Showing posts from September, 2017

Bugging the professor's office

Salvatore Stolfo, a top cybersecurity guy, presented to us yesterday. One of the hacks he described his team performing -- an ethical hack, mind you! -- was to secretly turn the Cisco IP Phone into a listening device that can forward everything said in an office to a hostile party.

I told my wife about this, and noted, "And we have those phones on our desks!"

"Are you going to get rid of them?" she asked.

"Nah, a professor only says something worth eavesdropping on about once a decade, so it would be a complete waste of time to hack our phones."

Recognition of tacit knowledge in Lean

"Handoffs are similar to giving a bicycle to someone who doesn't know how to ride. You can give them a big instruction book on how to ride the bike, but it won't be much help. Far better that you stay and help them experience of feeling of balance that comes with gaining momentum... Before long your colleague knows how to ride the bike, although she can't describe how she does. This kind of knowledge as called tacit knowledge, and it is very difficult to hand off to other people through documentation." -- Mary and Tom Poppendieck, Implementing Lean Software  Development

Did you know?

The very popular Django web framework was created by programmers at the Lawrence Journal-World? The hometown newspaper of the sixth most populous city in Kansas is the birthplace of this very significant piece of technology!

Also, here's the "summit" of the highest "mountain" in Kansas:

Was all of git's documentation written by a robot?

I've been using git for close to four years now, and still I get error messages like "the following files have changes staged in the index" (I was trying to remove files from the repo) and have no idea whatsoever what the problem is.

Killing the Spirit

"The more fervently all human energies are thrown into the great enterprise of salvation through world -- immanent action, the farther the human beings who engage in this enterprise move away from the life of the spirit. And since the life the spirit is the source of order in man and society, the very success of a Gnostic civilization is the cause of its decline. A civilization can, indeed, advance and decline at the same time -- but not forever. There is a limit toward which this ambiguous process moves; the limit is reached when an activist sect which represents the Gnostic truth organizes the civilization into an empire under its rule. Totalitarianism, defined as the existential rule of Gnostic activists, is the end form of progressive civilization."-- Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics

"Half Muslim"

The effort to make Islam a race, so that any objection to any Islamic doctrine can be denounced as "racism," continues apace: on the episode of The Blacklist I was watching last night, a character declared he was "half Muslim."

That, of course, is a complete absurdity, like being "half atheist" or "half born again." Islam is a belief system, and someone either embraces it, and is a Muslim, whatever their biological inheritance, or doesn't embrace it, and isn't Muslim, even if both of their parents were Muslim. The idea of being "half Muslim" is something that any serious, believing Muslim would find repellent.

But the SJWs don't care about their "pet" groups: homosexuals, transgendered, Muslims, etc. Those groups are just props used for progressives to advance their agenda... which is that progressives should be in charge.


"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Euphemisms II

It's not just abortion where these euphemisms bug me either. I think it is sometimes OK to euthanize your pet, but... you did not "put the dog to sleep."

It ain't sleeping, it's dead.

Human languages, mathematical language, and programming languages

Human languages are notoriously messy and historical. Although logic is not absent from human languages, they were not designed per a logical schema.

Programming languages are often the product of one or two minds, proceeding according to a single conception of how a "language" should work. They typically exhibit a high degree of consistency.

The "language" of mathematics is an in-between venture. Although it is typically more consistent and logical than a natural language, it does have lots of historical cruft built up.

We programmers sometimes get frustrated with mathematical notation for this reason. (E.g, "Why doesn't that have parentheses also?" or "Why should the power be there in one equation, but in a different place in another one?")

Career Fair Organization

A dark thought came into my mind. I imagined the hosts of career fairs plan eight hours worth of events for their participant companies. This is so the companies' employees can log eight hours of work for the day.

By their euphemisms you shall know them

I'm watching the Belgian TV series The Break. Not bad, but...

At several points the subject of abortion comes up. The characters say things like, "We decided not to keep the baby," or "Do you want to keep the baby?"

"The baby" in this view is a consumer good, like a sofa or a dishwasher. Somehow (God knows how: a drunken shopping spree?) the characters acquired "the baby." But having gotten a better look at the deal, well, perhaps it wasn't such a bargain after all... better return it to the store now, since at present, the archaic return policies only allow returns during the first nine months after purchase. (The campaign to allow later returns has already begun, by the way.)

Of course, euphemism-free, those statements really mean, "We decided to kill the baby," and "Do you want to kill the baby?"

But so long as we hide our barbarisms under lying words, we can go on being happy consumers!

My review of The Invisible Hand?

is online at History: Review of New Books.


At the Tandon School of Engineering, office 10.010:

Aleph-null bleg

I am trying to write א-null in HTML, with a zero subscript, but...

It seems that the right-to-left convention for Hebrew writing somehow overrides the actual order in which I type the HTML code, and the zero subscript appears on the web page before the aleph.

Does anyone have any idea how to get this ordered properly?

Businesses have known how to value diversity for a long time

My father, who was a lawyer, had his first job at the firm of "Slavitt, Connery, and Vardimis." Slavitt was a Jew, Connery an Irishman, and Vardimis was Hungarian. (Those were three of the major ethnic groups in the town I grew up in: I'm sure they would have liked to add an Italian name as well, if circumstances had worked out differently.)

Forty years later, after my wife and I married, our law firm for our real estate transactions was Slavitt, Connery, and Vardimis. Bob Slavitt, the son of Abe, the original Slavitt, was still at the firm. But Connery and Vardimis had both died decades earlier... and yet their names were still on the shingle. Why? Diversity! The firm knew they would attract more clients with their ethnically diverse shingle than if they had changed the name to just "Slavitt."

They did not need to hire a "Chief Officer of Diversity Initiatives" to grok this.

Idiot Highlighting

I ordered a used copy of Just-in-Time for Today and Tomorrow from Amazon. Pretty much throughout, the book is "highlighted" as follows:

Out of about 80 lines on the above two pages, 74 of them are highlighted! What is someone doing this thinking?

Highlighting serves to make occasional key passages easy to re-locate, because the highlighted lines stand out. With this much highlighting, the only lines that stand out are the unhighlighted ones. (I presume the previous reader did not intend that, since it is an awful waste of ink and time to emphasize important lines by highlighting all of the non-important lines.)

It is almost as though the person were reading with the highlighter, the way a child might read with their finger.

Oakeshott on Ryle

Michael Oakeshott reviewed Ryle's The Concept of Mind quite favorably. A quote:

"In general [Ryle's] doctrine is that 'when we describe people is exercising qualities of mind, we are not referring to occult episodes of which their overt acts and utterances are effects: we are referring to those overt acts and utterances themselves.' Mental activity is not the activity of a 'mind,' or activity which takes place in the hidden recesses of a mind, in distinction from the activity of a body: it is doing and saying things in a particular manner."

The Dark Knight of the Soul

Here's a great passage from Frank Knight, brought to my attention by the Murphmeister himself:

"The dictatorship of the [Communist] Party once established, and given a monopoly of propaganda, the problem of controlling the proliferation of romantic myths, of unifying and stabilizing and concentrating on one system at a time should be simple in the extreme. One of the greatest of modern scientific developments is waiting to serve the regime in this regard and save the world from turmoil. I refer, of course, to psychology in its applied aspect. In this connection we may thrill with patriotism as well as hope. No other country has approached our own in the succession of peerless psychologists we have given to the world. To name but a few: P.T. Barnum; Jay Gould; Mrs. Mary B.G. Eddy; Mrs. Aimee S. McPherson (notice the due representation of both sexes); Billy Sunday; Goat-gland Doc Brinkley; and coming to our own home town, our own dear Big Bill Thompson, Balaban, and Katz, and …

Philodoxy Does Not Equal Stupidity

One person, after reading my recent post on the structure of our current political life, accused me of believing of that all of the philodoxers are "too stupid" to form their own opinions.

But that is not the issue at all: the issue is one of objective, not of intelligence. The philodoxers are are not less intelligent (necessarily) than are philosophers; they have a different aim. The philosopher tries to conform his ideas to the truth, whereas the philodoxer tries to formulate opinions that make him liked and respected. Those opinions can be formed with a tremendous amount of cleverness; indeed, there are absolutely brilliant academics out there who use their brilliance in the interest of gaining kudos from their peers.

The fact that the difference here is one of objective, and not of intelligence, is why Plato spoke of the process of becoming a philosopher as a periagogue, a turning around of the soul, rather than as a process of becoming more clever.

It is why Jeremiah notes…

New Members of the Tandon Family

Include... this guy.

No Manatees...

but maybe just one:


The Deeper Structures in the Current Political Melee

Many people have noted the shakiness of the "left-right" spectrum as a way of accurately analyzing politics. Here I offer a more scientific analysis, based on reaching down to the core motivations behind various groups. As such, this analysis will have little to do with "left" and "right", and we will find some people from each of my groupings being placed on the left, and some people from each grouping being identified as "right-wing."

The three major categories of actors in Western politics today -- at first these terms may not make sense, but explanation will follow:

Philosophers: Here, I use the term in its original sense, as "lovers of truth," not in its modern sense of "people who analyze sentences." First and foremost, philosophers are those who recognize an objective order to the world, one not created by human beings, to which humans are obliged to conform their actions. (This order…


Are not manatees. Yet they have a similarity. Just as manatees do not appear on this blog, for about half the population, a gorilla does not appear in this video.

The Monkey Business Illusion
This just goes to show what Michael Oakeshott pointed out many years ago: when we enter into a practical endeavor, we define ends and means. When we do this, we filter what we experience. All that exists for us are basketball players and a bouncing ball of which we can count its passes.
Hence the power of philosophy: we see what we don't look for.

1000-Year Flood of Statistical Ignorance

I ran across, but can't at the moment relocate, a piece that claimed something like, "We just saw a 500-year flood in Houston. And 100-year floods in X, Y, and Z. All in the last 5 years!"

Obviously, what we were meant to conclude is that there was no way we could have had four 100+ year events in a five year period without global warming being the cause. Here is a similar piece, in which uber-idiot Naomi Klein says that "The records being broken year after year..." prove that man-made climate change is real, and a disaster. Without the least bit of curiosity as to just how often we should expect weather records to be broken. The world is a pretty big place, and Klein tosses out four categories of records -- "whether for drought, storm surges, wildfires, or just heat" -- so it is very likely that somewhere in the world, a record for one of those things is being broken pretty regularly. Perhaps these record breaking events really are happening more fr…

Nice coding, Google!

Blogger has now wiped out my blog roll for the third time.

Rebuilding again. Suggestions welcomed.

That's game theory

Fictional Cornell economist on Prison Break, explaining game theory to his wife:

"That's game theory: you bring people into your life, and keep them there, until you need to manipulate them for your advantage."

Ah, so that's game theory. Well, it's amazing anyone could run a semester-long course on the durned thing.

8 Million New Yorkers...

and all it takes is a 63 degree, drizzly day, with high winds, to discover that it's 7,999,999 softies, and me: