mindstalk: (thoughtful)
2017-08-18 07:33 am

trig approximations

One virtue of my math education was that it was fairly proof heavy; I feel I can demonstrate or prove most of what I know. I may have mentioned this not extending to sin(A+B), which I had to figure out later as an adult. It also didn't include detailed "how do we calculate this shit?" for stuff like trig, log, fractional exponents. Once you hit calculus the answer becomes "Taylor series or something better", but before then?

Feynman talks about it somewhat in Chapter 22 of his Lectures, which is a cool read; he goes from defining multiplication in terms of addition, to numerically suggesting Euler's law, and showing how to build up log tables along the way. It's a heady ride. But he doesn't talk about trig tables.

I've long had my own thoughts about those, and finally wrote some code to try out the calculations.

Basic idea is that given sin(a) = y/r, cos(a) = x/r, and the Pythagorean theorem, there are two right triangles for which we know the values precisely. The 45-45 is trivial, while the 30-60 one can be gotten from sin(60) = cos(30) = sin(30+30) = 2*sin(30)*cos(30). From there, you can apply the half-angle formula as often as you please, to get very small angles, at which point you'll notice that sin(x) ~= (approximately equal to) x for small x. Thus you can approximate an angle like 1 degree which you can't otherwise[1] get to, then use double and addition formulas to build back up to say 10 degrees or anything else.

The question in my mind always was, how good is that? And the code finally answers the question. Sticking to half-angle stuff is *very* accurate, matching the built-in function to 15 decimal places. Using a sin(1 degree) approximation and building up to sin(15 degrees) is accurate to 4 places; starting from 0.125 degrees instead is accurate to 6 places. I don't know how practically good that is; one part in a million sounds pretty good for pre-modern needs -- like, at that point can you make or measure anything that precisely? -- but Feynman says that Briggs in 1620 calculated log tables to 16 decimal places.

[ETA: hmm, I'd been assuming the built-in function, presumably based on power series, was the most accurate version, but maybe I should view it as deviating from the exact roots of the half-angle approach. Or both as having small errors from the 'true' value. Especially as Python's sin(30) returns 0.49999999999999994, not 0.5. Of course, both approaches are using floating point. sin(60) = sqrt(3)/2 to the last digit, but cos(30) is slightly different.]

[1] The two exact triangles basically give you pi/2 and pi/3, and those divided by 2 as much as you want. But you can't get to pi/5 exactly.
a/2 + b/3 = 1/5 #a and b integers
15a + 10b = 6
5(3a+2b) = 6
(note that 2a+3b=5 is totally solvable.)

Though I guess a more valid approach would be
c(1/2)^a + d/3*(1/2)^b = 1/5 #all variables integers
c*5*3*2^b + d*5*2^a = 3*2^(a+b)
5(c*3*2^b + d*2^a) = 3*2^(a+b)
which still isn't soluble.

Likewise for getting to pi/9 (20 degrees):
c(1/2)^a + d/3*(1/2)^b = 1/9
c*9*2^b + d*3*2^a = 2^(a+b)
3(c*3*2^b + d*2^a) = 2^(a+b)
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-08-06 08:49 pm

fanfic retrospective

I have no specific memory of when I first heard of the words fanfic, or fan fiction. There must have been a moment, after going to college, but no memory. (Filk I can do: S had tapes, and lent them to me, so that's restricted to a few years, and I can kind of remember borrowing and copying them.)

I can place a very likely upper bound. In the spring of 1998 I discovered "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (there's a story there for another time), coming in with Surprise and Innocence as they aired, and after Becoming, plowing through jtr's videotapes. Some time after that I was on the Buffy mailing list, and was introduced to the Buffy-Xena crossover fanfic "When Hellmouths Collide" (a mere 870K words, which I never finished). I'd also found a trove of Post-Becoming fic, which I am tickled pink to see is still online.

I'd also had my own ficcy ideas, perhaps some Post-Becoming but mostly about Amy the Underused Witch; meanwhile, my friend Liz went and started writing her own Season 3 scripts, I think to the exclusion of watching the actual show.

I had been in online fandoms before then: the Babylon-5 newsgroup, where I coined "battlecrab" for the Shadow vessels; Deryni newsgroup or mailing list (where I helped with the FAQ), Pliocene newsgroup or mailing list; my own fan pages for Vernor Vinge and Steven Brust; adopting a fan page for Robin McKinley; a SF newsgroup in general... but not a blip or hint of memory of fanfic from any of those. Vs. the eruption of fanfic, named or otherwise, from Buffy.

Funnily enough, I grew up reading a fair bit of what I now consider to be essentially, if not legally, fanfic: tie-in novels. Lots of Star Trek novels, back when Paramount gave them a very loose leash and lots of ideas or varieties could be explored (also back when they were more written by women). Some Brian Daley Star Wars tie-ins. The "Jack McKinney" (pseudonym for Brian Daley and another writer) Robotech novels. In fact, despite watching some DS9 later, and bits of other series, "Star Trek" for me is largely the old TOS novels that I read as a child and teen, with mental visuals coming from the covers and whatever my imagination could spin from those.

As for fanfic after Buffy, I don't have a clear memory. I suspect it went into remission for some years, like my interest in (or even memory of) filk. I had my own unwritten ideas, particularly about Hodgell's stories, but I'm not sure when I re-engaged with ficcy fandoms again. Bujold list? IU Anime? I dunno.

Now, of course, it's a fairly decent part of the fiction I read, ranging from tiny drabbles to massive epics, from smut to deep explorations and extrapolations.

Chrono-trivia: FF.net is from 1998, AO3 from 2008. I remember Latin-Sarah talking about AO3 while I was at IU, but didn't realize it was that late.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-07-23 10:43 am

links

why planes need bathroom ashtrays. if someone lights up anyway, they still need to stub it out.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-truths/why-do-planes-still-have-ashtrays-/

Hadith revision https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/06/islam-manuscript-discovery-istanbul/531699/

military equipment makes cops more violent https://boingboing.net/2017/07/01/cops-are-civilians.html

Captain Kirk avoiding fights https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?806084-Star-Trek-What-do-Command-officers-actually-do&p=21209328#post21209328

Japan's housing creativity. Houses depreciate rapidly even though they're better made than before, and have little resale value; the flip side is freedom to build your house as you please, without worrying about property values. http://www.archdaily.com/450212/why-japan-is-crazy-about-housing

A full employment plan: http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/44/youre-hired/

Oslo working on banning cars in the center: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/this-city-found-a-clever-way-to-get-rid-of-cars-and-it-isn-t-a-ban-09e6e018-84d0-4814-9f0e-37085eaa9218/

Andrew Jackson, Trump, and the Borderers. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/04/trump-and-the-borderers/477084/

If the media covered alcohol like other drugs: https://www.vox.com/2015/6/15/8774233/alcohol-dangerous
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-07-16 11:35 am

Capitalism and housing

In which I argue that the lack of affordable housing indicates something horribly wrong, and not with capitalism as such.

Have you heard of Walmart? Of course you have. What are they known for? Providing lots and lots of cheap shit. Also for bullying local governments and squeezing suppliers, but that's not the point here, which is: cheap shit. They have nicer competitors: Target, Kmart, Dollar Stores.

Plane seats are jammed and humiliating but also cheaper than they ever have been, modulo gas prices.

You can spend thousands of dollars on a fancy bicycle, or less than $100 on a cheap one.

Stores are full of cheap, if sometimes unhealthy, food.

You can spend under $13,000, or maybe $12,000 on a new car, or over $100,000 on a luxury sports car.

Many of us wear cheap clothes, "from Third World sweatshops"; others spend $thousands on elite designer clothing.

You can get a watch for $15, or $1500. They'll tell time about the same.

Our economy is full of selling cheap stuff to the masses and expensive stuff to the rich, and various things in between, (sometimes including selling cheap stuff for higher prices, if you can pull off price discrimination.) Because that's how you make the most profit, not by only making luxury stuff.

But in housing, particularly in some markets, it's said that developers are only building luxury housing. If true, why would that be? Why would housing be unlike every other part of the economy?

"Everyone needs housing, so they can extort you." Nope, that won't fly. Everyone needs food and clothing, and in the US lots of people need cars.

"They're just chasing profit." But the point of my examples is that there's tons of profit in non-luxury goods and services. Walmart is *huge*, with its founder's children inheriting $20 billion each of accumulated profit.

And in fact, if you look around the world, you do see cheap(er) housing options. Mobile and manufactured homes for the individual, pre-fab housing for soulless but cheap developer tracts, microapartments that cut living space to 100 square feet, SRO hotels that go further by making you share bathroom and kitchen (if any), granny apartments. In cheap land markets (prefab housing in surbuban developments) and expensive ones (microapartments in Tokyo and Hong Kong.)

But not in Boston, or San Francisco. Why not? Is there something about those places that makes developers spontaneously ignore non-luxury demand? Or is something, like zoning laws and permitting processes, preventing them from doing so?

If you know me, you probably know my answer: the latter. But if you don't like that answer, what's your alternative? Why don't we see Walmarts, Spirit Airlines, $15 watches, and $13,000 cars of modern urban housing?
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-07-09 02:31 pm

reclaiming neoliberalism?!

If you asked me what 'neoliberal' meant, I'd point to the austerity policies being imposed on Greece and other weak euro countries, Thatcher, Reagan, the World Bank and IMF before the IMF started being convinced by the evidence. Obsession with balanced budgets, cutting social programs and raising taxes to balance those budgets, free trade deals at the expense of environmental and labor protections, austerity policies (austerians). Overlapping a lot with 'fiscal conservative' because words are weird.

However, in 2016, it seemed lots of people used it differently, almost to the point of being a generic insult by leftists. A lot of my above view comes from Paul Krugman, who opposes all that, so when I saw some writer call him (and Christina Romer, who's done good work to debunk supply-side economics) neoliberals, because they supported Hillary and were dubious about Bernie's economic numbers, I knew something had gone horribly wrong.

For that matter, there's treating Hillary herself as an avatar of neoliberalism, despite supporting minimum wage increase (and indexing to inflation!), universal health care, and other basically liberal things, as well as voting against the only multilateral trade deal (CAFTA) that came before her as a Senator.

And just the other day I saw someone call "build more housing" the "neoliberal solution to gentrification". Which I guess is true, in that neoliberals would support it, but if that's distinctly neoliberal, then call me a neoliberal...

But while searching for some gun post, I ran across the /r/neoliberal reddit, and these related posts:
https://medium.com/@s8mb/im-a-neoliberal-maybe-you-are-too-b809a2a588d6#.vblgkqcsw
https://www.reddit.com/r/neoliberal/wiki/faq
https://bensouthwood.tumblr.com/post/68356441500/neoliberalism

which don't entirely agree -- the first is "trashing" the work of the third -- but paint a rather diffent picture than the austerians terrorizing Greece. The first is market friendly, but also liberal consequentialist, endorsing strong but not absolute property rights and endorsing redistribution. The third calls neoliberalism very similar to social democracy, maybe a bit more market-friendly, where I'd have called neoliberalism largely about dismantling social democracy.

The second, the reddit faq, calls it to the right of social democracy. Also, somewhat vaguely, as supporting capitalism and government interventions to fix the flaws of capitalism. Which, the way I grew up, is just liberalism, though maybe friendlier to free trade and to talking about markets. And:

"while we often share similar goals, social democrats tend to be significantly more skeptical of the merit of the free market on principle than neoliberals tend to be. In the same way that classical liberals might be seen as one step to the right of us, social democrats might be seen as one step to the left."

Though when it talks about rising income inequality (as a problem!) it 'blames' technology first, institutions second. I'd blame institutions more, and suggest that you can't educate everyone into having high income.

OTOH, if you look at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
the lead is basically what I described at first. Laissez-faire, privatization, austerity, etc. Ick! OTOH, in the 1930s it meant 'an attempt to trace a so-called "third" or "middle" way between the conflicting philosophies of classical liberalism and socialist planning... promoted instead a market economy under the guidance and rules of a strong state, a model which came to be known as the social market economy.' But it dropped out in the 1960s, and came back in the 1980s associated with Pinochet's reforms.

So, interesting. I *have* wished for a term that would unambiguously cover me, Krugman, and Yglesias -- fairly liberal, even lefty, people, who still like markets and want to fix them, not replace them or grudgingly put up with them. Social democrat and US liberal have a strong connotation of being suspicious of that, in understandable but excessive reaction to conservative/libertarian worship of markets. I think there are things that need deregulation (zoning, taxis), but it's not a general principle or anything, Some regulations good, some suck.

That said, unambiguous labels pretty much don't exist. I'll stick to 'liberal' or 'social democrat' for now, while getting called 'neoliberal' by lefties because I believe in supply and demand curves. But it'll be interesting to see if these reclaimers go anywhere.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-07-09 02:10 pm

links

Is Tesla overvalued? Argues Tesla either can't cause disruption, or can't monopolize it. https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/6/26/15872468/tesla-gm-ford-valuation-justifying-disruption

did Seattle's minimum wage lower employment? two studies, two reports
and two summaries, differing about which sucked
http://www.eoionline.org/blog/a-tale-of-two-studies/
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/6/27/15879346/study-high-minimum-wage-job-killer-seattle

Internet addiction and ethical web design https://aeon.co/amp/essays/if-the-internet-is-addictive-why-don-t-we-regulate-it

Asian anthem authoritarianism http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/28/asia/philippines-anthem-bill/index.html

Air pollution still kills thousands. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/28/534594373/u-s-air-pollution-still-kills-thousands-every-year-study-concludes

Intravenous vitamin C as cure for sepsis? http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/could-deadly-infections-be-cured-vitamin-c-180963843/

origin of Ashkenazi? https://theconversation.com/uncovering-ancient-ashkenaz-the-birthplace-of-yiddish-speakers-58355?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=facebookbutton

slow progress in parking reform: http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/06/27/american-cities-are-chipping-away-at-the-burden-of-parking-mandates/

Sea Trek https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?805937-Star-Trek-Alternate-Trek-settings&p=21196309#post21196309

plate tectonics and evolution https://theconversation.com/plate-tectonics-may-have-driven-the-evolution-of-life-on-earth-44571

right to carry increases violent crime, maybe? It uses a fairly new statistical technique to make synthetic controls. The result sounds robust. But the abstract says "elevates violent crime rates, but seems to have no impact on property crime and murder rates". Isn't murder a violent crime?
http://news.stanford.edu/2017/06/21/violent-crime-increases-right-carry-states/
https://www.nber.org/papers/w23510

expert view on reducing gun deaths https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/10/upshot/How-to-Prevent-Gun-Deaths-The-Views-of-Experts-and-the-Public.html?_r=0

oil eating bacteria https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170626155740.htm
Neanderthal dentistry https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170628131510.htm
host specific enemies and tropical biodiversity https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170629142949.htm

Vancouver sea wolves http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/sea-oceans-wolves-animals-science/
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-06-30 09:17 pm

SQL and text files

In April a friend introduced me to csvkit, a suite of command line tools for manipulating CSV files, including doing SQL queries against them, and that sounded cool so I made a note. A bit later, friend Z Facebooked about q, which is the worst software name ever, which also ran queries against CSV files. I made another note.

My use case is my finances, which I'd been keeping in ad hoc text files like "May2015", with some awk scripts to sum up categories in a month, and crosscheck that the overall sum matched the sum of all categories, to detect miscategorization. It worked well for that task but wasn't very flexible, and late last year I had the idea of finally going to 'proper' software. At first I assumed a spreadsheet, because spreadsheets = finances, right? But then I realized that for the queries I wanted to do, SQL was more appropriate.

So I wrote a Python script to convert my years of files into one big CSV files, with date broken down into year and day for easy queries, and my text tags converted into a category column. Then I imported it into MySQL and it was good.

But what about going forward? I spend more, and make new text files... making notes in the full format (date, year, month, day, amount, category, notes) is a pain, and I kept forgetting how to import more into MySQL, and I just let things slide.

Last night I decided to get back to it, as part of checking my spending and savings, and checked out the old tools, with this year's spending in a simpler (date, amount, notes) CSV file.

Both programs work, and I figured out sqlite for extracting month on the fly (so I can group sums by month, or compare power spending across all Junes, say.) Sample queries:

q -H -d, "select sum(amount) from ./mon where code like '%rent%'"

q -H -d, "select strftime('%m', date) as month, sum(amount) from ./mon where code like '%transport%' group by month"

csvsql --query "select Year, sum(amount) from money2 where Month='06' group by year" money2.csv
#that's against the more complex CSV


How do they compare? Probably the more important is that q is way faster, perceptually instantaneous on a 7000+ line file, while csvsql has notable startup time. Both are Python, but csvkit also requires Java, so maybe it's starting a JVM in the background.

q is much lighter, an 1800 line Python program; csvkit has a long dependency list. I tried using the Arch AUR package, but don't have an AUR dependency tracer, so ended up using 'pip install csvkit' instead.

q needs to be told that the CSV file is actually comma separated, not space-separated, and has a header; OTOH csvsql needs to be told if you want to do a query, and the file you're querying.

It looks like both only do SELECT, not UPDATE; I'd wanted to do UPDATE in cleaning up my booklog CSV file but ended up resorting to another Python script. (After trying to push everything into a real sqlite database, but failing to get the weird CSV imported correctly.)

q only does queries; csvsql does more, I dunno exactly.

q has a man page, csvkit docs are entirely online.

I'll probably be using q.

Why not use an actual database? Mostly to cut out steps: new expenditures or books read are easy to update in a text file, and if I can treat that as a database, I don't need a step to update some other DB.

mysql felt heavy and clunky, though thanks to work I now know about the '~/.my.cnf' file which can store authentication. You still need a mysqld up. sqlite3 can run directly off a file and is certainly worth considering -- though as noted, I never got it actually working.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-06-28 01:15 am

links: spider eyes, insect sex, pizza peppers, Viking ivory, etc.

"Jumping spiders can see the moon." Awesome eyes, apparently. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/jumping-spiders-can-see-the-moon/529329/

Cabbage white sex life https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/butterfly-cabbage-white-vagina-dentata/530889/

Papa John's peppers https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/papa-johns-pizza-peppers-pepperoncini-pepper

What happened to the Greenland Vikings (2015). Leans toward the settlements existing for the walrus ivory hunt, and being abandoned after the rise of elephant ivory, the Black Death, and oh yeah, a century of cooling climate. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-greenland-vikings-vanished-180962119/

Hearing voices and how culture can affect dealing with non-standard neurology. (Psychic, weird, or schizophrenic?) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/06/psychics-hearing-voices/531582/

10 year old article on "positive psychology" http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

11 year old article on behavioral economics http://harvardmagazine.com/2006/03/the-marketplace-of-perce.html

Decline of front bench seats in cars https://jalopnik.com/why-front-bench-seats-went-away-1776706852

1660s air pollution https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fumifugium

Jared Diamond on hunter-gatherer childrearing. http://www.newsweek.com/best-practices-raising-kids-look-hunter-gatherers-63611

Suffragette martial arts http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/suffrajitsu

Nice table of Gospel events https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_harmony#A_parallel_harmony_presentation

Mussels that live on asphalt volcanoes https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/the-mussels-that-eat-oil/530775/

How New Zealand got PR elections http://www.sightline.org/2017/06/19/this-is-how-new-zealand-fixed-its-voting-system/
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-06-19 03:46 pm

links: lead, cats, moisture farms, etc.

Powerful new intervention study causally linking lead and crime http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/06/powerful-study-lead-crime-hypothesis/

Story told by cat DNA https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/cat-domination/530685/

murky story told by dog DNA https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/the-origin-of-dogs/484976/

Social power causes brain damage https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/power-causes-brain-damage/528711/

America's rising class society https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/06/the-hoarding-of-the-american-dream/530481/?utm_source=atlfb

Tattooine's future moisture farms https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/new-solar-powered-device-can-pull-water-straight-desert-air

India cuts back on new coal, solar is eating its lunch: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/world/asia/india-coal-green-energy-climate.html?_r=0

Comparative advertising in the Middle East: http://www.boredpanda.com/saudi-arabia-middle-east-censorship/

The Dutch approach to global warming https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html?_r=0

Growing YIMBY movements in SF http://www.beyondchron.org/rising-rents-green-activism-spur-pro-housing-movement/ and Toronto http://torontoist.com/2017/06/yimby-movement-taking-off/

Southern Baptists embrace a gender-neutral bible https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/southern-baptists-embrace-gender-inclusive-language-in-the-bible/529935/
mindstalk: (atheist)
2017-06-18 01:58 pm

venting about socialism

Last week I went to a reading group for the mis-titled book Communism For Kids, as the book had sounded interesting. I hadn't gotten around to getting or reading it, so naturally I kept quiet most of the time. Plus, even as I heard things I privately objected to, I was the self-described token liberal in a dozen+ socialist/communist/anarchist sympathizers, and the night wasn't about me or my thoughts.

This blog is about me and my thoughts, though! So I'll vent some responses I didn't make then.

First, a meta-note: arguing with socialists has increasingly seemed like arguing with libertarians, in that the perceptions of history and the current world, and the definitions of key terms, differ so widely as to make useful discussion difficult at best.

Also, I've seen a lot of these points in past online discussion too, so I'm kind of responding to a melange of my experiences.


"social democracy has failed": this got stated like an absolute, and accepted by everyone. Like, really? What's the criterion for failure? The richest, freest, and largely most equal countries are all social democracies, broadly speaking. People risk their lives to flee to those countries. They're not perfect: unemployment is often high, immigrant integration often lacking. But they're pretty good, and social democratic policies generally work; a lot of the flaws could be described as not trying hard enough.

Those policies are under attack, and inequality has been increasing again in many countries. One could say it's "failed" in failing to totally resist such attacks. But here, let me list the social systems which have proven their ability to last a long time on a large scale while resisting inequality:
begin list
end list
And if social democracy creeps toward economic inequality again, every attempt so far at large scale socialism has positively raced toward authoritarianism, censorship, and purges.


"capitalism can't solve global warming": Question, is the EPA 'capitalist'? Hear me out: these people were also saying capitalism is a total system, that states created or were taken over by capitalism, that it's pervasively disruptive and corrupting. So, the EPA isn't a corporation or something, but it is an arm of the government of the USA, paragon of capitalism. It has *also* addressed many environmental problems, like cleaning up air and water and protecting endangered species. Under Obama it tried to regulate carbon emissions, and but for some tens of thousands of votes, it would be doing so under Hillary. Capitalist countries agreed to limit CFCs to protect the ozone layer, and are mostly inching toward addressing global warming -- the Paris accord was agreed to by almost every country, almost all of which are capitalist. A strong global state of any variety would be able to tackle global warming far more directly, without the handicap of a disorganized anarchy of countries going "but if we cut back, what if India or the US just pollute more?"

I agree that laissez faire capitalism can't solve global warming. But does 'capitalism' mean that, or does it mean real existing capitalism, with regulators and welfare states and democracy? The usage seemed... fluid.

(Which is something I've seen among libertarians, too: capitalism is either the natural way for things to be such that almost everything is capitalist, or a pure ideal snowflake that evaporates at the first hint of tax, depending on whether they're assigning credit or blame.)


"Markets don't arise, they're created by governments to fund war.": Nnnng. Yes, governments can create markets, or make them work better. Yes, governments had a role in creating or expediting the modern capitalist world, including things like enclosures. But... so what? I infer implications that governments created capitalism out of whole cloth, or that the origin taints capitalism for good.

Whereas I'd say markets often *do* arise spontaneously, in the absence or even opposition of governments; we call the latter "black markets". Often, a medieval government creating a market was about banning/trade market activity elsewhere, concentrating it in one place to it could be taxed. Markets and trade tend to make most things more efficient; centuries ago, the main government expense was waging war, so yes, prudent governments would advance markets and what became capitalism, to wage war, so they could pay for mercenaries or full time soldiers rather than depending on short-term levies.

But you know what? If a government had been using labor levies for education or health care, "you must spend one month a year teaching children", it would have found raising monetary taxes, and paying for full time professionals, to be just as much an improvement for those things as it was for warfare.


"capitalism arose through trade, like with Asia": Begging the question of why this trade didn't cause capitalism in China, the other half of the trade equation... There's a whole murky area of how one even defines capitalism, which would depend on exact quotations to argue about rigorously. I'd just say that markets, contracts, money, and wage labor go back thousands of years, and that early medieval Europe was rather a low point in financialization. Modern capitalism is an intensification of things that have been around for a long time, fueled as much by changes in agriculture (fewer people on the farm) as anything else. You can argue that the change in degree amounts to a change of kind, but it didn't spring into the world out of nothing in 1700.


"Native American societies were communal": North American societies, with small populations, could be described as that. Aztec society had money, merchants, markets, and long distance trade, like any urbanized Eurasian society.


"co-ops can't work in capitalism": I can't believe no one objected with the various co-ops that do exist, including the giant Mondragon group in Spain. The book apparently gave some theoretical example of a co-op in a market society having to lay off workers anyway, and "laying off the thinkers"; in my limited understanding, real co-ops are more likely to cut back on wages and try to keep everyone employed. (In the Great Recession, the capitalist and social democratic government of Germany took similar measures, subsidizing employment to minimize layoffs.) Transparency and democracy make such things more amenable than wage cuts from an employer would be.


Another thing didn't explicitly come up that night, but I've seen elsewhere, is an idea that capitalism is the root of most modern evil, including racism and sexism, that the struggle is between Capital and the Proletariat. But for some major policies I care about, that's not true.

* A useful tool to address global warming is a carbon tax. Capital might object to that, but capital has had to knuckle under to other environmental laws, such as sulfate cap and trade, so capital can clearly lose this kind of fight. And in theory, businesses shouldn't actually care much as long as they're not disadvantaged relative to competitors (so a world state with no foreign trade would have a policy advantage.) But... most US voters are drivers, with no enthusiasm for seeing their gas (or utility) prices go up, and I see that as a far deeper obstacle to good environmental policy. And even some leftists object with "it's regressive", or, I feel, a general suspicion of anything that sounds market-like.

* Top economic issues for the average person are "can I get a job?" and "can I afford housing near my job?" Capital's allergy to Keynesianism is a problem for the first, but on the second, capital is on my side. Unregulated capital, aka "developers", would *love* to provide housing! Possibly substandard firetrap housing that'll kill you in ten years, but it'd put a roof over your head today. And in great quantity: subdividing houses and apartments, building tall buildings, packing 8 people into a house, turning gardens into housing. Why don't they? Because local government makes it illegal to do so, through building codes and zoning laws, backed up by existing homeowners, most of whom are simply better paid members of the proletariat. (Also backed up sometimes by anti-gentrification activists.)

I'm all for genuine safety codes, and such inspections are an example of a way in which governments can 'make' markets: if I can trust that rental housing is safe, I'm more likely to choose it rather than be forced into it. But I'm told that in Somerville, a legal bedroom has to have a closet. Why? That's neither a safety feature, nor one which can be hidden from a prospective tenant. Why can't I choose to pay less for a room that happens to lack a closet? And lots of zoning laws outright restrict housing: single-family zoning, height limitations, minimum space requirements, parking requirements, caps on the number of unrelated people living together... none of that is capitalism's fault, but it's the basic cause of the housing crisis in many cities.

Of course, when I've tried to make that argument, I've been dismissed with "supply and demand doesn't apply to housing". Speaking of giant gaps in understanding that impede communication...
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-06-17 12:32 am

ALSApocalypse has arrived

Firefox 52 dropped support for ALSA systems. Arch Linux users were insulated from this; something like the code was still there but not enabled by default, but it was in the Arch package. As of FF 54 though, poof, it's gone for good. I'm not sure exactly why Pulseaudio is avoided, but I'm still avoiding it... so need another browser.

There are lots, actually! Currently trying Seamonkey on the work VM, mostly because it's the one alternative which is both based on the same engine as FF (so familiar, and plugins should work) while having a supported package on Arch. There are a couple more, including Pale Moon, but they need the AUR, and I'm lazy.
mindstalk: (Miles)
2017-06-12 01:24 pm

My job at Kinnami

So, about my new job! (This will be a bit like a paid ad, insofar as
I'm talking about stuff I'm paid to do.)

Ever worried about someone stealing your pictures? Have you ever worried that all CCTV video surveillance streams could be easily edited? (Are you worried about it now that I've brought up the issue?) Have you ever noted that email has a Date field, which can be edited at any time to be anything, as can the whole email? That leaks of digital documents could easily be altered, or complete forgeries?

There's a fix for that! More than one, actually. The manual way is to make a cryptographic digest of your file and publish it somewhere not editable or revocable -- newspaper ads, bank transactions, something like that. No one knows how to readily forge a file to produce a digest, so if you later present a file that produces that digest, known to have existed at some earlier date, that pretty much proves the file existed then, without subsequent alteration.

But that's a pain. Kinnami's AmiStamp product aims to make it much more easy and scalable. Our client can scan your specified directories or files, send us the digests, and we tie those together, publishing a master stamp periodically. You can get a certificate from us, which is a list of digests, and later prove that your file + those digests = the master stamp. Again, digesting is one-way, so if our master stamp existed on 2017 June 11, and your file can be part of re-creating that stamp, then your file almost certainly existed, as is, on 2017 June 11. We tie it to your credentials too, further establishing that you possessed the file.

We're not a legal notary public service; while we link stamps to a user's alleged credentials, we don't certify that the user is legally that person. We certify that account id #4267 with alleged credential "John Doe" had a file, but not whether account id #4267 actually is "John Doe".

Signing up is free for anyone, and you get 500 free stamps with that. Paid Personal is $10/year, and adds another 10,000 stamps/year. Plus some special offer for students. If you just need to stamp a few files, or tar/zip lots of files and stamp the tarball, 500 should be plenty; our hope is that stamping will be so cheap and convenient that you just let our client automatically scan and stamp large swathes of your home directory, thus the large numbers.

Applications: stamping your photos, your blog posts, your research files, emails, notes you're taking on your abusive boss, notes you're taking on your feckless employee... anything where you might want to prove "I had this, as is, then."

There's a more detailed User Guide on the site, but at the moment you have to sign up to read it. We should get that changed soon, but I'm not the webmistress.

Edit: no Linux client yet, though. Could release a CLI one easily enough, but GUI takes more work.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-06-11 10:37 pm

some news and links

Macron's out of nowhere party seems set to win legislative landslide in France. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/06/11/macron_wins_landslide_in_french_legislative_elections_ends_french_party.html

Meanwhile, in US elections, hacking can't change votes (yet) but could screw with turnout: https://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/6/6/15745888/russia-election-hacking-leak

Puerto Rico had another referendum, with a whopping 97% voting to become a US state -- but with 20-something% turnout.

Someone's roadd trip through Trump America https://qz.com/1000690/im-a-minority-my-son-is-disabled-its-an-unsettling-time-for-people-like-us-in-trump-country/

School buses 8x safer for kids than being driven by their parents. https://one.nhtsa.gov/Research/Crashworthiness/School-Bus-Crashworthiness-Research
This is roughly consistent with http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm but https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CE42rp_XIAAfhao.jpg has more extreme risk ratios. Both agree that motorcycling is deadly. But speaking for that: risk gaps: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2014/7/14/texting-in-your-risk-gap.html

"End traffic stops!" https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/7/24/the-routine-traffic-stop

Interactive vote simulation. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: IRV sucks." http://ncase.me/ballot/ Cool fireflies simulation from the same source: http://ncase.me/fireflies/

UberPool kind of reinventing fixed route buses: http://humantransit.org/2017/05/the-receding-fantasy-of-affordable-urban-transit-to-your-door.html

Conservatives despise fact-checkers. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2017/06/09/study-conservatives-despise-the-fact-checking-industry/?utm_term=.ac97e946288b
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-06-11 06:21 pm

Mike Brown funnies

Still watching his Coursera. He's often funny.

Asteroids are the rubber duckies of the Solar System.

Many acronyms are "lame!" As a Caltech professor, I wonder what he thinks about SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.)

He's shameless about "eight planets", and how Pluto is the second biggest Kuiper Belt object. (Would be third if Neptune hadn't captured Triton.)

Bunch more, but I have a poor memory for funny moments, my own or other people's.
mindstalk: (science)
2017-06-01 08:29 pm

Doppler water hack

Say you want to look at Mars and know if it has water.

Basic spectroscopy review: Perfect blackbodies radiate in all wavelengths. Real blackbodies are made of atoms and molecules whose electrons absorb some wavelengths of light. So, it's simple: look at Mars, and if the wavelengths absorbed by water are missing, it has water!

Problem: *our* atmosphere has lots of water, so we'd expect to not see those wavelengths no matter what we looked at, because they'd be absorbed by our atmosphere's water.

You could get around that by putting a telescope In Spaaaaace, which makes everything cooler. But that wasn't much of an option in 1963.

Earth and Mars usually have up to relative motion, up to 30 km/s (said Mike Brown in a popular lecture.) That means Doppler shift of the light from Mars, changing its wavelength (and frequency). Not by much, one part in 10,000, but that's apparently enough to shift narrow absorbtion bands into transparent regions of our own atmosphere.

So, new plan! You look at Mars at quadrature or something, hoping not to see certain wavelengths, which are water-like but shifted: if they're there, our air lets them in, so if they're not, Mars never emitted them in the first place.

And if you do see them, then Mars doesn't have much water.

(Spoiler: we mostly see them, and Mars doesn't have much water. Well, on the atmosphere, or emitting light from the surface. Shit ton underneath it, but those are different observations.)

I thought I knew basic spectroscopy. But using Doppler shift as an information hack against our own atmosphere? That's new to me.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-05-31 10:02 pm

Martian water

So I've been watching videos in this Mike Brown/Caltech Coursera on the solar system. I think it's free for anyone to audit. Lots of cool stuff, even for this PlSc major; I wasn't that deep in it, and haven't kept up.

Like, apparently the top meter of Mars, above 60 degrees latitude, is like 30% water. How do we know? Cosmic rays knock neutrons out of nuclei, which hit more nuclei, either causing gamma rays or escaping on their own. Gamma ray frequencies tell us what nuclei they're from. Thermal as opposed to fast neutrons indicate the presence of something able to slow neutrons down, and that something is pretty much hydrogen. (No one expects Mars to be covered in ammonia...) So between those signals... we see lots of water signs.

More visually, the Phoenix lander dug. Ice! And we've observed some fresh meteor craters, which start out with a shiny white center, that goes way due to either sublimation or dust covering the ice, I'm not sure which.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-05-30 11:28 pm

Is Marvel Comics killing itself?

https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/527127/ argues it is, with excess titles and crossovers, frequent relaunches (for the ephemeral junkie hit of boosted #1 sales), and rotating artists. I follow very little DC/Marvel, but I did get into Runaways... which exhibited the latter two phenomena: rebooted numbering, making it hard to tell what volumes to get, and changing artists.

I hadn't thought too much of the latter, though grumbled; Sandman got a different artist every volume. But that might have been deliberate choice on Gaiman's part; I'm sure some history of Sandman would tell us. I think other Vertigo comics like Books of Magic or Lucifer had much more stable art (though how Lucifer was drawn within his comic varied quite a lot. Blond? Redhead? Who can say. But then, he is a cosmic entity.)

I'm disappointed to learn that even Ms. Marvel (the Muslim heroine) got a reboot treatment.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-05-29 11:20 pm

productive day

Today feel long and full. Possibly partly because I woke up at 6, sadly. But I cleaned up, moved stuff to my new place (10 minute walk from the old one), went back, studied Spanish waiting for someone to show, bailed, moved in fully, walked out for shopping, watched videos of how to draw (previous post), watched more Coursera videos on Mars, started a Coursera on machine learning, got in a bit of Japanese.

I'd say a killer feature of Coursera is being able to speed up video playback, but I think I've seen that on other video players. Still, it's nice, I can take in what they say faster than they speak naturally.

I'm way ahead of my Duolingo friends for the week! Probably because they were at some burn thing in the woods and couldn't get online, mind you. But ahead! Briefly!

I'd also removed the freeciv and freecol packages. I can feel the withdrawal from freecol, my fingers twitching toward the easy game, engaging enough to feel like the brain is working but not challenging enough to be tiring. But the package stayed removed, and I did Spanish and planetary science instead, so that's a win.

Malden has a bunch of nice small parks and lot of not-nice big intersections.
mindstalk: (rathorn)
2017-05-29 06:47 pm

couple of TED talks on drawing

Speaker: Graham Shaw

You, too, can draw cartoons! Audience (including you, the viewer) asked to draw along with him. It works.

Drawing helps us remember more. Some study showed subjects remembering twice as many words when they drew vs. writing them down. (Exact number not given.) Once again, audience-friendly demo. As he put it, paraphrased, "you can all draw. Or at least, draw well enough to be useful."