Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wealth As A Mind Altering Substance

There was an interesting article in the LA Times yesterday about how the wealthy are more likely to cheat.  Apparently drivers of expensive cars are more often guilty of discourteous driving, and if you're rich you're more likely to keep the change from a $20 when you only paid with a $10. 
There is a strong notion that when people don't have much, they're really looking out for themselves and they might act unethically, but actually, it's the upper-class people that are less likely to see that people around them need help — and therefore act unethically.
And it seems that most cultures, historically, have known this somehow, and even in Matthew 19:24 we have the camel-thru-the-eye-of-the-needle image...
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
How come we don't produce a poor wise man in our society?  Kurt Vonnegut has this to say in Slaughterhouse Five...
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. [...] Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. [...] The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”
Maybe wealth, like any other mind altering substance, should only be taken in moderation.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

TED: I Am Enough

How one's only real strength is vulnerability...
Lean into the joy.

Fanaticism Fail Or Authentic Anger?

I posted this article earlier today, but I'm having second thoughts...
Afghanistan Fanaticism Fail
Given that this blog is called The Fanatical Moderate, I have a nagging sense of responsibility that won't allow me to let the outrage in Afghanistan pass by without comment.  In case you don't follow news, local garbage collectors at Bagram Airbase found evidence that someone had burned a Koran.  That was five days ago, and since then about 30 people have died in the rioting and unrest.
Burning a holy book is a harm, I get it, and I can see how people might be insulted and hurt, and that that might cause anger that legitimately needs a public expression.  Maybe there would be madness and marches, bullhorns and banners.  Maybe a few thugs would go too far and flip a police car and set it on fire, but omfg, 30 human beings have to die?
How about I print you another Koran, and you return those husbands to their wives and you return those sons to their fathers!
The problem is that the harm, the burning of a Koran, was perpetrated by an occupying foreign army, and maybe that changes everything.  Has this event triggered an authentic and legitimate objection to a foreign occupation?  I know I would resent occupation by a foreign army, particularly if they showed a lack of sensitivity to my culture and my values.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Escaping The Narcissistic Family III

I think it's common in our society that the relationships we have with family are held to be sacred.  Obviously our family are the people we have known, and who have known us, the longest in the world, and it is impossible to really see and understand ourselves without seeing and understanding our family.  We played together as kids, and suffered losses and celebrated gains together, and at face value, and all things being equal, this is completely understandable and correct.

But consider this:  On November 24, 2011, I sent my brother a Facebook message after he'd stopped making payments on a debt and had not communicated with me for over a year...
You owe me money. I want to know what your plan is. I will print up a complete record of all my expenses and all your payments and send it to you. The total is around $72,000 outstanding.  Let's solve this problem together, finally,
His response was...
Fuck you
I wrote...
He wrote...
Sue me
...and he unfriended me, and he's happy to leave it at that.  And I can't really fathom that,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hunger Games Trailer

Release date March 2012.

The Government Heard Me

I wrote a couple of letters to my MP, Mark Strahl over the past few of weeks, one of which went like this...
I believe it's very important to not hobble the internet to protect copyright. Like the streets of a city, the internet is simply a thing that conducts traffic without prejudice.
Though some parts of a city might be rife with crime or social harms and some individuals or groups eminently worthy of arrest, nonetheless we do not--in a free society--curtail freedom of movement.
Please protect the rights of the individual in respect to the internet. Please protect freedom of movement, presumption of innocence, common carriage, and due process.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
In a second letter I expressed my concern about the plan to make the circumvention of digital locks illegal.  
I received this today from Vic Toews' office...
Thank you for contacting my office regarding Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
Canada's laws currently do not adequately protect Canadians from online exploitation and we think there is widespread agreement that this is a problem. 

We want to update our laws while striking the right balance between combating crime and protecting privacy. 

Rick Mercer vs Vic Toews

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Simplified: Public Key Cryptography

Here's how public key cryptography works.  I send you a box with an open padlock in it, and only I have a key to that padlock.  You put your message in the box and lock it and send it to me, and only I can open it.
The padlock is the public key, which is a kind of filter that an algorithm uses to uniquely scramble a message such that it can only be unscrambled using the private key.  So when you connect to a website using the https protocol, your browser receives the public key and scrambles everything it sends back to that address, including things like your credit card number.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bret Victor On Invention, Ethics, And A 'Principle Driven Life'

A computer conference presentation by Bret Victor, an Apple "human interface inventor," that shows what a paradigm shift looks like.  Computer nerds will love this, but I think a far broader audience than that will be inspired...

Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Transparency Grenade

Rick Mercer: Why Governments Want You To Be Afraid

Our Privacy Is Only Protected By Their Transparency

The danger of Big Brother is not that he knows everything about you, but rather that you know nothing about him.  It's the one-way flow of information that Big Brother leverages to undermine any effective opposition, and it's that kind of power that absolutely corrupts.
That being the case, the so-called "lawful access" bill tabled by Vic Toews, that would give police warrantless powers to surveil your internet activity, moves the law in exactly the wrong direction.  If society needs something for it's safety it is that government and law enforcement be more transparent; more scrutinized by more people more of the time.  Not less.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Access Database ADO Reference Breaks Moving From Windows 7 to XP.

I first noticed this problem deploying software from my Windows 7 box to a customer's XP machines, that assigning an New ADO.Recordset object to a previously declared ADO.Recordset variable was raising a type mismatch error, which is the kind of thing that makes you go, "Hmmnn?"
- I found I could solve the error by changing the ADO reference to a different version, say from 2.5 to 2.8, and/or back again, and then recompiling the database, but that got tedious.
- Here's an article at Microsoft that explains what is going on.
- Here's the code I run at startup that resets the reference to 2.8, which shipped with XP, and it seems to have solved the problem for me...
Private Sub ResetADOReference()
On Error GoTo handler
   'remove ref, raises err 9 if not present
   References.Remove References("ADODB")
   'add reference
   'References.AddFromGuid "{00000206-0000-0010-8000-00AA006D2EA4}", 2, 6
   References.AddFromGuid "{2A75196C-D9EB-4129-B803-931327F72D5C}", 2, 8
   Exit Sub
   If err = 9 Then
      'subscript out of range
      Resume Next
      MsgBox err & " " & err.Description & vbCrLf & _
         "ADODB reference may be broken.", vbExclamation
   End If
End Sub
Article: Breaking change in MDAC ADODB COM components in Windows 7

Content Theft Penalty Comparison

I read an interesting article by Mike Masnick of Tech Dirt this morning comparing the severity of penalties for copyright infringement and for other similar crimes.  He argues that jumping the turnstile at the subway or not paying rent are similar crimes since the only real harm is that they deprive the plaintiff of revenue they might otherwise have gained.  In the case of rent the amount of money due is typically the rent you didn't pay.  In New York the fine for jumping the turnstile is $100.  But a woman is currently being ordered to pay $54,000 for downloading 24 songs she could have bought for $24, and that was lowered on appeal down from $1.5 million dollars. 
And copyright holders want to strengthen copyright law???
If 24 songs cost $54,000 then each $1 song cost $2,250 and by that math, jumping the $2.50 turnstile in New York should cost $5,625, which is obviously a ridiculous penalty.
But read the whole article here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Escaping The Narcissistic Family II

The thing I like about my process so far is that I really don't want to hurt them, but rather I want to not get hurt.  By way of example, If I met new narcissists now, I would simply not form any sort of expectation of safety in relationship with them, and that would not be that hard to do.  That, I think, describes the pattern that I need to import into my relationships with the 'golden circle,' that I form no expectation of safety.
I remain mostly in a state of 'no contact' at this time, and I am feeling the freedom.

Guy Fawkes Mask

Just right-click and 'save image as...'

CBC's Take on Hacktivism

I read an interesting article today about 'hacktivism' at CBC's website.  I like the idea that there are social/political/technological forces bringing power to the people in a way that might offset the anti-democratic forces that seem to be embodied by the growing corporate influence on government.  Of particular interest to me were statements by Molly Sauter, a researcher at the Center for Civic Media at MIT, that distributed denial of service (DDoS) are coming to be seen as being prosecuted too harshly.  From the CBC article...
Several people in the United States and Britain were arrested and charged in relation to the WikiLeaks-related DDoS attacks on PayPal and the credit card companies, which could lead to a court challenge of computer laws that many observers, including Sauter, view as overly restrictive.
Sauter noted that demonstrators arrested at a protest in the United States such as the Occupy movement's events are rarely charged or prosecuted, but a politically motivated DDoS attack is deemed a felony on par with the same attack for the purposes of extortion.
Sauter blamed the broad language in the [US] Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which she said has led to prosecutors "overreaching" in DDoS protest cases.
"You are seeing prosecution of acts of digital activism that are being prosecuted as computer crimes, not as acts of political speech, which is chilling and, in my opinion, incredibly misguided," she said.
Germany has already recognized in its court system that DDoS attacks can be a form of valid political protest, she said.
"We haven’t seen this type of jurisprudence in this country yet," she said. "I have a certain amount of hope that it will happen, but I'm not holding my breath."
I believe it is a valid form of protest that a group of people might show up at a street corner and block traffic.  I believe that people should have a right to do this same thing at a web site.

Read the whole article

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Shotgun Pizza

Pizza is not a sophisticated dish.  Pizza is something you buy, by the slice, when you are in a hurry.  You order pizza when you have been drinking like a fish and are tired to death.  You fill your empty stomach with pizza when you're high on dope and your boyfriend has just ditched you for some more appealing flesh.  Pizza is warmth to a chilly soul.  Pizza is a candle in the window.  A light in the darkness.  Perhaps most of the 'Joy of Pizza' is in waiting for its arrival.  You can almost smell it, taste it, and feel it fill your deepest voids.  The mere idea of pizza can grip you and turn you full circle.  Darkness to daylight.  A friendly call when you least expect it.  Then you devour it.  You cram it down your throat as fast as you can.  Shotgun Pizza.
Then the high wears off, and when it does, you're left with greasy lips and greasy fingers.  The music stops and the lights go dim.  You feel like you just got slugged by a cannonball.  The image of comfort explodes like a twenty-one gun salute and the door that led somewhere slams shut.  Bam.
However, when you pass the Pizza Hut tonight, you feel a tingle.  Saliva fills your mouth and your legs falter.  You make yourself walk past it, but your mind stops at the door.  Your mind sits down and orders a slice…or does it?  'Do they have slices there?' you wonder as you look in the window of an Indian restaurant two doors down.  Your mind flirts with the idea of the PIZZA BUZZ.  You stamp your feet. Your mind stamps its feet.  You look at the menu in the Indian restaurant window, but your mind looks only to the potential pizza TOPPINGS.
          Voices start to fill your head.  Rev. Guilt is there with Mrs. Indulge Me.  They are yelling.  Old Man Reason has his fingers in his ears and is not listening.  Big Hunger shouts, "PEPPERONI!"  Mz. Denial licks her lips and rubs her hips.  Sweet Seduction grabs your hand, and Uncle Resolve goes flying for the hills.
          You turn back and enter Pizza Hut.  Your mind enters Pizza Hut.  All your friends enter Pizza Hut and pat you on the shoulder.  Curious George tugs on your sleeve and asks gently,  "Do they have slices?"  You look blindly at the menu board on the wall above the soda refrigerator.
          "Do you have…?"  Silence.  You have a startling case of Mr. Mind Block.  'Do you have, do you have, do you have…?' Files are being rifled through and the embarrassment committee is preparing for a full-force launch. 
          "…slices!  Do you have pizza-by-the-slice?"
          There is a young woman behind the counter.  She is prepared to deal with you because she is being paid five dollars an hour.  She points to the menu board and says,  "We have Personal Pan Pizzas."
The alliteration plays on you.  You examine the menu board with a little more determination.  Personal Pan Pizzas….  There are four kinds.  You try to see them all next to each other in front of you.
          "What is on the Supreme?"  you ask.  Some wild fantasy pizza appears before you with 49 different types of cheese.
          "Uh," says the counter girl, "roast beef, ground beef, chorizo sausage, bean sprouts, mayonnaise, pickles and frosty whip."
          "???"  All voices are checked into the boards.  "I'll take the pepperoni.  How big is it?"  She puts her hands together and makes a circle the size of a small sand dollar.  "Fine.  Oh.  And I'll get myself a Sprite."  You walk towards the refrigerator as you speak.
          "Can I get your phone number please?"   The music stops.
          "What?"  you ask quietly.
"Your phone number?"
"What for?"
          "It's for security reasons."  But this is ridiculous.  You consider the pizza crooks in her head.  The back-load of cases that the police have to deal with.  You imagine the life of a pizza fraud artist, an underground ring bent on sabotaging the pizza industry.  A bunch of health fanatics, possibly.  You are hungry and impatient, so you give her your number.  She types like a machine gun.  "Can I get your name?"  she asks and you hurl it at her.  "Patsy Cline?"
          "Eh!" says Fonzy.  You give her a thumbs-up and lay a five dollar bill on the counter.  "Keep the change."  Fonzy winks and grabs your ass.  The counter girl is now finished with you.  She disappears to the back.  You are alone in the store.  You wait at the counter for a while, checking out the certificates from the health board.  Then, lazily, you walk over to a booth and sit down.
          It's coming.  A double-barreled shotgun with a twist of pepperoni.   A doughy casing with a cheesy shot.  They bake it and throw it in a little cardboard box.  You pull the trigger.  Five...Four...Three….  The PIZZA BUZZ is on its way.  You have only to wait.  Your fingers tap on the table.  Your foot taps on the floor.  You open the Sprite and take a small sip.  Then the counter girl returns carrying your dinner.  You rise slowly, unable to speak.  She puts it, in all its steaming glory, down in front of you.  Two…One….  You open the little box.  Go!
          You cram one slice after another down your throat, unaffected by its scalding heat.  You pause, only briefly, to wipe the grease as it drips off your chin.  A roar booms from the fans as they pound on the table, "Go, go, go, go!  Go, go, go, go!"
"Schnell!" yells Mr. Gestapo with a shotgun to your head.  And as you are taking the last bite of the last slice, you crash.  You feel as if you just had a head-on collision with a Mack Truck. You stop in mid-chew.  You slump.  Your eyelids get heavy.  Through your nostrils you take a deep breath.  Flags get lowered to half-mast.  Just before the bell tolls, you give one last concerted effort to swallow.  Slowly your body slides to the floor.  A groan escapes from somewhere deep.
          When the dust settles you find yourself stuffed, but empty, like the smoking shell of a shotgun.

The End

Eric Says...

Eric says to cherish the pain I have in my heart.  Most of the time I consider pain a bad thing; I had certainly never considered cherishing it.  What is it like to cherish pain?  To some degree, I suppose that I have been cherishing it, because it has been unavoidable, to a large extent.  I can savour it and ‘roll it around on my tongue,’ as it were.  I sit down with it and have cigarettes with it; I take baths with it, and come home to it.  There is something sweet about the pain. 
The bad thing about pain is that it hurts.  You can only take something from ‘pain’ retrospectively.  While you are suffering from it, there is no gain.  While experiencing pain, one’s aim is primarily focused on keeping the pain to a minimum, if not subduing it all together.  And sometimes one doesn’t have the choice.  There are some pains for which there is no anaesthetic.
Eric says to cherish my heartache because it is real.  I think that I understand what he means.  Today, since there is no other option, I will cling fondly to my pain and hope for a better tomorrow.

Stoopid Cool

...starts about 1:15, and check out for more about the music...

Chinese Scenes from Base-Book - Matt Gerdes on Vimeo.

Computational Rights and Freedoms

I recently read a fascinating article on 'computational freedom', I guess, is the best way to put it.  It's called Lockdown, by Cory Doctorow of, my favourite blog.

For the tl;dr crowd, the capacity of a (Turing-complete) machine to execute code is judgement free, so to the machine there is no 'good code' and no 'bad code.' Code is a thing that has a current instruction to execute if possible, and then the next instruction to execute. If execution fails or if there is no next instruction then execution halts. There is no evil and no altruism.

And these same properties can be argued to exist for networks. From the perspective of a network, everything is traffic. There is no good traffic or bad traffic, simply traffic, and censorship--an object that might impede the flow of traffic--is regarded by the network as damage.

Add a little fear-mongering and it's easy to sell the idea that we need to implement a mechanism to limit "bad" traffic. Crime exists on the internet, and people do bad things, including stealing movies and songs and stuff, but--to use an image from the article--we can't outlaw the use of wheels because criminals use them on their get-away cars.

The thing about a computer and a network is that you can't just control parts of it. How it functions anywhere and all the time is exactly the same, so its like it has a completely flat topology. If we give somebody the right to kill a part of a network based on certain criteria, then we've given him the right to kill any part of a network based on any criteria, because no part of a network is easily distinguishable from any other part, and because there simply won't be time for them to get a court order.

But I strongly recommend this article.  It presents a clear and entertaining vision of what 'computational freedom' is, how it can and does provide us with incredible democratic power, and why corporations and governments are afraid of it.

We need to be assured in a free society that our freedom to compute is as natural and inalienable as any other of our basic human rights.