Any sufficiently advanced…

A co-worker has one of those cute quote things added to his email signature and today’s is “Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.”. That prompted me to Google and I found this:

Arthur C. Clarke, (Clarke’s third law)
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Vernon Schryver
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

Gregory Benford, Foundations Fear, 1997
Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

Advanced Music
Any sufficiently advanced music is indistinguishable from MIDI.

Any sufficiently advanced bureaucracy is indistinguishable from molasses.

Answer to Fermi’s Paradox
Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from nature.

Scott Rainey
Any sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from humour.

Oh, the Huge Manatee
Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from pretention.

Rich Kulawiec
Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

Carson Gaspar
Any sufficiently advanced application proxy is indistinguishable from any sufficiently advanced stateful inspection engine.

Andy Finkel
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

Cairns’s Third Law
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from life.

Michael Shermer
Any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is indistinguishable from God.

Clarke’s Third Law as applied to music
Any sufficiently advanced country music is indistinguishable from rock.
Any sufficiently advanced rock music is indistinguishable from jazz
Any sufficiently advanced jazz is indistinguishable from random noise.
Any sufficiently advanced random noise is indistinguishable from Yanni.

Alan Morgan (
Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from a genuine kook.

Throop’s Law:
Any sufficiently advanced tool can be used for something it wasn’t intended for.

Advanced content management system
Any sufficiently advanced content management system is virtually indistinguishable from a good wiki.

Any sufficiently advanced operating system is indistinguishable from Linux.

The Confusion, Neal Stephenson
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a yo-yo”. Spoken by Enoch the Red

Dress riddle

I have to imagine everyone has seen it by now, the dress that appears to be blue/black to certain people and gold/brown to others, well it seems it has to do to what kind of light you are most used to:

Mystery dress

That Dress riddle: trick of the light?

Now, three scientific studies, including one from the University of Bradford, have explained why. Scientists say the conflict is due to the mechanism the brain uses to ensure an object is seen to be the same colour, no matter what time of day or type of light it is bathed in. In bright, midday sun, daylight is blueish and so the brain subtracts blue light. In artificial light, it gets rid of yellows – and in both cases an object should appear the same.

Crucially, the mechanism relies on other nearby colours, such as reds and greens, to judge how much blue or yellow to remove. In the case of the dress, these reference colours were missing. Blue is also particularly tricky for the brain to deal with.

Neuroscientist Bevil Conway, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, who asked more than 1,400 people about the dress, says it is likely those who spend a lot of time outdoors, or had just been in daylight, took away too much blue and saw it as white, while those more used to artificial light subtracted yellows and perceived it as blue.

I like to be outdoors (though my job has me sitting at a desk all day, and I admit I spend a lot of time on the couch in front of the TV) and when I drive home each afternoon I deliberately do not use sun glasses so I can get exposure to the light. Perhaps that is why I am in the gold/brown camp.

Updated construction website

I finally got off my butt and updated our construction web site. Last weekend we were hoping to prime/paint the pavilion, but, once again it took longer than expected to put the finish coats of spackle and sand, so it will be next weekend. Anyway, the main site is here:

The specific new page is here:

I still have a few leads on the job search, but most positions are awaiting feedback which can sometimes take quite a while. My poor wife is all stressed out, but I am having a great time. I had a small nibble on my DNA work, hopefully I will know in the next week or so if it will lead to something. I am going to try to turn my focus on to the game and take advantage of this time off to get the thing playable. Even though I have been off for three weeks (as of today), I have had an amazing number of things keeping me from working on the game. I believe I have all the distractions (except for job search) behind me now…

On the job hunt once again

A week ago I was told that my services were no longer needed, don’t let the door hit my ass on the way out. The glorious life of a contractor! It wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t so diligent about spending every penny we make and had a pile of cash in savings, but instead we decided to ‘invest’ in real estate. At least we have something to show for all our expense:

Google imagery from fall of 2013

It looks like the image was taken late summer / early fall of ’13. There are still some leaves on the trees but they are falling fast. The inside of the greenhouse/pool is still largely incomplete, but the exterior walls are done (the exterior walls still need siding) as is the roof, as you can see. The damn thing is monstrous! Note that the house has 6 ft overhangs on each long side, so the house proper is actually 12 ft narrower. The pavilion (really, another kitchen) is the part that sticks out toward the North. There we are making much better progress, the interior walls are almost done (we are spackling now and hope to prime and paint in a couple of weeks), then it will be lay the floor and put in the cabinets (the island is 16 ft long, 5 ft wide and has two stoves and a 36 inch griddle, not to mention 3 exhaust fans). A half bath and a full bath when all is said and done. It makes me tired just typing this!

I will be so happy when we finally get done with the construction and can just go out there and relax!

How about this winter snow, eh? I believe the news said yesterday that Dulles Airport got nearly 60 inches (5 feet!) of snow this year. None in huge piles, though, fortunately. The Snowmageddon we got back in ’10 was less overall (I believe), but more at once and the pile of snow next to the driveway was over 6 ft when all was said and done (the boy was sledding down the pile!). I nearly threw out my back heaving the snow over the pile, man I was tired of snow that year! This season the individual snow amounts were quite manageable, I was OK digging out. Hopefully our wet winter won’t be followed by a dry summer, some of my plants are still in need of a few more years of clement weather before they are established enough to handle yet another drought.

If any of my dear reader(s) know of someone looking for a performance oriented C/C++ programmer, here is my resume:

This tickled my fancy

Mobile Marketing from xkcd:

Mobile Marketing

To me this really speaks to the phrase ‘think outside the box’. Problem: customer wants to increase visits to their website. Solution: trigger a wave of website visits by playing on the viral aspects of social media (how many people would simply forward the text without bothering to check out the news sites?). Sure, every other news site also gets increased traffic, but the customer didn’t specify they _didn’t_ want that in their initial requirements. The solution is simple, quick and effective.

Of course, solutions like this are bound to trigger upset by the customer’s user community. This is why contracts today are a dozen pages of tiny print.

Your mind, with a full belly

The Older Mind May Just Be a Fuller Mind

A very interesting take on ‘cognitive decline’ and how it might be a measurement artifact. I sort of discuss it in a post on why thinking takes longer as you get older, it is interesting to see my opinion might have some science behind it.

Of course, as the author says, it might be old people grasping at straws to try to keep even with you young punks. However, keep in mind you young people: old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill!

Poor memory makes room for creativity?

Memory is the Enemy of Creativity

Scott’s blog entry sort of speaks to me. I have often thought that if I had been born with a better memory for details I would be a lot less creative. Because I have such a crappy memory I wind up somewhat randomly rearranging what I ‘know’ from time to time and occasionally that results in some idea I think is novel (most of the time it isn’t), I do some research and sometimes (rarely, but probably once every year or two) my idea appears to be novel, useful and practical (an example: my DNA sequencing chip idea). Of course, taking concept and turning it into reality is generally a long labor intensive (and usually capital intensive!) process that requires dealing with emotional ups and downs, something I have yet to achieve (except for our house construction, though really that didn’t require any ‘forgetfulness’, though I believe starting on our current greenhouse/pool project did require us to forget a lot about how much we often hated the process). I believe (clearly biased, though) that perfect recall allows you to perfectly recall all the reasons why something won’t work, so you never attempt (or even consider) doing something that has been judged impossible. Since anything deemed ‘impossible’ should really be labeled as ‘no path forward yet proven’, really in my mind there is no such thing as ‘impossible’. ‘Impractical’ has certainly reared its ugly head many, many times, though. Often what is ‘impossible’ just needs reinterpretation on what is actually being sought. Something I have been thinking about lately is directly related to the speed-of-light ‘barrier’. For our fleeting 75 year life span exploring the galaxy requires faster-than-light (FTL) travel. However, if suddenly your lifespan becomes a million years, poking along at the reasonably easily attainable 1% of the speed of light (about 7.7 million miles an hour) nearly the entire galaxy becomes accessible. You get to spend a long, long time in between stars, but we are learning more and more that there is some interesting stuff out in between (that is incredibly difficult to observe so deep in the sun’s influence). So, perhaps solving one ‘impossible’ problem (FTL) could be done via an entirely different approach (longevity). Of course, my crappy memory might be making this ‘solution’ more feasible than it is in reality, but that is the nature of my brain. Like Scott points out in his blog, it isn’t something I can turn off, it just happens. It is how I relax; indeed, I am more ‘creative’ when I relax.

On the other, other hand, because I have such a poor memory for details (I often must write something down for even as little as a minute because I will forget and have to recheck it; very tedious!) I would really love to have some capacity for perfect recall so I could store some stuff (like phone number! My wife can attest how annoying it is to have someone who can’t remember a phone number long enough to dial it!), but I don’t want to lose my ability to reshuffle what I ‘know’, so it needs to be something I can control. When we finally get to having direct brain connections to computers I will be one of the first in line!

Yet another plug for exercise…

Exercise as Potent Medicine

I have noted many times that exercise is good for you (just a few examples):

This article is some additional scientific evidence that exercise is the best medicine (well, the same as medicine). Simple exercise (we aren’t talking about marathons here; just brisk (where ‘brisk’ is based on the individual) walking 30+ minutes a day) works just as well as medicine, costs nearly nothing (got to get some shoes and maybe some gym clothes) and doesn’t require a prescription. Note, though, that it also doesn’t provide any revenue to the medical industrial complex, so don’t expect much support for targeted research to identify the patient-specific ideal combination of exercise.

However, as I hope the above collection of links shows, if you engage in a reasonable amount of physical activity 5+ days per week the probability you can add several healthy years to your life is dramatically higher than getting the same outcome taking drugs.

And it is free!

Now we know where you are in real time! And you paid for that!

Close-In Surveillance Using Your Phone’s Wi-Fi

Schneier’s blog post contains links to other articles, but to me the more interesting was reading the comments. Of course, infosec people will whine, bitch and moan, but for the average user this is great. At work this morning a co-worker mentioned that some phone (I think he said iPhone, but wasn’t paying much attention at that moment) was listening to the conversation in the room and would pop up targeted ads related to the conversation. He was talking about how cool it would be to modify it slightly so it would recognize movies and pop up relevant, scene-specific information. I remarked that just the other day I was complaining that without Google I am a moron since I have stopped retaining information I can trivially look up, what about the next generation that never did learn anything? With the context specific information provided by the tools above, they literally don’t have to think about anything, the cloud does it for them. Since they won’t retain any information either, ‘truth’ will be whatever the app discloses to them at whatever instant they are talking about something.

A truly brave new world!


DARPA Announces Cyber Grand Challenge

Great! Lets have a contest to see who can build Skynet faster!

Disclosure: I just started a new job where I am working to help build Skynet:

So far as I know (it is a nice change to be working on a job that allows me to talk about it!) no one has actually put the system in charge of their network yet, but this is the only viable path forward, so at some point a system exactly like this one is going to have to be put in control. That this has been true for at least 25 years (actually, almost exactly 25 years) is irrelevant to most people, but sooner or later (I suspect later, but Hexis is well funded by people that think it will be sooner, I hope they are right) automation is the way we are going to have to go. Attack has been automated for decades, it is time for defense to catch up!