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Porlock Junior
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[deleted, having thought better of it but not finding a cancellation button anywhere]
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I feel obliged to repeat a joke I read a very long time ago, like maybe 1957: one of two anti-Soviet jokes that I saw in Readers Digest (Hey, I was kinda young at the time) and liked; in fact, I still do. Well then, An old worker had applied for a new apartment or something, and was being interviewed by an official. Official: Where were you born? Worker: Saint Petersburg. Where did you go to school? Petrograd. Where do you live now? Leningrad. Where do you wish to live? Saint Petersburg. ============= One hopes the old fellow lived a few years past 1989.
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It gives one a nice warm feeling of nostalgia for George W Bush, who claimed (repeatedly--I didn't know this till recently, when I was counting the good things he did--believe it or not, I used all the fingers of one hand in that endeavor) that we were not at war with Islam, not at all, no way. Not only a good and sensible man but a masterly politician, approaching FDR, in that he was able to put this over without being threatened with impeachment or anything. Or is it actually that the country is that much more ignorant, malicious, and self-destructive than it was a dozen years ago? Decide for yourself!
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I don't know about Z, which I've never seen, but it never seemed to me that M was a moral dilemma story. Possible trigger-non-warning: M is about a man who murders children. However, lacking modern technologies (no Living Color and Surround Sound) as well as modern moral sensibilities (e.g., it assumes that some things are known to be wrong or right, like murdering people and stopping murderers), it does not dwell in loving detail, or any detail or explicitness whatever, on the process of murdering. How refreshingly quaint! Do not go if you're looking for a horror movie. If not, though, it's a damn good movie. But getting to the point: There is not a simple line between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys; e.g., the murderer is caught by the combined efforts of the criminal underworld, who for the time being work on the side of the cops, though the latter don't know this. And the murderer is crazy, and the movie ends in an unanswerable agonized question. And yet, where's the dilemma? Where ought a right-thinking person -- at least arguably -- to have acted differently? The only one who ought to have acted differently is the murderer, who is crazy and is aware of it much of the time. So, amibiguities and contradictions and unanswerables, but this doesn't fit my personal idea of dilemma. It also has a premise that I think is a work of genius. The disappearences of children get noticed, and the public and the newspapers get worked up about the failure to catch the perpetrator. Pressure goes on the police to Do Something, and they start casting about and raiding everything in sight in hopes of a clue. Which spoils the usual working arrangements with the underworld, the leaders of which now find it hard to do business. So they set aside their quarrels and organize every thief and con man in Berlin, and all the beggars. (Anyone recall the Threepenny Novel?) This is a formidable intelligence network, which runs the madman down. The final scene, a sort of underground trial of the miscreant, is memorable. Final ramble, this being one of my all-time favorite movies. But it requires a digression: I first saw M at the on-campus Friday night movie in the spring of my senior year at a college with the amusing requirement of passing a rigorous Qualifying Exam before undertaking the senior year and the senior thesis. My friends who were juniors were duly concerned with the impending Junior Quals. At the end of the movie, then, the Peter Lorre character is allowed his say, and gives an impassioned speech about his sufferings of being uncontrollably mad. The fires in his mind, the voices he heard, the torment! That is, Das Feuer! Die Stimme! Die Qual!!! Cheered up the juniors a bit, despite the seriousness of it all.
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More electric motors to make all-wheel drive? Could be, could be-- http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/dual-motor-model-s-and-autopilot
Toggle Commented Jan 2, 2015 on Your 2015 Spoilers Open Thread at Obsidian Wings
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True, though, about building cars with automatic enforcement of existing speed limits and all. It would be a mess. It would show that a system built specifically for driverless cars would need to be designed to use their specific strengths. Try to imagine the process of merging in traffic when all vehicles are comepetently and rationally driven by ego-free entities with full information about traffic conditions in all directions. It would be unrecogizable, scary as hell to look at with one's implicit assumption of human drivers, intolerable to people who *like* driving as a high-risk game and doinance display. Also extraordinarily fast and safe. A nice technology. But cleek is no doubt right that building such a thing is wildly unlikely, or just impossible, for reasons outside the technology.
Toggle Commented Dec 6, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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Controlled falling off cliffs: a technology mastered long before parachutes. You can always choose when to jump. Damn that Da Vinci for rhetorically confusing the issue and claiming credit for what already existed. Pathetic.
Toggle Commented Dec 6, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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"The privileges of the First Amendment"? A shocking enough sentiment, as JK has pointed out. Like the motto of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Truth: Speech is a privilege, not a right. But I get a special thrill of recognition of something I first heard at an early and impressionable age, stated then as "hiding behind the Coonstitution they seek to destroy". It was in the 1950s, from Joe McCarthy and friends, and I've hardly ever heard it since in a USA context. Thanks for the memories, Mr Peretz, and kindly roast in Hell.
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"At this point, controlled fusion is minus 62 years in the future, by my estimate." Yeah, sure, except, as you surely know, the "controlled" in that phrase is meant quite specifically to differentiate one that, once started, is subject to modification of its reaction rate and duration -- control, as one might say -- from a fusion reaction which, once started, is not subject to any further control till it's damn well done -- a sort of big bang reaction, if the phrase hadn't already been taken.
Toggle Commented Dec 5, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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@Hartmut - "The estimates about chess playing computers were not that far off given that the predictions were made around the time the first real computers were built." Hmm, might depend on one's preferred value of Not that far. There was a longish period, it seemed to me, when high-level computer chess seemed rather like controlled fusion: always 20 years or so in the future. That ended, of course, for one of those 2 fields. No doubt, though, about the bad predictions of the effect of clever algorithms versus raw power. That lesson was becoming clear to many in the AI field by the late 60s, but it still took some time to get to the Deep Blue level and beyond.
Toggle Commented Dec 4, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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How pleasant: several people seem to have come up with the same idea I've had lately, that driverless cars could be useful in an environment that lacked those flaky hominids. Where I differ with cleek is that driverless roads could be very useful, particularly in the hybrid form that Marty describes. I think they could be designed -- financing this is another matter -- to be very fast and fuel-efficient and safe, which could be appealing.
Toggle Commented Dec 4, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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@liberal japonicus Thank you, sounds like a good idea. But I don't think I could get it together just now, being laid up with an infection that gives me lots of leisure to read stuff on tne Net but rather less mental acuity. (I assume you have my e-mail address in the site records, though; send a note if you want to pursue anything.)
Toggle Commented Dec 4, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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In the mid-late 1960s the Stanford AI lab was working on an automaton that would solve a puzzle that was popular in those days before Rubik. You dump a set of four multi-colored blocks on the table and stack them squarely so that each side of the column is entirey of one color. The task was to solve the puzlle from start to end: The computer is to look at the blocks with its TV camera, solve the problem of how they need to be turned over and stacked, and then stack them. I attended a seminar on this; it must have been in 1967 when I was at Berkeley, when they had progressed pretty far with it. What impressed me was the relative timings of the steps. Figuring what was where from the camera pic took some computing time; solving the problem took very ittle; and then it thought for a long time to figure out the arm motions required to actually pick the things up and stack them. They're much better at that now, obviously. But the different rank-orderings of tasks for computers and for nervous systems was getting pretty obvious.
Toggle Commented Dec 4, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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The order in which these things came out looks obvious and pretty well inevitable. Now. But how far back does the inevitability date? You could start, obviously, at 1982, when AutoCAD came out; clearly it had won. You could also argue that AutoCAD of 1982 wasn't the AutoCAD that Dr. Science is talking about, in either a technical or a marketing or societal sense; and you'd have a point. (It is not easy for me to get my mind around the fact that the program is an entire generation old, and I could say to my grown son "This is not your father's AutoCAD.") Still, any reasonable choice for the AutoCAD date leaves it well ahead of Roomba. In 1981, say, was that obvious? Or earlier? I'd say it was, but am not unbiased: having been involved in that 1982 product, I would seem to have had a positive assessment of its feasibility and at least the remote possibility of its success. I leave the question to somebody else. As to the driverless car, I remember from long ago a comment by Norbert Wiener, who had so much to do with the origin of automated systems. It may have been in _The Human Use of Human Beings_ (1950/54, read by me a little later) or maybe _God and Golem Incorporated_ (1964) that he expressed a desire concerning the first driverless car that would go on the road: not to be in it. And the reason, as I recall, was essentially that in the OP: driving is not that easy a job for a computer. One more anecdote to follow, to avoid making this too long.
Toggle Commented Dec 4, 2014 on Hindsight about foresight at Obsidian Wings
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A note on the OP, if I may-- Years ago, when I first sat down and read Genesis attentively, largely to see what that Abraham-Isaac thing was really about, I was struck by one feature of that story. Surely some others must have noticed it over the centuries, especially the past one, but they seem to have been pretty quiet. To wit, the Lord is requiring Abraham to prove his loyalty by destroying his *most precious possession*. Look it up. Isaac as a human being with his own rights? Hah! You might well say that one owes a particular duty of care to the people one has brought into the world. To me, that beloved story, if it does have a moral (probably so) is as hopelessly ill told as Job. Fine, apparently, for the ancients, or certain ancients, but if you want eternal wisdom from stories, you need to find a different bunch of stories.
Toggle Commented Nov 19, 2014 on Words I never heard in the Bible at Obsidian Wings
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@Hartmut- There's a fine little rant by Socrates on that very subject: the bad manners and generally degenerate state of Youth Today. A reasonably modern list, if lacking in cell phones. Oh BTW, it's fake. (And NB he really did say that stuff, if piecemeal -- or so 'tis said and seemingly uncontradicted.) I have lost the citation, of course, but it was written around 1910 as a summary of what Socrates said in various places, and was clearly identified as that. Naturally, it did not take many years for the piece to become a standard quotation of what Socrates said all those years ago. @ Off-my-lawn in general: It's odd, when you come to think of it: A whole century ago, people reproduced stuff and lied about the sources to make it more amusing, and it was accepted uncritically. Really dishonest behavior in spite of all the beatings they had received from conscientious parents and teachers!
Toggle Commented Nov 19, 2014 on Words I never heard in the Bible at Obsidian Wings
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Well, Fascist scum. That's the political system that made the trains run on time. Supposedly. OTOH, an undeservedly obscure piece of 1950s debunking of everything, _The Spoor of Spooks_ by Bergen Evans, asserts that this is nonsense. Evans worked as a courier in Italy in the 1920s when Mussolini was riding high, and the trains were rarely on time or close to it. So he claimed. This will surely surprise no one, but it's nice to have an eyewitness account.
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2014 on When Is Broken? at Whiskey Fire
In any case, it's an excellent expansion on the point. Really, a stronger warning than Feynman's, as it as addresses a specific vulnerability of bright people. Definitely appropriating this one.
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A highly amateur opinion: Excellent article, which captures a bunch of good things that I'll study carefully the next time I have to write something coherent (especially as my note-taking and writing-up skills are off-scale bad in the direction he describes). Excellent dismissal. So much of what passes for journalism starts with some attention-grabbing anecdote while I chafe and scream at the clouds to just reveal what goodam thing this is ABOUT! I think there's a confusion of genres here. Burroughs's 8,000-word narratives work just fine in his chosen media, when written about something with enough substance to require such a length. But when this is called "journalism", it conufuses people. Lesser talents try to boil the method down into a news story, and wind up wasting verbiage and driving away readers who give up on actually learning anything amid the anecdotes. And yet, we don't seem to have a category for longer exposition that isn't basically academic in seriousness: a pity, since I think there is good use for such stuff. Sociologists used to dismiss any writing that wasn't deep enough as "journalism", and for all I know they still do. With harrync's permission, I'll be yelling with him.
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But a case that this post reminds me of is from a panel I escaped from a couple of years ago in Marin County. I sat through a pretty long voir dire without being selected to go up and be questioned, and I actually have some mixed feelings about being left out. It became clear during all the questioning that the case pitted firepersons against policepersons (some kind of picnic turning into a brawl, apparently). And each jury prospect was asked whether he/she/it felt that police *are held to* a higher standard than others. Emphasis added, but the phraseology is verbatim. Passive voice and all. Now, if asked that in a rational way (e.g., whether *I* gave any different weight to their testimony), I'd find it trivial: according to everything I've heard from a judge's instructions, the law says I give equal weight to all. Which is exactly what I'd say, including the judges, so as to be annoying and perhaps disruptive to the process. But this? Could you answer it? Of course the correct answer would be "Held by whom, asshole?" But assuming we don't want a Contempt charge, one could politely act naive and ask for clarification of the question -- which would likely get you challenged as a smart-ass. Weird. And from the inferred desctription, it sounded as if the trial, blue vs red, would call for popcorn. But not quite enough to make me come back to watch the whole thing.
Toggle Commented Jul 8, 2014 on Attempted Jury Duty Notes at Obsidian Wings
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I've seen a few jury trials from within the box, and it has been informative. In one brief period I was on 2 juries in Oakland and saw the pretty stupid level of little criminal cases in superior court. The second of them was amusing, when they did the voir dire on a sweet, gray-haired, very well (conservatively) dressed lady; then the bored and not very sharp defense attorney did a peremptory challenge. No apparent reason except that such a lady would necessarily be against any poor black defendant. Little did he know, which I knew well from the earlier case, that the very sweet lady hardly had the heart to convict *anybody* of anything. Pure gold, down the toilet.
Toggle Commented Jul 8, 2014 on Attempted Jury Duty Notes at Obsidian Wings
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While I'm up, about that multiple of 20. I looked in the OED with fear and trembling, and -- Nope, no such word as vigintuple. That's a relief. Ugly word. However, Google seems to have over 1,200 matches for it.
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2014 on cantor's out at Obsidian Wings
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Well, perhaps not fully qualified as a genocidal monster, but-- Remember Colbert's performance for the White House Press dinner? Best political comedy schtick ever? Remember the dull audience, either uncomprehending or afraid to admit knowing what was going on? Remember who appeared to be the only person in the room actually laughing and looking as if he was having a good time? Sure you do: Scalia.
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2014 on cantor's out at Obsidian Wings
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"Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base." Actually, there's an even more eloquent version of this sentiment from a few years earlier. As Colonel Blimp said, "Gad, sir, Mussolini is right! Bayonets bring out the best in a man! And it stays out."
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There is more than a visualization of what Fenchurch Saint Paul looked like. The Little Architect has made a massive reconstruction of the whole place using the miracle of computer visualization. I believe, however, that it is open only to members of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society. Which little architect would that be? The architect (rather tall, in fact) who uses that nom in the Yahoo news group "LordPeter". The group has existed for about 15 years, and is now rather languishing for lack of new blood. Why not look in (There are vast archives available) and post something and see if you can breathe some life into it?
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