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Missing the point

For years, decades, we’ve had only individual stories of cops shooting people. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Just go look.

Then one reporter decided to tabulate statistics. Get numbers. Collate data. Then what did RadioLab do? Did they analyze the data, get more data, make plots, do correlations, etc.? Any of the usual data analysis techniques that hadn’t been done before?

Nope. They ignored any big picture stuff, and decided to do two podcasts on individual stories.

Not that every individual that’s on the wrong end of an “officer-involved shooting” doesn’t deserve to have their story told! But we had that before. It’s called “the daily newspaper.”

We didn’t have statistics before.

But these guys, being 1) NPR and 2) data-ignorant, decided to not report on the data, because that’s hard, and requires thinking, and skill, and just go back to what’s easy.

Dammit. Missing the point.


Anytime I read a post in a tech blog (looking at you, /.) that talks about mining He-3 or telescopes <Vincent Price voice>on the moon</Vincent Price voice>, I know I’m dealing with an idiot and I can stop paying attention.

I was sitting on a ski lift listening to the other people talk – turned out it was one former Caltech engineering student, and two current astronomy profs, and they were going on about He-3 mining on the moon. I kept my mouth shut and skied the other way. Either some other subset of us was being polite as I was, but one and perhaps three nominally smart well-educated scientific person(s) on that quad were not immune to this humbug.

Other markers are:

  • Hyperloop
  • Hydrogen fuel-cells
  • Desalinization
  • Terraforming Mars
  • Anyone who uses the phrase “SJW” non-ironically
  • Singularity

The Venn diagram of people who believe these things is basically this: o

Not listed: Self-driving cars could be on this list, as most of the people who rant about it being the inevitable future don’t even think of the first-order problems, much less knock-on effects. It’s not on the list because I do think we’ll suffer through a few decades of a lot of bad implementations, because it serves a larger purpose of 1) taking money from the rubes, and 2) killing public transport and the infrastructure behind it. There’s a influential cabal (TINC) for whom both will be profitable and desirable. It serves both conservatives and the same people who think the gig economy is a good idea – the end result serves both their pocketbook and their philosophy. Sometimes these are the same people, but often enough the latter serve the former unwittingly.

It’s also not on the list because I still enjoy pointing out the flaws in the thinking of people who are smart-enough in other domains but somehow can’t think beyond I’ll-sit-in-the-back-and-read-an-ebook. They really, really, really want self-driving cars! And to a large extent they’re already driving Prius to save the planet. No cognitive dissonance there. ObGeorgeCarlin: the planet will be just fine without us.

What does it say that Elon Musk is behind a lot of these?

PotD 16 April 2017



PotD 15 April 2017

Horses for courses


Just what the doctor ordered

The so-called liberal MSM [1] hires another conservative from the WSJ to write op-eds.

His greatest hit? Stop hitting yourself!

Reason #423 in a list of thousands why the NYT will never receive another dime from me…

[1] There is no such thing of course. All the Sunday newsprograms are dominated by conservatives, all the daily newspapers op-eds are also conservative with a sprinkling of go-along/get-along (with the conservatives! Bernie is far too liberal to be taken seriously) “centrists” (meaning Reagan conservatives), and NPR interviews far more conservatives, far more kindly, than big-L Liberals.

PotD 31 March 2017

Alex car

Milo car

Tagged , , ,

Things I don’t like about the 2017 MBP

See previous, and previous, for other thoughts. It’s not an overall out-of-the-park win. Or maybe a win at all. On the whole, meh. No better than the old one.

You might think that’s ok then, but up until now, every new version of the MBP that I’ve had has been a solid joy over the last version. A “yep, glad I bought that.

This one? I would have been just as happy to keep the old one had I not spilled coffee on the keyboard (and why hasn’t that problem been solved yet?). No worse than the last one isn’t a win.


  • Battery life seems fine.
  • It’s noticeably thinner and lighter than the previous version which is ok with me.
  • I don’t care about the dongles.
  • TouchID is good.
  • Touchbar is meh. For lots of things I’d still rather have the keys. Escape, changing the volume, and brightness are two keystrokes (is that the right word?) now instead of one. But it’s early days.

Some of those aren’t pros as much as not as bad as expected.

On the downside:

  • Where is the cellular radio? Why can’t I have always-on access like my phone has had since 2008? Why can I have this in a $600 iPad but not a $4000 laptop? Fucking work-mandated ATT doesn’t allow tethering, dammit. Sheesh. I’m happy to pay if it runs over – I just want to connect. There are lots of hotels where the roaming overseas LTE is better than their user-hostile sign-in-five-times-a-day-VPN-blocking-slow-as-shit WiFi. Why do hotels do this? Ohmigod, the pain should someone actually sit in the bar, buy an overpriced drink and steal some wifi.

    To be fair, no one solves this complaint I’ve had for years. And it’s not just overseas – Motel 6, great pet policy, lousy fucking wifi.

  • The bigger trackpad is just stupid. It doesn’t help as a trackpad, and it’s always picking up signals from my palms. It’s Linux-level bad in terms of use. This isn’t some old guy with tremor fingers complaining (well, I am, but…) – I can use the previous version trackpad just fine. This one sucks. It is so painful that I make sure I have a Magic Mouse available at all times (the old version, with batteries. Not the stupid new version). I never used to do that.
  • The new keyboard is terrible. It’s really loud, and the keyfeel is worse than the old one. s/Mighty Mouse/Apple Keyboard/g

    So much for it being smaller, if I have to carry around a keyboard and a mouse…

Airplane movie reviews March 2017 Lufthansa

  • Arrival: Interesting enough movie based on a short story I would have thought unfilmable. Not that I generally think in those terms, but when I first read it years ago, I didn’t think “that’s shooting for a screenplay and an ‘adapted-by'”. Good cast – I always like watching Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. Why is Forrest Whittaker wasted in these roles?

    But not the mind-bending SF movie I was led to expect. Just a bit above meh. Will not rewatch. And I like time-bending movies! Primer! Memento! Fuck with my mind, and I’ll watch it over and over, unless it’s got Leo in it.

    I had a hard time buying the whole world-going-to-attack-the-aliens-from-another-star premise. We are dumb people (cough, Drumpf, Brexit, cough) but these folks came from the stars so maybe we are out of their league or maybe it’s at least a question that you don’t want to find out the answer to. Kinda like whether that guy in the Gracie t-shirt knows anything. Anyway, that thought was in my head through the whole movie so maybe it should have been addressed.

    As an exploration of the ultimate extensions of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, it didn’t go very far. Aliens think differently than we do – alluded to, not much explored. As an exploration of the effects contact would have, not convincing.

  • The Accountant: Interesting premise, strong cast. A bit weak on the Asperger’s – the kid goes from mid-level autism to grown-up Ben Affleck liking comfy towels and to finish things. Ben rides off alone into the sunset thinking of the one that got away.
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016): Wow. Wow. This is just so bad on so many levels, I almost had to keep watching it to figure out how that happened. But it’s too bad to finish. Anton Fuqua has made some decent movies. Is this just Denzel just being Denzel? Did he have script approval? He can’t act. He plays Denzel. That’s ok! It works in things like Inside Man (with Clive Owen showing Denzel how cool is done). Lots of stars can’t act – they play themselves. John Wayne for instance. It doesn’t work in lots of things though.

    The original M7 (and the Kurosawa from which it was stolen) had humor, anti-racism, multi-culturalism (well, a German guy playing a Hispanic guy) aside from some colonialism in depicting the villagers), and Steve McQueen’s hat stealing every scene. Excellent character actors – Vaughn, Bronson, Coburn. Great chemistry between McQueen and Brynner, even though I understand the latter spent the whole movie being pissed at the former about that hat. Eli Wallach as an unsympathetic but understandable villain. Understandable motives, I mean.

    The new one? The new villain is just maximally evil for no reason – the movie attempts to write it all off to Capitalism, which I’m fine for blaming for lots of evils, but rarely did Andrew Carnegie just shoot people in the streets himself. He had the Pinkertons do it. I’m okay with force-of-nature evil, like Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men (although that’s more over the top than necessary, compared to Woody Harrelson’s more believable mundane evil). Bad Bart’s capitalist evil is just unbelievable and unnecessary.

    What’s criminal here is the waste of Vincent D’Onofrio. Denzel is just Denzel. There’s a complete lack of chemistry between anyone. The Coburn character is played by a Chinese man, and there’s a whole opportunity to explore a little-known-to-Hollywood theme lost there. It’s more reflexive how-can-we-sell-this-in-China than yes-there-were-Chinese-in-the-West (Deadwood got this but I can’t think of anything else).

    Just how do you take something that was so good, right down to the iconic theme, and fuck it up so badly at every single level? I wish I could wash my brain so that I could see the original (Hollywood version) again without ever thinking of this one. And honestly, the 1960 version, like Full Metal Jacket, is only half a great movie. Both I will stop and watch every time until it gets to town/gets to Vietnam. Also, FMJ has killer Vincent D’Onofrio – this is how you use VD’O.

  • The Town: Oddly enough, I think Ben Affleck can act. He’s really good in this. Maybe because he gets to ride his natural Boston accent. It’s a joy to listen to a movie with real accents. More Jeremy Renner. Blake Lively – I had no idea who that was, and was so impressed by her performance that I actually watched the credits. I was non-plussed when I saw the name – oh, that’s who Blake Lively is. Well ok then. Ben rides off alone into the sunset thinking of the one that got away. Do you detect a theme here?
  • LaLa Land: There is a lot to unpack here, and little that hasn’t been said by others. Seb is a jerk. Also not the strongest proponent of even his version of jazz. What old-school jazz pianist would turn down a chance to go play in Paris, where there is an even stronger culture of proponents of his version of jazz? There’s the movie right there – she could have gone to Paris to act and he could have played piano in the Latin Quarter and happy ending.

    Damien Chazelle and I have such different thoughts about jazz. In one movie, Buddy Rich and big band are the role models – a feeling that is held by basically no musician anywhere, but at least it’s a white guy emulating his mostly white guy role models. In this one, white guy is arguably held up as a savior of True Jazz, while real African-American musicians are proponents of Watering It Down aka Selling Out. You can argue it around that the whole point of the character is that he’s an out-of-touch jerk, but then it’s a lot of work for a supposedly fun musical. The main song pedestals (I’m making that a thing) a failed alcoholic, and was boring to boot (I nodded off – to be fair, it was at the end of the flight, but I was already bored with a predictable movie).

    Aside from that, the songs were forgettable, weakly done, not a patch on the things it’s trying to emulate. The BtVS musical was way stronger, with not-much-worse dancing.

    For me, the canonical LA romance is still Steve Martin’s LA Story. Also half a great movie. But these days, I’ll take half.

  • The Night Manager (E01:07): Interesting. Fun. Kinda like meringue pie – not much there really. Good way to waste six hours on the airplane. I still have one episode to go and I suspect I’ll be disappointed but don’t spoiler it for me.
  • Black Mirror (E02, E05, E06): Eh. Ok. It’s hard to outrun reality.
  • Hell or High Water: Rewatch. I first watched this with a friend who just couldn’t buy into the concept, and kinda ruined it for me laughing at all the toxic masculinity all the way through.

    But that’s the point! It is all about toxic masculinity – secondarily about toxic banking culture (Woodie Guthrie wrote songs about this, so it’s nothing new. Woodie also spent a lot of time not too far from where this movie is set, and not far from where I grew up), and toxic racial culture. I grew up in this culture. I know these guys. Maybe I am one of these guys. Relatives, classmates, childhood friends.

    It also speaks to the recent election – most of my liberal friends (and I’m more liberal than them) just think that if you explained things enough, the people in the Red States would just get it. And I know that I can’t explain to them that no, they wouldn’t. They don’t want it explained, the fact that you are trying to explain it in the first place is the reason they hate you and everything you stand for. It’s ridiculous. It’s laughable. And it’s there. It isn’t going to change.

    Strong points for (mostly) getting the Texas accents and dialog right (“Do whut?”) – see Boston accents above. No one ever gets Texas accents right. Take away a couple points for trying to fake off the New Mexico plains for the Texas High Plains, which really probably only matters to me, take off more points for Jeff Bridges. The scenery really threw me watching it the first time around. If you want to place this in Childress and Olney and Post, there are no mountains in the background. Second time around, I got over this.

    Tommy Lee Jones would have been perfect in this role, and had the right accent. I like Jeff Bridges (Fabulous Baker Boys), but just nope here, and just nope in True Grit (John Wayne’s finest role. Also another pointless remake.).

    The gun thing is a bit overblown – I don’t think there are shootouts in Texas every day, not even now.

    Anyway, I liked it if you couldn’t tell.

  • Sicario: Rewatch of this. I’m a sucker for Benecio del Toro. I’m growing to like Josh Brolin more and more. Nice to see Burn Notice guy working more – he was great.

    I can’t quite figure out why I wanted to watch this movie again. It kinda speaks to the mistake of treating the drug war like a real war. It even at one point addresses the futility of a drug war, without pointing out that the reason it’s a war is because drugs are illegal. In some sense you get seduced by the sense that the good guys are winning, and making the right decisions, and the person who doesn’t sign up is the weak link holding it back. But what if the good guys aren’t so nice, and don’t play by any rules?

    There’s one false move that completely pulled me out both times. Emily Blunt’s character finally twigs to what’s going on (her more-experienced partner (who is continually denigrated as a less-experienced guy even though he served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has a law degree and knows his way around an M-4 better than EB – he should be the guy they want, instead of her, unless maybe that’s the point) has been telling her at every step along the way, to the singing along with Josh Brolin. But instead of getting out, she’s all nope, I have to see it through, I have to see what happens. There is zero character motivation for this, no explanation, no justification, just “I’ve made bad decision after bad decision even though people with more experience than me have told me either explicitly or implicitly time and again, so I’m going to stay completely in character and make another bad decision.”

    Maybe that’s the character, but then it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for her. She’s not someone doing the right thing with knowledge aforethought – the only assumption left to the watcher is that she’s an idiot, or to be kind, so far over her head that the sun is a point of light way up in the dark ocean. But then why does everyone want her, and think she’s so great? She’s a PITA, only useful as a useful idiot. Perhaps that’s the point – here is a story told through the eyes of the useful idiot. But not sympathetic. But then the only sympathetic character in the movie is her partner. Who is black, which leads to more thoughts about race and culture and politics. So either great job Dennis Villenueve for making a great movie about the drug war through the eyes of a character who doesn’t evolve nor grow, or making a really bad one. Now I’m trying to think of another movie told through the eyes of a useful idiot and so completely unsympathetic to the main character, if that’s really what this movie is. I can’t figure out if this is a great movie or one that I should dislike.

PotD 20 February 2017



PotD 19 February 2017



Steve Jobs would never let this happen Part II

While some decisions make some sort of sense, these are a bit crazy-making:

  • The power brick doesn’t come with the Appropriate Cable to charge the device.
  • Despite all the posturing about USB-C being the all-singing, all-dancing wave of the future get-on-the-train-now (cough firewire thunderbolt cough), the Appropriate Cable isn’t really USB-C and can’t be used as one in a pinch, even though it looks like one and takes up a USB-C port.
  • The retractable ears that you used to use to wrap the Appropriate Cable around the power brick are gone. Because the Appropriate Cable is a separate SKU and why would you want to keep the two together? Especially since you can’t use the AC for anything else useful.
  • The power cord that let the power brick connect to something Far Away, or to the overloaded power strip with the outlets too close or inappropriately oriented – is now a separate purchase. Like the Appropriate Cable.
  • Also like the USB-C/Lightning cable you need for your phone.

Yeah, I’m thinking SJ would not have let these things happen.

How do they still even get the now-three-year-old parts for the Mac Pro, assuming anyone was stupid enough to buy one at this point? Three years is forever in computer land.

Damn you autocorrect

TIL autocorrect will change the entirely correct “pin number” (referring to which pin on a connector to which a particular wire goes) to the entirely incorrect and redundant “PIN number”.

Every time.

Five minutes later, autocorrect was disabled.

Here might be the place to note that My Benevolent Employer’s new OS imaging and MDM policy breaks the wonderful Migration Assistant. Meaning that when the new MBP finally arrived (12 weeks after I paid an additional 25% to get it sooner), I had to set it up from scratch. Which took something that usually takes (an annoying to be sure) four hours and turned it into something that’s still got me frustrated two weeks later, and paying daily charges to keep the now-overdue old computer so I can figure out which settings I had.

Thanks, MBE!

Also damn-your-eyes, developers who don’t use the defaults of where preferences ought to be so they can just be copied from ~/Library/Preferences or ~/Library/Application Support.

Of course the time spent doing this comes out of project money, not some mythical I&T account for me doing bullshit work that I shouldn’t have to do. In other words, they’ve externalized the costs of breaking shit and pushing their job onto the end user. What do they care that it then costs days of productivity, since it costs their cost center nothing?

MBE also mandated that all gasoline-powered carts be converted to electric, but didn’t provide the funds to put in accessible outlets to charge them. Again, that money comes out of the account that ought to be used to pay for, you know, doing actual science.


I might have been in my fourth decade before I figured out that I had been taught to tie my shoes incorrectly. Pro-tip: It’s a square knot, not a granny knot.

It’s still a bit of a mental catch to tie the laces correctly, even though I’ve been doing it right for all of this millennium.

It’s one of the blessings of the modern age that shoelaces don’t break anymore (except Five Ten). However, one would have thought that shoemakers would not use the laces that won’t hold a knot. You know the ones, the slick 2.5 or 3mm accessory cord that is just too smooth to hold a regular shoelace knot, granny or square.

But I’ve purchased three pairs of shoes in the last couple of months that have the laces that won’t hold a regular knot.

You’d think that someone at La Sportive, Arcteryx, or Merrel would walk around in the greater-than-a-c-note shoes that they are selling to climbers – people who are pretty serious about their shoes – and figure out that smooth accessory cord shoelaces are not the way to go. Yeah, they might not break. But most shoelaces don’t break. I have shoes that go through multiple resoles yet the I pull the laces out when they are done and throw them in a drawer just-in-case but they’ll never come out again. Because shoelaces don’t break.

They will, however, get replaced because they won’t hold a damn knot. That’ll drive me to this real quick.

Of course, I know how to tie a shoelace knot that will never come undone. But I shouldn’t have to.

I never got in a race with Danielle to see who could tie their laces faster. Nor a typing race on either phone or computer – I’m fast, but a man’s got to know his limitations. I can’t beat a child who’s never known an IBM Selectric, or, the modern equivalent of rulers-across-knuckles, a manual Remington. Damn the teacher who thought we should do a semester on the manual typewriters “because I had to.” Damn her eyes. It should have been obvious to her even then that manual typewriters were buggy whips. It was just mean, and it slowed my typing for years.

I’d argue that the most useful thing I learnt in high school was how to touchtype, followed by algebra, and being suspicious of anyone being nice to me.

PotD 4 January 2017



PotD 3 January 2017