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Oct. 5th, 2019

07:40 pm - Bill Harnsberger does it again!

JEERS to going medieval. The New York Times reports that President Trump said he envisions a place where poisonous snakes thrive in swampy conditions by spending their days wallowing in a large cement structure surrounded by a spiked fence while hissing and spitting at anything that comes near, always ready to sink their fangs into perceived enemies and happy to eat their own if it serves their interests. Then he said, "But enough about the White House, let's talk about my border moat."

"Cheers & Jeers", Daily Kos


Sep. 15th, 2019

12:19 pm - What kind of spider is this?

Found in my basement. Google Image Search thinks it's a wolf spider, but there are many species in that category. This one is notable for being red in the front, grey in the back. Seen in my basement for the first time today.

Aug. 18th, 2019

12:01 pm - The one about amicable numbers in Perl 6

My ankle is continuing to improve.  Sometimes I can walk for several minutes before being reminded that I broke it earlier this year.  Last week I needed to quickly cross King St. in Kitchener ON and tried running a little bit.  Ouch!  Not quite ready for prime time just yet.

SkipTheDishes is a nicer job than Uber.  Often I can gross $18/hr with them.  But after gas and repairs I think my net income is still less than minimum wage.

Some of you whipper-snappers may have noticed that I double-space after sentential periods on this blog.  According to this article in the New Yorker, anyone who does that is still living in the 18th century.  (In fact, double-spacing after periods comes from the days of typewriters with monospace fonts, which meant that it was still considered mandatory in the 1980's when I was at university.)  The modern lack of double-spaces after periods is a side-effect of the parsing rules for HTML, not a religious statement about God's own Truth regarding punctuation — although you'd never know that from the way some people talk about this shibboleth.

But what I actually want to discuss today is this blog post by Damian Conway, which is supposedly about what a great programming language Perl 6 is but spends a lot of its time talking about a useless math concept called "amicable numbers".  I don't know Perl and don't care about numerical amicability, but I like the superfluous gratuitous use of Unicode characters.  (Hat tip to Hacker News, several of whose commmenters complain about the unnecessary Unicode.)

I first noticed that there was something “off” about this post when I came across the link to Thābit ibn Qurra's biography, which uses the hyperlink text ثابت بن قره.  “How odd,” I thought.  “Why did Dr. Conway throw some inscrutable Arabic characters in the middle of his English essay?  Surely he can't expect anyone to read that?”  But then he uses the character 𝑠 (which is U+1D460 MATHEMATICAL ITALIC SMALL S) and justifies this behaviour as “Because we can.”  It was then that I realized that Damian is one of my peeps, who decorates his posts with as much Unicode as possible instead of restraining himself to the truly necessary characters such as the guillemets « », which apparently are essential punctuation marks in Perl.

Let us also take note of the diaeresis in “naïve”, the arrow →, the em-dash —, the infinity symbol ∞, the square-root symbol √, the multiplication sign ×, the ellipsis …, and various superscripts ⁰ ¹ ² ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ ⁸ ⁹ ᴺ.

Does he really need to use 𝜌 (U+1D70C MATHEMATICAL ITALIC SMALL RHO)?  Wouldn't a plain old Greek ρ do the job without having to leave the BMP?  The script L in “pℓ𝐼” seems completely superfluous, since it is followed by “pmJ“ and “pnK” which make it clear(-ish) that the letter is supposed to be L and not 1 or |.  The variable names “pₗpₘpₙ” (which Dr. Conway refers to as “an appropriate Unicode-named variable”) and “ᴵᴶᴷ” (which he calls “a suitably named variable”) are just him showing off that Perl will let you do shit like that — and several commenters complain that these names don’t look right on their screens.

So, overall, reading this article has helped me to understand why other furs sometimes don’t like it when I use too much 𝕌𝕟𝕚𝕔𝕠𝕕𝕖 in my blog posts.

Unfortunately, Dr. Conway's post has failed to change my opinion that the Perl language is indistinguishable from line noise and should not be used.  I still can't explain why I like Bash but hate Perl, since “indistinguishable from line noise” is the only reasonable description for a Bash program that goes beyond job-control constructs and actually does some computation.  But, to each his own, I guess.

One final note: besides the Unicode, Damian Conway has also shown off his erudition by using two uncommon words.  Did you know that the etymology for “eldritch” is unclear?  The -ritch part is clearly related to the German reich, and the ‘d’ is epenthetic, but what does the el- part mean?  And his use of the phrase “shambling mound“ is apparently a reference to a D&D character from 1975⁇

Apr. 30th, 2019

10:45 am - Ankle update

[personal profile] rain_gryphon has asked whether I have died yet from my ankle injury.  Nope, still here.  Really, the ankle is doing pretty well.  I can sort of walk on it (sticking the leg far out to the side so I'm mostly standing on the intact tibia, not the broken fibula).  The AirCast helps a lot.  I'm down to a single crutch now.  I'm driving my car again.  Hooray for Ontario healthcare!

Money's not so hot.  I've been out of work for two months.  Uber is in the middle of an IPO and is screwing over its drivers to make its new stockholders feel good — many drivers are going on strike.  On Sunday I looked at Uber's promotion schedule and decided to go out early Monday morning to get 1.2× their standard rates (last year I was able to get 1.4× for much of the day; earlier this year I got a flat $19/hr for hanging around in Stratford ON in case there were ever any orders).  On Monday I got into Kitchener and then discovered that Uber changed their rates again and now it's only 1.1×, which is about 20% less than they paid last year for the same work.  I've put in my application at SkipTheDishes.com.

Other than that, it's the same-old same old.  Nothing ever gets any better.


Mar. 21st, 2019

03:25 pm - Ankle photos

Do not click if hypersensitive to injury photos!

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So far, so good.  No post-surgical infection.  I received an Air Cast ($185, not covered by OHIP) and was told to continue not putting any weight on the ankle.  They said to come back in another three weeks for an X-ray.  It could be up to *another* three weeks after that before I can walk again and (some people on the Internet say) I could be limping for many months.

Feb. 28th, 2019

10:20 am - I broke my ankle

I am an invalid.  I cannot walk.  My ambulatory choices are crawling like a dog, hopping like a bunny, and crutches.  This is expected to last nine weeks.  It was the right ankle that broke, so I cannot drive — at least, until I can get a “left-foot gas pedal” adaptor for my car, which will take several weeks.

Since the only employment I can find is Uber Eats driver, no driving means no income.  I have never held a job in Canada for which I paid EI premiums, so I am not eligible for unemployment payments nor temporary-disability payments.  I did pay some CPP premiums for the Company 𝔾 job, but those benefits are only for retirement or long-term disability.  It seems the only thing that I’m eligible for is a temporary handicapped-parking permit.  My primary-care physician has already filled out the application form for that, so now I’m waiting for Kid #2 to drive to her office, pick up the form, bring it home so I can sign it, then take it to ServiceOntario to get a window placard.  But no big hurry because I’m not expecting to leave my house any time soon.

Canadian healthcare is great!  No excessive testing, no barely-justified procedures just to pad the bill.  And not much waiting, either.  My ankle broke at 9:45am on Saturday.  Within hours I was in a cast.  The next day I got surgery to install a plate and some screws to hold the ankle bones in place until the torn ligaments could heal.  That “next day” was Sunday.  SUNDAY!  You do not ever want to have surgery on a Sunday in the USA.  First off, they’ll just flat-out refuse to schedule it if there’s any way you could live to Monday without it; secondly, you do not want to go under the knife with a surgeon so junior that they couldn’t get out of weekend duty.  The probability of nosocomial illness or iatrogenic permanent disability is much much higher on weekends at US hospitals.

Wifey broke her ankle back when we were engaged.  She also tore some ligaments, but she had crappy student-level US health insurance so they didn’t bother doing any surgery on her.  (The first time she went for treatment they didn’t even give her a cast.)  Her ankle is pretty much okay today, 28 years later, except it aches when the weather is about to rain.

I liked my surgeon.  He loves his job!  He works in a fracture clinic at a hospital, sewing people back together all day every day.  It seems he works on Sunday because people need sewing up on weekends, not because he is unable to get out of it.  It’s been very icy around here recently, so he’s been getting lots of practice with broken ankles.  He seemed very concerned that I should do everything possible to return to 100% ankle function so he could be proud of his work.

Other than the ankle, it’s the same-old, same-old with me.  I still have two sets of posts for my last two trips to Massachusetts that I still haven’t published here because they still might just turn into a lawsuit.  My aunt is still dead and her estate is still unsettled, with no end in sight.  I have completed the memorial prayers for her but I still haven’t gotten a job from anyone I’ve met through the synagogue.

I have replaced my dead laptop with a Dell Lattitude E6230 from eBay.  It’s great!  It’s the fastest computer I’ve ever owned, with a 64-bit CPU and 8(!) GB of RAM.  It’s small, light, fully Linux-compatible, runs for several hours on a battery charge, and it cost only $250 with shipping included.  It is six years old, which is plenty new enough for me.

Jun. 13th, 2018

08:26 pm - My dog died

Age = 14.9 years. Cancer.

My laptop died last week. Age = about 12 years. Seems to be a motherboard failure at the power connector. I haven't replaced it yet and am making do with a smartphone.

My aunt died in February, age 87. She was supposed to leave me all her money, but stuff happened and now her estate looks to become a seemingly-endless lawsuit.

At her request, I have been saying the Mourner's Kaddish for her at my local synagogue. So far I have said it on 12 occasions in the last four months.

It would be inappropriate to say the Kaddish for a pet animal. Saying it for a computer would be just plain weird.

"Walnut" (as I once called him on this blog) was a good dog. He just wanted to help, although in his last month he wasn't able to do much of anything. His favourite activity was walkies.

Current Mood: sadsad

Aug. 17th, 2017

02:58 pm - Status

My five years of Hell continue.  I have no job and no chance of ever getting one.  In June I applied for a position at the Post Office.  It took two months to get through the aptitude test, the security check, and the various scheduling delays.  When they finally granted me an in-person interview, it turned out I never could have done the job, which involves 8-hour shifts of tossing ten-pound boxes into bins by province.  It's "part-time" in the sense that it's only October through Christmas.  So the interviewers begin by telling me that the job has only one task, done over and over, and *then* they ask if I need accommodation for my physical infirmities.  What's the point if no accommodation is possible?

I checked through Indeed recently.  If you can't do full-time work, or heavy lifting, and don't have teaching or nursing certificates, and have no aptitude for customer service, then there is simply nothing available.  I don't mean there's nothing GOOD available, I mean there is NOTHING available.

Last month the Government of Canada announced that the Canadian unemployment rate had fallen to 6.3% (corresponding to 5.3% in the American way of lying about the economy), even though there were 2,400 fewer full-time jobs and 24,300 fewer part-time jobs.  This statistical legerdemain was accomplished by treating self-employed people as if they were full-time, even though self-employment is more work than full-time and pays less than part-time.  If I don't have the stamina for full-time then I certainly can't do the "gig economy" which is even worse.

I asked my family doctor if I could get myself declared disabled, but she didn't think that would go well (it's been 15 years since the triggering event and you're supposed to apply immediately).  She suggested I go to Lutherwood; I am currently in the middle of scheduling delays with them.  It remains to be seen what they could possibly do for me, since they cannot create jobs out of thin air.  There are government programs to assist disabled people, but I'm not eligible.  There are other government programs for down-on-their-luck oldsters, but I'm not eligible because my house hasn't been foreclosed yet.  There are programs for able-bodied people who need a new career, but I'm not able-bodied.  There are programs for people who never got a college diploma, but I have a master's degree.  Here in Socialist Canada there are programs for everything — but none of them are for me.

This post has been brought to you by Wifey/stuffedwithfluf, who complains that I never write anything here anymore.  The last comment I posted was to [personal profile] deffox on April 18th.  The next day I received a reply from [personal profile] whitetail, who refuses to accept that his computer's inability to display 𝕌𝕟𝕚𝕔𝕠𝕕𝕖 is his problem, not everyone else's.  (Hint: what you need is a software upgrade so you can read what everyone else is writing 🌶 in 2017).

A month later I received a query from [personal profile] rain_gryphon, which was very nice of him.  (In a previous year, when he had stopped writing for awhile, I had sent him a nudge.)  So here it is, four months later, and it seems time has stopped.  The front page of Dreamwidth hasn't been updated since April 14th.  [personal profile] rain_gryphon hasn't posted anything since July 8th.  [personal profile] frith has many posts of his drawings but none of the animals at the zoo he works at.  [personal profile] loganberrybunny has only one post in the last 14 days, which is all DW will show me.  Over at LJ, sabotlours is still posting (I wonder if he's retired yet), as is porsupah (good to hear things are going better for him) and whitetail (I wonder how his eye is doing.)  There's some posts from mejeep (whom I haven't seen in person since 2005).  That's it.  It's dead, Jim.

Astute readers will note that this post begins and ends with 𝙎𝘵𝘢𝘳 𝙏𝘳𝘦𝘬 references and that none of the Unicode glyphs in this post were truly "necessary".

Apr. 9th, 2017

10:29 am - Because "Vicious, Bloody-Minded, Bird-Slaughtering Predators" wouldn't scan

I criticized Pharyngula recently, so I'd like to mention one of his nicer posts.  He pretends to hate kittens, world peace, flying cars and the transformative power of love.  But then his sneer failed and his bitterness evaporated.  (But his heart did not grow two sizes that day, because cardiomegaly is no laughing matter.)

Best line: "That pointy triangular shape looks exactly like the heart of a salmon, which are better than people anyway."  But, as a furry, Pharyngula self-identifies as a squid.  And salmon eat squid!  But then people eat squid, too.  In fact, Google tells me that people eat salmon and squid on the same plate.

Apr. 4th, 2017

02:03 pm - Well I for one welcome our new Russian overlords

This blog is now hosted in Russia!  Как еврей, я уже знаком с предрассудками русских. Но, по крайней мере, они любят собак!

The new Terms of Service were presented as a modal dialogue with 2,900 words and a required click-through, which in sensible countries (not Russia) is considered legally non-binding because no reasonable person could be expected to have scrolled through that giant piece of text presented in a tiny dialogue box.  Also the new English terms assert that they are not legally binding because they are a mere translation of the new Russian service terms, which are the real ones.  I think the most objectionable new term is that LiveJournal may unilaterally change their terms at any time without notice and the new terms of service come into force immediately, even though no one knows about them yet (other countries have ruled that this is unconscionable and unenforceable).  So basically the English-speaking users of LiveJournal are being asked to GTFO.

This entry was automatically posted from DreamWidth, which reports that LJ people are switching to them in droves.  DreamWidth's computers are still located in the USA, which is another nasty country whose government thinks it has the right to demand access to customer data while also demanding exemptions for itself from its own laws requiring that customers be told when they've been hacked.  I could move my blog to my own server in Canada, but then nobody would read it.  As things are, *almost* nobody reads it.

The DW journal-posting page is less flaky than LJ's, but it doesn't offer a pop-up list of your tags, requiring you to type in their first few letters.  Many of my tags begin with Unicode characters that I cannot type!  But this doesn't really matter, as experiments I conducted years ago (back when LJ was cool) indicated that only one person ever clicked on any of my tags.

Mar. 27th, 2017

09:08 pm - I agree with the president!

On Thursday, President Trump announced that if the Republicans did not pass the replacement healthcare system by Friday, then he would drop the matter and stay with ObamaCare (which remember is basically the same as RomneyCare, which was a Republican initiative to begin with).  On Friday, as expected, the replacement plan did not pass because it wasn't mean enough to poor people.  Here we are on Monday night and apparently the TrumpCare plan remains dead.

This is the correct outcome!  The Repubs have been saying for seven years that they would "repair or replace" ObamaCare, which they hated because Barack Obama has black skin.  (It couldn't have been because of anything *in* the plan, because Obama had copied it from the Repubs to begin with.)  For seven years they fundraised off racist donors who hated a plan that helps Black people more than Whites.  The (R)'s won the 2016 election, in part, by promising to get rid of ObamaCare and make Black people die in the gutter as God intended.  But of course they can't actually do that.  ObamaCare, like MediCare, is now a permanent entitlement.  Too many voters are getting benefits from it and it would cost too many votes to get rid of it.

So how did Trump get out of this unimplementable campaign promise, this "pre-existing condition" signature issue of the Republican party?  He made a big show of *trying* to pass a lame attempt at replacement, which of course failed, and then he dusted off his hands, declared failure, and moved on.  End of campaign promise!  ObamaCare is now the law of the Republican land — which is the right answer for America.  Of course, ObamaCare is a stinking pile of rotting garbage compared to what Canadians get, or what most every well-off country on the planet offers to their citizens (except Andorra — what is wrong with those people?).  But Americans can't have nice things, so ObamaCare is the best they can do.  And Trump has now announced what amounts to bipartisan support for it.  Such a nice president!

I sometimes wonder whether the ban-on-some-Muslims is a similar trick.  Trump repeated that promise over and over during the campaign because it got such big roars from the crowd, but banning Muslims will not Make America Great Again.  We've tried that before.  Banning Chinese people did not MAGA.  Putting quotas on Catholic immigrants did not MAGA.  Throwing all the Japanese-looking people into concentration camps did not MAGA.  We know this approach doesn't actually help with anything except generating applause at election rallies.  So Trump has twice now issued an "executive proclamation" in which he appears to be trying to keep his campaign promise to ban Muslims, only to be shut down by Conservative judges appointed by President W.  Did Trump know that would happen?  Was the whole Muslim-ban just a feint to get out of a inadvisable campaign promise?

And how about "Mexico will pay for the wall"?  What a great applause line that was!  But it seems pretty clear that Donald has no idea how to make it actually happen.  Somehow he will need to make an attempt, declare failure, and move on.  Might I suggest that the USA buy something for Canada, which then buys something for Mexico, which then buys the wall for the USA?  It's a three amigos gift exchange!  I can't imagine anything else that could possibly work.

Feb. 28th, 2017

02:34 pm - A sensible American view on Fascism

This article by Anis Shivani is very good, but perhaps overlong.  He thinks Trump is more like Mussolini than Hitler; I would like to have also seen some mention of Silvio Berlusconi as an analogue for Trump.

Shivani correctly notes that Donald's policies are not really that much different from W.'s or Barack's, because both (D) and (R) parties subscribe to the neoliberal ideology.  Only the rhetorical flourishes are different, but otherwise the new boss is the same as the old boss.  Obama said he loved DREAMers, but deported 2.5 million of them.  Trump says he hates Mexicans, but deported fewer of them in his first month than Obama did in his.  It is always a mistake to believe what a politician says.

Ralph Nader is mentioned once, but only as an avatar for the uselessness of protest against the neoliberal agenda.  If you're a millennial American, Mr. Shivani says you should move to Canada or Europe (but says that he himself is too old to move).  I disagree slightly, since it seems that Trump is markedly more willing to listen to protests than Bush Jr or Obama were.  Still, the point stands that the rise of American Fascism over the last 30 years will probably continue until the USA loses a war in a big way — and surely you don't want to be drafted for that, so what's the point of hanging around to protest?  Like the Jews from Germany, young liberal Americans should get out while you still can.

"Anis Shivani" is an Muslim name, but Mr. Shivani's bio does not talk about his ethnicity.  He assumes without evidence that Trump will surely start a new war in the Middle East, but this is based on historical trends and possibly unconnected with any personal interest that Shivani might have in that area.  He idly fantasizes about Trump nuking Iran, which I think is mistaking style for substance — but who knows?

Feb. 19th, 2017

04:44 pm - It's always sunny in Trump's America

Recently, the world-famous blogger Pharyngula (who is actually Professor P.Z. Myers of UMinn/Morris) noted that the president was running an online survey, so he asked his minions to screw it up by choosing their answers to "go against the result the poll is engineered to generate".  I generally like Pharyngula, although he is sometimes too willing to conflate "scientifically proven" with "true".  (Newton's laws were scientifically proven for over 300 years, but they were false the entire time.  F = m⋅a is a statement about the universe that you can only "prove" if your equipment isn't very precise.)

So anyway, I clicked on the link to the poll, even though it seems politically incorrect to visit a page that has "DonaldJTrump" right there in its URL.  Oh noes — my address bar is displaying Voldemort's name!  But really, the poll isn't so bad, if you are willing to let the president speak his own icky Republican language.

The poll asks 25 questions, for 13 of which I am able to give the answers that The Donald wanted to evoke.  That's over half!  Maybe this guy isn't so bad.  I suppose it's time for me to bore you with my rundown on his poll.

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In other news, Craig Deare has lost his job at the National Security Council and returned to his previous job of Dean of Administration at the National Defense University (née the National War College).  Deare had to go because he is an expert on Mexico and Trump doesn't want to hear opinions that disagree with his own — and Deare couldn't keep his mouth shut about that, which was fatal.  Now *this* is the Trump Administration that I was expecting!  It doesn't matter that Trump's initial cabinet is the "worstest ever" because many of these people will not last long on the executive payroll.

Current Location: Canada

Nov. 21st, 2016

01:15 pm - People are still really mad about the US election

Wil Wheaton is depressed.  His preferred candidate did not win the election.  That's understandable.  The election told him things he didn't want to know about the people of the country he lives in, so now he is caught in a whirlpool of lies he tells himself that make him feel bad while avoiding the real issues.  Having studied his affliction, he is only too aware that the things he says to himself are not true (such as the climate of Los Angeles, which actually gets an average of 35 rainy days each year) but his self-knowledge that he is in a whirlpool of his own making does not cause the waters to recede.  There are things I could say to him, but they would not make him feel better, so I'll say them here instead.

Star Trek: The Original Series was a fantasy.  It wasn’t *really* an egalitarian paradise, it just *said* it was.  The Federation *said* it came in peace, but Captain Kirk & crew were constantly starting wars with planets whose only real crime was disagreeing with them about the proper philosophy of government.  The Federation were a bunch of self-righteous bullies, much like the Americans of the 1960’s and the Hillary-voters of today.  Sometimes it seemed the only reason the Federation fought with the Klingon Empire was because they were in constant need of some enemy to fight in order to justify their militaristic society; this also seemed to be Hillary’s only reason for picking a fight with Russia.

American presidential elections are morality plays: the lesser-evil candidate wins.  The candidates spend the entire election lying about everything, trying to create the impression that they are evil enough to deserve mega-donations yet somehow good enough to deserve votes.  You can’t believe a word that either of them says about anything.  If you allow yourself to believe the hype, you’ll get a post-election depression even if your preferred candidate wins.  I remember when Barack Obama won, and started doing stuff that did not match his campaign rhetoric.  The phrase “hyperdimensional chess” was briefly popular among Democrats.  You see, Obama must be playing a game in which he pretends to be evil in order to better position himself for doing good things later.  But “later” never came and eventually people realized that Obama is just another corrupt politician like all the others.  I like to think that Barack does actually *want* to do good (such as the ACA), but most of the time he just can’t because of the constant overriding need to suck up to Wall St in order to have any ability to get anything at all done.  The presidency does not have as much independence of action as many people like to think.  Our current president is Black but still life sucks for ordinary Black Americans; the president-elect is a White supremacist but I expect that life will continue to suck for ordinary Whites (though less than Blacks).  We are in year 16 of what will probably be a 20-year global economic recession and there isn’t much that a president can do about that.

I found Hillary’s campaign rhetoric to be extremely offensive.  Donald’s misogyny makes him completely unfit for the presidency, but Bill Clinton’s very similar misogyny was — shut up, don’t talk about my husband!  Hillary’s actions in Ukraine and Syria probably amounted to war crimes, but — Shut Up!  Hillary has NEVER done ANYTHING wrong EVER!!!  Hillary’s adamant refusal to secure her email server showed appallingly bad judgment and probably should result in her being banned from having a security clearance — SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP DONALD IS A POOPY HEAD THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.  But you can’t win an election by telling people to shut up all the time.

Oct. 31st, 2016

05:02 pm - That Hillary-alternate-universe meme

(Brown text = post-election edits.)

It’s been almost six years(!) since the last time I linked to the blog of my American friend and colleague, Dr. J.  Gotta cross-link to your homies to keep our Google rankings up!  Anyway, Dr. J works for the US gov’t, so he may be obligated to write political tracts in support of the incoming Stalinist dictator Constitutionally-limited president.  He published this tract on a Sunday, perhaps to hide the fact (if it is one) that he was required to write it on paid government time.  There is a law against that, but it’s widely ignored like most good-government laws in the USA.

The didactic form that Dr. J chose is the “in an alternate universe, Hillary is actually guilty of something” meme, which isn’t bad as propaganda styles go.  Certainly it is less objectionable than the style chosen by Dr. Phil Plait, who basically starts from the reasonable “Global Warming is the most important issue” and the unreasonable ”politicians do not lie” and somehow manages to conclude that Hillary is the best candidate — even though she is pro-WWIII and Donald is against it and the world wars show up as spikes on the historical temperature chart.  So I guess I could perhaps join in on this fun, although personally I endorse Jill Stein because she tells the fewest lies.

Before we begin, I should note that Dr. J’s piece is actually funny, which is probably more than I can hope to achieve with my own work.  His Churchillian grammar reference is excellent and I found myself agreeing with the imaginary crowd furious at Hillary’s misquote.  It’s “shall not”, I say!  Yet even in an alternate universe, it is still the anti-Hillary forces that are correct.

Alternate Universe № ❰∞,∞,∞,26,∞,0,19,∞̅…❱ (see supernatural numbers, which I don’t actually believe in because ∞ is a figment of the mathematical imagination; Objective Reality probably doesn’t contain any numbers larger than around 10⁸⁵ or so).
      Conceit: In this universe (which we can never locate because its ID number is transfinite), Hillary actually had a legitimate reason to operate her honeypot email server that provided live feeds to Russia and Al Qaeda and Goldman Sachs containing the classified info that she received.
      Resulting difference: Not much, really.  The Espionage Act of 1917 says it applies to everyone, including the president.  It does not offer any exemption for politicians who possess a legitimate national-security reason to burn an agent’s cover; if that action results in another agent’s death then the politician is supposed to get the electric chair.  So Hillary Clinton is basically in the same category as Dick Cheney.
Alternate Universe № 5.2761 (but keeping in mind that fractional numbers which are not ratios might not actually exist; they might instead be mere measurement conveniences arising from the enormous gap between human-sized units and physics-sized ones).
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary actually still has a shred of decency left in her, so she does not make a big deal of Donald’s misogynistic ways.  Because, you know, her husband Bill has done most of the same things — except only Donald dared to talk about it when he knew the mic was on, thus showing that Donald is an idiot.  And Hillary has insisted all along that absolutely nothing Bill has ever done was actually wrong, so therefore (for her) those same things should also not have been wrong when Donald did them.  Donald's contemptible attitude toward women could certainly be criticized by other Democrats (such as Huma Abedin, who divorced her own husband for less) but this would lead to questions about Bill that Hillary doesn't want to hear.
      Resulting difference: None.  It doesn’t matter which acts of muck-raking Hillary decides are beneath her (if any).  Barack Obama has already announced that the winner of the election shall be Hillary.  He has also hinted that if for any reason the vote-counting machines ring up “Donald” as their answer, that could only mean that the machines were hacked by the Russians because the American people do not have permission from their president to vote for Donald.  HeilHillary!  It outta be a crime not to love her!
Alternate Universe № 3141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375110⁴⁹.  (This ratio *might* be the true value of π, if transcendental numbers do not actually exist.  In any event, because our home universe is quantized, there is probably no physical experiment that could ever be performed which would prove that this *isn’t* the true value of π.)
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary is openly working for Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid that wants to RULE THE WORLD by installing its Manchurian candidates as the leaders of all major governments.  None of the policies she espouses on the campaign trail have anything to do with her actual plans for her presidency, which consist of transferring all remaining wealth from Main St to Wall St while waging a causeless war against Russia in order to bring about the Nuclear Apocalypse, thus ensuring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ among the poor bedraggled survivors on a burnt-out planet.
      Resulting difference: Um, there seems to be a technical glitch in our Inter-Universal Counterfactuality gizmo.  Apparently the ID number for this “alternate universe” is actually a synonym of our own.  Anyway, by the Reflexive Property, there cannot be any difference between two universes that differ only in name and not in character.

Sep. 24th, 2016

01:14 am - Absurdist analogy

"Fox News offered former anchor Gretchen Carlson 20 million dollars and an apology after she spent years being sexually harassed by Roger Ailes, who looks like they tried to clone Alfred Hitchcock but the DNA was incomplete so they just filled it in with genetic material from a Basset hound, mashed potatoes, and the mumps, which they then stirred around in a Waffle House toilet after the toilet had just looked at the Ark of the Covenant."

---Chris Hardwick, host of @Midnight


Sep. 7th, 2016

11:35 am - The importance of a hyphen

In this article, Bill Harnsberger states
Number of states with no-texting-while-driving laws: 46
So, in how many states is it a crime to send a text while driving a car?  If you don't notice the hyphen shown in green above (nor the fact that 'laws' is plural), it seems there are 46 states that lack a texting-while-driving law.  With the hyphen, there are only four such states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, and [if you're over age 20] Arkansas).

The h-y-p-h-e-n is a very important punctuation mark!

Jul. 30th, 2016

11:47 am - Politics

I don't believe the polls that say Donald is leading.  The media need to create the illusion of a close race in order to sell their ads.  Actually, a vote for anyone other than Donald (or no vote at all) is a vote for Hillary because she has convinced everyone that the election is rigged in her favour and her coronation is now assured unless something catastrophic happens (such as Hillary spending 100× as much as Donald on TV ads, causing everyone to become sick to death of her and voting for him just as a protest).

But protest votes can be dangerous, as England and Wales discovered recently.  It was widely believed that the Brexit was rigged and the "Leave the EU" side would not be permitted to win, so there was no harm in voting for it as a protest against rigged elections.  But there were so many protest votes that "Leave" actually won — and then, unexpectedly, the government accepted the will of the people.  Something like that seems like the only way Donald could win.

I might be willing to vote for Jill Stein as a protest vote (she's pro-Bernie and not actually anti-vax but just anti-FDA/CDC corruption; also she lives in my boyhood hometown).  But Jill is not on the ballot in New Jersey and probably can't get on it by November because NJ is a party-machine state and the Greens have never won more than a schoolboard seat there.  So I guess I'll let Hillary win by not voting for anyone.

Here in Canada, the Liberals are using the American election as a fund-raiser.  This is perhaps typically-Canadian passive-aggressive behaviour in that if you don't know what's going on, it's not even clear that they're dissing the Yanks with this ad.  I would summarize this as, "You should donate to the Liberals because they don't make Canadians feel embarrassed about their country, unlike *some* parties on this continent!"

The improper use of the "success baby" meme is just icing on the cake.

Jul. 11th, 2016

03:53 pm - A speck of Chinese that actually makes sense

(This post probably won't look like much to shiver_raccoon.)

I don't speak Chinese.  I can't even read it.  One could say that "It's all Greek to me" but actually I find the Greek language considerably easier to read, even though I don't speak that one, either.  Via Unicode and the power of the Internet, I can look up Chinese words in a dictionary — but it is often quite unclear how a word could have ended up with the range of meanings that many Chinese words have.

Recently I was reminded of the concept of the Socialist Harmonious Society (和谐社会), which was a slogan of the Hu Jintao administration (2002-2012).  You see, when a Chinese person says something disharmonious, that utterance needs to be censored for the good of the country.  The people of China do not feel well about their government when they are reminded that it is corrupt and self-dealing, so it would be wrong to remind them of that.  Naturally, it is also wrong to remind people that censorship of news about corruption causes corruption to increase, so online posts about censorship must themselves also be censored in order to construct a Harmonious Society.  (Sort of like Obama's "the country will do well if everyone believes the government's lies about how well the country is doing".)

Without censorship there would be no art, so the Chinese have found various puns and circumlocutions for talking about the fact that there are things they are prohibited from talking about.  The word "河蟹" (river crab) has the same consonants and vowels as "和諧" (harmonious) but different tone, so it doesn't trigger the illegal-word detector (or didn't, for awhile).  If a message is deleted from the Internet in order to promote a harmonious society, you could say that that it "被和谐了" (has been harmonized).  Let's look more closely at that last phrase:

"bedding", "quilt"; (passive-voice marker)
和諧"harmonious", "harmony", "harmonize"
(perfective aspect); (change of state)

So you see, Chinese makes *perfect* sense!  You just take the base-word for ‘harmony’, put a passive-marker in front of it and a perfective-marker after, and voilà — you get the past passive participle for "to have been censored"!  Too bad the rest of the language is so difficult.

Jul. 4th, 2016

03:21 pm - I recommend InstantFox!

InstantFox is an add-on for Firefox that makes its address bar act like Opera's.  Now I can enter the fake URL
      w Boris Johnson
to look him up at Wikipedia, or
      m Wilmot ON
to see Google's map, or
      wk 時刻
to see Wiktionary's definition for this Chinese word.

Doesn't that just brighten your day? 🔆

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