# Canonical

Learning by doing...

## Posts

December 21, 06:54 AM

This is an example of an exceptionally false-positive computer virus concern. More accurate: General lack of having a clue.

How to clean the goo dot gl virus when you run it?

Computer Viruses: View the question and associated answers on Quora.

Tagged: Quora, URL shortener
October 05, 06:51 AM

Random number generators: The devil is in the details

#### How to generate random numbers from spam

I found this the other day, via WPRandom:

Generating random numbers is pretty complicated if you need them for cryptographic algorithms. This software generates them based on spam comments…

It caught my eye as a sort of “spinning spam into RNG gold”, or more likely, PRNG (pseudo-random number generated) gold. Many WordPress blogs, whether self-hosted on WordPress.org or not, effectively use Akismet as a comment spam sieve. As I’ve learned during my time with WordPress, and with spam comments, Akismet will not publish comments that it identifies as probable spam. This provides a possibly crucial aspect of SecurityDump’s application:

no one will be able to see the source of your numbers, unless they hack into your database

All the details are available on the Google project site for WPRandom, Problems and Attack Vectors wiki. I have no idea if SecurityDump worked the bugs out of this yet or not. I found it an amusing idea, though, to squeeze some genuine value from the efforts of spammers.

Tagged: random numbers, spam
June 14, 12:24 AM

The other Defcon

I never attended DEFCON, though it remains a dream I hope to realize one day, soon. It may soon become too logistically awkward due to increasing numbers of attendees.

Shodan is a remarkable search engine. Traditional search engines use “spiders” to crawl websites. Shodan culls data from ports. It was created by John Matherly in 2007. He continues to develop it.

Shodan is helpful for locating web server vulnerabilities. It is available as a free service, for up to 50 searches. Query syntax includes searches by country, host name, operating system and port. Shodan can search for software AND hardware. It has been acknowledged by mainstream media. The most prominent coverage was in early June, via The Washington Post, when Stuxnet received so much press attention.

#### Me and Shodan

Next is my Scribd infosec collection. It isn’t exclusively Shodan-related. This is why. I first noticed that Michael Schearer wrote excellent PowerPoint presentations, and kindly posted them on Scribd. I was curious, searched for more. This led me to Shodan HQ.

Shodan is NOT an acronym for Sentient Hyper Optimized Data Access Network. John Matherly kindly confirmed this, in response to my recent inquiry.

#### Human knowledge belongs to the world, after all, and information ALWAYS wants to be free.

I wrote an information security and data privacy post, on my Tumblr blog. The (inline) PDF document from hal.inria.fr is the highlight. Along the way, I learned about quines! They are a cute construct, like palindromes, or self-replication, or polyglot programs; fun, maybe useful.

There was a somewhat satisfactory resolution to the ongoing matter of what I think of as Bobby Table’s Google-compromised web malware repository. The Web Malware Collection Project is:

A collection of web application back doors and malware, in PHP, JSP, ASP, etc.

Let’s conclude with a video, Hackers vs. Disasters Large and Small. The venue was DEFCON 13. Introductory remarks were by Michael Schearer, which is where this all began. Be forewarned, duration is 1 hour, 45 minutes:

Most often we’re “on the grid” and close to our precious electronics and high-speed internet. What would happen if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere or in the midst of a natural disaster? This presentation will show you that your hacker ingenuity can help you survive the worst.

Tagged: information security, search engine, SHODAN
March 24, 12:02 PM

#### An exciting time for chemistry

Two new elements, flerovium and livermoreium, also known as Fl and Lv, and formerly known by the much blander names of ununquadium and ununhexium, have been approved for entry[1] into the Periodic Table of the Elements!

The Periodic Tattoo of Elements

In honor of the event, I assembled a minor gallery of favorite periodic tables.

The children’s Periodic Table on the U.S. EIA site provides the basics. Better yet, it links to the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) Periodic Table, which is just as impressive and complete as I would expect.

Celebrating the 175th birthday of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table

While viewing, consider a recent post by senior LANL employee David Hobart, Actinide Analytical Chemistry, History of the periodic table…and my history with it, which was charming, as well as educational.

There is an “evolution of the table” section, facts about the table’s inventor, Dmitri Mendeleev, born 175 years ago[2], and this:

As the legendary physicist Richard Feynman put it, “If some universal catastrophe was to engulf the world and humankind could retain only one scientific concept to rebuild civilization, what would it be? The chemist’s answer is almost invariably the Periodic Table of the Elements.

#### Memorable periodic tables

1. The periodic table in 200+ languages, including dead languages
2. a spectacular interactive periodic table, in Latin
3. Josh Duck’s charming, functional Periodic Table of HTML
4. A rare earth element-centric periodic table that I am especially fond of

#### Chemical Philately: An IYC Stamp Odyssey

In the course of researching this article, I learned that 2011 was designated The International Year of Chemistry. Many countries chose to commemorate IYC 2011 with a memorial postage stamp. The United States did not participate, well, not with a postage stamp issuance, and several European countries focused only on the 100th anniversary of Madame Curie’s award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.

Macedonia

I followed along with IUPAC member Daniel Rabinovich in his own year of discovery, as he documented chemistry-related philatelic activities around the globe. Do read his narrative. View the beautiful stamps! He did an excellent job, conveying the excitement as each new stamp was issued.

Virtue was rewarded. Daniel Rabinovich will be a featured presenter on March 25, 2012, a few days from now, at the 2012 American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego. I wish I could be there too, to listen to his lecture, IYC 2011 Stamp Odyssey, HIST Tutorial and General Papers session.

[1] IUPAC made the announcement on Dec 1, 2011. The new names are currently nearing the end of a five-month public comment period. After that, the official paperwork will be processed, and they will show up in the table.

[2] Mendeleev’s Periodic Table was presented in public 142 years (and a few days) ago, on March 18, 1869 to the Russian Chemical Society.

EDIT
Some may find this online exchange that followed this post from the American Chemical Society: Lifetime Fan (An Undergrad Gets Inked) to be of interest. I refer to the comment section. It eventually led to a response by the CEO of the American Chemical Society, Madeleine Jacobs, which I enjoyed.

Tagged: chemistry, elements, history, periodic table
February 13, 08:00 PM

I found an old sentiment analysis application. It has very unglamorous packaging but a  good algorithm under the hood. I ran the Twitter user id’s of the brightest people I know. well, know of, who are active Twitter users. The assessment of “bright” was subjective by me.  All are acknowledged experts or advanced degree holders. Maybe half speak English as a second language, but are sufficiently articulate that their “essence”, well, intelligence shines through.

Guess what: It worked! I don’t know if anyone cares about this sort of thing, that really sharp successful people score well on this sentiment analysis indicator. That doesn’t necessarily mean it would have any predictive value. And no one seems to care much about this anyway. But what I’m saying is that most of these people only have okay-ish Klout scores e.g. 40′s. But they’re not trying to use Twitter for any particular social media purpose. Well, I don’t know that with certainty.

Tagged: text analytics, Twitter, word play
February 05, 12:25 AM

Edward Tufte’s first text, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, introduced standards for graphical representation. It is considered the definitive guide for visual display of complex data.

Visualization of Edward Tufte visualizing data

#### Visualizing Edward Tufte’s thought processes?

I found this while surfing Flickr. Austin Kleon of Austin, Texas is the artist. The image represents the cognitive process by which Edward Tufte transformed raw data into digestible information while writing Envisioning Information, one of his many follow-on publications to Visual Display. It is a mind map.

#### Tufte-isms

IEEE Spectrum’s Innovation blog featured the topic of data visualization, profiling Edward Tufte as a practitioner. The emphasis was unusual for IEEE. Use of words like “doyen” was too. I’m enjoying IEEE Spectrum more and more these days! If only I could become a member…

Tufte-isms explores how Tufte’s ideas have influenced language:

Tufte, it turns out, is not only a doyen of data visualization but also a neologist par excellence. His most famous [term] might be chartjunk, which refers to chart elements that not only serve no purpose but may in fact hinder understanding. In Tuftese, when chartjunk takes a cartoonish form…the result is a chartoon. One of the key principles in good information design is to shoot for a high data-ink ratio, which is the ratio of data-ink (the elements that convey the actual data) to the total ink used in the graphic. To calculate this, first distinguish the data-ink from the redundant data-ink (data elements repeated unnecessarily) and the non-data-ink (data support, such as grid lines, axes, labels, and legends, or as decoration, such as background colors, data markers, and of course, chartjunk). “Ink” here refers to both text and graphical elements.

#### SAS surprise*

SAS’s official conference reviewer attended a prior year’s SXSW event. She posted the focal image of the event’s opening presentation, the mind map reproduced below, as part of her review. I will include the relevant URL if I can ever find it again. Much of the SAS Ephemera blog has been archived so thoroughly that it has in effect, vanished. But the name did give fair warning.

Sweet dreams

A bullet point slide might be more meaningful for a keynote address than a mind map. But one page of Times Roman typeface on a white background is not nearly as compelling.

I did not have a high opinion of mind maps, but my mind is open

Mind maps first appeared several decades ago. Obviously, they are in vogue again. Mind maps could be described as visualization-lite. At best mind maps capture epistemological concepts. The viewer is prompted to synthesize information and learn. At worst, they are harmless, because they don’t attempt to quantify information.

The two mind maps above appeal to me as art, what I consider Chart Art. Chart Art is not meant in a pejorative way. Mind mappers don’t refer to their work as a form of “data visualization”. I think that is quite wise. We have designers who are interested in data, and analysts who are interested in design. Both can produce good work (we also have data scientists, but they are another matter entirely)!

This was Part 1, use of visualization. Part 2 will focus on abuse of data visualization. It will include a scaling criteria that I drafted, modified, pondered and put aside nearly two years ago, until I had some meaningful examples. Finally, I am ready!

#### Data scientists: Where are they?

Data scientists are a rare breed. The good ones have graduate-level degrees, or equivalent experience, in statistics and applied mathematics. Equally important is that they are decent programmers, and don’t consider applications development a tiresome chore.

All work by Austin Kleon is reproduced under Creative Commons License 2.0/by-nc-nd.

* The SAS Institute of Carey, North Carolina sells high quality statistical software and data management applications. SAS remains a privately held company, founded by Duke University professors from days past. If only IBM had acquired SAS instead of SPSS! I used SAS for many years. As I re-read this, I caught an amusing typo “high quality satirical software”. Who is the market leader in satirical software, I wonder?

Tagged: data art, mind map, SAS, standards, Tufte
February 01, 08:28 AM

The original Black Swan

Last night I read about The Black Swan a.k.a. Nassim Taleb on EL&U SE (English Language and Usage StackExchange website). Apparently Professor Taleb wants to introduce a new word to the vocabulary of global financial collapse, antifragility:

So let us coin the appellation “antifragile” for anything that, on average, (i.e. in expectation) benefits from variability.

Consensus on EL&U was that this was blatant tub-thumping by Taleb.

### The original Black Swan

I agree with my EL&U comrades-in-arms: Antifragility will cause obfuscation. There are many adequate, extant words*that Taleb could use. Instead, he is intent on creating a term that will be uniquely associated with him. I am not convinced that there ARE any entities that benefit from variability. A delta hedge that is long volatility is the only construct that I can think of off-hand, and I don’t think something that contrived was what Taleb had in mind.

Nassim Taleb already co-opted “Black Swan”. If Thomas Mann were still alive, I think he would have a decent case for plagiarism or even theft of intellectual property. Couldn’t Taleb have thought of an expression that wasn’t previously used by someone who won a Nobel Prize in Literature, who wrote a book with the same title, and pertaining to an anomalous event, also known as a statistical outlier?

Anyway, after the briefest of browsing on a search engine or two for antifragility, antonyms and humor, I found Fragile Web Development with SQL on Rails

### SQL on Rails, a humorous digression

Rails gives you a pure-SQL development environment. Finally!

Fragile, breakneck collaboration

Who’s using SQL on Rails?

Everyone from startups to non-profits to tyrannical governments are using Rails. Rails is all about RDBMSs so it’s a perfect fit for absolutely every type of web application, be it software for organized crime collusion, pornographic content distribution, torrent tracking, or even social networking.

What else do I need?

MySQL is the only stable option for SQL on Rails at the moment–the development team decided to tackle the gold standard first. However, work is underway to add support for a few more databases: Oracle™, DB2™, Fox Pro™, FileMaker Pro™, Lotus Approach™, Ingres, Sybase™, Oracle Berkeley DB™, and Microsoft Excel™. Just about any operating system will do, but we recommend one with Minesweeper.

If you need hosting, ask around.

That was followed by COBOL on Cogs.

Audio-cassettes and binders full of printouts: Re-live Y2K today

Modern browsers tolerated but unnecessary to view site in full green screen glory.  Click on image to view full-sized.

Anti-fragility makes me feel exasperated. Robust, durable, survivable as in “survival of the fittest”, flexible, having high tensile strength, adaptable or tempered like Damascus steel… any would be adequate.

Or, as others said on EL&U,

I don’t think there really is a single word term for something that breaks or dies or whatever when stress is removed from it. (Phoenix)

and

Taleb means resilient, but he’s confusing survival of the species/system with survival of the individual. In the end I see an almost wanton muddying of the difference between individual and “group” survival – where “group” could be any level from small partnerships to global corporations to capitalism to humanity itself. The higher levels effectively require potentially fatal changes to happen at lower levels – survival of the fittest is what drives evolution in the first place. (FumbleFingers)

I found an excellent review of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, with a new section “On Robustness and Fragility”, on the Amazon website. Wading through Mediocristan is amusing, sarcastic, yet acknowledges the merits of Professor Taleb’s work.

Tagged: Black Swan, critique, risk, Stack Overflow, Taleb, tech culture, word play
December 16, 02:23 PM

Last Tuesday, 13 December 2011, The U.S. Mint announced that current production of one dollar coins is ending. The Mint will continue to produce a few one dollar coins for collectors, as required by law. But these will have numismatic value, and cost more than $1.00. instead of producing 70-80 million coins per president, the Mint will now only produce as many as collectors order. 2010 Native American$1 Coin reverse

Forty percent of $1 coins were returned, unwanted, to the Federal Reserve Bank each year. Circulating demand for$1 coins will be met through the Federal Reserve’s existing stockpile, which will be drawn down over time.

My favorite $1 coin featured Sacagawea, guide to Lewis & Clark. This is the 2010 Native American$1 coin, reverse side. It is beautiful. Click through for full details from the U.S. Mint.

Even though the $1 coins would have saved billions over time (they are more durable than paper money), they were never popular with the American public. Not all of the American public feels similarly. Those participating in this discussion on Reddit seemed saddened by the news. Others raised the point that the U.S. Mint remains committed to production of the penny. Despite my fondness for copper, and loyalty to the Arizona as The Copper State, one wonders at the sense of this. Both Canada and many European countries have already discontinued small denomination paper bank notes, and replaced them with larger denomination coins. I liked$1 coins, as they were useful for buying commuter train tickets. I’ll miss them.

Tagged: coins, Federal Reserve Bank, policy, US economy, US Mint
December 06, 11:04 AM

Be receptive! Be open to each and every type of user input for authentication.

This very user-centric approach for identity resolution leverages the many open API’s now available for web services. Feel free to select your user name-of-choice!

• @Twitter user name
• Facebook.com/user name
• user name@gmail.com
• YouTube.com/user name
• user name.wordpress.com or user name.wordpress.org blog URL
• Flickr.com/user name
• user name@yahoo.com
• Open ID provider URL
• more?

In his identity resolution related post, developer Luis Farzati emphasizes that:

the objective is to allow the user to input whatever wanted [in order] to login… If it exists as a valid username out here, we’ll find it and suggest it!

#### Casual testing

Luis Farzati’s Smart Identity Resolver Widget is on Github. A demo is included. I tried it. The widget easily found my Twitter and YouTube user names. It did not work with my Open ID URL. That was not surprising, as Open ID requires a bit of fussing, the first time I use it in a slightly different context.

Assortment of user profiles returned for sign on

I had a look around on Github. My impression was that Luis is using REST with OAuth to Open ID providers, or calls to APIs depending on the service. This enables the universal sign in to return the powerful visual cue of one’s own avatar. There are two forks, Master and G-H. The latter includes an implementation of the universal sign on for FriendFeed. The G-H branch might be interesting to someone who could understand it! Otherwise, it was straightforward, decently commented JavaScript that even I could almost understand.

#### Proof-of-concept

The Smart Identity effort was intended as proof-of-concept ONLY. Luis makes that very clear in the README. I think the motivation may have been to ease user transition to, and increase comfort with the URL-based format of Open ID.

I felt a little sad when I noticed that the repository had no commits since April 2011. The idea clearly generated some interest, though. It is quite appealing. Something may come of it eventually, as Luis’s Smart Identity Widget repository still has 17 followers on Github. Licensing is under CreativeCommons/by-sa/3.0/.

#### Minor disclaimer

Do be aware that I found this via Chris Messina‘s Friend Feed stream several months ago. Chris is an open social advocate and Google employee. That is of some reassurance. This should be secure, though one must always exercise caution if asked for a password!

Tagged: Authentication, identity, OpenID, ux
November 15, 06:25 AM

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is standardizing over 100 specifications for the open web, in at least 13 working groups. The CSS Working Group alone is in charge of 50 specifications. This does not include work on Unicode, HTTP and TLS.

New tag proposal.  Not really.

#### The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from

I was waiting to post this until the debate between W3C and WHATWG about the status of HTML5 scope was resolved. However, I have waited since February 2011. Consensus is that HTML5 is being inappropriately used as a catch-all for every standard supported by modern browsers. Modern browsers actually include much more: CSS3 styling, WOFF (web fonts), semantic web elements such as microformats, 3-D graphics including SVG, and performance enhancements. HTML5 tags are merely one part of semantic web support. As a result, terminology was modified by WHATWG. HTML is the new HTML5

HTML5

What does that imply for the HTML5 logos and imagery introduced by W3C in January 2011? That is unclear. While still available, get your official HTML5-related logos. Here is the full-featured badge, on the right. Have a look at the official W3C HTML5 logo FAQ for an explanation.

Curious about the origins of the HTML5 logo, regardless of its future? I was. It was commissioned work by design studio Ocupop.

#### What now?

As best I can tell, HTML is now version-less. It is a living standard and maintained by WHATWG. A snapshot version of HTML5, updated on 14 November 2011, is approaching “last call” status. HTML5 documentation is a joint project of the W3C and WHATWG.

HTML remains in flux, as befitting a living standard. The most recent issue is <time>. HTML5 Dr. Bruce Lawson provides motivation and use cases for this element. Evolution of <time> is captured best by comments after the post. The rogue entry by a W3C impersonator was most exciting! It was masterfully dispatched by HTML5 Dr. Oli Studholme. Further discussion of the meaning of <time> was recently initiated by a WHATWG project leader.

#### Stray thoughts

Josh Duck’s delightful Periodic Table of the HTML5 Elements remains valid, after a name change to HTML. The <time> tag links to a pleasant web applications development company, Kaazing. The Kaazing pumpkin carving template for an HTML5 Halloween is available for download[PDF]. Although too late for 2011, the template will not be  deprecated, and is portable through the year 2012 and beyond.

Earlier this month, Adobe Systems announced that it will no longer support Flash for mobile devices, with browsers to follow. This reinforces the importance of HTML as a web browser standard, due to its support of video. YouTube and Vimeo already offer HTML5 beta versions, which work nicely.

Tagged: browser, HTML, HTML5, standards, W3C, WHATWG

## Posts

April 01, 11:56 PM

I was browsing through the website of my recent acquaintance on Pinterest, the National Cryptologic Heritage Museum. In fact, I am sincerely proud to say Pinterest friend, as the follow is mutual. This led me to another website, where I noticed that the Public Information, Declassification and Transparency Department of NSA Communicators had posted a delightful document archive.

## Cryptolog!

Newly declassified by the National Security Agency! Browse through any, or all, of the 136 issues of comic-formatted Cryptolog, from Volume 1 (1974)  through Volume 23 (1997). Each issue of Cryptolog is available as a PDF file, for your extended and leisurely enjoyment.

I found this puzzle transcribed as a webpage (HTML), as a sample of the fun to be found within.

### The larger event is the 60th anniversary of the NSA

"Established on Nov. 4, 1952, the National Security Agency celebrates this week 60 years of service to the nation. NSA's achievements [are] in areas such as signals intelligence, information assurance, innovative research, and contributions in support of U.S. military and foreign policy goals."

Prior to 1952, the NSA existed as the Army Signal Corps. I didn't know this. My grandmother worked for the Army Signal Corps in Philadelphia during World War 2, and for several years following. She enjoyed her work there enormously. If she had been able to continue... wow! Instead, she returned to her job as a librarian assistant at Central High School. I feel so proud of my grandmother! I wish I could tell her what I learned today.

"A public ceremony will be held on the same day at the agency's National Cryptologic Museum, where officials will present a new 60th Anniversary Exhibit including the SIGABA cipher machine, the only such device that remained completely unbroken by an enemy during the war."

The date was 12 November 2012. This post is a little after the fact. However, the National Cryptologic Museum remains open, in its full glory.

The Cryptologic Foundation describes it as a Museum Like No Other. I wish I could visit. I wish it could be soon.

January 25, 01:09 PM

Can big data analytic methods be used for comparing Compounded Growth Rate (CGR) for a stock versus the industry median?

## So they say

That's an affirmative, according to Big Data for Finance via The Benefits of Going Big (June 2012), and posted on Twitter today, from the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

## Rationale

Comparing stock CGR's with the industry median over time, then filtering those that exceed the median is computationally intensive:

The growth rate has to be calculated not only for every stock in the universe but also for the industry it belongs to. Typically, this kind of analytic takes tens of seconds to compute. The Eikon data cloud - through its proprietary 'vega effect' - decomposes the query into data retrieval, data level and application analytics and applies speed and scale to each layer.

This is accomplished by applying techniques such as

... efficient data retrieval algorithms, vectorisation, and parallel processing... the same analysis now takes less than one second to compute.

Such work required 30 seconds or even a minute using Microsoft Excel, 20 years ago. Modern MS Excel might require a full 5 or 10 seconds today...!

### Realistically speaking...

For a quick explanation that describes my personal outlook, glance at this recent Canadian Market Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) post about big data as a phenomenon.

Next, I found an Adelaide commercial law blog that provided a more nuanced assessment of big data. However, it is consistent with the marketing researchers' outlook, excerpt:

Big Data is somewhat of a misnomer because it is not like standard ICT* spending... it will be run with technical services [for] determining veracity through market sentiment. If an investment bank is trying to determine the initial share price for an IPO they would run trend analysis on similar companies while [gauging] investor sentiment. Big Data used in this way is... a likely competitive advantage for smaller companies.

* ICT is an abbreviation for "information and communications technology".

January 19, 02:46 PM

## Economic gloom and climate doom

The following three excerpts are re-posted from the blog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley. My bleak synthesis, of economic and climactic gloom and doom, follows.

N.B. Endorsement by Professor DeLong is not given, nor even vaguely implied!

John Quiggin on Utopia and climate change:

"Economic development and technological progress provide the only real hope of lifting billions of people out of poverty and destitution…. If current First World living standards can’t safely be extended to the rest of the world, the future holds either environmental catastrophe or an indefinite continuation of the age-old struggle between rich and poor. Of course, it might hold both."

Ryan Avent on The euro crisis: Mario Draghi's premature canonisation and European Central Bank inaction

"[T]he complacency on the macro situation (and on the broader process of institutional reform, for that matter) are just astounding."

Noah Smith on The End of Labor:

"For most of modern history, inequality has been a manageable problem. The reason is that no matter how unequal things get, most people are born with something valuable: the ability to work, to learn, and to earn money… But in the past ten years, something has changed... In past times, technological change always augmented the abilities of human beings… Once human cognition is replaced, what else have we got?

## Singular vision: Science and technology

Ray Kurzweil foresaw a technological singularity. It was to be positive, a sea change leading to freedom from the ancient tyranny of daily toil. The effort, to merely subsist, dominated human life for most of our history. Soul-numbing labor was expended to attain the barest necessities for survival.

Arrival of Kurzweil's singularity was to have liberated us. Yet it doesn't seem likely to. Concentration of wealth has increased during the past quarter century, especially in the U.S.A. (reversing the trend toward greater distribution during the 50 years prior). Most technology and genomic benefits will be out of reach, even for the technocracy. There is scant promise for any, other than the fabulously wealthy elite.

### TED dystopia

Self-congratulatory, revival styled TED talks come to mind, with their fanfare, inspirational music, showmanship and miracle works. Yet religious revival meetings were numerous, accessible, and free for the most part. They were perceived with a mixture of hope, skepticism and humor. Compare those gatherings with TED talks. The latter are strictly controlled. There is a cap on attendance count per session. The barrier of phenomenal cost, approximately \$2000 or more per person, for a one hour TED session is a hurdle. Yet even that does not assure admission. There are other criteria as well.

### Disturbing disruption

Occupy was too modest in its assessment of wealth, influence and power concentration. Occupy intended to represent the increasingly marginalized interests of the 99% versus the 1%. What a gentle underestimate!

In fact, I can see (though only now, with hindsight) that most of the 1% belonged with the 99%! The true "others" are a more rarefied subset. Describe them, instead, as the lofty 0.0001, or 0.01% with access to scarce natural and economic resources, To be perfectly clear, this excludes the remaining 99.99% of our population (maybe 99.999% globally). The tiny remaining subset, only, will enjoy that anticipated transformation augured by our (former) conception of the technological singularity.

## Descent into the real singularity

The technological singularity was intended to expand human potential and self actualization, yet never at the expense, nor deprivation, of the majority of humanity. The singularity that I see approaching is darker than Kurzweil's vision. His singularity was plausibly attainable, I believe.

The current reality appears to be different. Instead of expansion, it evokes contraction. Possibility for most of us is less, not more. Paean and obeisance to the replacement of human cognition by machine learning is declared joyfully, with a loud voice.

Reality is better described by the original, classical singularity. It is not metaphorical. It has a distinctly physical anatomy. The most familiar part of that anatomy is the event horizon. Next, the Schwarzchild radius, beyond which exists the ultimate concentration of power. That intense gravitational force cannot be appeased, not even by the elite, be they the 0.01 or the 0.0001%.

## Night falls

Human collective awareness, at scale, turns away. The simple arithmetic of resource scarcity is dismissed. Instead, the Zeitgeist is contracting. It turns inward, toward fulfillment of every aspect of the self, without regard for others, and devoid of hope for the future.

November 28, 10:34 PM

## In memorium

Florida National Cemetery,  March 2010

## Veteran's Day

For my father, Captain Russell H. Kesselman, U.S. Air Force, 1927 - 2009.

The loss and sorrow does not diminish. I think of my father every single day. I miss him so much. I wish I would have been a better daughter.

My father was not always tactful. He could say hurtful things, carelessly. He was often unhappy, moody. Yet he was absolutely consistent about this: When I was unsure about myself, he always told me that he believed in my ability to accomplish things. It never felt like reassurance, but rather, certainty. If I could, I would say,

"You were a good parent! I was so fortunate, yet never realized that. Thank you for constantly encouraging me. You never led me to doubt myself. I am so proud that you were my father. You worked for 50 years, helping people, working for the Veteran's Administration as a cardiologist, going on house calls for your elderly patients even though you were 75 years old yourself. I love you, Father."

I can't though. My father is gone from this world.

Don't be like me. Tell your parents that you love them, now, while you can. Don't be obstinate (as I often was), particularly if there is no good reason for it.

Don't do what I did, and feel such regret, more than I have words to describe.

November 28, 10:41 PM

via blog.dwr.com

This perfectly balanced, smoothly ebony Charles Eames® House Bird was featured as part of Design Within Reach's contest that ran for several weeks, earlier this year.

The complete assortment of elegant mid-20th century furniture and fixtures designed by Herman Miller, Knoll, the Eames Brothers and more may be viewed on the DWR main website. It is sometimes referred to as "Mid-century Modern", although it is equally well described as 21st century au courante by functional and practical-minded individuals such as myself.

## Capitulation to a force of nature

I have been re-creating the home of my childhood on Pinterest. The initial inspiration was provided by the DWR on-line catalogue, both mental reminders and image support, for  My parent's (former) house in Las Cruces, New Mexico, one of several boards by Curious Ellie on Pinterest. That is I.

Some may enjoy viewing Friendly Financial Markets or Joyful Statistical Methods or possibly my indigo-themed ukiyo-e pin board.

Perhaps the one about information security, "Safe and Secure"? Do glance at "Beautiful Computing", featuring IBM quantum computing quibits, the giant upper-case sigma of Donald Knuth's Concrete Mathematics and a pre-nuptial photo of Marissa Mayer on a staircase.

"Engineering Festivity"? "I Love Cartography"? "Trousseau of Dreams"? "34 Views of Sarah Palin"! I'm looking for a partner for that one.

Or... maybe none of the above. Needless to say, I have fully succumbed to the compulsion that is Pinterest.

## Posts

Monument to the Third International by Vladimir Evgrafovich Tatlin

Photosynth

If I send emails to them, will they reply?

Symphony Park roadside by All ~ Troy on Flickr

Las Vegas, Nevada, 25 June 2012

Yahoo plus tumblr could be greater than G Minus

For all that Yahoo! completely screwed up and deleted Geocities, my Flickr photo stream is still there and works as well as it did in 2005. Not a single URL has broken, not a single image is missing.

I hope Yahoo! survives and that Tumblr can be part of that success.

## Tumblr is an organic social network

Creating a faux social network and forcing it upon users is unwise. The entity to whom I will not refer by name just announced that they would be discontinuing all games and puzzles on their much publicized, two year old social network, G Minus. How fun is that?

The new G Minus user interface, released a few days ago, has all the functionality of Pinterest as a medium for verbal communication. (Pinterest is the worst website for text content, ever). The look and feel of G Minus is very similar to Pinterest, two years after Pinterest introduced it.

Big G needs more self-doubt (hubris…). Big G should have done more, or rather, better, market research. To get a better feel for this, visit my old column on Newsvine or the site’s landing page (I’m sorry if I’m drifting toward self-promotion, maybe in need of a hubris course correction of my own),  Newsvine

Background

Newsvine was acquired by MSNBC approx. five years ago, and was successful from a user point of view. In March 2012, Microsoft shed Newsvine as part of its divestiture of NBC.

Newsvine is now a tiny digital property. It became smaller, and likely moribund, due to transitioning to a new user interface. The redesign was wildly unpopular with Newsvine’s user community. This series of events began in mid-February 2013, four months PRIOR to G Minus’s introduction of a remarkably similar look. My experience so far does not indicate that G Minus’s implementation is any better than Newsvine’s.

### Provenance

English: Little Tamar. Manuscript inscription and coloring by Broderzon and Chaikov. Haver Publishing, 1917.

This was a 4 MB image when I downloaded it from Yale’s rare books and manuscript library website. Somehow, I don’t think it survived the journey to my laptop hard drive and back up to tumblr, as a jpg no less, without losing detail along the way.

#### Yiddish Book Collection of the Russian Avant-Garde

General Modern Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Illustrated books depicting the flowering of Yiddish secular culture in Russia between the years 1912 to 1928.

I like how the animals are gathered around Tamar as she studies. They aren’t fluffy animals. Some are serious, like the lion and vulture. But they are there to help, I think. They aren’t there to eat her, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood!

I know that because of the image that follows on page 7, which I will post next. Tamar isn’t eaten by wild animals, but she does go on an adventure beyond Kiev, maybe even the Ukraine.

### My family in the Old Country

I liked the subject matter, as well as the image. It was unusual for that time, about 1917. Instead of a boy studying and reading, or a stylized portrait of a princess, the main character in the story is a girl, wearing ordinary clothes.

Before then, most women didn’t know how to read. My grandmother told me that, and her grandmother told her. A matchmaker arranged the marriages for my great-grandmother and her two sisters. One of the items emphasized, as an extra feature during negotiations for the bride-price (dowry?), was that their father had paid extra tuition for his daughters to learn to read AND write, in Russian and Yiddish.

amber terminal

Ever notice 'rent to own furniture' is actually 'rent to get owned furniture'?

via Torley http://on.fb.me/PXUxUe

Torley, you just noticed this NOW? It has been well-known to millions of poor Americans for decades.

Fingerhut catalogs exemplify this evil, exploitative practice. You are clearly a member of the well-to-do ruler class. Or, you were not native born in the USA, in which case, I apologize for assuming that you are a clueless elite.

You might still be one of them, wealthy super-class, that is. Just not familiar with our version of predatory business practices.

Via poppyott, this is a most elegant AP machine, recently photographed at the National Press Club.

President Obama embarked on a grueling agenda of pre-election fundraising in New York City with prominent individuals at private events today.

It began with surf-and-turf at the Waldorf Astoria. Suppertime at the home of a major film producer followed, with scant break in between. Today’s final event was a daunting get-together for appetizers with Justin Timberlake and other celebrities in the West Village.

The Associated Press provided this quote, from President Obama’s assessment of root causes for obstructive partisanship and associated legislative gridlock:

“Obama said he genuinely believes some congressional Republicans are open to compromise, but they fear the party’s conservative base and what talk show host Rush Limbaugh might say about them.”

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors.

## U.S. government seizes AP phone records

The Justice Department didn’t give any explanation to the Associated Press. The AP received a letter last week, but the letter didn’t explain how, or why, the government seized the AP’s April - May 2012 phone records.

Subpoenas are supposed to be a last resort, after other avenues of inquiry have been attempted. In the past, news organizations were notified of the situation, prior to issuance of any subpoenas. Then they would meet, figure out what was needed, and work together cooperatively with the government. This assured that the specific records required, and ONLY those records, would be disclosed. Even then, the Justice Department publishes detailed procedures for subpoenas of news organizations.

1. Subpoenas must be approved by the U.S. Attorney General.
2. A judge or grand jury must sign off on any press records subpoena.

The AP doesn’t know if this was done though.

The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of providing classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined.

How can they do this! This hasn’t ever happened before! Why now?

Nowadays, we would have called this the Picard-Lefschetz theory. Picard, by the way, was Hermite’s son-in-law - mathematical abilities are often transferred by sons-in-law: the dynasty Hadamard - P. Levy - L. Schwarz - U. Frisch is yet another famous example in the Paris Academy of Sciences…

V.I. Arnold, On teaching mathematics

There’s more. I’ll post my favorite section as text. Lobster font is striking, but better-suited to brevity.

Provenance?

The SALT hedge fund conference is an ideas conference, a Wall Street bacchanal and a power-networking event. It is also a place to absorb the musings of senior Wall Street money managers and Washington politicos.

Thought via Path

There is an aesthetic crisis in writing, which is this: how do we write emotionally of scenes involving computers? How do we make concrete, or at least reconstructable in the minds of our readers, the terrible, true passions that cross telephony lines? Right now my field must tackle describing a world where falling in love, going to war and filling out tax forms looks the same; it looks like typing.

## via Urban Dictionary August 2008

“Old rules…” is the one and only contribution by Author Anonymous9820. Even the URL was different then:

hxxp://old-rules-of-the-internet.urbanup.com

Unless revised without notations, there are many familiar faces, even then:

• 4chan,
• Anonymous of “we are legion” fame,
• moar as in “moar lurking”,
• furries, which (who?) may have passed out of vogue, but what do I know? Furries could be alive, well and thriving without me realizing, sadly.

This is dark humor, rather than amusing or even sarcastic.

alt-J

Tessellate [OFFICIAL VIDEO] by Altjband

This isn’t my preferred musical genre. The backdrop is breathtaking, evocative of Roman or (maybe Byzantine?) grandeur. I’m not sure what’s with the metal teeth, and would be grateful for an explanation.

I like the stylized human interactions. Notice how the singer is in the crowd, while remaining separate.

### There are triangles!

Triangles are my favorite shape.
Three points where two lines meet.
Toe to toe, back to back, let’s go.
My love it’s very late.
‘Til morning comes…
let’s tessellate.”

… and the suggested, though unfulfilled, promise of tessellations.

Americans’ love of freedom, self-determination, and variety has a downside

* See below for source and explanation of cited passages. My commentary is interleaved.

Given the current multitude of “seeming” choices, we should be better off, happier, and experience less self-doubt. Yet I don’t see much evidence of that.

For 25 years I have been working on the ideology that the magic of the market is the solution to all problems… the central thing that people liked so much about it is the freedom of choice it provides. It’s not the most efficient, but it lets everybody get what they want, and what could be more important than that?

Making decisions is difficult. More choices can make that worse, not better.

## On media choice

To me, this evoked Eli Pariser and his filter bubble, before Eli Pariser.

We have choice in media in a way that we didn’t before, and what’s good about that is clear — you get to listen to just the kind of music, and political commentary you like. What’s bad about it is that people are no longer forced to encounter an idea they disagree with…

Liberals decry GOP candidate Mitt Romney as “a retard”. It is popular, socially correct, to ridicule southeastern states, much of the Midwest, and rural areas throughout the U.S.A. as provincial, ignorant backwaters.

A similar lack of introspection and thought is evident when conservatives and libertarians sneer at, question the moral integrity of Senator McCain and Federal Reserve Governor Bernanke, while defending the rights of corporations who are in fact ideologically opposed to the very existence of stability, patriotism and good faith.

When everyone was watching the network news, conservatives and liberals alike got hit in the face with things that neither were happy about. Either a new understanding, and new aspirations came out of that, or they remained unhappy — sometimes there are problems that can’t be fixed. That rarely happens anymore. I think this is very bad news. It creates a poorly informed public, and [deep] polarization.

## Class and choice

People in the upper classes get to make good choices among good alternatives.

… there’s no down side, no loss of security, [only] huge upside. Among the working class the choices… are often among mediocre or worse alternatives. Meanwhile the price paid for choice is that their security, often precarious anyway, is compromised. There is a price for choice. No one is guaranteeing you what you need to survive… if you make mistakes, you may fall through the bottom.

Many unquestioningly praise school privatization, Bill Gates’ foundation and e-commerce, despite the negative impact of these alternatives on local businesses and community.

Without small businesses and economically viable, socially cohesive communities, we will no longer be able to achieve anything.

## Choice and politics

Realizing what freedom offers to different groups is important. It helps make sense of what has become the great red state/ blue state, red voter/ blue voter divide.

The notion of self-expression is what captures the educated elite that tends to be Democratic. Red state commitment to values and religious institutions… reveals that freedom is about being able to live life the right way, and not so much about expressing yourself. It’s about being true to the things you think are important, and taking care of the people who are close to you. [Red states] want freedom to do that — that’s why they want the government off their backs, so they can live according to the values that they aspire to. They’re happy, not sad, if the person living next to them shares similar values and wants the same things.

Here’s the problem: a liberal from New York might say,

“Listen, I’m not telling the people in Montana how to live their lives; I just don’t want them telling me how to live mine.”

But the existence of certain practices threatens other practices. So it really is a threat, if you live in Montana, that there are large numbers of people living lives that are fundamentally different from the way you live. It threatens the security of being able to live according to your values.

And even if you’re not so worried about it having an effect on you, you’re sure worried about it having an effect on your children. You’ve got to work harder to instill your values in your kids. It’s not “let’s just leave each other alone”. That’s too simple. I don’t know how you resolve it.

## Family and choice

I believe in the importance of close relations to other people, Yes, it limits choice. But it is testimony to how valuable such relationships are.

We are now encouraged to devote time (measured in years) to making decisions e.g. exploring an expansive palette of relationship alternatives. This may ultimately decrease the time we have to spend on forming and maintaining truly important, close relationships.

## School choice

That’s a tough one, because you want people to have choice if their neighborhood school is a disaster…it might even be that if you give people choice, competition will force the worst offenders to get better. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but [that’s not true merely] because “choice is good” …

California had the best education system in the United States; they massively cut real estate taxes, and went from having the best public education system to the worst, in under a decade.

At the macro level, we can’t solve social problems simply by offering options. Fixing the problem that everybody has to experience is better than offering lots of alternatives to deal with the same still-extant, still bad situation.

As a policy solution, merely offering options and choices abdicates responsibility.

## Democratic versus effective

“The people know what they want” is the assumption. Well first, we don’t even know as individuals what we want. We certainly don’t know what the collective wants, nor anticipate the consequences of social transformation. We don’t see how issues intersect. Experts do that, and that’s what legislators are supposed to be.

The old model was not direct democracy. You elect people, and then they do what’s in your interest, and you trust them. If you lose trust in them, you throw them out. But you don’t expect to be telling them what to do. You’re electing judgment; you’re not electing a specific thing… As a sign of how little confidence we have in elected officials, people want to take it into their own hands more and more. But if you say this is craziness, or inefficient, or leads to terrible policies, it’s like you’re criticizing democracy. So it’s a hard sell.

There is no set of rules for regulating the behavior of individuals, or the behavior of professionals, that is good enough to substitute for good judgment and good character. The question then becomes, how do you nurture good judgment and good character? What are the impediments to these in modern social institutions?

* The quoted passages are excerpted from a 2007 interview with Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice. Emphasis in those passages is mine. Commentary that is not quoted is my opinion and interpretation, in the context of more recent events. I may have misunderstood the author’s original intent. I may be cherry picking his work to support my own viewpoints. I hope not. If I am, feel free to correct me, or express displeasure in the comments area.

Barry Schwartz is Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at my alma mater, Swarthmore College. I’m very impressed at how sensible he is. He isn’t advocating “social change”, like everyone else does these days. This is remarkable, given the fact that he is a professor of “social change” at such a very liberal, liberal arts college. Swarthmore College was founded by The Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers. They keep open minds. I’m happy that they keep Professor Schwartz, despite his amalgam of insights and opinions.

## Audio

• etherealzephyr:
321213 plays
• Via tangential-abstractions: The Who - Baba O’Riley *The song’s name is not, contrary to popular belief, called Teenage Wasteland
350 plays
• gregmelander: SCREAM & SHOUT Check out this Will.I.Am & Britney Spears’ instrumental version. Someone really knows how to make catchy dance music for the masses. The video is perfect… I recommend skipping the video entirely. The instrumental sans video is really good! On second thought, Will.I.Am has good lyrics. Britney’s British accent is irritating, but just try to ignore it. I’d say, listen to the audio only first, then … EDIT: YES, do listen to the video! Yay! I like catchy dance music for the masses! I HAVE ARRIVED, FINALLY! “I want to scream, and shout, and let it outWe are, we are, we say, we are, we are… Whenever you and I are together… I wish this night would last forever. It goes on, and on, and on, and on…”
6852 plays
• Impossible Geometry: I’m waking upTo ash and dustI wipe my browAnd I sweat my rust Imagine Dragons - Radioactive Slightly odd, almost dub step sound that reminds me of Sonic Youth distortion. That is probably because I still have my treble set for listening to Scarlatti and Telemann. I found this uplifting, sort of like Nine Inch Nail’s Bite the Hand that Feeds, which is also inspiring, their one and only song of hope. Here are the lyrics that I especially liked: Welcome to my new age I’m radioactive radioactive… All systems go! Sun hasn’t died. Deep in my bones, straight from inside, I’m waking up! Welcome to my new age. I had thoughts of being on a spaceship, navigating over a rough spot, but all was back on track again.
470 plays
• evaliia: Human After All // Daft Punk
592 plays
• sheeper: Johann Joachim Quantz: Concerto for Flute in G minor - iii. Presto Benedek Csalog: flauto traverso Aura Musicale dir. Balázs Máté
356 plays
• fuckyesdanger: 22H39 A new, unreleased track that’s been heard live several times! It’s a bit darker and heavier than usual for Danger. UPDATE: Audio is now linked from Danger’s Soundcloud page :) Somewhat mild for me, but I do like the darkness, especially at the beginning. And now I’ve found something new to start looking for, listening to!
73510 plays
• sheeper: The Hunt’s Up MB40 by William Byrd, performed by Bertrand Cuiller, Virginal Best listened to while reading about the NSA Cryptologic Heritage Center’s Rare Books Collection: Polygraphia (1518) by Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) Born in Trittenheim, Germany, and known simply as Johannes, the future abbot had a love for learning. His grim stepfather, although wealthy, had no use for intellectual pursuits, and did not approve of Johannes’ desire for higher education. On his own, Johannes appealed for entrance to the University of Heidelberg, where the chancellor was so impressed that he accepted the youth and even arranged to waive the tuition fees…. Steganographia, ostensibly a book on secret writing, was filled with names and images of planetary angels…. in 1508, he began the writing of Polygraphia, a series of six books devoted in actuality to cryptology.
20 plays
• sheeper: Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in F minor, K. 519 Mikhail Pletnev: piano
120 plays
• smithdaniel: I woke up this morning with the Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture in my head. Not such a terrible thing to wake up with in one’s head. Now it is in mine too. And I realize that I like it.
1103 plays
• 80sjamz: Hungry Like The Wolf | Duran Duran
1524 plays
• snuh: The B-52’s: Legal Tender via snuh The song Legal Tender was first released by the B-52’s in their album Whammy, in April 1983. Original lyrics follow, excerpt only, and were written by Robert Waldrop. Just in case you want to sing along. I know I did. We’re in the basement, learning to printAll of it’s hot!10-20-30 million ready to be spentWe’re stackin’ ‘em against the wallThose gangster presidents Livin’ simple and trying to get byBut honey, prices have shot through the sky So I fixed up the basement withWhat I was a-workin’ withStocked it full of jelly jarsAnd heavy equipmentWe’re in the basement…10-20-30 million dollarsReady to be spent We’re in the basement,Learning to printAll of it’s hotAll counterfeit!
1115 plays
• sheeper: J.S. Bach: French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV816 Glenn Gould: piano
207 plays
• via sheeper: Georg Druschetzky: Oboe Quartet in G minor iii. Allegro Lajos Lencsés: oboe Zsolt Szefcsik: violin Ágnes Csoma: viola Bálint Maróth: cello I <3 baroque ♫ ♫
92 plays
• sheeper: Le Lardon (menuet) Jean-Philippe Rameau: Pièces de Clavecin, Suite en Ré (1724) Sophie Yates: clavecin
52 plays
• thesonfromneptune: Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana My first Nirvana song I loved, this started it all for me. This is my favorite Nirvana song.
20 plays
• adsertoris: tomhanks-: The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black “Paint It, Black” is a song by The Rolling Stones, released on 13 May 1966… The single reached number one in both the United States and the United Kingdom charts in 1966. In 2004 it was ranked number 174 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. … Jagger contributed the lyrics, seemingly about a man mourning his dead girlfriend. Both electric and acoustic guitars and the background vocals are provided by Richards. It was featured in the movies Full Metal Jacket, The Devil’s Advocate and Platoon. ______________________________________________________ I see a red door and I want it painted black No colors anymore I want them to turn black I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes I have to turn my head until my darkness goes I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black With flowers and my love both never to come back I see people turn their heads and quickly look away Like a new born baby it just happens every day I look inside myself and see my heart is black I see my red door and must have it painted black Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts It’s not easy facin’ up when your whole world is black No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue I could not foresee this thing happening to you If I look hard enough into the settin’ sun My love will laugh with me before the mornin’ comesI wanna see it painted, painted black Black as night, black as coal I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black Yeah!
1120 plays
• SHEEPR: Arcangelo Corelli: Christmas Concerto Op.6-8 Rémy Baudet & Sayuri Yamagata: violin Richte van der Meer: cello Hank Heyink: archlute Musica Amphion Dir. Pieter-Jan Belder
321 plays
• via sheeper: Johann Sebastian Bach: WTC I Preludium 16 - g moll, BWV861 Jaroslav Tůma: Clavichord
127 plays
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