Big Data Pays a Visit

Today a coworker of mine came up to my desk and asked, “Do you want to see something weird?” “Sure!” I enthusiastically replied. Who doesn’t want to see something weird? So I went to her desk and there she showed me her FaceBook page, where there was an Amazon.com advertisement for a desktop wire file sorter – the model I had just bought for the office. She had never seen one like that before I’d put it on top of my cubicle wall a couple of days ago, but now here it was appearing in an ad on her FB feed.

I had done a search for it on Amazon.com (didn’t buy it there, though), but she and I are not FB friends, and so the connection between us isn’t obvious. Then she scrolled right on the ad, and up came a nightstand – the very one that had been sitting in my Amazon cart for a few weeks. I’d dropped it out of the cart a couple of weeks ago, but here’s the interesting thing: I searched for the file sorter using my business account, and the nightstand was in the cart of my personal account.

“Clearly there’s a connection between you and me,” I said.  I told her about Big Data, and how big companies like Amazon and FaceBook are collecting all kinds of information about us, who we know, what we like, and so forth.  I also told her how, a few days ago, I created an Instagram account so that I could see the wedding photos where another coworker was a bridesmaid, and again, that other coworker and I are not FB friends and have no other connection but work.  When I created that account Instagram suggested some people I might want to follow and amongst some random famous people was yet another coworker, one of our warehouse guys, with no other connection between us.

“So, the lesson here,” I said, “is to be careful where you buy your sex toys.”

Sore Losers

WE ARE NOT SORE LOSERS
This isn’t about being bad losers. We are in revolt because our country is now in the hands of an intellectually disinterested, reckless, mendacious narcissist. If this doesn’t terrify you, you’re a fool.
WE ARE RESISTING TYRANNY

I found this in my FB feed and it’s just so, so… so very. What’s the word I’m looking for?  Wait, it’ll come to me.

The Format: There’s nothing about this video which needed to be animated; nothing in particular is emphasized by the animation, and all of the text fits into the given format size. It’s essentially a meme-GIF gussied up for no apparent reason.

The Music: You’ll have to clickthrough the hyperlink to hear it; WordPress won’t let me attach an MP4 so I had to convert it to a GIF.  Spare yourself: it’s goofy and dumb.  It’s almost as if the music was chosen to contrast and undercut the message. I’m guessing “Yackety Sax” was too obvious.

The Message: Let’s fisk it.

1) “WE ARE NOT SORE LOSERS” (in all caps) “This isn’t about being bad losers.” Yeah, actually, it is in substantial measure about that, and they most certainly are bad, sore losers. When candidate Trump cast doubt on the integrity of the vote he was assailed by Leftist Democrats as not merely wrong, but he was accused of undercutting the very underpinnings of the democratic process. Within weeks it was the Leftist Democrats who were throwing shade at the integrity of the vote on flimsy pretenses without a hint of shame at their own hypocrisy.
The Russian “hacking” of the election? Nonsense. There’s no clear evidence that the Russians hacked into the DNC.  The hacking tool (see GRIZZLY STEPPE) used to break into the DNC is for sale on the black market.  What the Russians certainly did was to spread “fake news”, to dubious effect. The hacking, in this context, refers to the leaked emails of the DNC, and if Julian Assange is to be believed the trove WikiLeaks published came from a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter. Assange is not trustworthy but it’s a completely plausible story, considering that the emails revealed the DNC to be colluding with the Clinton campaign to lock Sanders out of the primary. Even if it were the Russians who hacked the DNC, what happened was a revealing of truth, not disinformation. So let’s be clear about this: What the Democrats are upset about is the revealing of truth – not truth related to our safety and national security, but political truth and the dirty politics of the DNC.
The Comey backstabbing? Nonsense. FBI Director James Comey revealed days before the vote that the investigation into the Clinton emails had been re-opened due to the discovery of a new trove of thousands of emails on disgraced Anthony Weiners laptop. Essentially, the position appears to be that the truth of the status of the investigation should have been kept secret, as it was during the months summer months when Clinton insisted that the investigation was nothing more than a “security review”. In fact, Comey betrayed the American people by failing to press charges against Clinton and her staff despite unambiguously clear multiple violations of Federal law. Once again: What Democrats are upset about is the revealing of truth.  As for the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, we have Dianne Feinstein (D), who’s on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and assures us that there’s no evidence of that.

2) “We are in revolt because …” Whoa, let’s stop right there. They certainly are revolting but not in the sense that they are “in revolt” by any stretch of the imagination. Leftists have a long-standing love affair with “revolution” and they love to associate themselves with it. It’s self-aggrandizing, counter-establishment, and in their minds, flattering. When Leftists declare they are “in revolt” they are echoing the battle-cry of Leftists from decades past, but they are not, in fact, “in revolt”. They are just complaining like the sore losers that they are.

3) “… our country is now in the hands of an intellectually disinterested, reckless, mendacious narcissist.” Well, to be fair, that’s true enough. The problem Leftists have is that it’s the other guy who won. Their candidate fits that description too, and is, by far, the most corrupt politician I have seen in my lifetime, and I remember ABSCAM when congressmen were literally taking a bribe in the form of a suitcase full of cash. There’s also the matter of her sense of entitlement to the presidency, her disparagements of the other side, her willful disregard for the our national security secrets, her massive influence-peddling, and so on. Clinton was a deeply, deeply flawed candidate/criminal, so much so that despite at least a two-to-one spending advantage her team couldn’t beat Donald Trump, the biggest clown running for the presidency I have seen in my lifetime, and I remember – wait, no, I don’t want to start clown-ranking past presidential candidates.  That’s beyond the scope of a blogpost. So: He’s the biggest clown. Trust me. The biggest. Yuuuuge clown.

4) “If this doesn’t terrify you, you’re a fool.” Idiot Leftists are equal measures stupidity, ignorance, and smug arrogance, supported by a foundation of fear and violent anger, all of which they project onto their political opposition. Socialists are shameless in their support of an ideology which has killed tens of millions, and the terrifying disasters which are the direct result of their ideology put into practice teach them no lessons in failure, but really, if you aren’t terrified of Trump, you’re a fool. None of the dumbasses who liked or shared this have actually acted in any meaningful way to protect themselves or their loved ones from this terror, but supposedly: terror.

5) “WE ARE RESISTING TYRANNY” (again, all caps). No they are not. I’ve heard this word, “resist”, thrown around a lot by these Leftists, but no, they’re not resisting. What does it mean to resist, to be in this resistance? Are they smuggling refugees out of the country to freedom and safety? Are they smuggling news, supplies, weapons, anything to the victims trapped inside, or the their fellow revolutionary resisters? Are they carrying out missions of sabotage or assassination? No, none of it. So what are they doing? complaining is what; complaining like the sore losers that they are.  And in what way does the Trump Administration manifest “tyranny”?  We know what tyranny looks like.  We have real-life current-day examples of tyranny:  China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela; and the farther left a government goes the more tyrannical it becomes.   Socialism is the road to tyranny (or serfdom, for you Hayekian purists) and these pathetic Leftists are so clueless as to call themselves Antifa.

Ah! there’s the word I’ve been looking for:

Pathetic.

 

Addendum: While writing this post I googled “Define sore loser”, and here’s what Google came up with:

In what cannot in any possible way be interpreted as a partisan political message, when I Googled “Define sore loser” and I got a picture of James Comey.

Burning Questions About Hydrogen Wire

Scientists at Harvard have recently announced the long-sought creation of the metallic form of Hydrogen.  The last I recall reading about progress towards this goal, perhaps a decade ago, researchers were using diamond anvils.  Take two perfect diamonds, set them opposite each other, place the sample substance in between, and then squeeeeeeeze.  As it turns out they’re still using that same kind of apparatus with some refinements to make the compression surfaces more atomically perfect.

In the circles of material science this milestone really is a big deal.  The theoretical properties of metallic hydrogen are intriguing: room-temperature superconductor, super-high energy rocket fuel.  The article goes into some pie-in-the-sky speculative detail about what wonderful things could be done with this new substance, as most science articles are wont to do.

Let me just point out a couple of things:

  1. There is no theoretical means of mass production.  When these people talk about this room temperature superconductor revolutionizing energy storage and transmission, bear in mind that we have no idea how to scale up production to a level which would be useful or economical for anything other than special-purpose 1-off big-money project.  Think: military, or space exploration, or special-built supercomputer.
  2. Unlike most fuels we use metal hydrogen must have all its energy put into it.  Gasoline, in contrast, has a rather high specific impulse, but what makes it so darn attractive is that the energy is already present in the hydrocarbons we pump out of the ground.  With a few chemical tweaks we can modify it into a very useful fuel, but it is an energy source, whereas metallic hydrogen would be useful as an energy medium, i.e., a form of energy storage.  That is to say, the energy from metallic hydrogen will have to come from some other source and then be stored in the form of metallic hydrogen, but that energy has to come from somewhere else.  Therefore, it’s useful for rockets where volume and mass are at a premium, but very little else as compared to, for example, hydrocarbons.
  3. When considering the superconducting applications of metallic hydrogen, don’t forget the other potential use: high specific-energy rocket fuel.  Now consider the implication: superconducting metallic hydrogen wire would be made of rocket fuel.  We’re used to thinking of wiring as a fire hazard, but mostly because it can overheat and melt, and spark, and thereby set other things on fire, but hydrogen metal wire will itself burn enthusiastically.  Maybe not the kind of stuff you’d want anywhere near your person or things you care about.

So: Metallic Hydrogen.  Superfantasic as the fuel of the world’s tiniest spacecraft, but otherwise, well…  Not so great.

Fauxahontas vs. Big Pharma

Found on my FB feed this morning, posted by one of my many Liberal relatives, who apparently did not actually read what she was endorsing.  Fun fact: She’s a schoolteacher.  Here is the important message from Fauxcahontas, and without further comment, I quote (emphasis added):

“For years, Congress has been working on legislation to advance medical innovation in the United States. But in the closing days of this Congress, Big Pharma has hijacked this 21st Century Cures Act – and every good, common-sense, bipartisan proposal will die unless Democrats make it easier for drug companies to commit fraud, give out kickbacks, and put patient’s lives at risk. I know the difference between compromise and extortion – and I cannot vote for this bill as it currently stands.”

fauxcahontas-vs-big-pharma

DNC Eggs On Leftist Violence

After their 2016 election loss Democrat supporters took to the streets and marched – and rioted. That riot part was downplayed by the MSM as “protests” – here’s a clue for them: when protesters break store windows, smash cars, set fires, and beat people up, it is called a riot and they are called rioters.

The Democratic National Committee has seen this too and they’re doing their part – to keep it going. Here’s my inbox from the last couple of days:gmail-inbox-2016-11-18

Yes, the DNC would like you to start fighting back. “Fight” is the operative word here. See also this email about a sticker they’d like you to put on your car; and what’s the operative word here?dnc-email-fight-back-2016-11-17

Yes, FIGHT. With Liberal defiance, fear, and violence run amok the DNC would like all of their supporters to do what? FIGHT.

Money Can’t Buy Them Love

Bradley Smith has a piece in the Washington Examiner (“Kill the ‘money buys elections’ cliche” – 2016-11-14) in which he points out that in the 2016 election cycle Clinton outspent Trump two-to-one, and of  “independent” groups the Clinton side outspent the Trump side by three-to-one. These are not marginal differences, they are huge and unprecedented; you can’t look at that difference and say that it’s within any kind of margin of ineptitude.  That is to say, it’s not like you can argue that the “true” amounts spent were close because a significant portion of the Clinton cash was spent on stupid things (ex., “That $20M for skywriting over North Dakota? It seemed like a good idea at the time!”).

In his piece Smith makes the case that the “money buys elections” cliche is dead. I’d argue that it isn’t, mostly because, despite the clear-cut example presented by this election, partisans will use whatever argument might work regardless.  Also, money can still buy elections under different circumstances – a candidate who has virtually no budget will probably lose vs. an opponent who has even a modest bankroll, or when all the candidates are not already well-known to the voters. Money still counts.

One thing I found remarkable in this cycle was the absence of the usual Liberal hair-pulling over “Campaign Finance Reform”. Obama outspent both McCain and Romney but the margin was tight enough that Liberals could still pretend they were the underfunded underdogs and decry the way the Right was buying the election. With the disparity as great as it was in this cycle that would no longer pass the laugh test, and that’s why we didn’t hear anything about it.  Not in the WaPo, not in the NYTimes, not on CNN, not in the MSM; not on NPR; not on the Liberal blogs. Where were the Kos Kids or HuffPo? Thinkprogress? Anyone? Did the Liberal “watchdog” groups so much as snarl?

This is another example of the Liberal “Pretext of Principles“.  The disparity in money spent has never been greater, in terms of the ratio or in terms of absolute dollars spent, by the campaign or its supporters, and Liberals didn’t and don’t mind at all because it benefited their side. Their principle that money corrupts the democratic process may or may not be true, but whether it’s troubling to Liberals is entirely conditional on whether or not they are the beneficiaries of the disparity.  As a corollary, the same goes for big money donors; for Liberals, if Wall Street or Big Pharma or whatever deep-pockets pays their side, that may be notable but it’s not bad – and it’s not necessarily notable either.

Your First Clue Was His Initials

Bernie Sanders, having just ended his leftist bid for the Democrat presidential nomination, has bought his third house, a $600K summer dacha, in his home state of Vermont.  I think this is hilarious!  It makes me want to point and laugh big hearty guffaws in the faces of his supporters – not that I would unless provoked, but the notion is delightful.

The hypocrisy of this is incandescent but, sadly, this will change nothing.  The news of this extravagant and indulgent purchase will, by and large, not reach the ears of the leftist rubes who supported him and donated to his campaign.  Probably they’ll never learn of this, and that’s a pity, but even if they do find out most are  incapable of reassessing the man, his campaign, or their own beliefs.  After a quick grimace they’ll go right back to their delusional comfort zone, and their cognitive dissonance will shrug its shoulders and move on.

 

New Toy: HP Stream 11-r020nr Notebook

I just bought myself an HP Stream 11-r020nr Notebook.  It’s got an Intel Celeron CPU (1.66GHz, 2 cores), 2GB DDR3L SDRAM, 32GB flash drive, and an 11.6″ display with onboard video.  These specs were kinda underwhelming ten years ago, but today they’re downright pitiful – and it’s not even upgradable.

So why did I buy this tricycle of a computer?  Because it’s was cheap at only $180+tx and it comes with Windows 10, so altogether it should be adequate to the purpose, and that purpose is online banking.  That will be the singular purpose of this machine.

I’ve been doing my own online banking and portfolio management for many, many years now, generally using my home desktop machine.  I also use that machine for everything else as well – email, web browsing, etc. – and although I have it somewhat secured it’s not very secure, and as such it’s not a suitable platform with which to manage my life savings.  I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t want to do it; then I reached my tipping point after reading about GozNym.

The solution is to have a separate computer with which I do the financial stuff, and only that stuff.  No web browsing, no email, no video or game playing, just using the browser to go to specific financial websites.  Nothing else.  Very little uptime and limited exposure.  On the flip side, it cost me some coin and using it is an awkward PITA.

I thought about using my 10-year-old Acer TravelMate TM4072WLCi – hey, it still runs! – but no.  I need a Windows OS to run Password Safe and so I’d have to replace WinXP.  Win7 is being phased out by MS and replaced by Win10, and buying Win10 standalone costs $100 or so – but I doubt it would recognize the hardware.  I have WinXP drivers, but would they work with Win10?  Doubtful.

All I’m really trying to do with this new notebook is to make myself a more elusive & harder target, and when you come right down to it those are bedrock principles of defense.

Yeah, We Call That “Lunch Money” Around Here

A work story:

Among other things I’m the outgoing shipping manager where I work; a few weeks ago I was emailed by our UPS rep (UPS being our primary small package carrier) asking to drop by so that she could tell me about a new UPS program.  I was going to be busy on the day she proposed so I suggested that perhaps the next week would be better, and to please send me some info so that I could review it when I had the chance. She sent me a link and I took a look:

UPS Rewards

So what’s it about? With this program, if I ship more with UPS this year than last, I get points which can be redeemed for… stuff.  You can see the examples they provide:  Kindle.  TV.  Barbecue grill (for, um – the company picnic!  Yeah, that’s it!).  I’m also the purchasing agent for our office supplies and I manage the accounts for services we use like security, IT, telecom, photocopiers, and so on.  I see these kinds of programs from many, many different vendors, and they all work much like this one.

I emailed to her that we wouldn’t be participating in this program.  She asked me why not, and I wrote back, “The benefits could easily be construed as a gratuity from a vendor, i.e., a kickback.”  I know that’s kind of indelicate, perhaps blunt, but that’s how I roll.  I didn’t hear back from her until yesterday when she showed up at my workplace.

She said she wanted to speak to me in person regarding the program, and to reassure me that the rewards were most certainly was not intended as a kickback, and many other vendors have had similar programs for years.  I told her that I’m familiar with these kinds of programs: In exchange for business the purchasing agent gets a “reward”, i.e., a gratuity.  It’s a conflict of interest for me to take any gratuity from a vendor when I spend company money on their product or service.  It would give me an incentive to give company business to a vendor with little regard for the value of the transaction to my employer since I would be getting a personal benefit.  That’s a kickback.

I also told that I didn’t hold it against her; it’s not like she slipped me a Jackson and told me there’s more where that came from if I’d give UPS all the SPS business next week (Rep: “Oh, I would never do that! My personal ethics wouldn’t allow me to do that!” Slab: “Yes, I know, and if you ever did that I’d be done with you and toss you out.”)  I also told her that I understood that she was just doing her job in introducing me to the new program as was required of her, and that understandably she wasn’t able to agree with my characterization of this new program, but also that she hadn’t and wouldn’t change my mind on this.  Regardless, I told her, this did not damage our professional relationship, that I did not hold this against her personally or as our rep, but she might want to consider telling UPS Corporate that one of her clients thinks this is a kickback program and would not participate.

So, there we were standing in the loading dock having this somewhat-awkward-but- friendly discussion, and about midway through it one of our salesreps who works out of my office sauntered up to me with a gleam in her eyes and a big sunshine smile, waving a Jackson in her hand as she sang out my name, “Oh, Slaaa—aab!”  I took her money and looked at the UPS rep and said, “Of course, she hands me money.”  We smiled at each other, and I added “It’s for her lunch – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”

ACE in Spades

ACE (Automated Commercial Environment) is the new website from the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection).  As a part of my work I need to process shipments through it, but recently my account was disabled.  Why?  Beats me, and I’m the Administrator of the account.  Friday I was able to log in – and I all I did was log in and navigate to a particular webpage – but come Monday morning I was locked out.  This is the page you see when you’re locked out:

ACE - Account Disabled

Error: (unintelligible error code) This account is disabled.

(unintelligible error code) This account is disabled.

Explanation:  (unintelligible error code) This account is disabled.

Solution:  (unintelligible error code) This account is disabled.

You consent to monitoring & and audit trail, and here are some legal threats for misuse.

I called the Helpdesk to open a ticket; they say it takes two or three days or longer for the technical department to reactivate an account (!), and, two days later, that appears to be correct.  There is no way for me to contact the technical department.

Perfect.

I want everyone who’s in favor of “Single Payer” healthcare to get it, because that will be their punishment.