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Practical networking question -
Posit a server and a client. The client is running a set of clients of the server, essentially performance testing the server. In their infinite wisdom, the clients and servers believe that the appropriate way to close TCP sessions is send TCP RSTs in response to the first TCP FIN they get from the other side. Charming, I know. Anyway, netstat is reporting the window size being ratcheted down to zero on a lot of the sessions between the client and server, which is making me wonder if the RSTs are somehow leading to wonky buffer behavior on the other sessions between the two talkers. (I know, this is not an adequately formulated idea, I'm thinking the behavior through, thought I'd see if anyone else had seen something specific, like known reporting behavior of netstat or yeah, the kernel tries to be helpful like that)

On an entirely unrelated note, the correct way to close a TCP session is not to send a RST. That will abort the session, but that's the whole point: it will abort it, and it is expected that the other side will do whatever cleanup it does of an abnormally terminated session. It's like ending all phone conversations with just hanging up on the other party: sure, it works, but it's not good practice.

Open Late

May. 1st, 2010 02:49 am
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Open Late, the sign said.
Food All Night! it announced.
I walked past it, sometimes at 10pm, sometimes at ten-fifteen, when I had to do the wash at the laundromat down the way. That said Open all Night! too, and I always wondered what it was like. Who did their wash at two in the morning? Who said to themselves I've got to clean this up, or it'll set after some late night debauch, on their way home, stopping by the bushes now and then, and hoping it would go away by morning.
But every time I went by the place, it was full, of people laughing, and drinking, and having fun. Making light of the weather, and fun of each other. Spending the time the only way they knew how, the only way they could imagine. And in the morning, all of them gone home, some driving and some staggering, some bringing the drama, and some taking it home with them. Sometimes, I'd see them arguing on the street, sure they knew, but yelling anyway. Some nights they wore blue jeans, some nights they wore black, but I always walked past. I had to be up in the morning, had to get out there, had to make it work, had to keep it together. I'd imagine what it was like, sometimes, girls dressed up, and boys dressed down, some out on the town, some stopping in, just for a bit, on their way home. Before they started the real drinking for the night, before they really settled in and made a space for themselves. Some in the corner, and some out where everyone could see, but all ready for the long haul, and looking to take them away from all of this. None of them thinking about the cat food and the wash to do in the morning, or the checkbook that said the wolf was at the door.
Open Late, it said, and Good Eats!. I wondered what it was like.
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Ok, after five days, thirty-four out of the forty tracks were identified. The theme I was looking for was Back to the Future, [livejournal.com profile] noirrosaleen offered The 50s Recovered which was a very, very good alternative. There were a couple of tracks I was pleasantly surprised that people identified (Mr Sandman), and several I was surprised that no one did (Time Won't Let Me Go, Mercy, I Only Wanna Be With You).

The Scores:
  1. [livejournal.com profile] wrenn - 8.25 (partial for identifying the sample on A5)
  2. [livejournal.com profile] michiexile - 4.5
  3. [livejournal.com profile] noirrosaleen - 4.25 (partial for the theme for the second disc)
  4. [livejournal.com profile] jeffpaulsen - 3.75
  5. [livejournal.com profile] shaix - 3
  6. [livejournal.com profile] trom - 2.75
  7. [livejournal.com profile] kest - 2.25
  8. [livejournal.com profile] ljfwolffe - 2
  9. [livejournal.com profile] hydrolagus - 2
  10. [livejournal.com profile] missionista - 1.25
  11. [livejournal.com profile] ragani - 1
  12. [livejournal.com profile] vvvexation - 1
  13. [livejournal.com profile] memegarden - 1
  14. [livejournal.com profile] joedecker - 1
  15. [livejournal.com profile] plymouth - 1
  16. [livejournal.com profile] polyrhythmic - .75
  17. [livejournal.com profile] mangosteen - .75

More details behind the cut. )
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Almost all the tracks have been identified. Here's a bit more lyric for the one's that haven't been, and notes on who's identified tracks so far.

The first set is a traditional lyric game. I'm looking for the title and the artist. Note: in some cases, the artist I am looking for is not the original performer of the song.
  1. Mr Sandman - Blind Guardian [[livejournal.com profile] kest, [livejournal.com profile] mangosteen for the artist]
      bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum
        bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum
  2. Lollipop - Mika [[livejournal.com profile] shaix]
      Hey, what's the big idea?
        Yo, Mika
  3. They want you
      And your mind
        No, they don't care
          Who they have left behind
  4. She Will Always Be A Broken Girl - She Wants Revenge [[livejournal.com profile] shaix]
      She buys a new dress for the party
        She always looks good in red
  5. - Orbital [artist by [livejournal.com profile] jeffpaulsen, still need a title]
    Let everyone go to his private shelter
      Empty the streets
        There to find the city of the dead
          Let the blessing of the Bomb Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Fallout descend on us all, this day and forever more.
  6. Let Joy And Innocence Prevail - Grace Jones [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      I tell you of a girl, her husband was a soldier
        Gone to war in some strange country far away
  7. Daniel - Bat For Lashes [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      Daniel, when I first saw you
        I knew that you had a flame in your heart
  8. Crazy - Alanis Morissette [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      In a church by the face
        He talks about the people going under
  9. Come drink my wine drink my wine
      If all that has passed your innocent lips is juice and tea and water
        Baby, here's a friendly tip
          Come taste my wine
  10. That's Not My Name - The Ting Tings [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      Four letter word just to get me along
      It's a difficulty and I'm biting on my tongue and uh
  11. Whenever I look back
      On the best days of my life
        I think I saw them all on T.V.
          I am so homesick now for
  12. Human - The Killers [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      I did my best to notice
        When the call came down the line
  13. Just Give 'Em Whiskey - Colourbox [[livejournal.com profile] ljfwolffe]
      The lusty, decadent delights of Imperial Pompeii
        Notify ground crews
          Sex makes your skin glow, your eyes sparkle
            Do you fight?
  14. Sleep Isabella - Abney Park [[livejournal.com profile] plymouth]
      Sleep, Child, Sleep. Sleep, Child, Sleep.
        The daylight is waiting
  15. Bad Romance - Lady GaGa [[livejournal.com profile] michiexile and [livejournal.com profile] shaix]
        Caught in a bad romance
  16. Angel - Massive Attack [[livejournal.com profile] hydrolagus]
      You are my angel
        Come from way above
          To bring me love
            Her eyes

The second list. Still looking for someone to identify the connecting theme, for each song we're looking for the title and the performing artist. You've identified all but three of them so far.
  1. A New England - Billy Bragg [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
        I'll be twenty-two soon, but I won't be for long
  2. Jack & Diane - John Cougar Mellencamp [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      Little ditty about Jack and Diane
        Two American kids growin' up in the heartland
  3. Rock This Town - Stray Cats [[livejournal.com profile] wrenn]
      Well my baby and me went out late Saturday night
        I had my hair piled high and my baby just looks so right
  4. Well, since you told me
      Yes, I'm out-a control
        We're gonna rock this town
          Gonna watch it rattle and roll
  5. She Drives Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals [[livejournal.com profile] jeffpaulsen]
      I can't stop
        The way I feel
          Things you do
            Don't seem real
  6. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
      Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
        Now I love you
          But I gotta stay true
  7. I Only Wanna Be With You - [[livejournal.com profile] noirrosaleen, still looking for an artist]
      I don't know what it is that makes me love you so
        I only know I never want to let you go
          'Cause you started something, can't you see
            That ever since we met you've had a hold on me
  8. Goody Two Shoes - Adam Ant [[livejournal.com profile] ragani]
      With the heartbreak open
        So much you can't hide
          Put on a little makeup, makeup
            Make sure they get your good side, good side
  9. They Don't Know - Tracey Ullman [[livejournal.com profile] missionista]
      You've been around for such a long time now
        Oh maybe I could leave you but I don't know how
          And why should I be lonely every night
            When I can be with you, oh yes, you make it right
  10. My Boyfriend's Back - [[livejournal.com profile] noirrosaleen]
      He been away, you hung around
        Botherin' me every night
  11. You Just Keep Me Hanging On - [[livejournal.com profile] michiexile, still looking for the cover artist]
      Set me free, why don't cha babe
        Get out my life, why don't cha babe
  12. Wonderful World - Sam Cooke [[livejournal.com profile] michiexile]
      Don't know much about history
        Don't know much biology
  13. You Can't Hurry Love - Phil Collins [[livejournal.com profile] ljfwolffe, [livejournal.com profile] polyrhythmic, [livejournal.com profile] trom]
      I need love, love
        Ooh, ease my mind
          And I need to find time
            Someone to call mine
  14. SOS - [[livejournal.com profile] michiexile, still looking for the cover artist]
      Where are those happy days?
        They seem so hard to find.
  15. When you're young and so and love as we
      And bewildered by the world we see
        Why do people hurt us so
          Only those in love would know
  16. There Are Worse Things I Could Do - Stockard Channing [[livejournal.com profile] trom]
      There are worse things I could do,
        than go with a boy or two
          Even though the neighborhood
            thinks I'm trashy, and no good
  17. Needles & Pins - The Ramones [[livejournal.com profile] jeffpaulsen]
      I saw her today, I saw her face
        It was a face I loved, and I knew
          I had to run away
            And get down on my knees and pray
  18. Last Kiss - Pearl Jam [[livejournal.com profile] noirrosaleen]
    Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
      The Lord took her away from me
  19. Downtown - Petula Clark [[livejournal.com profile] kest, [livejournal.com profile] michiexile, [livejournal.com profile] vvvexation got the artist]
      When you're alone and life is making you lonely
        You can always go - Downtown
  20. American Pie - Madonna [[livejournal.com profile] michiexile, [livejournal.com profile] noirrosaleen got the artist]
    A long, long time ago
      I can still remember how that music used to
  21. Long, Cool Woman (in a Black Dress) - The Hollies [[livejournal.com profile] jeffpaulsen, [livejournal.com profile] trom]
      Saturday night I was downtown
        Working for the FBI
          Sitting in a nest of bad men
            Whisky bottles piled high
  22. Fun, Fun, Fun - The Beach Boys [[livejournal.com profile] memegarden]
      Well, she got her daddy's car
        And she cruised through the hamburger stand, now
          Seems she forgot all about the library
            Like she told her old man, now
  23. Skateaway - Dire Straits [[livejournal.com profile] joedecker]
      I seen a girl on a one-way corridor
        Stealing down a wrong-way street
          For all the world like an urban toreador
            She had wheels on her feet
  24. Wake Up, Little Susie - [[livejournal.com profile] kest, still looking for the artist]
      Wake up, little Susie, wake up
        Wake up, little Susie, wake up

Bonus round: One more track
The Bottom Line - Big Audio Dynamite [[livejournal.com profile] hydrolagus]
  The horses are on the stretch
    There's a new dance that's going around
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Been a while, I have two musical puzzlers for you today. I've turned on comment screening, since this is sort of a race (not to be confused with that other Race). Also, the two sets have a completely different character from each other.

The first one is a traditional lyric game. Here are the first two lines of sixteen non-randomly selected songs.
I'm looking for the title and the artist. Note: in some cases, the artist I am looking for is not the original performer of the song.

  1. bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum
      bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum
  2. Hey, what's the big idea?
      Yo, Mika
  3. They want you
      And your mind
  4. She buys a new dress for the party
      She always looks good in red
  5. Let everyone go to his private shelter
      Empty the streets
  6. I tell you of a girl, her husband was a soldier
      Gone to war in some strange country far away
  7. Daniel, when I first saw you
      I knew that you had a flame in your heart
  8. In a church by the face
      He talks about the people going under
  9. Come drink my wine drink my wine
      If all that has passed your innocent lips is juice and tea and water
  10. Four letter word just to get me along
      It's a difficulty and I'm biting on my tongue and uh
  11. Whenever I look back
      On the best days of my life
  12. I did my best to notice
      When the call came down the line
  13. The lusty, decadent delights of Imperial Pompeii
      Notify ground crews
  14. Sleep, Child, Sleep. Sleep, Child, Sleep.
      The daylight is waiting
  15. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh-oh
      Caught in a bad romance
  16. You are my angel
      Come from way above

And now, a slightly different game. Here are the first lines of twenty-four thematically related songs. Several of them are covers; your objective is to identify the theme, the songs, and which cover fits with the rest of the album. (Also, some of them are extremely easy, and some of them are misleading). Also, sorry, but [livejournal.com profile] ladykalessia and [livejournal.com profile] ariyanakylstram helped me put this list together, so they don't get to play.

  1. I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
      I'll be twenty-two soon, but I won't be for long
  2. Little ditty about Jack and Diane
      Two American kids growin' up in the heartland
  3. Well my baby and me went out late Saturday night
      I had my hair piled high and my baby just looks so right
  4. Since you told me
      Yes, I'm out-a control
  5. I can't stop
      The way I feel
  6. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
      Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
  7. I don't know what it is that makes me love you so
      I only know I never want to let you go
  8. With the heartbreak open
      So much you can't hide
  9. You've been around for such a long time now
      Oh maybe I could leave you but I don't know how
  10. He been away, you hung around
      Botherin' me every night
  11. Set me free, why don't cha babe
      Get out my life, why don't cha babe
  12. Don't know much about history
      Don't know much biology
  13. I need love, love
      ooh, ease my mind
  14. Where are those happy days?
      They seem so hard to find.
  15. When you're young and so and love as we
      And bewildered by the world we see
  16. There are worse things I could do,
      than go with a boy or two
  17. I saw her today
      I saw her face
  18. Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
      The Lord took her away from me
  19. When you're alone and life is making you lonely
      You can always go - downtown
  20. A long, long time ago
      I can still remember how that music used to
  21. Saturday night I was downtown
      Working for the FBI
  22. Well, she got her daddy's car
      And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
  23. I seen a girl on a one-way corridor
      Stealing down a wrong-way street
  24. Wake up, little Susie, wake up
      Wake up, little Susie, wake up

Gentlefolk, Start Your Engines!
Ready, Steady, Go!
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Last year, the National Institute of Health did a revamp of their 'Top 10 Medical Myths' site. They were trying to address how they debunk medical myths (things that many people think are true that have been shown to be false) since the way that they've tried to debunk such things in the past is actually counterproductive. The problem is with the way human memory works. We are more likely to remember something that we've heard often, and we are more likely to remember something as being true when we've heard it often, even if what we were told was that someone told us that some popularly held idea had been shown to be false. Basically, telling someone something is true many times in a row raises how many people believe it to be true. Unfortunately, telling someone that something is false many times in a row also raises how many people believe it to be true. It's just a trick of how our memory works.

I've been trying over the last year to more frequently take that into account when I'm writing and talking to people about facts. It's hard. I find myself really wanting to write things like We think that X, Y, and Z are true. Actually, we find that... It's the first way of starting the conversation that comes to mind. And I have to stop myself, because using that structure will lead to people misremembering what I said, and thinking that we find that X, Y, and Z are true. It's really exasperating. And makes debunking myths really hard, because I have to spend most of my time talking about things that are true, and little or none talking about things that aren't.

Now, don't think of an elephant.
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Mylife.com is a find-people-you-know service that evolved out of one of the sites to help you find classmates from long ago. The services they sell are straightforward - forums to chat with your past classmates and fellow alumni, searches to find people you went to school with years ago, some basic messaging, and being able to see who's searching for you.

They are now offering a brand new service - you can search to see who's searching for other people!
They suggest that you might be interested in looking to see who's looking for your spouse, your ex, etc.
Now, as regular readers will know, I'm an eternal optimist who always believes that the world is made of puppies and rainbows, so I have to ask myself..

What could possibly go wrong?

Speculators, start your engines.
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Can anyone direct me to a suitably rocking performance of the Irish traditional, Rambling Rover?
Back in the day, a friend of mine's band did a rock performance of it, but that's long lost on a cassette that I don't want to deal with resurrecting. I've looked on the web a bit, all I can find are very earnest performances, and Boiled in Lead's, which I'm afraid has been dipped in the Punk vat a few too many times. Well, things that are transforms of Gypsy Rover like Steeleye Span's Black Jack Davy, which is the same song with a slightly different spin, but only for neo-trad values of 'same song.' I'm looking for something which has at least as much rock going on as Abney Park's performance of Stretched on My Grave. Well, preferably more. You get the idea. A bit higher energy performance by Kate Rusby would do nicely, I think.

Y'know, something that reminds you that ten thousand orcs are about to come screaming over the hillside, looking to discuss your intentions regarding their sister.
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This month, a round-up of science snacks and some entertaining, nay, whimsical video.

Happy reading, and I'll be back next month with another roundup of interesting thoughts and findings from the outside world. After all, no series of tubes is an island, and no human is just a series of tubes. Well, ok, there's a strong argument that people are just a series of tubes, with some really useful microbes trapped inside. Be that as it may, Science lurches on, and I'll be back to share more interesting things we've learned about the world.
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Last night at dinner we were talking about who played the best Dr Who. I voted for Harrison Ford, of course, but that's probably just because he was the first one I really watched. Shannon argued that it would have been cool to see Pierce Brosnan play the part, but he was busy doing that weird space opera, Star Wars, when they offered him the role. I don't know what anybody ever saw in that film, everybody knows the UK can't do Sci Fi. They can't even do spies right. Remember when they wanted to cast Alec Guinness as James Bond? I'm glad the studio shot that down. It would have been awful, all weird British accents and stuff. And who can top James Garner's performances, anyway?
The only thing British TV has given us in the last fifty years is a good Western - remember Patrick McGoohan playing Paladin? That rocked! I know it's weird, but they just have a gift for the genre.

So which Doctor do you like best? Palance? Shatner? Ford? Greene? Boxleitner? Hasselhoff? Maybe that kid Wheaton?
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The US Treasury would dearly love to get out of the business of printing one dollar bills.
Paper bills don't last very long in circulation, and are relatively expensive to produce.
By contrast, coins last about thirty years in circulation, longer out. No other first world industrialized economy still has a paper bill at the one dollar purchasing point. But getting a practical one dollar coin into circulation has been a real challenge in the US, largely because of the efforts of the american coin operated machine owner's lobby (machine makers would be delighted to sell revamped machines, but machine buyers have been largely unthrilled by the prospect of replacing their existing coin-op machines with new machines that could handle dollar coins). However, that knot was finally cut, by and large, a few years back when the USPS and major US city transit systems started deploying machines that had dollar coin accepters, and the Mint is now in the third year of a ten year program to release four new dollar coins each year with a different US president on the coin. I buy a couple of rolls a month, and mostly use them for tips on small purchases and the like.
But it's been kind of a hassle - my neighborhood banks pretty reliably don't order as many dollar coins as I'd like to buy from them, and I have to go through every so often and figure out which presidential coins I haven't seen that are in circulation.
But now the Mint has come to my rescue! They have a program to ship you boxes of coins, at face value, with free shipping, in quantities of $250, $500, and $1,000 boxes. This has led to frequent-flyer mile-collectors to come up with a lovely hack: Buy large numbers of coins from the Mint, charge them to credit cards that have frequent-flyer mile rewards, then pay the credit card bill immediately... with the coins that the Mint has just mailed them.
This is not precisely what the Mint had in mind. However, I'll bet that it does actually get more of the coins into circulation, between the fact that I'm sure a fair number of people hold onto a few coins from the shipment and actually use them, and it means that more banks have the coins on hand to give out.
But it is a lovely hack.
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As of last count, the expected total cost of federal bank bailouts is... wait for it... $40bn. That's right, $40bn. Close to $800bn was allocated to the effort, about half of which has actually been lent so far, but it looks like the actual cost to the federal Treasury, including all of the capital injections (those are loans) into AIG ($180 bn) and the auto industry ($40bn), will be pleasantly small change. I would say surprisingly, except for the fact that this was what a number of economists led us to expect, so it's not particularly accurate to call it a surprise. Essentially all of that $40bn loss, by the way, comes from losses incurred by AIG and the auto industry - the loans to banks are making a small profit, and the Treasury expects that to continue to do so until the Treasury can get back out of the business of loaning money to banks to keep them from failing.

We're not out of the woods by any stretch, though. Unemployment is still at a level not seen since the early thirties. And an awful lot of it is structural, not cyclic - we just don't need as many people building houses in Las Vegas as we had from 2000 to 2005. There aren't enough people there to live in them, and if people move there, there isn't enough water there for them to drink, and if they build the water infrastructure, there's still no work there other than, well, building houses. Which is a problem. If it were a less fundamentally expensive place to live, that could be finessed, but deserts are not cheap places to make habitable. And the problem for the broader economy is that it's going to take a while for organic economic growth to figure out profitable ways to use all of those out of work people and create new jobs for them to take on. That might happen faster with some sort of jobs stimulus effort, but that's difficult - let's say we go fund a large number of new civil infrastructure projects. Then we would have a bunch of repaired infrastructure (which is very good - too many of our roads and bridges and long-haul electrical and water transmission systems are in very poor shape), but if we're actually delivering noticeable numbers of jobs by backing those infrastructure projects, then once they're completed, we still have a bunch of people out of work who were working on infrastructure projects up until the time they finished them. So federal infrastructure spending can move the too-many-workers-in-an-industry problem around (in time), but it can't actually solve it. Which makes effective stimulus tricky. Worse yet, people in a contracting industry tend not to leave it as fast if the industry is being actively propped up - after all, they can see that the jobs situation near them is awful, and assume that it can't possibly be any better anywhere else, so they hold on to their job for dear life. And once the industry has government support, more people try to go into it, which leads to even more people spending their lives doing things that aren't actually profitable. Ugh. Which is a lot of how the federal government ends up subsidizing dying industries for decades.

Besides the first world jobs situation (this is not just a US problem, by any means), there's another problem still out there looking for a place to roost. The US Fed, and other central banks around the world, have dropped interest rates to extremely low levels in our attempts to avoid a much more serious Depression. This effort seems to have been successful - those unemployment levels not seen since the early 30s are still much, much better than they were in the early 30s, and we are not today causing the same kind of mass hunger and homelessness problems that we had then. (That may not be so much comfort if you or yours have been involuntarily out of work for months and are not seeing many options, but it really is much, much better - the worse things are for everyone else, the harder it is to climb back out for the folks who have really, really lost). But at some point rates will need to start climbing back to more normal levels if we want to avoid another bubble like the housing bubble that just crashed. But raising interest rates will also slow the pace at which job growth is expanding, which doesn't make anyone particularly happy, either. The US Fed is currently signaling that 2010 is probably when they will start to raise rates.

But next time someone starts talking to you about the US pissing $700bn away to keep banks afloat? They're wrong. Wildly wrong. The US loaned banks, the auto industry, and the largest insurer in the world close to a trillion to keep cash being a useful commodity. And, so far, is getting almost all of that back. That is pretty damned impressive.
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I can not begin to describe how cool this is.
No, really.
Go tickle every steampunk bone in your body, and contemplate building a Lego Difference Engine.
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Today's Subject might reasonably be Everything you know is Wrong, because I've got a lot of articles to share talking about things we know that just ain't so.

Iran continues to have a revolution in very slow motion. (Aside: in historical terms, I don't believe that this is especially slow motion. Our generation has watched the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of the Internet, and we expect to see things happen in real-time, and that's not how things actually happen; each of those events, which seemed to happen very, very quickly, was the culmination of decades of underlying internal shifts in the countries involved. The Fall of the Berlin Wall didn't cause the collapse of the GDR, the Fall of the Wall was the final evidence that the GDR had collapsed) A recent article in the NYTimes looks at the current state of play, and strongly suggests that the Green Movement missed a chance to simply overthrow the regime back in June. Josh Shahryar, who writes The Green Brief and has been doing excellent work gathering together ongoing reports of what's going on in the country as the Western Press has been thrown out and the domestic opposition press has been shut down, has written a response to the NYTimes article, and it's very, very good.

The notion that US Manufacturing has collapsed as production has been outsourced to China, India, Eastern Europe, and the Third World generally seems to have been thoroughly absorbed into the national zeitgeist, whether you're on the right, the left, or a small furry green creature from Alpha Centauri. The thing of it is, it isn't true. The US manufactures four times what China does, and the US' share of global manufacturing exceeds the total of China, India, Brazil, and Russia combined. And while the US lost 2.6 million manufacturing jobs between 1996 and 2004, China lost 25 million. I suppose in some sense that means that they've endured less pain, because they've got twenty times as many people, but they've only lost ten times as many jobs. But that's a very strange way to look at it.

There are new studies showing that, in at least some sorts of cases, primates learn better from success than from failure. So much for that old adage.

Some of you know that I am fond of rotating restaurants. I had been under the impression that these are a modern innovation. Apparently I'm wrong. It seems that Nero had one, part of his Golden Palace, overlooking Rome from the Palatine Hill. The main banquet room had a diameter of more than 16 meters, and rested on a water-powered mechanism that rotated it continuously.

Transit is always greener than private vehicles. Well, actually, if you're in the US, not necessarily, because we're really, really bad at it. Also, an awful lot of our cities, like San Francisco, are in a nasty sour spot where we try to make up for not having the urban density to reasonably pay for transit by cutting the schedules and speed of the transit system enough that it's only sometimes useful. San Jose is worse. Although Portland is pretty cool.

Some people are just born lucky. Well, actually, not exactly. A lot of the things we call Luck are the result of how people look at and interact with the world. But that's not the cool thing, some of us have claimed that all of our adult lives.The cool thing is that there's now research showing that it's a trainable skill.

Microsoft has one of the larger research organizations in the Computing industry, and employs a substantial fraction of all programmers in the industry. This means that, should they choose to do so, they have the ability to collect more hard research data on the actual process of creating software than, well, most other players. Among other interesting things, they now have hard data showing how effective broadly distributed teams perform compared against teams working closely together in the same building. As you've probably guessed by now, the real predictor of success is not is the team geographically distributed or do they all see each other every day. This will not be a surprise to some software developers.

While we're on the subject of software, another standing question is How much does it cost to make software more secure? Well, it all depends on what your required standard of software quality is. Essentially, the fewer defects you're willing to release with, the lower the cost to improve the security of you're software. It's not quite fair to include this one, I've been telling people for close to a decade that most of the things you do to make software secure are the things that you do to make software reliable, it's nice to see corroboration from the outside world.

And now for something completely different. In 1943, Jack Warner (y'know, the guy who imprisoned Yakko, Wakko, and Dot) was asked by the US Government to make a Pro-Stalin propaganda film to be shown to the American public. The result was a strange thing called Mission to Moscow, which got a lot of people involved into a lot of trouble when HUAC rolled around, even though the film was not a commercial success and was not that widely viewed. Hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] shoutingboy for the link to the NY Post article on the film, where I learned about it. Very wacky.

While we're on the subject of film, Philippe Petit, the man who did a 45-minute tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974, when they were still under construction and only partially open, is currently on a screening tour, showing the 2008 film Man on Wire, an amazing documentary about the feat. The film itself was constructed using footage taken by his friends in the early seventies, while they were planning and performing the stunt, and combining it with modern interviews and reconstructions. I particularly want [livejournal.com profile] ariyanakylstram and [livejournal.com profile] vito_excalibur to see it - it's stunning. The walk was not remotely sanctioned by the Port Authority or the City &emdash; after his walk, the NYPD thrashed for a bit, trying to decide what to do with him. Ultimately, they sent him for psychiatric testing, and eventually dropped the charges and gave him permanent visitor access to the observation deck. Although they did choose to deport some other members of his team. But it was an amazing feat, and an amazing film. Sadly, I didn't find out about the screening tour until too late to get to yesterday's showing in Napa.

I've posted before about how appallingly bad eyewitness accounts are, and that we're beginning to learn how to fake DNA evidence. Science marches on, however, and now we're learning how to implant falsified memories in fruitflies. For Science!

The Pew Research folks have been looking into the impact of Internet use on the American public, particularly things like social isolation and the effects of social networking. As may not be entirely surprising to this audience, being involved online leads people to have more diverse social networks, with more connections across class, race, and political divides.

Nate Silver, the statistician who runs FiveThirtyEight.com, has a nice article up on 15 questions to ask to gut-check predictions of close elections. Tasty stuff for helping you figure out what those conflicting poll numbers mean.

The Office is not one of the most pleasant pieces of Anglo-American television, but a lot of people find it riotously funny. Here is an interesting article about the underlying arguments the show makes about Corporate heirarchy.

Carville's Democracy Corps has been running focus groups of Conservatives, asking them what they think about the government and the state of the union. Conservative Republicans feel very, very alone. I won't comment further, beyond observing that it's extremely interesting reading.

Finally, I'd like to give this year's Mechanical Turk award to the folks over at Galaxy Zoo, who have an online site where visitors categorize astronomical images to identify what sort of astronomical features are shown in the image. They're trying to categorize the more than a quarter million galaxy images that have been collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and humans are a lot better at doing this than computers are. Go check it out, and consider spending a few minutes of your time helping classify a galaxy or five.
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There've been a lot of interesting articles in the last month that I've been meaning to share.

Science Snack: Men and Women have very different levels of emotional perceptiveness.. until you pay them for it

Social Science Snack: There's been a bit of recent research that suggests that financial opportunity in the US is becoming more stratified. However, folks at UMass have been looking into how (and how reliably) economic success (and failure!) is transmitted from generation to generation, and conclude that where you come from matters more than we would like for it to, observe that earlier studies over-stated how much opportunity there was, and also note that a goodly chunk of how your parents' level of wealth is transmitted to you is the result of them successfully transmitting the skills required to become wealthy. Also, being smart helps, but much less than people tend to expect. Lots of stat in this paper, it's a challenge to read if your math is weak. However, they have rafts of good citations to existing literature in the field (for example, it's apparently well-documented that believing that your employer will drop you like a hot rock given half a chance is corrosive to your success in the job market, evet it happens to be true that they will. Yow!)

Economics Snack: India has been running experiments with using teacher incentive payments to improve student performance. It appears to work, and furthermore appears to work in ways that suggest that it should work in the first world as well. That's very cool. Here's a detailed article over at Marginal Revolution, with links to the relevant paper.

Another Economics Snack from Marginal Revolution: Expecting to be poor in the future leads you to do things that keep you poor. Who knew?

(Aside: I'm trying not to include US Healthcare-related articles, because I've been saving up for a Big Post About Healthcare. So that's why you're not seeing me talk about it)

Art and Design Snack: A lovely interview with the industrial artist who designed the original Apple ][ logo, giving us the first six-color computing empire in Silicon Valley.

Engineering Snack: A long Ars Technica article discussing what Moore's Law means, and, more importantly, doesn't.

Computing Snack: A long and extremely thorough discussion of the changes in the newest version of Mac OS, Snow Leopard, also from Ars Technica. Probably completely disinteresting if you're not an application developer or systems programmer. Hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] netik for originally tweeting about this one. Although, of course, when I'd forgotten where the article was and was trying to come up with the right search terms to use to find it again, a random in a coffee shop told me where to look (he'd noticed I'd already upgraded to 10.6, and was commending my bravery).

Software Development Management Snack: Paul Graham on how managers use their time versus how programmers use their time. Nothing new here, per se, but useful vocabulary for talking about our daily lives in the world of software development.

Old Media Snack: Nice Newspaper Industry you've got there. Pity its business model is toast. Quick reminder: from the perspective of a newspaper, Readers are Product Inventory - they're what the newspaper sells, to advertisers, and virtually all large newspapers today depend on that advertising revenue as their primary stream of income, swamping anything they might make from subscriptions. Journalism isn't dead in the first world, but Newspapers (in particular) are having to learn right quick the lessons they've declined to learn over the last three decades, while people were telling them repeatedly that New Media was coming, and it would eat their lunch if they didn't do something about their business model.

Web-Comic Snack: Now, now, picking on formula genre writers is cheap pickings. But it's still fun! Or, at least, it's funny because it's so close to being true. And, hey, if that's not enough for you, they shoot a well-deserved shot over Lipton's bow as well.

Medical Snack: HPV appears to be a serious cause of lung cancer, likely second only to smoking. No, really, HPV vaccination is a very, very, very good thing.

Politics Snack: This one's a two-parter. First, Barney Frank shows how not to smack down a looney constituent, losing his cool with a Larouche supporter at a 'Town Meeting' in Massachusetts. Second, Al Franken shows how to do it right, in fact, favorably interacting with a mob of teabaggers standing around him at a state fair. Right here is a word which means advances the discussion, rather than makes partisans feel good about it. Yes, I know, some of you absolutely love the first one. It's still really bad sound-bite.

Drama Snack: Back in 1982, the British director John Barton did a 27-part series for the BBC on performing Shakespeare. The Beeb has recently released the series on video, here's a discussion of how and why it's lovely. Or, you could just take my word for it and order it.

Healthcare Snack: Ok, here's just one. One of the suggestions being bandied around toward reducing the egregious amounts of money the US spends on health care is to make changes to medical malpractice and tort laws, so that doctors don't have to spend as much money insuring themselves against malpractice suits, and don't have to perform defensive procedures that they believe are medically irrelevant, but which will help defend them against a malpractice suit should one occur. This sounds really appealing, given how much doctors pay on malpractice insurance, and how frequently they are spuriously sued - if you're an OB/GYN who performs births, you're going to be sued by someone about every year and a half, and you will win almost all of those lawsuits. There's only one problem - changing malpractice and tort laws wouldn't save enough around to make a difference - Harvard Economists went looking in 2005, and determined that the US only spends about $12 per person per year on medical malpractice payouts, which isn't even noise in the system. Much more data and conversation here.

Strange Bedfellows Snack: Ted Olson, the attorney who argued Bush v. Gore in 2000, ultimately leading to the US Supreme Court seating President George W Bush, is suing the state of California over Proposition 8, which made gay marriage explicitly illegal in California. He's holds that defending gay marriage is a fundamentally conservative position, and that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional at its core. Here's an excellent article from the New York Times explaining why.

Crime / Science Snack: I've been waiting for people to start faking DNA evidence. It appears that a team of researchers have demonstrated that it's possible to do so. Whee! Oh, in unrelated news, eyewitness testimony is awful and juries are pretty dubious to being with, faked video will lead people to misremember events they observed, and we now have the strongest case since 1976 of a US state putting an innocent man to death for a crime that didn't happen. I'll say that last again - not a crime that the man did not commit, but a crime that didn't actually occur. Ah, the foibles of the criminal justice system. It's enough to make someone believe strongly in limitations on government powers in the arena of criminal justice.

Zombie Snack: Is this really your plan? Spend your whole life locked inside a mall? These brains rock... Let's Eat 'Em! [Note: NSFW audio. Also, comic undead violence, and abby normal behavior]

Start-up Snack: Apparently it normally takes 8-10 years for even the most successful new technology companies to really become moon-shots. Gosh, who new?

Another Start-up Snack: Raising Capital is just like Dating. And not in a good way.

Technology History Snack: The Secret History of Silicon Valley. When two funding agents like the same baby company very much...

That's all for now. With luck, some of these will enlighten and entertain you.
What do you want? Information.
  You won't get it!
    By hook or by crook, we will
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Some of the lovely things I've happened over in the last while:

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Interesting things worth sharing, found since the last one of these...

Time Wastes Too Fast, a photo essay from the NYTimes.

So, these people sell kits to make bags, shaped like polyhedra dice. They also post the directions, so you can make 'em yourself, if you want to, instead of buying the kit from them. Brilliant!

Jimmy Carter, past President and Deacon, leaves the Southern Baptist Church, because the Church formally declares Women secondary to Men

The Apollo 11 Lunar Lander software (the code that actually ran the module that made the landing) is readily available. So some enterprising folks have written a simulator to run it. So you can have your very own moon-landing sim. Or, if you're a bit more ambitious, your very own lander. (Although, frankly, you wouldn't want to even use a simulated version of the guidance computer in any modern equipment)

An excellent article on both the history of Moore's Law, and comparing it to advances in other fields. This was particularly interesting to me, because I've been thinking and talking about Moore's Law a lot recently, as a side effect of reading Stross.

Pardon me, do you have a flag?
A lovely collection of flags of countries and empires that are no longer with us.

What Brave New World we live in? Blogger Guy gets involved with a new girl, blogs about it, gets contacted by other people who know her, who tell him that she is scamming him. Public outing ensues.

An amazing essay on being a working photographer in dangerous places like war zones. Stunning pictures to go with the advice.

A TED talk (because you knew that there was going to be one in here) by John Doerr, on Green Tech and Climate Change. He also goes into detail about what Walmart has been doing to change their energy footprint, and what sort of impact they have. He also talks a lot about why going green is economically beneficial for an economy.

The DOE commissioned Lawrence Livermore to analyze how much Energy production in the US is wasted - that is, just plain lost. It's a bit more than half. That's a very interesting number, and a very optimistic number, and I'll want to talk about it more in another post.

While we're on the subject of climate, here's a Texas A & M paper on efficiently using water in your home landscaping. Go Tamu.

The NYTimes reports on Dow Chemical's work on Algae-based fuels. This won't repeal third law any time soon, but cooking CO2 back into liquid fuel is awfully appealing. Although, interestingly, Dow is reported to be much more interested in being able to make CO2-based plastics, and cut the use of long-chain hydrocarbons out of the plastic cycle. Which is very, very, very sexy.

This is from a couple of months ago, file under the public treats censorship as damage and routes around it, a teenager started a lending library of banned books from her locker. When she ran out of space, she hijacked the empty locker next to hers.

Do I take District or the Circle line to get from Hamlet to Macbeth? A map of the primary characters in the works of Shakespeare, presented as an Underground map. Brought to you by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Although I have a bit of a quibble with some of their applications of the iconography, I don't think they used connected stations properly in all the cases.

A lovely parable of Economics.

It's 2009. Do you know where your code from 40 years ago is? A brief history of the modern work to recover the earliest versions of the source code to Unix and the first C compiler.

An extremely interesting discussion of the definitions of marriage in different parts of the ancient world, notably Rome, Classical Greece, and pre-Roman Celtic traditions.

And finally, some purely amusing bits -

The Doctor Who credits, a la Dallas.

I found your ring...
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Race for the Galaxy has recently become my favorite portable game. It's very easy to carry a set around, plays quickly, can be easily walked away from, and is complex enough to be interesting without being so complex that it's impenetrable.

I recently went looking for the Faq, to confirm that I was playing a particular rule correctly, and stumbled over a very interesting set of blog posts - one player's strategy guide, based on playing several hundred games.

  1. Race for the Galaxy Strategy - A Preface
  2. Strategy Fundamentals, Part 1
  3. Stages of the game
  4. Some additional terminology
  5. Card Flow and Discounts
  6. Thoughts on Phase Selection
  7. Cards that change the Game
  8. The Second Tier of cards
  9. The Race for the Galaxy Strategy mind-map

I assume that there are more articles coming in the series, but it's quite good so far.
Now if someone would only implement an online version of Race, we'll be set...
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I follow a number of Econ blogs with some dedication, among them Robert Reich's. He recently did a three part series on the future of Manufacturing, GM, and the American Industrial Worker. Many of the reader comments are... less than fully grounded in anything resembling sense, but his core articles are excellent. In very short, the government-backed restructuring of GM is intended to slow the process of GM's failure enough that not all of the industrial economy of the upper Midwest crashes at the same time. Also, trade is still better than protectionism, even if you're an American industrial worker in an industry that is finally paying the price of spending decades paying increasingly higher effective wages while building products that are further and further divorced from you customer's needs.

Without further ado,

Also, while we're discussing the automotive industry, Nate Silver over at Five Thirty Eight recently wrote two pieces on Cap & Trade and on getting people to use market pricing strategies to address tragedies of the commons and the like. They are excellent.
  • Carbon Taxes vs Cap and Trade - Side Note: I have a slight preference for Cap & Trade over Carbon Taxes as such, because I expect that Cap & Trade will create more of a profit opportunity for people to create carbon control strategies (not only will the gov't stop fining polluters, but now people become abole to affirmatively make money by reducing corporate and industrial emissions. That should lead to a lot of reduction of waste carbon emissions over the couse of the next while. Also, a Carbon Tax would unite all of the opponents to a Tax regime on the same side (against the levyers of the Tax) as each other, whereas a Cap & Trade system should put the different players in opposition to each other, which should keep everyone a bit more honest, and reduces the (inevitable) risk of regulatory capture. So while Carbon Tax and Cap & Trade may be economically effectively interchangeable, I expect them not to be politically interchangeable, because Cap & Trade is more politically palatable over the longer haul.
  • Overcoming distributional objections to greater reliance on market pricing - Or, how to solve the political problem that there are many things in the world which we would like to reduce, raising their prices is an efficient way to reduce things in many cases, but raising the price of basic ommodities makes a lot of poor peoples' lives suck. We would like to use market pricing strategies to more efficiently solve problems that are otherwise difficult to tackle (see the Cap & Trade article above), particularly if we can do it without actively screwing everyone at the bottom of the food chain.
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