The Unread Blog

28 Dec 2015

Ian Murdock, founder of the linux distribution that Dad and I use, died recently under mysterious circumstances. His twitter account said (in his name) that he had been brutalized by the police and intended to commit suicide, but no one outside of his family and the police seems to know exactly what happened. There doesn't appear to have been enough time for anyone to intervene, if that was the case.

21 Nov 2015

For political reasons, certain elements of most western nations have encouraged people to distrust anything bearing the label, "government." Frequently the "government" is blamed for anything that goes wrong in their lives, whether it makes any sense to do so or not.

There are only two major differences between businesses and government agencies.

(1) Purpose

Businesses are always created with one purpose in mind – making money. There may be stipulations on how money is to be made, but these are usually practical in nature – "We have a factory full of machinery that was designed to make aluminum cans. Our best means of making money is probably to make more cans." However, if someone comes up with a better means of making money with that machinery, a business will usually switch to that method.

Government agencies are created to do things other than making money. They are given a charter and funding to do things like make highways for everyone to use, or build parks or tend forests for everyone's use, or create an army or police force to defend everyone. These things don't necessarily make money for anyone, though businesses will always find ways to make money from them.

(2) Nationality

A government agency is nearly always created and funded by one nation, so if you're dealing with an American government agency, you can generally be sure that you're dealing with American citizens, paid with American dollars, working for what they see as American interests. Businesses, on the other hand, can be owned by anyone, and large businesses are nearly always owned, directly or indirectly, by corporations which in turn are owned by citizens of any nation, even political or military enemies of the country (or countries) in which the business operates. Businesses do not need to have any national allegiance. They go where they can make the most money.

Other than that, the two groups are pretty much the same. Both generally have hierarchical command structures. Both are composed of people being paid to work for the organization's interests, many of whom cross from government to business or back as the opportunity presents itself. Both are restricted by the laws of the countries they operate in (at least in theory). Both employ people who make mistakes, misinterpret their organization's charter, or even abuse their position. [It's usually much easier to follow a business' mandate since it only involves one goal – making money. Government workers generally depend more on their superiors for guidance as to what they should be trying to achieve since the purpose of a government agency is usually much more complicated and couched in legal rhetoric.]

Both frequently waste money. Both frequently harm people, either intentionally or otherwise, and get taken to court. Although ideally an inefficient business should cease to exist in time, I've seen no real evidence that this happens reliably. Nor are government agencies created or dissolved based on any real measure of their impact as often as for a politician's benefit. The businesses that I've worked for differed from the government agencies that I worked for, most noticeably, in their dress code.

So I find it hard to understand how anyone can trust business over government based on the only two real differences between them.

The only somewhat legitimate gripe I've seen is the fact that you don't have the option to refuse to pay taxes (although many people seem to manage to pay very little). You do have the option to refuse to pay for a business' products or services, in theory. This is mostly an illusion though. You don't have the option to refuse to pay a power company unless you can live without electricity. You don't have the option to refuse to buy a car if you need one to get to work. You don't have the option to refuse to take out loans unless you have a boat-load of cash to buy a house, car, furniture, etc. Well, you could rent, but you're actually paying more money to do so in the long run.

About the only option you have is who's going to take your money, and most big businesses aren't that concerned about giving you a better deal, only seeming to do so.

You get a tangible product from some businesses, except for banks, insurance companies, doctors, lawyers, maintenance companies, etc. On the other hand, government agencies tend to maintain systems that people feel they are just entitled to, like working highways and insured bank accounts, but that still requires money to come from somewhere.

18 nov 2015

all terrorists are muslims…except the 94% that aren’t

before anyone else accuses me of being a muslim apologist, let me state that i don't like any religion. i especially dislike the three abrahamic religions, all of which hold the old testament sacred. this is a book so rife with genocide, murder, infanticide, torture, and slavery, not just in the name of their god, but frequently at his direct command, that it turned my stomach to read it all. so i don't like islam either.

also, bear in mind that this list only tracks terrorism in the united states, and very few of the incidents had as high a death toll as the bombing of the murrah building, let alone the world trade center. however, it surprises me still that our news networks refuse to call most of these actions, "terrorist acts," especially the anti-abortionist bombings and shootings.

16 nov 2015

25 jul 2015

ways to make your long board games take less than six hours to play...

arkham horror without randolph carter: every turn on the mythos phase, two mythos cards are drawn. play both cards normally, in order. when investigators encounter a gate, they may immediately attempt to close it and/or seal, and must then encounter monsters normally. gates do not disorient an investigator when they appear at her location. if an event indicates that two cards should be drawn every turn thereafter, four cards must be drawn instead.

talisman speed loader: the cost to increase either strength or craft is always equal to the current value of the attribute.

there are a lot of ways to fix the arguably broken rules in these games that don't affect much more than time. how many ways can you think of?

03 jul 2015

my backed-up data is about to exceed 8tb.

that's over six billion printed pages of information – a stack more than 600 kilometers high (reaching into low earth orbit). if it fell over, it would almost stretch from here to houston. if it was printed on continuous-feed paper, it would be able to loop around the earth/luna system twice with quite a bit left over.

it's the same as enough crappy facebook photos to cover Tinker AFB.

It's the equivalent of over a million copies of Stairway To Heaven, or an extra-long version that lasts 17 years.

It's almost 13,000 CD-ROMs – nearly twice my weight in AOL coasters. Enough to make a 550 square meter solar mirror which might produce as much as 50kW of electricity.

22 Mar 2015

If I had to choose only ten anime out of my huge collection (and I haven't actually got around to watching all of the series I've already bought, so this may change in the near future), I'd have to say that these are the best. I didn't include any movies, because you just can't match the depth of a series in only two hours.

Ah, My Goddess: This is the epitome of grade-school-level romances, a fact the show makes fun of more than once. Hapless college student, Keiichi's, incredibly good karma (due to his good nature always being taken advantage of) causes a beautiful, blond goddess to grant him one wish. Of course his wish is for her to stay with him on earth, but he doesn't consider all the trouble that will cause him.

My Bride Is A Mermaid: A junior high-school student ends up engaged to a beautiful young mermaid, who also happens to be the only child of the boss of the undersea yakuza. The only question is, will he survive once the hostile mer-mobsters take over his school in the guise of human teachers. This is the most laugh-out-loud funny anime I've ever seen.

Log Horizon: A bunch of World of Warcraft (or close enough) players get trapped in the game world and start to remake it in their own image. One thing I liked about this was the fact that the NPCs were all intelligent and had their own agendas, plus they outnumber the players enough to give their demands force.

The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya: A high-school student meets a strange classmate who disdains humans – she only wants to talk to aliens, psychics, or time travelers. Oddly enough, he discovers that all three are gathering around her, convinced that she has god-like powers and terrified at the consequences if she should discover them.

Demon King Daimao: A high-school student, planning to enter the priesthood, discovers that he's fated to become the demon king. Among those trying to either kill him or control his power are witches, werewolves, superheroes, demons, dragons, vampires, and pretty much everything else you can imagine. The series tries to pack too much story into twelve episodes, but it's still fun.

B Gata, H Kei: A high-school freshman decides to have sex with a hundred guys before she graduates, despite the fact that she's never even been out on a date. She picks one fairly innocuous classmate to start with. Needless to say, losing her virginity turns out to be more complicated than she expected.

Galaxy Angel: This is a long series of vignettes, set in the future, about the Galaxy Angel task force, a group of young women with unique training and expertise. It's pure zany comedy.

Genshiken: A slice of life series about otaku (geeks). It's nice to see people even geekier than me managing to make it through life.

Please Twins: An orphaned high-school student, barely managing to eke out a living on his own, is visited by two attractive young women who both believe themselves to be his sister. Only one can actually be related to him, a fact which becomes crucial when both fall in love with him.

Strike Witches: An alternate history WWII where aliens attack, drawing all the world powers away from war and into defending the Earth. The enemy is so powerful that only magic has any hope of defeating them – enter the Strike Witches, who fly around shooting the UFOs down with period weapons. Lots of fan service, but the story was excellent and the aliens were the most ALIEN of any fiction I've ever seen, to the point where you couldn't even predict what they'd shoot at in combat. (In the first naval battle, they spend much of their time shooting the ocean.)

10 Nov 2014

My entries for the "secular alternatives to the ten commandments":

See things as they are. Try to set aside bias, prejudice, and unnecessary assumptions. The universe is full of surprises—unless you've already decided that it isn't.

Know yourself. You are a remarkable creature. Never cease to be amazed by all the things you are and that you can do. On the other hand, remember that the rest of the universe is also amazing.

Explore. Every person, every creature, every place and time have a story to tell. Ask questions, look it up, or find the answers first-hand and tell others. Learning never gets old.

Don't cling to possessions. People are more important than things.

Be free of tradition. Listen to the advice and traditions you come across, but decide for yourself what makes sense. Never follow a belief or a person blindly.

Don't worry. Do what you can to overcome the challenges you face, but don't dwell on them or fret over things you can't change. Especially, don't worry about what people think of you. Do what's right and accept that some just won't understand.

Love everyone. Don't try to limit the best feeling of all. Love as much as you can stand to. Everyone is worthwhile.

Don't carry a weapon unless absolutely necessary. When you expect a fight, you're apt to find one. When you're unarmed, you're less likely to take foolish chances. Use your head, either way.