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."
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-05-28 06:22 pm

German housing market

2011 link: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/06/how-germany-achieved-stable-and-affordable-housing.html

Germany has a rental dominated housing market, with stable prices. Features:

* constitution protects right-to-build: if there's not an explicit rule against, you can build, no need for permission.
* local gov't gets grants based on # of inhabitants, so they have an incentive to encourage development.
* strong tenant protections, including what sounds like rent control, constrained rent increases. Between that and the majority doing it, renting is seen as a first-class choice.
* tight mortgage financing.

Article contrasts with the UK, with lots of fiddling restriction on building, deregulate and landlord-favoring market so renting is second-class choice, easy mortgage credit. Tight supply, easy credit, propensity to panic buying. So basically a factory for making market bubbles.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
2017-05-26 08:46 am

Are affordable housing requirements a tax on developers?

So there are various ways government policy could try to make housing cheaper, but one that I see a lot of people pushing now is a form of inclusionary zoning. Specifically, especially from what I've been told by Cambridge/Somerville politicos, requiring that a percentage (10-30%) of new units (of large developments) be rentable at low price. Not because they're smaller or more cheaply built, but just at a lower price. As Wikipedia says, "Many jurisdictions require that inclusionary housing units be indistinguishable from market-rate units"

(I don't know how that applies to a building that was planned to have diverse housing anyway. I suppose a percentage of each housing class?)

Developers[1] push back on this, and I've seen it described as a tax on them. Is that a fair description? Time for a simple thought experiment: imagine a building of 100 units, planned price of $1000/month, total revenue of $100,000/month. Then the city passes a new law during construction, requiring 30% be offered at $800. That's 30 units getting a $200 discount, $6000/month, which yes, you can think of as taxing the developer 6% and giving that back to the lucky tenants.

6%, not of profit, but of gross revenue. That's a lot! If the developer was anticipating profit of 5%, it is no longer worth building. Even if they anticipated 8%, that's now 2%; you might as well quit and invest in 30 year federal bonds. Or build hotels or condos that won't be hit by IZ, or just go build somewhere else.

And it can be worse. 30% requirement is high, but 20% subsidy might be low; 15% at $500/month would mean $7500, or a tax of 7.5%.

What's the alternative? Say the city instead decided to attach an explicit public subsidy to some of the new units. The $6000/month, $72,000/year cost would be spread among the whole population and tax base, not one developer. For a 77,000 person city like Somerville, that's under $1/person.

That's not quite fair though: that's just one development, and IZ applies to all of them, so we should look at that. Then again, there aren't many big developments in Somerville, which has "ambitious" plans to barely keep up with population growth at about 1% a year, and historically has done far less than that (3% total over some 20-30 year period I now forget, when Boston and MA did 12% and the country grew 24%). If we're adding units at 1% a year, and 30% of those are subsidized, then the subsidy of a new unit is spread over 300 existing ones. At a simplifying assumption of one person per unit, $2400/year ($200*12) is spread over 300 people, so $8/year.

(Most of what I've heard about recently is about a proposed 500 unit development in Union Square; assuming Somerville's 77,000 people live in 30,000 units, that's over 1% right there. But it'll take a few years.)

Of course, this is supposed to apply to all new housing, so after 30 years the subsidy support will have climbed to $240/year. This is pretty significant, especially compared to municipal taxes and revenue; probably talking about raising those up to 10% of existing levels. Also, affordable (or subsidized) units will be almost 10% of the housing stock.

But then someone might reasonably say "why should we dick around with only subsidizing new units? Why not just go ahead and subsidize 10% of all units, right now? The math's the same." And all the economists nod in agreement, and all the politicians blanch in terror...

Personal conclusion: yes, it is a tax on developers, and as with unfunded mandates[2] in general, it's an unfair tax, pushing a requirement onto a small subset of society, instead of funding it honestly out of general taxes and expenditure.

Of course, I feel that we shouldn't be trying to subsidize our way to cheap housing, which won't even address the real problem of more people wanting to live in cities now; we should enable building *more housing*, by removing the massive artificial restrictions on urban supply imposed by local governments. But that's another topic.

[1] 'Developer' has gotten a bad rep somehow; what if we called them builders, instead? It's not even a euphemism, more like an anti-euphemism: they are literally building new buildings and housing. Especially for the projects that get hit by IZ; you could argue that converting a house into apartments isn't real building (though it is real construction work, and more 'real' than hedge fund finance, say), but IZ applies to big projects, which are mostly new buildings.

But then it sounds worse: what kind of asshole opposes building new housing? (People who already have housing and don't want more neighbors, that's who.) Much easier to intone against "developers" and "profit" (as if homeowners don't hope to profit from growth in their home values, not to mention from their jobs.)

[2] Also see EMTALA, requiring ERs to stabilize anyone regardless of ability to pay; it's great that they do that, not so great that government didn't both reliably compensating them for it, so the costs were driven into other medical prices. Or landowners sometimes winning the anti-lottery of discovering there's an endangered species on their land and now they can't use it; protecting the environment is cool, but it would be fairer to compensate people for unexpected loss. And yes, strictly speaking minimum wage is an unfunded mandate on employers, and a price floor on labor, both nominally bad ideas, though that issue gets complicated by data and macroeconomics.
mindstalk: (science)
2017-05-21 04:47 pm

Girl Genius astronomical surprise

So we have this tragic scene, http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20170517 that looks bad for our heroes and the people of Paris. The power is out, the city is dark, and we can see the stars.

...the stars of the Southern Hemisphere:


Left to right: Alpha Centauri, Beta Centauri, and Crux aka the Southern Cross.

Some Spark knock the planet over?

(I did not spot this myself, but once clued in I found the image.)
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-05-19 08:52 pm

Preferences persistence surprise

So, I play freecol. A while back, it started behaving badly -- popup windows would lose focus, and I'd have to lower and raise the window to get it back. It was an annoying ritual, but I stuck with it.

Today at work, I'd stopped working, but had some time to kill before my next event, so installed freecol on the VM. To my surprise, it behaved the way you'd expect.

Fresh install, so maybe I had broken configuration at home? Went home, nuked all the directories, tried again. Nope.

Well, the other difference is that I've been using twm at home -- it's primitive but lightweight and familiar -- but xfce on the work VM, out of necessity to get things like resizing display. So I installed xfce4 at home, and tried that... yep, freecol played nicely.

Maybe I had something wonk in my .xinitrc? Nuked it down to just running twm... nope, still bad.

So I guess something in a freecol update stopped playing well with a 1980s window manager. Oh well. Maybe I'll just switch to xfce at home (though it'll be confusing when I'm running Arch/xfce on both the VM and the host...) But I'll need to configure it, to get some key mappings, and move-to-focus.

Nope, I don't need to; they're there already. HOW? That's really spooky.

I hunt down the config -- .config/xfce4/ -- and look at the modification times. Some are tonight, but some are 1 Nov 2012. "Wait a minute."

See, sometime after putting Ubuntu on my laptop, I played around with a whole lot of graphical environments and window managers, then upgraded, and broke Ubuntu for good. But that's another story; the point is that it's suddenly plausible I installed xfce back then -- on another OS -- configured it to taste, and moved on, leaving the preferences buried in my home directory.

Well, I keep a detailed journal for a reason. I check... and yeah, while I don't mention xfce specifically, 1 Nov 2012 was a day of messing around with such things.

"Wow! So I somehow copied my home directory in toto, between laptops, picking up weird directories like .config. I'm impressed."

"...no, I'm a dumbass; it's the *same laptop*."

OTOH it *is* a whole different version of Linux. Did I install Arch on top of Ubuntu and keep my home dir, or copy out my home dir to an external hard drive, to copy back after installing Arch? I honestly don't remember, but either seems plausible, and would get the job done.

Actually there's an /old directory on the hard drive, basically an old root directory, which I think is evidence that I managed to drop Arch right onto Ubuntu after I made a copy. There's even /old/etc/os-release, saying "14.04 Trusty Tahr". (It was not trusty; it refused to boot and I switched to Arch. Though now I'm not sure how I made the copy. Maybe I did go through a hard drive?

Anyway, one way or another, five year old configuration I'd completely forgotten about stayed with me, and worked smoothly. I guess the real surprise is that xfce didn't change its configuration system in five years, not enough to break things!

Edit: on playing again, it was broken again! Waaaa. After more investigation, it seems broken with twm no matter what, even with an empty xinitrc, but with xfce, it breaks when scim is running. That's my Japanese input interface, I'm not giving that up. :(

I guess I could play in the VM. Or I could play less, that'd be good...
mindstalk: (lizsword)
2017-05-18 01:24 pm

Lyft vs. Uber practices

Things I've been told by recent Lyft drivers:

* Uber and Lyft "take the same percentage", but Lyft charges more so they get more.

* Uber cheats on mileage, holding out until an attorney general was called in.

* If your ride estimate was e.g. $31, but actually was worth $22, Lyft charges you $22; Uber charges you $31, but pays the drive for a ride of $22, pocketing the difference.

* Uber often charges you surge price but doesn't pay out as a surge. Which, I note, rather defeats half the alleged point of surge pricing (luring more drivers onto the road.)

* Lyft surges based on demand, Uber often surges by the clock.

* Lots of drivers are switching to Lyft.

* Edit to add: Lyft is a lot easier for the drivers to contact and talk to when there's a problem, and more responsive.

Certainly I've been seeing a lot more Lyft availability in Boston than I did a few years ago.

Edit to add: comment below got me wondering about relative pay. A few sources:

http://www.ehow.com/info_8522975_much-average-cab-driver-make.html
http://oureverydaylife.com/much-average-cab-driver-make-9448.html
http://work.chron.com/much-fare-taxi-drivers-keep-22871.html

In 2012-2013, taxi drivers were reporting $12/hour on average. This Vox article https://www.vox.com/2014/12/17/7402311/lyft-driver-pay suggests Lyft in 2014 was similar, but that drivers were enthusiastic about the flexibility.

The Chron.com link suggests taxi companies take a 1/3 cut, and that the drivers may have to pay for gas and vehicle use out of what's left, too.
mindstalk: (angry sky)
2017-05-18 01:19 pm

washcloths

So, I'm used to three sizes of towel in a bathroom. Big body bath towel used for drying your body; much smaller rectangular hand towel that hangs somewhere to dry your hands on after washing your hands; square (6x6 inch?) washcloth for use in the shower. In a pinch, you can use a hanging body towel as the hand towel.

I don't think this is exotic, you find the set in any hotel room.

But the place in Orient Heights just gave me a hand towel at first. Which you can use to dry your body, but, uh. They coughed up the other two when I asked.

Place in JP gave me a body towel and a hand towel, which I used as a washcloth. My host said that was unusual, she thought people just used their hands these days, or poufs, which are a strange and alien thing to me. (Orient Heights did have two of them.)

Incidentally, I saw poufs for sale in CVS, with a sign urging you to replace them every month. So, less convenient IMO *and* cost more money.

Finally, the current place left me a bath towel and a hand towel; I gave in and bought a couple (came as a pair) of washcloths.

Modern world, end of times, youth these days, etc.
mindstalk: (Witch)
2017-05-16 11:57 am

North End library adventures

I got off at Haymarket, to check out the North End branch of the BPL. Headed the wrong way by accident, turned back, had some older Asian lady thrusting something at me. Plastic badge of well wishes or something. I tried to give it back, she refused, then asked for a donation... yeah, right.

Made it to the library, through cozy North End streets (why can't we build more like that? Stupid car culture). The library is small but architecturally neat, with a big skylight over a stone plaza, and a couple big plants. Probably a neat place to hang out in the winter.

But I have quirky beliefs, like the book shelves should be labeled by subject, and there should be a poster showing patrons what the call numbers mean. There were some subject signs but desultory and incomplete; I had to ask where the (tiny) science section was, then still hunt to find it. No label present once I did.

BPL uses Library of Congress, BTW, vs. the Dewey of the Minuteman libraries.
mindstalk: (Default)
2017-05-13 07:12 am

aliasing fi

I think I mentioned not long ago that I found I'd been aliasing fi=finger which breaks if loops in my shell, and marveled that it took so long to find that. It makes more sense to me now.

1) Yeah, I didn't script much.
2) When I did do an ad hoc script at the prompt, it was a for loop.
3) Scripts you get are mostly bash scripts.
4) Even an explicitly written zsh script wouldn't have a problem: my aliases are loaded by .zshrc, which is loaded by interactive shells, i.e. not script shells[1].
5) Only when I tried pasting an if loop into a *function*, also loaded by .zshrc after my aliases, did a problem occur. Possibly it had occurred before and I simply gave up on some unnecessary function that mysteriously didn't work.

[1] This also sheds light on past failures to ssh in somewhere and invoke a function directly: not an interactive shell, so no functions loaded. When I try 'ssh ... "zsh -i script_invoking_function"', it works. So if I want remote function invocation, I'll need to use -i or to load functions outside of .zshrc.