Archive for July, 2020

Potpourri of thoughts

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

So, this is a collection of thoughts I’ve had over the last few weeks and thought, I should write about that in my blog. It’s interesting that my blog has kind of developed this mixed flavor – originally it was just for me to follow my own personal growth, but now it’s a mix of that and a soapbox, which is funny because it probably doesn’t have a lot of readers. (my web stats broke a while ago and I never got around to fixing them, so I don’t actually know)

Anyway, my first thought is related to the cloud. I recently told someone that you shouldn’t build anything that you want to still be working ten years from now on the cloud. This is partially because companies come and go, partially because companies get gobbled up by other companies that don’t feel the need to follow the original company’s agreements to their customers, and partially because of what I call the “microsoft office effect”.

Let me digress to explain the office effect. Office, as software, probably peaked around 2002. That’s when it was the most intuitive, most useful, most stable. However, there’s a team of people hanging around microsoft for Office, and they felt the need to earn their paychecks and didn’t want to get fired, so they talked themselves into a series of what I would call downgrades.. things that made the software less intuitive, less stable, etc. Their managers were soulless evil middle manager types, and so they encouraged the creation of new file formats for each version of office. The net result is the software got steadily worse, but everyone had to upgrade to it or not be able to read each other’s documents.

And, of course, this happens with cloud services too. APIs drift, parameters get added and dropped, etc, because the team maintaining $WHATEVER has to earn their paychecks. It’s one of the evils of capitalism that everything keeps getting marked “new and improved” when in fact it is new but not improved.

Anyway, that said, kill the cloud. Until and unless every cloud service can have a IETF-style approved interface and a guarantee not to drift, and be provided by several competing vendors, encourage everyone you know not to use it and *especially* not to rely on it. Remember, there is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer. Also remember the hundreds of thousands of man-hours thrown away when various “free web page” places shut down during the dot com bust.

Segueing into another thought – I was musing how little of today’s software is going to be runnable on *anything* in 20 years. One of the unfortunate phenomenons I’ve been seeing more and more of is people upgrading just to upgrade – I can’t run the latest Allen & Heath mixer control application on my mac because I refuse to “upgrade” past 10.10 [for a variety of reasons] and for no good reason they’ve decided to use settings for the compiler that produce a application that isn’t compatible with 10.10. I’ve been seeing this more and more – realistically, there is no reason *not* to try and make every binary run on the widest number of operating system versions possible, but some developers are so in love with upgrading or playing with the latest toy that they will kick out i.e. applications that will only run on windows 10. Which is also, IMO, awful.

Anyway, one thing that the developers, especially those of web sites but also those of applications, don’t seem to get is *we just want them to keep working*. Sometimes we might want some new features but we *really* don’t want the user interface to change. JIRA, your new interface isn’t any better than your old one and you threw away thousands of man hours of people using it having to struggle to find things they already knew where were. Shame on you.

OK, on to another point. All new governments should go far beyond simple checks and balances, because we have seen that over time, checks and balances are eroded by corruption. Watching for and weeding out corruption should be built into every layer of the system and the founding document should recognize that over time people slide steadily downhill towards placing the needs of the few above the needs of the many. I am guessing we’re watching the endgame for the USA, I am curious what is going to come next and hoping that the loss of life and violence is kept to a minimum. I’m kind of hoping we just break it up into 10-12 countries and start over..

The insanity of democracy

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

So, being wrong should count against you, politically. Not, this is my opinion wrong, but, factually wrong. And the GOP has been *epicly* wrong about COVID – the amount wrong they are is going to come with a huge body count. We can reasonably guess they are similarly epicly wrong about global warming. They were epicly wrong about the weapons of mass destruction thing and a whole bunch of people ought to be sitting in jail who are instead being re-elected and cheered on for their awfulness. But I digress.

The astonishing thing is I *know* that my conservative friends are going to continue to defend their party even though it’s been demonstrated that *the GOP is out of touch with reality*. Time and time again.. the Laffer curve, anyone? History tells us that it didn’t work, yet of course we’re doing it again. Masks? Of course COVID is just like the flu and we don’t need masks.. on this one, of course, they are slowly bending because otherwise they won’t have a constituency. Which, I guess, is just evolution in action.

The problem with democracy is the majority of the voters aren’t paying attention or have no real memory to speak of for events. So even though the GOP should be at this point a tiny fraction of a percent of congress, if people were voting them out every time they were factually wrong in a way that got people hurt or killed, they play to people’s emotions and people continue to re-elect them even though they are hurting us all.


Saturday, July 11th, 2020

So, since June 1 I’ve been on a facebook break – it’s been 52 days now. I think it’s been good for me, and I’m not anxious to go back although there sadly are some people in my life I have no other way to communicate with. I do feel a bit bad about not posting the cover of America on facebook although I don’t know how many listeners missed out on that.. I need to pay someone to log into facebook for me and post my music 😉

Other than that, I continue to work my paws off on guitar and keyboard skills.. at this point I’m going to try to get up to a hour a day for guitar (I’m at about 35 minutes now.. building up the callouses and the finger strength) and a hour a day for keys.. I’m still working my way through all the keys in improvising on the 12 bar blues, today was the start of a new key, Ab. (This is convenient because I’m also working my way through all the songs I feel like every keyboard player should know and this week’s is Take the A Train, which is in Ab)

I’m still growing pretty regularly, and I’m starting to surprise myself. I have to imagine another six months of this and I’m going to be shredding.. it’s so frustrating sometimes because I’m *almost* good.. 😉

A God of Love

Monday, July 6th, 2020

So, sometimes I think I should sit down and do the thought experiment of figuring out, OK, I’m certain that no religion I’ve ever seen describes a god of love, but I can describe sets of circumstances that could leave us with a god of love, or even a utopian God, and still leave us in our current situation.

It’s a interesting thought experiment to think what such a diety might be like. It’s also a interesting thought experiment to think about what I think a utopia for me would be like. It’s where I ended up with the thought that everyone would be connected to the same network but everyone would be running different software mapping the rest of folks into their conscious experience because that’s the only way that everyone could get the right utopia for them, given that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

As I’ve said, I can come up with many reasons that we could have the best god (or system administrator anyway) that one can imagine and still have the experience we’re having. Some of the more obvious ones are that we wanted a challenge and so this world is deliberately suboptimal, or that there’s something wrong with our own neural mapping that is creating our conscious experience but that God wants us to have the freedom to be who we want to be and therefore is allowing us to fix that mapping ourselves. One can also consider the artistic values of a less-than-perfect (but still pretty awesome in a lot of ways) world.

Obviously one of the people I talk to in my inner world regularly is a big fan of the idea that it’s the neural structure inside our minds that maps our senses to our conscious experience that controls whether we experience heaven or hell. I don’t really know yet how much that’s under our control, or how much we can make it grow in directions we want it to grow in.

But, my point remains, throw out religion and just think in terms of what you’d want from the system administrator of the world – and whether you’d want God to be more than that, and if so, what more? There’s a interesting intersection between freedom and safety there – your perfect safety experience keeps you on rails and can’t go anywhere unexpected, while your perfect freedom experience can end very badly.

More later.

Sheer covers Simon & Garfunkel – America

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Just in time for the 4th of july, my patriotism 😉

In response to a comment on a previous post

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

I quote a commenter on my blog: “America needs some work but trying to convince me that one particular demographic are the only ones whose complaints should be addressed sounds racist and divisive, to me”.

Well, it depends on the lens you look at it through. If you look at it as “we are triaging and these are the people the most screwed over, time after time”, then it’s a totally reasonable thing to do. If you look at it as if “if they get more rights, I get less” i.e. the zero sum game approach, then you’ll come to the conclusion (which I obviously think is wrong) that you came to.

I agree that we need to not break up into little tiny groups and then fight over the fact that we want slightly different things. However it is undoubtedly *everyone’s* problem when the police are killing innocent citizens. The police should be willing to *take* a bullet for a unarmed civilian, not to *shoot bullets* at unarmed citizens.

However, statistically, it’s clear the police kill black folk more than anyone else. And it’s clear that there are *many* white supremacist idiots out there, and way too many of them have found themselves into the police departments of America, and that’s a huge problem. It’s a huge problem in general that police can murder with impunity and it’s a *additional* huge problem that a particular segment of the population is being murdered. Hence..


Which doesn’t mean that other lives do not. Very little of life is a zero sum game.


Sunday, July 5th, 2020

So, one of the very stupid things that religion makes us do is declare certain spots on earth ‘holy land’. One of the most impressive examples of people not learning from how they’ve been treated is the Jewish occupation of Israel.. as near as I can tell, they are treating other folk almost as awful as they were treated in WWII and they can’t just walk away because it’s “holy land”.

It isn’t, of course. Near as I can tell JHVH was someone’s imagination, and either all land is holy or none of it is, but the stupidity will continue because, yes, religion is a virus, and yes, a bunch of people are infected.

I’m not anti-semitic. However, I can’t look at the situation in Israel without feeling a anger that borders on hatred. Not for all folk of that religion, just for those specific ones. I’m also impressed at how they’ve bought the American political system – as far as I can tell the consulting gig where I was analyzing california voting data looking for signs of fraud was paid for by Israel – they are spending money to manipulate the US political system (which, as we all know, is for sale), and I notice that there are actually *laws* against boycotting israel – and, of course, we keep selling one side and not the other the best guns we can make. Probably some of this is Christianity is derivative of Judaism and a bunch of people in the US are infected with Christianity and therefore they think of one side as “our side” and the other as “infidels”.

I read that most Jewish folk consider the occupation immoral – well, obviously, stealing people’s land and blowing up their houses *is* immoral – but they can’t think of what to do about it. Here’s what you do: You accept there’s no such thing as holy land, and you walk away and let the people who were living there most recently have it. You stop killing people over land and over some really nutty religious thoughts. You walk away.

They won’t, of course. But they should.

As long as I’m opening cans of worms with this article, there’s probably a cautionary tale here about why it’s a really bad idea to think of yourself as “god’s chosen people”. In general, that idea is about as dangerous and as nutty as the idea that there’s one chosen religion and God is going to reward the followers of that religion or punish the adherents of all the others. It’s a horrible idea that leads to horrible outcomes but I can see where as a member of the powers that be that want folk killing other folk just because they’re wearing a different color uniform it’s a delightfully tempting one to sell to the gullible. It does underline the fact that religion has been curated by the powers that be to control the masses.

Morality and dieties

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

So, one of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is how unreasonable and unethical God’s behavior is in the book of Job. It’s actually a long term set of thoughts, and it’s not entirely a academic discussion for me because I’m playing with genetic algorithms and artificial neural networks.

You don’t own a life form independent of you just because you created it. I grant you that humans generally behave as if we do – we believe we own our children until they’re 18 and we often treat them pretty badly. There are *starting* to be some people who ask the hard questions concerning our experiments in artificial neural networks – certainly “The Measure Of A Man”, a episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – does a good job of discussing the problem.

And, it’s true, in general Christians seem to believe it’s reasonable for God to judge them and large portions of them think it’s reasonable for God to punish or reward – sometimes based on whether or not you say the magic name or think the magic thoughts. The idea of people being considered not worthy if they happen to not pick right from a plethora of competing religions is horrifying and yet many Christians defend this clearly awful behavior that they ascribe to God.

It is reasonable for the group to protect itself from the bad behavior of individuals. It is not reasonable for a diety, who can never be threatened by any of their creations, to punish and reward. I’m not sure what the solution is, but it is clear to me God’s defense “Where were you when I made the mountains” is totally inadequate and in fact generally nonsensical – it’s not likely to be what a deity would say because it represents a human-centric way of thinking both about time and about the interconnectedness of all things.

In any case, the behavior of JHVH in Job is worse than the behavior of Satan. The behavior is horrifying, and maybe that’s the point of the book, to help us understand how evil God is. People are not interchangeable. You can’t kill off all of someone’s loved ones and give them new ones and expect them not to be badly damaged. And you *shouldn’t* test individuals to destruction – remember this is the very God who says “Don’t you dare test the lord your god”. If it’s not moral to test God, it’s not moral for God to test us.

It does bring up a interesting question – is morality the same for us and for God? After all, God might well be able to see multidimensional patterns we can’t see – certainly would know the answers to questions we don’t know the answers to. On the other paw, given that power corrupts – and power tends to damage neural networks in ways that make them abusive – see recent police abuses of power for example, as well as many, many, many other examples of people who are empowered becoming abusive – one has to ask, if God is a neural network, is God so damaged as to be fundamentally broken and likely continuously evil?

I’ve talked before on whether there’s a maximum size of neural network that is even stable. One thing we may be in the process of learning right now is that there’s a maximum size of neural network that can survive without destroying itself. And of course I tend to think JHVH is a fictional character invented to enable the powers that be to more easily control the population – but if JHVH existed, they *still* might be dead. And we might well tell ourselves we are hearing JHVH (or Allah, or what have you) even though they don’t really exist, because neural networks that are entrained in a pattern definitely can produce signal that is representative of that pattern.

Anyway, my underlying point is, being a God doesn’t automatically make everything you do moral, and it’s fraught with opportunities to commit immoral acts. In general giving people power tends to lead them away from empathy and towards being cruel and/or power-seeking. There are some obvious counter-examples, but they are not in the majority.

One of the things that scares me most about Christians is their “God is a 800 lb monkey and therefore anything he does must be right and I’m going to try to uphold his will even if it means murder and mayhem”. That the Christians started the crusades tells me a lot about them, and I in general continue to think the religion should be struck in favor of one that we develop in modern times with stated goals that we can all agree on. Of course, it would be nice to understand enough about how our minds work that we can author software for them that will do good things.

We’re fighting the wrong battles..

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

So, I have started this post a few times and just tossed it into drafts when it turned into a rant against the conservatives – which, yes, I loathe the viewpoint of, but that’s not really the point I wanted to make in this article.

The point I wanted to make in this article is we’re fighting the wrong battles, as in, the trillions we spend on weapons should be spent on health care and getting better at being friends, getting along, and working together. That I feel like wanting to be polyamorous still involves being something of a beta tester argues for the viewpoint that we haven’t really mastered getting along – as does the high divorce rate and high stress level many relationships suffer from.

And then, of course, the pandemic makes the argument that we should be spending trillions on health care – as does the fact that people can’t decide to live longer than a hundred years because we don’t have the tech to support that.. and even within a hundred year lifespan, we have to experience massive amounts of suffering because our bodies were not designed, they were evolved, and they slowly malfunction while exposing us to all kinds of unreasonable levels of suffering.

There’s also the point I’ve made that we should be spending billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours on studying neuroscience and the way neural networks behave because until we know what we’re measuring *with*, we won’t *ever* really know what we’re measuring.

Anyway, you would think we could reach a place where we would acknowledge that no one should be invading anyone any more, and the world as a whole should stop anyone who tries, and we should move forward with fighting our common enemies, the many problems that plague all of us. Of course I am mostly talking about health care here, but also automation and the like, because we shouldn’t have to be enslaved or afraid any more – we should be easily able to reach a place where food and housing is guaranteed for all.

The future

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

I really wonder how this period of time will look to me in the future when I look back over my journal. I hope that the complete political and social dysfunction we are currently experiencing will resolve itself, and that the economic stupidity will actually be transcended – it’s possible that things could go extremely worse wrong – of course, in a lot of the worst case scenarios, my web server is not going to be there to look at.

But, even though things look grim at the moment, I have a lot of hope. For one thing, I think COVID is going to teach even the most conservative among us that it’s a good idea to listen to the smart people, and a bad idea to listen to the lying liars. I also think in the case of COVID, a bunch of the folks who believe the dumbest things are going to, well, die. Evolution in action. And my hope is that we will all collectively learn a thing or three from this and life will get better from here.

I also still have hopes that my personal life will get better, as I do sometimes manage to grow. At least a little bit. I think that my conflict-averse nature is going to have to get sorted out at least somewhat, and I also think I’m going to have to give even more time to what I really want to be doing and trust that the rest of this mess will work itself out because people who really want to be working on the social and political and economic aspects of the world will improve those aspects.

And, I do have to recognize there are reasons to be grateful even now. The vast array of food products available to us even in a pandemic is pretty astonishing, for example – in a good way. And I’m grateful to have broadband – if I’m going to have to avoid most of humanity, it’s good to still have the ability to appriciate the best of our art, and to publish my own art.