jducoeur: (Default)
Almost done with a *very* long weekend at Arisia. Generally been a great time -- worked hard, got to spend lots of time with friends, and have had a lot of fun.

But I'll call out tonight's unexpected joy: the Hamilton Sing-Along. Exactly what it sounds like: something like 80 people in a room, with the Hamilton soundtrack playing, folks scrolling the lyrics on a big projector, and a little bit of floorshow from the folks who've done this before. It wouldn't have occurred to me that it's a show that *can* work for sing-along, but while it's a bit challenging it turns out to be a blast with a crowd like that.

A particular ridiculous joy behind the cut:His Royal Yellowness )
jducoeur: (Default)
The annoying cough I've been dealing with for a week finally turned into a full-on, OMFG, now-I-see-why-everyone's-so-draggy Monster Headcold yesterday.  Between that and last night's difficulty sleeping, I've been wandering around going, "Grarh" all day.

So there were some helpless giggles when Spotify, quite of its own accord, decided to kick up "All We Want to Do is Eat Your Brains" for my listening pleasure... 
jducoeur: (Default)
Here's a fascinating exploration from Danah Boyd (one of the better thinkers about the Internet and society), about the ways in which the current tribal mess we're in can be traced to the way American culture works, and the way that media literacy programs of the past couple of decades played into some peculiarly American habits.

Not too long, and highly recommended, both to read and think about.  The upshot is that combating the "fake news" problem is probably a lot harder than most folks are thinking...
jducoeur: (Default)
Today's study in Weird Spam starts off with,
It is with pleasure that we invite you to take part in the 2017 world conference on Global Security, Save The Life And Terrorism In The World. This conference Scheduled to take place from [February 15th to 19th, United States and Senegal from February 22nd to 26th 2017].
It's obvious phishing spam, and was properly marked as such in Gmail.

The punchline? This conference is organized by the "World Thoracic Society".  That word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Really, I kind of suspect they chose an important-sounding word at random.  Am I missing a definition that would make this make sense?
jducoeur: (Default)
 h/t to osewalrus for the pointer to this fine article about the misperception that anonymity is the cause of bad behavior online, and that forcing everyone to use their wallet names is the solution.  The summary is that there has been actual research on the subject, and no, requiring wallet names doesn't help.  (And it makes some problems much worse.)

Mind, I think anonymity per se *is* a problem, because it prevents a lot of social tools from working right -- some amount of persistent identity is, in my experience, necessary for the functioning of a good community.  But pseudonymity, in my experience, is the best balance point: enough persistence to build community, without flailing around at the mistaken idea that online identities should be synonymous with real-world ones...
jducoeur: (Default)
[Trying out posting from DreamWidth. Let's see if everything is configured right.]

Just saw Rogue One.  Capsule Summary: not an epic for the ages, but a solidly good Star Wars movie, a good prequel with fine depth of appropriate detail.  While feeling like the main saga, this one has the freedom to be a more honest (and dark) war movie, which makes an interesting change of pace.  Worth seeing at the big Jordan's IMAX, which is why we didn't see it at Christmas.

But what I hadn't realized until I was there was that this movie was finally going to cross the Co-Starring A Dead Actor rubicon.  I've long known this was coming, and I had known that Grand Moff Tarkin appeared in the story, but I didn't realize he had such a significant part.  They didn't shy away from the challenge: he dominates several scenes.

Overall, it's a good effort, but they're not quite there yet.  It reminds me of starship battles before Independence Day -- while that was by no means a great movie, it was the first time I ever watched one of those scenes and couldn't perceive any seams: it just felt real.

Tarkin *doesn't* quite feel real here.  It's ever-so-close -- 90% of the way across the Uncanny Valley -- but something was still just a bit off.  I can't put my finger on what, but he looked like a character from a good videogame cut scene, not quite a person.

They'll get there.  Having done this in a major movie and not entirely fallen on their faces, I'm sure more movies will try this, and eventually somebody will get all the details right.  I wonder how many actors are already writing contracts that involve digital rights to their likeness.  (And what the eventual lawsuits are going to look like...)
jducoeur: (device)
I suspect that many of my friends have heard about this by now, but for those who haven't:

The tl;dr is that the Sword of Damocles that has been hanging over LJ for several years is starting to cut. LiveJournal has been owned by a Russian company for some time now; evidence says that they recently moved the servers to Russia. That almost certainly means that the Russian government is going to begin actively listening to everything posted here (if they weren't already); knowing them, it is *extremely* likely that this monitoring will not in any way respect your privacy settings. On top of that, there are indications (not yet confirmed that I've heard) that they've begun actively censoring accounts critical of the Russian government.

[livejournal.com profile] siderea has made several recent posts about this; for more details, see this entry, and this one.

The upshot is that a *lot* of people are finally bailing from LiveJournal to DreamWidth, with various degrees of prejudice ranging from "doing primary posting on DW from here on out" to "deleting all traces of my LJ history". This is *not* paranoid: odds are good that the Russian spooks are going to read not just your new stuff but your history of private posts, so if that matters, you may want to take steps.

(For those who haven't come across it: DreamWidth is essentially an alternate LiveJournal -- one of many, but the best of the lot. It was originally based on the same code, although LJ and DW have begun to go their separate ways over the years. As far as I can tell, it's a deeply wholesome project: open-source, non-profit, non-commercial, supported entirely by memberships. While I don't use it much yet, I've been a paid member there for a long time -- they're good folks.)

Anyway: personally, I'm a bit less het-up about the change -- I've always been cynical about online security, and have been assuming for some years now that LJ was at best marginally more secure than Facebook (that is, not), so I generally don't post sensitive material. And I've been expecting this particular twist for some time now. I haven't decided whether to make the leap to DW-primary yet, although I might do so depending on how things progress.  Don't be surprised if this account becomes secondary, copied from the DW one.

So, putting that together: if you're an LJ user, and don't have one already, I recommend getting a DreamWidth account. If you care about your LJ history, seriously consider backing it up to DW. And if you haven't already friended me over there, I encourage you to do so. (Same account name, as usual.)
jducoeur: (device)
I've been making my current Pecan Pie recipe for a number of years now, and folks often ask me for the recipe; I've been referring them to my old version, but that's missing a lot. I've finally written the chocolate-bottomed version up in full detail, so folks can play with it if they like...
jducoeur: (device)
[Mainly for the programmers, and this time mainly for folks who have to touch web browsers.]

I'm currently catching up on old articles I've bookmarked to read later (more links may come), and I just read through this marvelous discussion of Scala.js, the Scala-to-Javascript compiler. In it, Li Haoyi (one of the first serious users of Scala.js, and one of the most important ecosystem developers) explains why Scala.js is not only one of the best ways to develop for the Web, but why he decided from very early on that it was likely to *become* one of the best.

It's a compelling argument, and after 2+ years of heavy Scala.js use, I totally agree: it's the first environment for developing this stuff that I've actually *liked*. The article is long but recommended, and I'm happy to answer any questions...
jducoeur: (querki)
Here's an *immensely* speculative idea, looking for thoughts from the folks who've used Querki (or simply been listening to me burble about it for all these years).

As I read through Ars' review of the new Google Home (tl;dr: it's the Google version of the Amazon Echo), which mentions that they're going to be opening up APIs, it occurs to me that Querki is going to need to interface with this sucker. I mean, I keep my shopping list in Querki; I'm obviously going to want to be able to say, "Ok Google, add milk to my shopping list". Or "tell me what I need to buy for Chicken Pizziola Mexicana" from my Recipes Space. Or "show me the lyrics to The Mary Ellen Carter" from my Songbook. Etc, etc.

Of course, wanting this is a far cry from making it happen, and none of this is even *remotely* easy. I'm not even sure to what degree it'll be possible to hook into the Google Assistant, to parse the stream. But we clearly *want* to be able to define listeners like this for Querki Apps eventually, so that you can easily build a Space or App in Querki and then hook it right into the listener system if you want. So I'm starting to ponder it.

(And yes, security is an issue. Fortunately, Querki is already designed to cope with interfacing securely to external identities; that's going to become front-and-center pretty soon, when we add Facebook integration.)

Hmm. And if we can do this, we potentially can use the same system for interfacing with text-chat systems, so that you can easily build chatbots on top of your Querki Apps. I'm not actually sure how useful that is, but it's the current hotness in the industry, so it would be nice to be *able* to do it, if it turns out to be real. (I'm pretty sure that this voice integration stuff *is* real, and is going to become important.)

Anyway, thoughts are welcomed -- other use cases, thoughts about architecture, whatever. None of this is going to happen soon, so I'm looking for brainstorming. Feel free to comment either here, or on the tracking Issue in Querki itself. Thanks!
jducoeur: (device)
[I'm mostly just posting links over in Facebook, but my more technical friends tend to be over here.]

Here is a really excellent collection of ideas about how to fight the Fake News problem -- the way that services like Facebook and Google have been used as propaganda tools by the people (on all sides) who are muddying truth by propagating bullshit. The article suggests a bunch of relatively plausible approaches, both technical and organizational, that these companies could use to ameliorate the problem without undermining their core missions.

It's explicitly not trying to present a comprehensive solution, just some possibilities. But it's a fine rebuttal to the usual line that these services are nothing but pipes, and can't do anything about it. I commend it to everyone, but especially my friends *at* the various big tech companies, who should consider passing this link around as useful food for thought...
jducoeur: (device)
I'm starting a new tag here, for posts relating to the disaster. Some meta-notes before I start.

First, if you think the tag is hyperbolic, feel free to consider it metaphorical. Suffice it to say that I do *not* consider it that way -- to me, this is a war in exactly the way the Cold War was. This isn't a "hot" war, and I'm praying it doesn't become one, but I think that thinking in wartime terms provides some bracing clarity.

Second, some definitions. "Them", for purposes of this discussion, means the Fascist movement, as embodied by Trump and his cronies. It specifically does *not* mean "the Republicans", at least not yet. I expect that some of the Republicans will whole-heartedly buy into the fascist mindset, but I'm also reasonably sure that some of them are currently on the fence. Trump will be trying to buy them off with goodies, and I'm certain that will work for some, but I hold out an honest hope that *some* of them will prove to be helpfully obstructionist.

That being the case, understand that the war I'm talking about here is specifically *structural*. Trump is fundamentally dangerous to the US as we understand it, not least for his complete disregard of rule of law. He's going to do a lot of horrible things from a policy perspective, and he's going to hurt a lot of people, but I'm planning on looking at them through the lens of the fascist mindset, rather than considering those issues in isolation. For example, I expect demonization of Islam and immigrants to get bad, mainly because fascists always need "others" to blame for their ills, rather than because of actual racism on the part of the people at the top. They're using racism as a *weapon*, and it's important to understand that: we need to understand the enemy if we're going to oppose him.

And yes, I am asserting that Trump is a fascist. Some people are going around saying, "Oh, that was just campaigning; he doesn't really *mean* all of it". You're welcome to that belief; I don't share it. The fact that he has already proposed a Cabinet stuffed with cronies and yes-men, and is still leaving the door open to locking up his political rivals, suggests a fully-fledged fascist mindset.

As for "us", I loosely mean "those who are opposing the rise of American fascism". That specifically does not mean "Democrats". A fair number of Republicans held their noses and voted Democratic, because they understood what Trump is. I do not expect "us" to agree on every issue, just on general opposition to that mindset.

(Note that I believe most people to be neither "us" nor "them". That'll be the topic of my next post.)

I hope we'll have good discussions on these topics, but please note that I'll be moderating these pretty hard, and will mostly (unusually for me) screen these posts. That doesn't mean I don't want to hear from you -- I expect to approve nearly all comments -- but this is *not* an invitation to get into flamewars here. Trolling from either side won't be tolerated.

The point here is to think seriously and productively about what's going on, what's likely to happen, and what we can and should do about it. I encourage y'all to join in, and help plan. If nothing else, I find that grappling with this stuff properly helps reduce the sense of panic and helplessness.

Finally, note that posts here are going to tend to be the in-depth stuff, and won't be every day. Quick comments and links are mostly happening over on Facebook, which is better-suited to quick and shallow.

Damn

Nov. 9th, 2016 08:38 am
jducoeur: (Default)
*Sigh*. I was sure this was possible, and was thinking for the past two weeks that it was starting to feel likely, but was really hoping otherwise. I went to bed when they called NC and FL for Trump -- at that point, the writing was on the wall.

(The little cynical voice in the back of my head points out that the problem with effective "Everyone Should Vote!" campaigns is that the people you disagree with may also be listening. One thing this election proved is that it *is* possible to get peoples' butts off the couch, but that means *everyone's* butts.)

Trying to stave off existential angst this morning, so indulging the analytical side of my brain instead, with some initial still-waking-up reactions.

Not many silver linings here, save that the Republicans now have nowhere to hide: we can and should make sure that they get blamed for the consequences of their actions in the coming years. That will likely make *some* of them a bit more responsible, now that they have to actually govern instead of just playing political games, although certainly not all of them.

As for Trump, it's sad that I now have to put my faith in how much of an undisciplined, unprincipled liar he has proven himself to be historically: odds are decent that he will just quietly ignore some of his more heinous campaign lines. In particular, the "lock her up" bullshit is offensive to the core principles of democracy, and even he has been back-pedaling the "wall" nonsense.

Similarly, one can *hope* that the Narcissist in Chief is mostly going to be driven by what is popular -- his lack of any actual principles may well make him one of the great panderers of political history. The result would be likely to be scarily majoritarian, but I suspect he will be *some* check on the worst excesses of the right wing, at least in areas where the public is clearly opposed. But there's little chance of him making many things *better*, and he seems likely to retreat into Nixonian bitterness when things go wrong.

I take some comfort living in relatively sensible Boston, nestled deep in blue country. I think the odds are against *actually* seeing jackbooted thugs anywhere (although, seriously, "odds are against" is a depressingly weak statement), but they're less likely here. But my heart goes out to the immigrant communities -- more than perhaps anyone, they've woken up to a truly bad day.

The most immediate and stark damage, of course, is the Supreme Court. The Republicans won with their damned holding action. I can wish for the appointment of another Roberts, but we're more likely to see another Scalia. (And let us all wish Justice Ginsberg more years of good health.)

Trump is all but certain to damage America's reputation and power abroad -- all indications are that he's going to be a gigantic fuckup in terms of foreign policy, and he may well break the back of NATO simply through inaction. Putin is having a pretty good day. (Although I've heard reports that even he is somewhat wary of Trump's sheer insane unpredictability.) The really scary part is that I would guess the chances of Trump literally ending the world are non-trivial -- by no means *likely*, but it's easy to paint scenarios where the combination of a international crisis and a bad hair day go horribly wrong for everyone.

Let's start a betting pool: how soon does Trump start a war with someone? Here I'm talking about a small, winnable war, mind -- Trump may be dumb, but I'm sure he is aware that the Wag the Dog scenario of patriotic war fervor is a fine way to boost one's popularity when things slide. And he's enough of a schoolyard bully that finding somebody small to pick on seems exactly his style.

*Sigh*.

Sadly, this story is far from over. There are some serious priorities that are becoming clear for the next few years. One, obviously, is keeping an eye on Trump, and calling him on the stupid. But just as importantly, the left side of the aisle needs to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.

For better or worse, I think the Republican Party has just finished redefining itself, as the white nationalist party. The cultural and economic conservatives will be in denial about that for several years, but Trump has just crushed them pretty flat. (The economic conservatives especially: I expect a Trump administration to be *monumentally* irresponsible with the debt. That will probably be an economic plus in the short run, but I suspect we can count on excess from Trump.)

But the Democrats have proven themselves equally riven by this election, between the centrists and progressives. There are many stories to be written about this mess, but one of the major ones, I'm afraid, is about Clinton's inability to really engage the progressive wing of the party. If they're going to recover and be able to really bring it in two years (which, let's be clear, is going to be an uphill battle), they need cohesion at a lot of levels. I suspect that they desperately need a new generation to start taking over at the national level; the existing leadership is looking kind of tired and behind the times. I hope they can get their act together.

I'm glad that this damned election is over; I wish I could be less morose about the result. Anybody up for burning James Comey in effigy?
jducoeur: (Default)
On a more positive note, I'd like to compliment the folks with the state highway department -- the transition of the Mass Pike is going better than I would have believed possible.

As it happens, I was actually *on* the Pike during "D-Day" last Friday evening, as they were shutting down the toll booths. (Just happened that I was coming home from Low Company at that hour.) They clearly hit the ground running -- by the time I took the Pike again a couple of days ago, a bunch of the booths were already gone, some key traffic patterns had been rerouted, and despite the dire warnings of, "It's likely to be like a snow storm", traffic was flowing pretty well. The acid test will be Thanksgiving, of course: I'm really curious whether the traditional hour-long backup at Exit 9 finally goes away.

I'm amused by the new fare model. Folks from out of town, be warned that driving into MA is going to hit you with a fair-sized bill in the mail -- the rates aren't crazy, but designed to cost a good deal extra if they have to bill you. And I'm curious: has anybody seen any actual algorithm for the way they've designed the new rates? I've actually been reading the eensy-weensy "this is how much money we just charged you" signs by the side of the road, and the ratios between the various fare classes appear to be *wildly* inconsistent. Like, it was 25/30/60 at one of them, and 30/60/100 at another. I can't find any rhyme or reason to it.

But all that said, it's looking good. It's tricky to compare the new fare model to the old one, since they think completely differently about it, but it *feels* like it's slightly cheaper for those of us with an in-state EZPass, and it's certainly easier and faster. It's a bit squicky from a privacy POV (surely somebody needs to write a murder mystery that involves one spouse tracking another through their highway bills), but it does seem likely to work well...
jducoeur: (Default)
Continuing my policy of calling out Major Companies That Ought to Know Better: I just got half-a-dozen copies of a spam in my accidental waks.org honeypot. They're all from "Quest", which is apparently the company that used to be Dell Software, now purchased and renamed.

So -- let's hear it for Quest, the software company so incompetent that they are doing their marketing via the same full-of-fake-email spam lists that the script kiddies use...
jducoeur: (Default)
It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally beginning to grok pure FP. I'm in the process of rewriting SpaceCore (one of the most dead-central Actors in modern Querki) to make the guts of all the functions pure, pulling all the side-effects out to the edges. (Not out of any sense of righteous purity, but because I need these bloody things to be composable, and it's the best way to do it.)

And I just caught myself saying, "Ah, that class is a Semigroup; I should probably instantiate that typeclass, so that I can combine the instances".

No doubt you'll find me in some alley sometime soon, mumbling about Applicatives, Free Monads and other such Cthulhoid horrors. Have pity on me...
jducoeur: (Default)
From cnn.com today:
'Trump went on to again attack women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct, saying, "every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign" and vowing to sue them after the election is over.'
Okay, time to call for an opinion -- is it time to rename the Streisand Effect? Because it's pretty clear that Trump isn't going to pay attention to it unless it gets named for him...
jducoeur: (Default)
On the downside, I'm a bit cranky that somebody has clearly come up with a new spam service this week: the amount getting into my Gmail Spam box (as opposed to being deleted outright) has abruptly risen tenfold.

On the upside, some of these new script kiddies are so incompetent that it's almost a little endearing. Like the several copies of spam I just got whose subject line is literally "You Have Been Selected For [PRODUCT] Samples." And yes, the content of the email (in enormous, boldfaced colored letters) is, "Hey Jducoeur, [PRODUCT] Sampler is Waiting". Somebody apparently doesn't understand that there aren't actually hordes of Americans who are anxiously awaiting [PRODUCT].

Sometimes I can almost see (if I squint a lot) how some particularly naive people might be fooled into clicking on some of these spams. But seriously, folks, you have to at least try...
jducoeur: (Default)
Has anybody here used Massage Therapy Works in Davis Square? We're looking for a last-minute massage, and our usual option isn't available, so we're interested in anybody's experience with them.

Vote Loki

Oct. 12th, 2016 11:36 pm
jducoeur: (Default)
No, really -- that's an actual 4-issue Marvel mini-series that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and I just got to the end of it. It more or less goes as you'd expect: Loki pulls a publicity stunt, at the end of which he "lets himself be talked into" running for President. (This makes more sense with the current Marvel incarnation of Loki, who is the much-more-interesting God of Stories, not the older God of Evil he used to be. Think a *very* mischievous version of Coyote.)

The series is kind of a hoot, a thinly-veiled metaphor for modern politics, in which Loki's publicly-stated motto is, "I'm going to lie to you, right to your face, and make you love me for it". Over the course of the story, he gives a masterclass in modern politics, taking every nasty revelation about himself and spinning it into a positive.

The ending -- well, suffice it to say, he's not the President of Earth-616. But the really *unsettling* thing about it is that, in the end, he blows the election by being significantly more decent and honest in public than anything we've seen from Donald Trump, and thereby alienating his core constituency. As morals go, it's a rather uncomfortable one...

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