2/21/2018

Designed for War

Next time someone declares that your modern modular rifle system is a "weapon of war" that has no place in civilian hands, remind them of this:  the internet as we know it is the evolutionary offspring of the "web" that connected national computer centers to improve survivability in the event of a nuclear event taking out some of the nodes.  "The US Department of Defense awarded contracts as early as the 1960s, including for the development of the ARPANET project." (cite)

The web itself -- the INTERNET! -- was designed for war. What possible use could it serve in uncontrolled civilian hands? 

Besides, the old dead white guys that wrote the U. S.  Constitution never foresaw telegraphs and ARPANETs and internets and computers and tablets and iPhones... any more than they foresaw lever action carbines and turnbolt rifles and AR-15s.

(Yeah, but those guys were rich racists or whatever.  Or something.  Good night.)

12/30/2017

Limericking

There is a reference in Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night to the man from Thermopylae who never did anything properly.  [Please remember this is Oxford, in order to be able to pronounce it proppalee!]

The original is attributed to Edward Lear; it was documented by one of his cartoons in 1872:

"There was an old man of Thermopylae,
Who never did anything properly;
But they said, "If you choose to boil eggs in your shoes,
You shall never remain in Thermopylae."

But I object to the repetition of Thermopylae.  Not a kosher Limerick.  Needs to be corrected:

There was an old man of Thermopylae,
Who never did anything properly;
But he said, "If I choose to boil eggs in my shoes,
For the method I'll have a monopoly.

There.  Much better.

11/20/2017

Political Bon Mots

In 1860 Joseph de Maistre wrote, "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite."  That usually gets translated as, "Every nation gets the government it deserves." 

I guess that in the case of a republic or democracy, that is true in a general and wholesale sort of way.

Surely the vast majority of the people of Russia and its satellites did not deserve Stalinist socialism, though...

And in that same red light, the people of California really don't deserve the Jerry Brown et al. version of Stalinist socialism. 

So the problem is not that the whole state gets the government that the whole state deserves, but that I, Crowndot, get the government that my neighbors deserve. 

10/25/2017

Thinking back

For perspective:
When I was born the President of the United States was Dwight David Eisenhower; the Vice President was Richard M. Nixon. 
When I was born the United States flag had 48 stars.
When I was born Fulgencio Batista was president of Cuba.
I watched the Moon Landing LIVE on TV. 
My first “word processor” was a manual Smith Corona typewriter. 
My first computer was an Osborne.
My first “real” job included producing custom reports by hacking COBOL code. On a Burroughs B20 and a keyboard that had the function buttons on the left.
I have made archival copies of computer files on 5-1/4″ floppies, 3-1/2″ floppies, 1/4″ tape drives, CDs, DVDs, thumb drives from 256Kb to 128 Gb, SSDs, and “cloud.”
The “don’t be evil” might have ended when Google bought  Deja News.

9/27/2017

Wet chemical photo processing

Digital pictures put an end to the ubiquitous film processing kiosks and strip mall stores.  Now smartphones are doing away with digital cameras ("experts say"). While contemplating the vagaries of why I never have my camera when my 5 megapixel phone camera won't do, I remembered the heyday of Fotomat.

They weren't all bulldozed.  And the Libyans didn't plow into all of them, either.  Some have new life as caffeine filling stations. 



That means these sites are still doing a form of wet process chemical alchemy, after all.

9/20/2017

Machine Shop Drama

Scene: My office.

Employee: The flap wheel on the big pedestal grinder is no good.

Me: Ooh. Did it disintegrate on you?

Employee: No. There's no grit on it.

Me: No grit on it?

Employee: Just cloth. No Grit.

Me:  Let's go look.

Scene: At the pedestal grinder.

Me: Okay, here's what I need you to do.  Take the flap wheel off and bring it to me in my office.

Employee: Okay.  Do we have a good one?

Me: Just bring it to me in my office.

Scene:  Later, my office.

Employee: Um.

Me: You have the bad flap wheel?

Employee: Um, it was installed backwards.

Me: Ya THINK?!

- - - -

If you spin it the wrong way, all that hits the work is the BACK of the sandpaper! Stop Everything! The System Has Encountered An Unexpected Error!




I do this.  Every. Single. Day.

9/15/2017

The Veneerings of 2017

Samuel Biagetti has an undergraduate degree from Brown; a PhD. in History from Columbia; is a "Museum Scholar" at the Museum of the City of New York; is currently a lecturer at Barnard College; has a podcast -- "Historiansplaining: A Historian Tells You Why Everything You Know Is Wrong;" and has read his Dickens carefully.  (That's a lot to know about someone I don't really know. Life in the 21st Century.)  Mr. Biagetti wrote an article I bumped into online.  His article starts out with the Veneerings -- the young affluent couple in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend -- then creates a hypothetical couple as a 21st Century correlate to the Veneerings.

That class has not disappeared, but has grown and evolved into the white-collar professional and managerial elite that sets the general tone of political and intellectual life in the West.
Suppose for the moment that our young couple of today, roughly parallel to the Veneerings (we will call them, in accordance with the forced informality of modern workplaces, by their first names), Jennifer and Jason, are members of the upper middle class, living off their smarts and social connections rather than manual work.

[If you have time for long format text, you might try to read the whole enjoyable article.]

In the 152 years since Our Mutual Friend, the class has not only evolved away from a certain method of elaborate dining, but also from the furniture that named the shallow socialites in the novel.

Let us further entertain the idea that in our time as in Dickens’, life imitates furniture, and that we will learn something about our young couple if we consider where they house their underwear. If we picture Jennifer and Jason’s bedroom, it is not hard to guess what we would see there: a good deal of IKEA. 

A consideration of the deeper meaning of Particle Board follows. Then the Solid Gold Quote:

For Jennifer and Jason, cuisines, musical styles, meditative practices, and other long-developed customs are not threads in a comprehensive or enduring way of life, but accessories like cheap sunglasses, to be casually picked up and discarded from day to day. Unmoored, undefined, and unaware of any other way of being, Jennifer and Jason are no one. They are the living equivalents of the particle board that makes up the IKEA dressers and IKEA nightstands next to their IKEA beds. In short, they are IKEA humans.

IKEA Humans.  Wow.  Not just shallow veneer.  A relatively disoriented syncretism of post-post-modern lifestyle, fashion, art, music, everything covered with the thinnest possible suggestion of grain. It gets darker:

The truth is that one cannot escape being an IKEA human, any more than an IKEA dresser can change what it is. The question is only what one makes of the situation. . . .
The most venal and self-centered rise to the top; sociopaths are champions. The IKEA personality — cheeky, smug, and capricious, concealing a narcissistic quest for status —is the best adapted to the times.
Then comes the seminar question: "Can the trend reverse?"  This is at about halfway through the article. What follows is some liberal soul-searching and "historiansplaining" that develops unfortunately nothing more than an IKEA conclusion:

. . . A strong and enduring civilization requires citizens willing to state their core principles and to argue openly for their vision of the good society. That entails a frank and honest contest over how power and resources should be allocated in our world. Some, of course, will opt to pursue naked self-interest – in which case, let them be unmasked for all to see. The rest of us must aspire to be citizens before we can then claim to be fully human.

The end.  Hmm.  I wonder what that means?

I'm afraid that beneath it all, the second half of the article decodes as the lament of a sad liberal who realizes he is spiritually IKEA in spite of the fact that apparently he is co-owner of a high-end antiques retail establishment.  But at least there is a pro-free-speech pitch there in the "to state their core principles and to argue openly" part.  But the idea that self-interest is somehow the evil that will be unmasked gives away the hopelessly up-ended nature of the world view. I'm pretty sure the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution saw the ideal of self-governance as being worked out by fully-human individuals and for the benefit of individuals, not for the benefit of "society" much less a "vision of the good society."  I hope I am not being overly libertarian at the same time that I hope I am not being insufficiently subsidiarist when I say that Biagetti has it upside-down somehow.  The individual who is integrally human is the key to good in society.  (Grace makes it easier.)

But I liked the IKEA People image.