On a Program’s Scope

“Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.” Coined by Jamie Zawinski (who called it the “Law of Software Envelopment”) to express his belief that all truly useful programs experience pressure to evolve into toolkits and application platforms (the mailer thing, he says, is just a side effect of that). It is commonly cited, though with widely varying degrees of accuracy.

Zawinski’s Law

The Chrome Dino

Here’s a fairly recent (Dec 2018) interview with the creators of chrome://dino. It was called Project Bolan (which I had to look up), had 270M games played every month1, with most users coming “from markets with unreliable or expensive mobile data, like India, Brazil, Mexico, or Indonesia” and took quite a bit of development to work on all platforms.

We built it to max out at approximately 17 million years, the same amount of time that the T-rex was alive on Earth… but we feel like your spacebar may not be the same afterwards.

  1. I suppose they know this thanks to the “I agree to everything” button one clicks while installing Chrome… ↩︎

“The Water’s So Great That It Won Awards”

Was discussing water quality in Des Moines with DL. Told her that our city couldn’t hold a candle to Ames, that their water was the “cleanest around.” Wanted to prove this but couldn’t find the 2014 viral hit “Hooray for Ames” video anywhere on the internet. GN, blessed datahoarder that he is, luckily had a copy ❤️🚰

Whatever. 🤘 Go Hawks 🤘

Good Old Iowan Common Sense

As of the 4th of February 2021, and under its Governor’s wise, prescient, expert and data-driven leadership, Iowa ranks 47th in the nation for the number of vaccines administered 💯

Iowa has received 446,825 doses of vaccine and has administered 266,777 doses, or just under 60% of vaccines received, the CDC reported Thursday. The state has the sixth-lowest rate of administered vaccine per capita in the nation.

“We’re averaging about 60% in getting the vaccines administered and that’s not where we need to be,” Reynolds said. “We want to do better. We know we can do better.”

AP, “Iowa’s vaccination rate is 47th in the US

We certainly can. The number of COVID-related deaths in Iowa stood at 5,033 as of this date. The very next day, our fearless Governor signed a Public Health Disaster proclamation that, compared to its predecessor, ended mask mandates and removed all limits on public gatherings.

In time for the Super Bowl, of course.

All of these relaxations at this stage of the pandemic make about as much sense as wearing underwear constructed out of nails and thumbtacks. If anything, Iowa should be enhancing precautions during the next several weeks, as long as the colder temperatures and drier air may be driving greater transmission of the virus. What is the scientific justification for what Reynolds has declared in the emergency declaration? It’s unclear. Seems like someone may owe Iowa an explanation.

Bruce Y. Lee, “#CovidKim Trends After Iowa Governor Reynolds Lifts Covid-19 Coronavirus Precautions

Other the the usual bullshit conservative pabulum about freedom and small businesses and bootstraps and moochers and handouts, I don’t expect any explanation that makes sense.

On A Good Burrito

I remember the very first burrito I had in the Mission District in San Francisco. My friend warned me that it would be “around the size of your forearm” and that, if I tried to finish it in a single sitting, I would be an idiot. It was, I did, I am 🙏

i do not fuck with any burrito without heft. if your shit is convenient and portable, take it elsewhere. i want a burrito that is burdensome. unwieldy. when i raise it to my mouth, i should feel the weight of the mistake i am about to make. no child should be able to eat this.

if your burrito doesn’t make me hate myself both physically and spiritually, what’s the point? grow up. don’t waste my time.

@mnateshyamalan

On Space Lasers

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

Jean-Paul Sartre, “Anti-Semite and Jew

The Dracula Parrot

Also known as Pesquet’s parrot or the vulturine parrot.

The Dracula parrot is a large, heavy bird, stretching to almost half a metre from beak to tail and weighing in at almost a kilogram. It maintains all that bulk by feeding almost exclusively on figs, which researchers suspect is why it ended up with its strange semi-bald head.

Just as vultures lost the feathers on their head as an adaptation for feeding on bloody carcasses, it’s thought that the Dracula parrot did the same in response to its diet of sticky fruits – the lack of feathers around its beak and eyes mean it’s able to avoid turning its face into a matted mess.

It’s such a perfect solution to the parrot’s syrupy diet that Matt Cameron, an Australian parrot expert, asks, “If avoiding soiled and matted head feathers is a significant advantage to individuals, it is surprising that bald-headedness is not more widespread among the other fruit-eating parrots.”

Bec Crew, “The Dracula parrot is intimidating”, Australian Geographic

via Deepu.

On Consciousness

It is remarkable that mind enters into our awareness of nature on two separate levels. At the highest level, the level of human consciousness, our minds are somehow directly aware of the complicated flow of electrical and chemical patterns in our brains. At the lowest level, the level of single atoms and electrons, the mind of an observer is again involved in the description of events. Between lies the level of molecular biology, where mechanical models are adequate and mind appears to be irrelevant. But I, as a physicist, cannot help suspecting that there is a logical connection between the two ways in which mind appears in my universe. I cannot help thinking that our awareness of our own brains has something to do with the process which we call ‘observation’ in atomic physics. That is to say, I think our consciousness is not just a passive epiphenomenon carried along by the chemical events in our brains, but is an active agent forcing the molecular complexes to make choices between one quantum state and another. In other words, mind is already inherent in every electron, and the processes of human consciousness differ only in degree but not in kind from the processes of choice between quantum states which we call ‘chance’ when they are made by electrons.

Freeman Dyson

Boncuk the Doggy

A devoted dog has spent days waiting outside a hospital in Turkey where her sick owner was being treated.

The pet, Boncuk, which means bead, followed the ambulance that transported her owner, Cemal Senturk, to hospital in the Black Sea city of Trabzon on 14 January. She then made daily visits to the facility, the private news agency DHA reported.

Senturk’s daughter, Aynur Egeli, said she would take Boncuk home but the dog would run back to the hospital.

A hospital security guard, Muhammet Akdeniz, told DHA: “She comes every day around 9am and waits until nightfall. She doesn’t go in.

“When the door opens she pokes her head inside.”

On Wednesday, Boncuk was finally reunited with Senturk when he was pushed outside in a wheelchair. “She’s very used to me. And I miss her too, constantly,” he told DHA.

Senturk was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday and returned home with Boncuk.

Patient dog waits for days outside hospital”, The Guardian

We do not deserve dogs.

The Kobayashi Maru Test

[…] the simulation takes place on a replica of a starship bridge, with the test-taker as captain and other Starfleet members, officers or other cadets, in other key positions. […] the cadet receives a distress signal stating that the civilian freighter Kobayashi Maru has struck a gravitic mine in the Klingon Neutral Zone and is rapidly losing power, hull integrity and life support. Sensor readings are indeterminate and there is no way to verify the distress signal. There are no other vessels nearby. The cadet must quickly make a decision:

  • Attempt to rescue the Kobayashi Maru’s crew and passengers, which involves violating the Neutral Zone and thereby provoking the Klingons into hostile action or possibly an all-out war; or
  • Abandon the Kobayashi Maru, preventing war with the Klingons but leaving the crew and passengers of the freighter to probable death.

[…] The objective of the test is not for the cadet to outfight or outplan the opponent but rather to force the cadet into a no-win situation and simply observe how they react.

Wikipedia

I wondered how this related to the Trolley Problem and came by this great post by Tom Ingram.

A Malarkey-Free America

Here’s to a Malarkey-Free America 🇺🇸🍦😎 Things won’t magically start getting better. He isn’t perfect. But he certainly is a decent human being, if only because he isn’t malevolent narcissism incarnate.

And unless your career depends on democratic dysfunction and systemic ineptitude, cruelty, and dishonesty that sow and sustain rancour1, you at least ought to be relieved you won’t have to say “God what the fuck did he do now?” with the exhausting and dismaying frequency you did over the past four (THOUSAND) years. That’s something.

🙏♥️🇺🇸

  1. Special 📣 to some #techbros and their engagement targets 💸 ↩︎

Bernie Being Wholesomely On-Brand at the Inauguration

Wait, is Bernie is wearing the same jacket from his meme at the inauguration?

@thealanjohnson



The pose. The mittens. The social distance.

@vulture

Bernie dressed like the inauguration is on his to do list today but ain’t his whole day.

@MsReeezy


And about those mittens:

Bernie’s mittens are made by Jen Ellis, a teacher from Essex Junction, Vt. She gave them to him 2+ years ago and was surprised when he began wearing them on the campaign trail. They are made from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.

@rubycramer

A little more backstory:

Jen Ellis, a teacher from Essex Junction, made the mittens and gave them to Sanders. She used repurposed wool from sweaters and lined them with fleece. She generally sells mittens at craft fairs or gives them to friends. Sanders’ daughter-in-law, Liza Driscoll, runs Ellis’ daughter’s daycare, so one holiday season, Ellis made mittens for all the teachers — plus Bernie.

“I just put in a little note that was like, ‘I believe in you, I’ve always believed in you and I hope you run again,’” Ellis said. “And now he is running again, and he apparently is wearing the mittens that I made for him!”

Sasha Goldstein, Those Mittens Bernie Sanders Wears Campaigning Are Made in Vermont

And finally (via KP):

Update

This is the best one I’ve seen so far (via JK):

There’s also a collection (via CK) and another called “The approximate size of various ocean animals with a Bernie for scale” (via Deepu), and a Zillow listing.

It’s Not Over

And it won’t matter after that because, proof be damned, it was a massive fraud perpetrated upon us.

2021 Things

New Years resolutions for 2021 are gonna be like:

  • travel to the other side of the room
  • wear a different shirt
  • cut screen time from 12 hours a day to 11
  • eat a vegetable
  • bathe
@alyssalimp

The Narcissist’s Prayer

That didn’t happen.

And if it did
It wasn’t that bad.

And if it was
That’s not a big deal.

And if it is
That’s not my fault.

And if it was
I didn’t mean it.

And if I did
You deserved it.

Unknown

We Love America the Mostest

I’m always curious what exactly Conservatives mean when they say they “Love America” because you hate most of the people who live here, you hate the civil liberties afforded by the Constitution, you hate the separation of Church and State. You might claim to love its economy but you hate all of the states that make up the largest part of it. You hate the Government, you hate people who are anti-Government, you hate the rich because they’re part of a conspiracy…, you hate the poor because you think they’re lazy. You hate this country’s natural beauty because it gets in the way of industry, you hate industry because it keeps giving jobs away to immigrants. You hate immigrants for taking things you feel entitled to, you hate liberals because you feel they’re too entitled. You hate Government interference for getting in the way of Big Business, you hate Big Business for being too globalized. You hate Globalism for taking jobs away from American workers. You hate American workers for unionizing and demanding better jobs. When you say you “love America”, what aspect of America are you actually talking about?

@TheLonliestWolf

Via CK. Cached.

A Conservative Plan

By Amii James (Instagram). Context was the Tories but applies to our fine people stateside as well.

Tory ministers saying “we owe it to children to keep schools open” might want to explain to me why they closed my youth centre, cut mental health services, underfunded my secondary school, stripped free school meals from my peers, tripled uni fees, demonised climate strikers…

Hasan Patel

On What to Live For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography

“I have to do this.”

I made a bet at work that involved me eating my Crocs (if I lost, of course), prompting my co-worker to send me this story about Eric Taylor, a “former Magic: The Gathering player and highly regarded Magic columnist, especially during the earlier days of the game” (MTG Wiki), who made a similarly hasty bet and honored its terms:

He went so far as to guarantee Kai couldn’t emerge victorious again, promising to eat his hat should he be proven wrong.

[…] By now a sizeable crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle. EDT began by biting into the rim, but couldn’t tear the material with his teeth. In a quick burst of speed, he reached into his bag, and pulled out a full bottle of Heinz Ketchup and a pair of scissors. Deftly slicing a swatch of material from the top of the hat, he masticated on the felt but found the taste to be offensive.

“This is terrible!”, he exclaimed, unleashing a destructive stream of ketchup all over the table and his headwear. He resumed devouring his hat, making chewing faces akin to Popeye the Sailor eating rotten spinach.

[…] Around the third mouthful, EDT began to wish he had a nacho hat. “This is terrible”, he screamed, banging his jaw against the table to force the hat down. This attracted the attention of Rob Dougherty, from the Boston. “You’re crazy!”, he admonished in the typical Your Move Games tone. Eric just shook his head, gritted his teeth, and said, “I have to do this.

Ben Bleiweiss, ERIC TAYLOR EATS HIS HAT! (emphasis mine)

On Winters

Taken completely out of context, for the letter itself is a lot of bro-y “locker room talk.”

My mind is dried up, exhausted. I’m disgusted to be back in this damned country where you see the sun in the sky about as often as a diamond in a pig’s asshole.

Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Ernest Chevalier, 14th November 1840

And especially when you simply don’t have any say in the matter:

Stop Words

In computing, stop words are words which are filtered out before or after processing of natural language data (text). Though “stop words” usually refers to the most common words in a language, there is no single universal list of stop words used by all natural language processing tools, and indeed not all tools even use such a list. Some tools specifically avoid removing these stop words to support phrase search.

Any group of words can be chosen as the stop words for a given purpose. For some search engines, these are some of the most common, short function words, such as the, is, at, which, and on. In this case, stop words can cause problems when searching for phrases that include them, particularly in names such as “The Who”, “The The”, or “Take That”. Other search engines remove some of the most common words—including lexical words, such as “want”—from a query in order to improve performance.

Wikipedia

I was hitting Algolia’s search limits had to remove words I didn’t care about searching like “and”, “only”, “there”, or “I’ve” in an attempt to shrink the size of the posts on this site in the search index. There are quite a few lists on the internet and I ended up using a few of them for significant (> 65% average) size reductions in the search corpora.

The Scunthorpe Problem

The Scunthorpe problem (or the Clbuttic Mistake) is the unintentional blocking of websites, e-mails, forum posts or search results by a spam filter or search engine because their text contains a string of letters that appear to have an obscene or otherwise unacceptable meaning.

Wikipedia

Examples would be: shitake mushrooms, Herman I. Libshitz, magna cum laude, Arun Dikshit.

THIS is America

Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.

These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom’s price.

Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.

You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.

Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.

Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen.

Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the Senate, CBS News (emphases mine)

And please get off this gentleman’s lawn and out of his city.