post (rant) I have developed this theory of the majority of humans being seekers of low energy locations with the occasional hill climber that scouts for new low energy locations (no doubt the selection of verbiage due to my past research into search and optimization). However, at least lately here in the US, it seems increasingly likely that if this theory does indeed have any validity the number of hill climbers must be vanishingly low as it seems that nearly ever individual I have interacted with (not to exempt myself; sadly I am human and as such share the species negative characteristics no matter how much I try to avoid it) has shown at least a predisposition to sheeple-ness and outright clueless idiocy when it regards reality. We, as individuals, seem determined to stick with a bad situation even when it is often trivial to change it. Eternal optimists hoping for the best? I note that in myself: here we are rapidly approaching the 48th month of effort on our greenhouse/pool when I recall quite clearly thinking that we could be done in a year or so. Right now my wife and I are in discussions for the next project and despite just minutes earlier complaining about my inability to accurately predict how long things will take, I catch myself confidently about to assert that the new construction will be done in less than 2 years, quite likely less than a year. What kind of moron keeps doing that? With all the evidence to the contrary personally experienced I still can’t help myself.

If I, as someone who has made it a largely life-long effort to be self aware and to consider alternative viewpoints on subjects even if I dislike them (unlike, say, what seems evidently largely the entire rest of the population (in the US for sure) that only hears information that confirms preconceived notions) find it nearly impossible to refrain from idiotic, contrary to reality statements, no wonder the average fellow human finds it nearly impossible. Once again, how did we manage to arise to our level of technology? The US has become remarkably anti-science, yet is slavishly addicted to technology (I used to consider them two sides of the same coin, but increasingly it is obvious, in the US anyway, that people think they can have the latter without learning about the former). Clearly people can produce complex things in total ignorance (the science behind Candy Crush takes a decade or more for an intelligent, interested person to learn, given a good basic high school education), yet that ignorance increasingly seems willful. People are actively choosing _not_ to know things (not just in politics, which seems crystal clear for the majority) even when knowing, by virtue of the Internet and the WWW, is practically trivial today. I freely admit that I call things ‘magic‘ when I am too lazy to take the time to understand something, but I believe I am doing so with a clear understanding of what I am missing (I do endeavor to understand some magic, though some, such as circuit diagrams, still elude me despite my efforts). The average member of the sheeple class (I am doing away with the caveat of ‘at least here in the US’ because it is tedious, but please read in that caveat whenever you see a sweeping reference), on the other hand, seems to revel in their unwillingness to even care about the underlying science of the technology they are so obsessed with.

Is it because I feel I am somewhat a renaissance man (I have been accused of such by others)? Because I feel that everyone _should_ understand basic science, technology, engineering and math? Perhaps I am that hill climber I babble about (though I have naught to show for my efforts to date) and care about nuclear energy, alternative fuels, molecular scale computer devices, orchids, weight carrying capacity of parallel strand engineered lumber, why fiberglass resin seems to gel earlier when exposed to fiberglass threads, pleasing women, raising a headstrong boy (to list a few; inspired by Robert Heinlein), perhaps I feel that is the human norm. I recall as a young teenager always thinking that people were always thinking and finding it rather astonishing to learn that my average peer seemed to spend no time thinking at all. ‘Thinking’ in this context is about learning new things, trying out new associations between concepts, hypothesizing and then testing, etc. Very slowly I came to realize that I was rare in that regard. Rare, though doesn’t automatically lead to any form of greatness (though, much like my stubborn insistence that our next construction effort will take a fraction of the time of past efforts, I optimistically think that such greatness is just a year or two away; e.g., my vanity patent efforts).

So what is with us? Why are we so intent on not knowing? We had good excuses generations ago, but those excuses are irrelevant today. Left, right, rich, poor, degreed, uneducated, woman, man, no one seems to be interested in learning things if they are the slightest bit outside their comfort zone. We routinely ignore information that goes against our preconceived notions to the point where we no longer recognize even the capacity to be wrong about even the most fundamental things. The next thing you will find is people denying gravity because it is inconvenient. It won’t stop them from suffering the consequences of jumping off the building, though. The ‘sad’ thing about nature is it doesn’t give a damn about how stupid we are.

OK, I seem to have got this angst off my chest, thank you all for your time and attention…

Posted in OriginalContent, Psychology, Society | Leave a comment

In other words, people don’t commit crimes, corporate culture commits crimes!

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-9-billion-witness-20141106

Matt has moved back to Rolling Stone and I am starting to catch up on his old posts, so this might be the first of a few. I have often attempted to tell people that the ‘historic’ $13 billion find that Chase agreed to was nothing more than a slap on the wrist and represented a trivial fraction of the profit they made and a teeny tiny fraction of the economic harm they caused. This post details that it is even worse; in addition to, naturally, the fine being paid by the share holders (the CEO got a raise!), the fine itself is being used as a tax deduction. Four of the supposed $13 billion isn’t even real money at all, it is just accounting trickery to inflate the $9 billion number (which, after writing off the taxes, is really much closer to $5.5 billion (this on a company that nets that much each quarter)).

Matt’s article makes it crystal clear the complicity of our supposed government watchdogs on the coverup. This is, of course, just a single instance of our government’s efforts to work with Wall Street to cover up crimes that should result in hard jail time for many executives.

Anyway, here are a couple of excerpts to attempt to get my reader(s) to take a look:

In September, at a speech at NYU, Holder defended the lack of prosecutions of top executives on the grounds that, in the corporate context, sometimes bad things just happen without actual people being responsible. “Responsibility remains so diffuse, and top executives so insulated,” Holder said, “that any misconduct could again be considered more a symptom of the institution’s culture than a result of the willful actions of any single individual.”

Because after all this activity, all these court actions, all these penalties (both real and abortive), even after a fair amount of noise in the press, the target companies remain more ascendant than ever. The people who stole all those billions are still in place. And the bank is more untouchable than ever – former Debevoise & Plimpton hotshots Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresny, who represented Chase for some of this case, have since been named to the two top jobs at the SEC. As for the bank itself, its stock price has gone up since the settlement and flirts weekly with five-year highs. They may lose the odd battle, but the markets clearly believe the banks won the war. Truth is one thing, and if the right people fight hard enough, you might get to hear it from time to time. But justice is different, and still far enough away.

Posted in Business, Economics, Government, Law, Politics, Society | Leave a comment

Have a maximally inefficient Christmas!

Have yourself an inefficient Christmas
http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/22/have-yourself-an-inefficient-christmas/

This may not be as amusing to my reader(s) as it is to me, but what the heck, I have been rather serious on this blog for a while…

The idea is that there is this tug of war between a purposeless gift on the part of the receiver and something that stands out and becomes remembered and perhaps cherished. I am a Scrooge from way back, I stopped liking Christmas gift giving probably around 13 or perhaps a bit younger (I don’t care for birthdays either). My rationale is that every gift choice I would care for that is reasonably priced I already have, so what remains is unreasonably priced items or stuff I don’t care for. Except for children (though I largely remain a Scrooge, allowing my wife to manage that aspect), I tend to project these thoughts on others so would rather just skip the whole process. It is interesting, though, the idea the author mentions, that someone might be clever/insightful/lucky enough to conceive of a gift that you don’t realize you actually desire/need until it is presented. I have some older friends who doggedly resist any efforts to connect on-line (meaning they remain in the 20th century and lack smart phones or Internet access) and though they express interest in watching our satellite TV, they have adamantly resisted any suggestion that we get them a dish so they can watch more than the handful of channels they get over the air (and don’t get me started on their refusal to purchase a new TV to replace their gigantic tube that is probably causing the floor to sag because of its mass). I sometimes consider giving one of these ‘gifts’ despite their avowed objection in the hopes that once they have it available they might come to see the utility, but so far I have honored their rejection (it certainly ‘helps’ in that regard that we are dramatically over extended on our construction efforts).

My wife and her siblings engage in a gift exchange. Each sibling purchases a gift at a pre-set amount, then they draw lots, pick a gift, then open it. Interestingly, the earlier openers then have the option to swap gifts after they have seen what the later opener’s gift is. What is really fascinating to me is how often the gift that was purchased for the exchange winds up back in the hands of the original purchaser. It seems the current strategy is to purchase a gift you yourself would like, then if you don’t get to open that gift, swap for it later. Sort of like the stories of spouses each purchasing a gift for the other that the other then gives back to them. At least you would never be disappointed.

So, what do you think? Should gift giving be ‘efficient’ or is our current culture of swapping generally meaningless gifts the optimal path?

Posted in Economics, Psychology | Leave a comment

New Commandments

Behold, atheists’ new Ten Commandments
http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/19/living/atheist-10-commandments/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

Printed here for your enjoyment:

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.

2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.

4. Every person has the right to control of their body.

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.

7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.

8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.

9. There is no one right way to live.

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

I am more of a polytheist than anything else (if you are curious, you can get more here) where I believe all gods have validity. However, I believe that gods were created by humans in the image of humans, which is why all gods tend to be fucked up. I think that if you need to justify doing something you should simply take responsibility for your thoughts/actions, not blame/attribute them to others (be they gods or humans). It wasn’t the voices in your head, it was your head making the decisions. Humans (much as my last post talked about) seem to love to not be personally responsible for anything. I think that is why religion is so popular, it allows one to absolve oneself of responsibility for one’s life/actions. Anyway, I kind of like these ‘commandments’ and thought I would pass them along to my reader(s).

Posted in Psychology, Religion, Society | Leave a comment

Why can’t we all just get along?

Another rambling rant I have been thinking about for a couple of days…

It is interesting to me how doggedly people hold to their notions. It’s Obama’s fault for everything they dislike, yet he is responsible for nothing they like, or, of course, the exact opposite. Every life is sacred, yet it is perfectly OK to let those lives exist in squalor and to blame the teenage parents for having sex. No government it the best thing ever, except when we need some government (it is almost laughable to hear some of my relatives complain endlessly about government, yet insist it is some existential right to own property and have a government enforce that ownership). Naturally there is their opposite, where endless government is the panacea to every possible problem, ignoring the situations where letting the market decide really has been shown to be the best course of action.

So it seems to me it is beginning to boil down to a simple choice: either we, as humans (or perhaps just as Americans), are either too stupid to have created a global society that has managed to influence the world on a global scale or we are all stupid enough to be led around like sheep and dance to the tune of the global elite. I just can’t figure it out. If we weren’t in the midst of a human created extinction event, driving evolution at lightning speed with our poisons in the environment I would easily go with the latter, except, of course, that requires an elite clever enough to direct the sheep. Since it is patently obvious we are capable of destroying ecosystems the implication is we are an intelligent species, yet with that as a given, why are we so susceptible to being led? Is it possible that we are such followers that we are incapable of thinking for ourselves, yet slavishly follow whatever happens? If so (as it appears), how is it that anyone is capable of leading?

For a number of years (decades, I guess) I have had this theory about humans I have occasionally expressed (it seems not here, leastways I wasn’t able to find any hits with the search terms I used). Humans, as a species, seeks the lowest energy state, meaning they want to do as little as possible to get the most in return. If that was the extent, then we never would have advanced to this point where we are destroying an entire planetary ecosystem, so something would be necessary to lift the species out of the ‘local minima’ they occupy. These people are what I term mountain climbers or hill climbers (another search term, perhaps this idea has been influenced by the several years I spent studying search and optimization): they deliberately seek to be away from the majority and do their best to get away from the local minima. In doing so, occasionally, these people find other locations with even lower energy state for the masses and that triggers a flow of the masses from their current location up over the ‘activation energy barrier’ to the new lower minima, where they remain happy until some other mountain climber identifies yet another new minima. Thus, as a species, we are all lazy worthless bastards sitting on our asses doing as little as possible (how accurate a description is that?), the only thing that motivates us is when we hear that there is a state that allows us to be even lazier and more worthless and invest the effort to achieve this new exalted low. The hill/mountain climbers are society members that generally can’t stand society, such as explorers, science geeks, etc. Because these people tend to be misanthropists, meaning they dislike humans as a species, but tend to like specific individuals a great deal, their discoveries are generally relayed back via their friends to the lazy hordes.

With this theory we have a decent explanation for why as a species we have the skill and will to destroy a planet yet at the same time lap up the lies told to us by our ‘betters’. As a species we don’t care to think, we would rather just sit around cherishing our preconceived notions and finding people who will agree with us. As occasional individuals we are capable of leading these hordes. Today those that seem best at leading the hordes are the elite (which generally translate to the obscenely rich, but they can be less than absolutely wealthy and still have an outsized influence). Today those elite seem to be most interested in consolidating power (though, really, have they ever _not_ been totally in control, at least here in the US?) and expanding their wealth. Government exists as a means to placate the lazy worthless horde and as a tool to fleece the hordes for more money.

If, as I am beginning (or continuing) to believe, this is just pure human nature, is there any point in my political ranting? I am more and more convinced that there is less ‘evil genius’ directing our current economic situation (meaning the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, the dramatically shrinking middle class, the endless wars all paid for with borrowed dollars, etc.) than we are just a cussed group of lazy worthless bastards that would rather bitch, whine and moan about shit that has nothing to do with us then take the time to climb some hill somewhere. Hill climbers are ‘different’ and ‘odd’ and therefore are not generally accepted in polite society (meaning to you and your cronies polishing your complaints over an intoxicant of your choice). No one wants to be different, except for those who abhor the masses and can’t stand to fit in, so as a species/society, we really don’t want to change, we just want to complain about how imperfect our lives are, no matter how great things are.

Over the years I have occasionally made an effort to discuss things with people who have already made their minds up. Some portion of that effort was just because I am, at heart, an asshole who likes to needle and annoy people, but another portion is to attempt to discover if there is indeed anyway to alter these people’s world view. I am starting to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t any way. Humans (certainly Americans) are bound and determined to whine, bitch and moan about stuff that has not the slightest impact on them (e.g., abortion, sex ed) that is intended to make other people’s lives as miserable as possible (e.g., poor people; once again, why is it that we blame poor people for every one of our woes instead of the people actually responsible for making things the way they are (the elite)?). There is this bizarre (to me) clannishness amongst the human species: ‘we’ are smart, good looking, intelligent, wise, all knowing, etc., while ‘they’ are stupid, ugly, dumb, foolhardy, ignorant, etc. I see this applied all the time to other groups of people such as the poor, other countries, the Middle East, hillbillies, etc. I am quite certain that except in a few extraordinary situations that the average Joe, be he a hillbilly, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, etc. just wants to be left alone to complain about how much their life sucks and to continue to do nothing about it. The idea to me that we, as a nation, need to go to war against another nation simply because the leader of that nation is a dick head is absurd. The vast majority of people on both sides just want to be left alone, but they lap up the nonsense promulgated by the elite (on either side) that ‘they’ must be destroyed, no matter what the cost. What rational person can think that everyone in the Middle East (for a topical example) really gives a damn about anyone in the US when they are fleeing for their lives from a group of radical extremists? Why do we need to go bomb and kill indiscriminately in the Middle East (creating new radical extremists with each bomb, btw) when there really are just a handful of individuals who are the problem? I think it is all about the sheeple-ness of us, as a species, being led around by those who profit from continual war.

So, if we really are a democratic society and really could change our government and as wide spread groups we complain about how fucked up our government is, why don’t we simple do so? Clearly it is because we can’t agree on what that government should look like. We are too busy complaining about stuff that has no impact on us. I have occasionally slipped on my tin foil hat and temporarily convinced myself that there is evil genius about in the world, but my ‘rock’ is ‘never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity‘ and as such, I have to conclude that the elite get their way not because they are smart enough to ‘stir the pot’ and keep the sheeple focused on stupid topics, but because we as a species are just butt ugly stupid except for the occasional mountain climber.

So, to summarize, we can’t get along because we are not evolved to get along.

Fucking humans!

Posted in OriginalContent, Psychology, Society | Leave a comment

So sad…

When charter schools are nonprofit in name only
Many institutions are paying for-profit companies for management services, and regulators are taking notice
http://www.salon.com/2014/12/11/when_charter_schools_are_nonprofit_in_name_only_partner/

The rich get richer, the taxpayer takes it in the ass. Ain’t America Grand?

Moveon.org has decided to ‘invest’ $1 million in an effort to get Elizabeth Warren to run in ’16. I hope she does; though I am intrigued with the idea of a female President and might vote for Hillary if it comes to that, I am quite certain she (Hillary) is no different than Obama (or McCain or Romney for that matter) and her being President means business as usual. Of course, Warren might sell out (have already sold out), but it is a certainty that Hillary already has. I doubt that the GOP will put up anyone moderate enough to appeal to the swell of democratic leaning voters for the ’16 election, the Tea Party will ensure that anyone who gets nominated will have to at least act like a crazy. A friend supports the Republican Ben Carson. If he is moderate enough to appeal to moderate voters then I doubt he can make it through the nomination process; if he is wacko enough to get the Tea Party seal of approval, I doubt he will appeal to the moderate voters. It is possible, though, that he could make a good President, but I am so sure that it is the Democrats election to lose that I can’t even generate the enthusiasm to read his Wiki page.

It is looking like the laser tag idea is going to fall by the wayside. Realizing that I might wind up spending thousands to save hundreds, I started to inquire how much my ASIC detector wafers might cost. Shockingly, I can’t get anyone to give me any figure which makes me think that the price is too high. I have considered revisiting the UMD FabLab where I made some halting efforts to get my DNA chip fabricated years ago, but my wife thinks even thinking about that idea is a waste of time. She pointed out that I have many other things I should be thinking/working on and I agreed that my time is probably (likely (almost certainly)) better spent working on the ‘retro’ game. Oh well, it entertained my brain for a number of hours.

Regarding our glacially evolving construction efforts: I have been spending the last couple of weekends getting prepped for the boiler installation for heating the pool. It is amazing how expensive copper fittings are, once you get away from the 1/2 and 3/4 inch variety at the Big Box Stores. We probably spent close to $300 for a couple of dozen fittings, on top of the $350 or so for the titanium heat exchanger and of course the $3,400 for the boiler itself. Oh, we will probably also pay a bit North of $1K for the installation by the professional plumber (to preserve the warranty). Heating the pool went from less than $2K to now over $5K, but the efficiency went from 80% to 96% and since we might wind up doing the bulk of the greenhouse heating from the radiant heat of the pool, I expect that extra percentage will pay for itself in 5 years or less.

Tacloban, Philippines (where my ‘rents-in-law live) managed to avoid the worst of the nearly super typhoon Ruby (also known as Hagupit). The eye went well North of them, but they did have some wind damage and the storm surge evidently put a foot or so of water in the street in front of the house. The airport was messed up enough, though, that they will be a week late visiting us for the holidays. The word I heard was even where the eye passed over the islands (it went over the North end of Samar) the storm surge was a lot less than Yolanda and the winds a bit lower. Also, people took the warnings seriously and got the hell out of dodge.

In case I don’t get on the blog in the next couple of weeks, a very happy holidays to all my reader(s)!

Posted in Business, Economics, Education, Government, OriginalContent, Politics, Society | Leave a comment

Been busy

It is a nice change of pace that my days are going by so fast that I don’t have time to blog. However, there are a number of topics I would like to blog on (I won’t list the links as I still hold out hope I can make time over the holidays), so I wish I had more time.

Well, it looks like my vanity patent will be for naught. The USPTO finally picked it up, but then rejected all of my claims. Because I have got to little interest in backing the R&D effort to validate and commercialize the idea I haven’t made the time to do a detailed analysis of the examiner’s response, but after a brief review I agree with my patent lawyer that the examiner has my concept conflated with that of the nanopore idea and thus doesn’t see the distinction. I had the _exact_ same problem with my lawyer when he found some IP he felt was prior art and I had to make the trek into DC to draw pictures and wave my arms about face-to-face to convince him of the difference. I believe the issue boils down to the unavoidable similarity of the drawings for both approaches. When you take something inherently three dimensional and reduce it to two dimensions sometimes you lose information. I feel fairly comfortable that I (and my expensive lawyer) could convince the examiner that my idea is novel, but it will cost money and time and given the glaring lack of interest in the concept I have found among those companies I expected to be most interested in providing support, my small investor and I decided not to put any more money and time in this project. There is still a small window of opportunity, we have to respond by Jan 6th (or could pay fees and extend that date to April 6th) so could decide to pick it up again, but I lack money, my investor is pretty well committed elsewhere, so unless an interested party pops up out of nowhere, come Jan 7th I will have officially wasted about 2,000 hours and about $7,000 of my time and money on this project.

Of course, just because the odds of success are several orders of magnitude better than playing the lottery, it isn’t like the odds are incredibly in my favor. I felt that I had a 50/50 chance of getting backing and I was in several serious discussions, so perhaps a wee bit of luck and things would have gone the other way.

I have been working on a laser tag concept for a while and had been working with DaWei (my major commenter) but haven’t heard from him the last month or so. DaWei, if you are still out there, did you get my emails? Anyway, DaWei has helped me (really, he did all the work) design a circuit for the laser portion and gave me information on actually fabricating the thing. Sadly, I have been too damn busy to try to assemble the parts, in any case I am not clear on how to ‘modulate’ the laser yet, something I presume can be done via a control chip, but I would need to experiment. Our last communication was shifting to the design of the target of the laser and I sort of flooded him with a bunch of ideas. My latest was/is to actually go with an ASIC, but perhaps the most basic design you can get: the wafer would be doped to become a giant photodiode, then diced into centimeter square chunks, then wired up as a 2d array and then a controller would sequentially sample each square to determine if it is being illuminate by a laser or not. The only real drawback is getting something like this custom fabricated for a reasonable price means I get to do all the engineering (if I pay someone else, the costs are on par with that of patent lawyers!). I haven’t been spending the required time to sort this out since I have been ‘distracted’ by a revival of my retro game.

When I was discussing what to do regarding my DNA sequencing patent with my investor, he suggested that I spend my time on my idea for the retro game since it was something that cost very little (so far, nothing but time) and as such didn’t require any outside investment. My son occasionally nagged me about the game and I thought about it from time to time, but until my investor gave me a push, I never made any time. Well, with his push I got motivated to work on it again, though sometimes it is just 3-4 hours a week. Initially I had to get it to run again; I had been using Apache web server and interacted with the program via CGI, but it seems in my latest OS upgrade Apache also got upgraded and now it is so ‘secure’ it is no longer useful. As an optimization I had been planning on making the program into its own web server (this amortizing the substantial startup costs over all the subsequent connections) so I figured, after a number of frustrating hours being unable to get Apache to change its webroot, that I would develop an ‘embedded’ web server. I spent a few hours searching for open source implementations and found GNU’s libmicrohttpd and decided to give it a try. I was extremely grateful when it compiled and installed without any fuss or muss and all the examples worked as advertised. However, when it came time to integrate it with my game code I found it as difficult as getting Apache to be useful, so decided to write my own HTTP server. I studied HTTP before and have written a few servers so I didn’t see it as a major deal. The only real wrinkle was the changes between HTTP 1.0 (when I last spent any time on the protocol, yes it does date me) and HTTP 1.1: in 1.0 the connection closed by default after each page transmission, in 1.1 it remains open by default. It didn’t take me too long to figure this out, but it did add some complications to my server and right now it only really works on localhost since running it over the Internet adds delays that cause problems. I will sort it out eventually, but since I have something that works now I shifted my program from being hard-coded to run in a database (I am a fan of Postgresql, free and high performance!). Not quite done with that yet, but I have been fairly consistent the last couple of weeks in putting an hour or two almost each day (during the week, on the weekend I am generally too tired from the construction efforts). I am cautiously optimistic that in a few months I will actually have something playable and can ask my reader(s) to be alpha testers.

I have been recovering from my ‘creeping malaise’, thankfully. Not back to jogging yet, but I am walking briskly and am going up 4 floors of stairs at work, so hopefully in another couple of weeks (just in time for winter! (though we have already had Jan temps)) I can get back to jogging. My health improvement hasn’t resulted in any noticeable increase in output on the weekends, though. We have been working on lots of little things and have only been putting in a handful of hours of work lately. We have pretty much given up our fantasy of being able to swim over the Christmas holiday (we had already given up hope of swimming on Christmas day), we are now ‘unofficially’ discussing being able to swim on our boy’s spring break in April. Lack of progress is now battling with lack of money as we near the end of this project. Our credit cards are almost all close to being maxed out, yet until we get this done we can’t refinance the house to pay it all off. Fortunately our credit is good enough that we pay reasonable interest rates, but it is getting tiresome to have to juggle nearly every decision due to financial considerations.

It is hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving. Just a few short weeks later is Christmas, where has all the time gone? I guess I shouldn’t complain, for so many years I have watch each second crawl by like an hour, but sometimes I wish I had some of that time now…

I may have some time to blog over the holidays, but then again, I might not. If not, then happy holidays to all my reader(s)!

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