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PotD 20210301

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PotD 20210228

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him

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Suspension of suspension of belief

Is it too old-man-yelling-at-clouds to point out that just obvious stupid errors completely pull me out of the movie you are trying to get me to watch? Maybe Netflix doesn’t care, because it happens 15 minutes in, so it’s already counted as a view for their made-up numbers. To wit:

 

“Outside the Wire”: “How many hours do you have piloting the drone?” “Sir, Fifty-seven thousand, sir!”
Come on. Chuck Yeager had 14,000 over a whole career. This dude is no older than 30. From my extensive study of the Fighter Pilot Podcast, it’s rare for pilots to get over 2000 in a career. Or just do the fucking math. A work year is 2000 hours. So that’s over 28 years if you flew every hour you were at work and there was no pre-flight briefings, or after-action reports. It’s the military, so that seems unlikely, but say you could do 4000 hours without being so tired that you didn’t fly your (inflation-adjusted) $135M MQ-9 Reaper into the ground. That’s still a solid 14 years. And if you keep the same job in the military for 14 years, you’re probably not very good at it (you didn’t get promoted), and you’re older than 30.

 

“The Vast of Night”: WOTW (“War of the Worlds”, cute, get it!? GETIT?!). I know I’m an old, and the kids don’t listen to the radio anymore, but with few exceptions, W stations are east of the Mississippi. There are no W stations in New Mexico.

 

“The Old Guard”: Your thousand year old warriors go into an enclosed space not just willingly, but eagerly, and there’s no overwatch [1] to keep them from getting ambushed from behind? You’re worried about cameras, making a huge plot point of deleting a photo on a cell phone five minutes in, but you don’t wear black face-hiding balaclavas in action, like every cop in existence for the last decade? You walk right up to a camera and stare into it just to make sure they got a good look? The guys who just shot you weren’t warned that you were immortal and self-healing, and just stand around high-fiving instead of flex-cuffing you? I have no tactical training, but all those things make my skin crawl.

 

Heist“: This is one of my favorite movies, but it’s a great example of the cardinal sin of big heists. Millions of dollars of gold is really fucking heavy, as is millions of dollars of cash [2]. They make a big deal about getting the weight right sometimes, like when they are loading it into the van, and melting it down, but not right when they are wheeling around stove-sized containers full of it like it was nothing, and trying to convince someone that it’s hidden on a boat, or driving off with it in an old Ford. The boat would sink. The Ford would have its headlights pointing straight up. Also that customs/freight-forwarder stuff is complete bullshit, especially for an international flight.

 
Airplane movie reviews:

Outside the Wire: Couldn’t finish it.
 

The Vast of Night: Fast forwarded through a lot of the moving camera work, exposition, and Sorkin-talking over each other (people didn’t do that in the Southwest in the late 50s and early 60s). The only person who dressed like Buddy Holly was Buddy Holly, and there was only one of those. Everyone else did not wear cool clothes. Still not good.
 

The Old Guard: Good bits interspersed with dumbness and cartoonish villainy.
 

Heist: One of my favorite movies ever, and the best roles by Hackman, Lindo, and de Vito.
“Everybody needs money, that’s why they call it money!”
“You want to hear my last words?” “I just did.”

 
 
[1] See also Outside The Wire above.
[2] “Heat” gets this right, mostly.

Surprisingly mandatory

If the bike radar is out of juice, I don’t go until it’s recharged. That’s almost true of the HUD.

And I’m going to cry when that dies, because they don’t make it anymore, and the alternatives are 1) expensive 2) proprietary and 3) made by small companies likely to go out of business. Like I’m going to drop $1k on prescription lenses for a proprietary solution for which I won’t be able to get replacement batteries after a year.

Buy once, cry once

It turns out that bike clothing is another buy once, cry once item. Generic $50 bike store and manufacturer jerseys and chamois suck. Mid-level ($100 on sale) are somewhat better. But the $200 on sale stuff is the shit. Zippers that work with one hand. Padding that doesn’t roll up and cause sores. Pockets that you can reach without twisting your arm off. Actually cool and not horribly sweaty and sticky (looking at you, Famous University Bike Club G. Hincapie brand). I should have just gotten Assos in the first place, and I wouldn’t have all the other crap in the drawer that I don’t want to wear.

Same with bikes, same with cameras, etc.

Year old NYers

I started the madness about a year behind on my NYer subscription, stacked up on my nightstand. Home for every shit, I’m catching up now.  

It’s a relief, in some sense, to be that far behind, pre-whatever-this-is.  I don’t have to read a 20,000 word piece on Pete Buttagieg (whatever).  Saved myself that brainspace. If you’re a year behind, you know that he didn’t win and you can look at the cartoons and move on.  I’d rather read a “50,000 word piece on zinc”.  

Everything else in the mag is just as relevant as it was.

It’s even easier now. I know everything they’re wrong about. I wonder which things I read in the current in the current issue are completely wrong. I read less of the daily NYer because of that.

Now I read the restaraunt reviews (why no more bar reviews – what happened there?), and know there will be no trip to NYC in the foreseeable future to try any of them, and they’ll all have closed anyway.

The most enduring sensation is “these people have no idea what’s coming”.  I feel regret for the writers, and who they were then.  So much effort expended on things that don’t matter.

“These people” are of course me a year ago.

I’m surprised I have to keep telling you this

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

–Attributed to Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac (9 September 1585 – 4 December 1642)

Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk. Don’t talk anything you can whisper. Don’t whisper anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can nod. Don’t nod anything you can wink.

–Attributed to Earl Long

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Lisan al-Gaib

They think he is their Lisan al-Gaib, the mahdi, the one who will lead them to paradise. He wasn’t bred to be the Republican Bene Gesserit [1] Kwisatz Haderach; he arrived generations too early, before they were ready, and is not in their control. He lacks discipline [2], and he will bring the jihad.

Reagan his Leto, Gingrich his Hawat, McConnell his Stilgar.

 
 
[1] The John Birch Society, but also The Federal Society, and/or American Legislative Exchange Council.
[2] What did he sneak under the table on 6 January? Must have been something big, and evil.

password123

If you are the security admin, and the security software company that you’ve chosen tells you that the admin password is “companyname123”, and you continued anyway, maybe it’s not totally their fault that you got pwned.

 

Well, yeah, it’s totally their fault. But totally yours too. You saw this coming.

Movie theatres are taxis

Movie theatres are taxis.

 
 

Anyone with a lick of sense understands why the concept of taxis and taxi medallions came about. Let me explain it to you, in case you haven’t been to a major airport since Uber and seen in action, or had to hike out to the Uber/Lyft/taxi lot instead of just walking over to the taxi stand from TBI.

You can’t just let any bozo in a clown car drive into the by necessity limited space of a an airport (or train station, or sportsball stadium, or concert arena). You’ll end up with localized traffic jams that are utterly predictable. And you’ll attract the casual thieves, sexual predators, and bad sorts that come with unlimited access and little oversight. That’s why they tell you not to get in unmarked cabs in foreign countries [1].

Taxi medallions were instituted to limit the numbers, and provide some oversight. The US of course sucks at the latter, and excels at making any limited monopoly a race to the bottom of lowered standards and maximum rent extraction. Thus taxis doomed themselves to extinction once some amoral and probably sociopathic venture capitalist saw that pile of money there waiting to be bled like a Sears pension plan.

Now, let’s get this straight. The whole taxi industry is a shithole from bottom to top, and no one likes them. I could tell you a dozen stories, and that’s with me having tons of white male privilege, and not having to deal with the horrible racist/sexist aspects. I regularly took limos (they were surprisingly affordable!) for all my airport trips until the limo companies decided that the way to compete with the “rideshare” companies was to double or triple their prices. Then I took rideshares to the airport and taxis home (despite all the horrible experiences), until LAX exiled the taxi stands to the rideshare lot, at which point they became all equally shitty in my eyes.

The taxi medallion holders could have seen this coming, and paid some SV techbros to write an app, call it Lubr, and clean up their act with actually having a clean cab with working AC, but that would have cost a nickel, so they didn’t. And now they are on their way out. Replaced with something that’s better for the individual, as long as you are the individual taking a Saudi-oil-and-murder-and-repression-subsidized-below-cost “rideshare”.

Movie theatres don’t even have the disadvantage of everyone hating them. Sure, no one likes the hassle, and the expense of parking and $20 buckets of low-grade carbs and sugar-water, but everyone loves watching a movie on a 100 foot screen (I really miss the Hastings Ranch wide-screen…) with an awesome sound system. I have a nice setup at home, and it’s great to watch movies on, but it’s not a immersive experience like a theatre, and there are too many distractions. I rarely watch a movie from beginning to end without something distracting me, especially myself.

Distractions! Everyone hates being around all the jerks who talk and eat loudly and look at their small pocket-sized suns during the movie. I won’t even get into the problem of all the 100′ screens being divided up into five 20′ screens with crappy audio and dimly lit projectors and sticky floors.

The theatres could have fixed this, and made movie-going more pleasant by simply turning each theatre into a Faraday cage where mobile devices don’t work. And by policing bad behavior. But that would have cost a nickel, so they didn’t.

And then the pandemic happened. No one could have predicted this! [2] The SV techbros and Hollywood studios had been trying to disrupt theatres unsuccessfully for years, but it speaks to the experience of watching a movie with others on a huge screen that they hadn’t been able to. Sure, they knocked holes in the model, but hadn’t been able to kill it.

Now they will. There will be a few left. We’ll go to the Alamo Drafthouse model, where you have to make a reservation, and it’ll cost a boatload, but the staff will be death on bad behavior, but all the major theatres won’t survive. They could have pivoted to this before, but that would have cost money; some exec would have gotten a smaller bonus and a smaller yacht.

 
 

[1] Here, it’s okay to be sexually assaulted by an independent contractor.
[2] Oh wait, everyone predicted this. There was even a movie or two about it! They didn’t gross as much as Avengers so no one cared. I think there might have been an office in the White House devoted to it, but that swamp got drained… but we have F-35s so it’s all good.

PotD 20201130

Also what passes for autumn:

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PotD 20201201

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PotD 20201129

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The roads must roll

In a past life, I worked on one of the first AI/ML/NN [1] processors for postal machines (also built one of the first CCD cameras for them, and one of the first NN ASICS [2]).

The most impressive part wasn’t the handwriting recognition (which wasn’t at that time any better than the hand-built emperically determined resistor network [3]), or putting said network in an FPGA (which was a new thing at the time, along with the onions in our belts).

No, the most impressive part were the huge machines that sorted the mail according to whichever camera and processor was bolted to the back to make decisions. These could be upgraded in perpetuity. The mechanical behemoths that sorted billions of pieces of mail, the rollers and belts and pulleys – those were engineering marvels. Hard to see how those could be replaced. Built by companies that no longer exist, by dudes (sadly, all old white dudes) who have long since retired or died.

To see them get thrown out on the street, never to be resurrected, was heart-breaking. Those will never get rebuilt, replaced, with something better.

They could be, of course. But like new roads, or keeping restaraunts, gyms, and theatres viable during a completely unforeseen pandemic [4], it’s not in the best interests of the deadenders to have a Post Office, as specified in the Constitution. Maybe there will always be something called the Post Office in the future. But a system that could deliver a handwritten envelope across a continent in a few days, for a pittance? That’s gone now, forever, because it being gone is in the best interests of a few.

 
 

[1] It’s AI when you’re selling it, ML when you budget for it, and linear algebra when you implement it, as the now old joke goes.
[2] Probably? 1986-ish
[3] But I guess that was pretty good for a first try. Problem was, it never got any better on the second, fifth, or tenth try. Then I went to physics grad school. I didn’t want to wait around for Moore’s law for 20, wait, no 30 years to get to the point where it was useful. But how useful is it if it takes the same amount of energy to solve a problem as it does to build a car?
[4] Oh wait, it was completely foreseeable, because it had happened before. And government plans existed to deal with it. And previous administrations implemented teams to plan for it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

PotD 20201127

What passes for autumn around here

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