node created 2019/09/29
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

1/5 of a degree C is not a "tiny amount".

Sure, it makes no difference to whether you want to put a sweater on, but that's not the point. The troposphere is vast, and 0.2 C represents an immense amount of kinetic energy, which in turn drives dramatic changes in circulation and precipitation patterns. You can get a sense for this by calculating how much energy an average of 0.2 C represents.

Start with this: how much does a cubic meter of air weigh? Have you ever thought about that? A cubic meter of dry air at sea level weighs about 2.7 pounds. How much energy does it take to raise 2.7 pounds of dry air by 0.2 degrees? It turns out you can look that kind of thing up. It takes about 245 joules.

Now take that 245 joules/m^3 and multiply it by the volume of the troposphere. As you recall from calculus, you can approximate this by taking the surface area of a sphere 6,371,000 meters in radius and multiplying by the troposphere's roughly 11 km height. You should end up with a figure on the order of magnitude of 10^18 joules.

Or you can think of that as being roughly the same as 20,000 Hiroshima sized bombs. Granted the density of air 10 km up is somewhat less, but we haven't factored in the gigatons of water vapor in the atmosphere. Or interactions with the oceans; most of the excess energy goes into the oceans, and that in turn affects climate in countless ways. That's how palm trees grow in Southern Britain, even though Cornwall's further north than Maine.

And yet... You just can't feel a 0.2C change. Then again you can't feel the Coriolis force either, but that can bend a subtle pressure gradient hundreds of miles long into a cyclone, a feat no human agency can resist, much less match.

Scale matters. If there's anything scientific and mathematical literacy should teach, it's that. That's why the future of the planet can't be trusted to a semi-literate ignoramus.
You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.
Meanwhile geeks, who do understand how computers work, instead of developing technologies supporting encryption and pricacy by default, have instead hopped into bed with big data and the NSA. There are more geeks helping the NSA builds a Stasi apparatus than there are geeks working on building a truely anonymous and untappable internet.
I've been thinking of a story from the Old Testament: Moses stood all day and all night with outstretched arms, praying to God for victory. And whenever he let down his arms, the enemy prevailed over the children of Israel. Are there still people today who never weary of directing all their thinking and all their energy, single-heartedly, to one cause?
I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.
"The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark"
Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.
Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
Take, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign. Which I think is important, impressive, he is doing good and courageous things, he is organizing a lot of people. That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement which will use the election as kind of an incentive, but then go on. And unfortunately it's not. When the election's over, the movement's gonna die. And that's a serious error.

The only thing that's gonna ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated popular movements which don't pay attention to the election cycle. It's an extravaganza every four years; you have to be involved in it, so fine, we'll be involved in it. But then we go on. If that were done you could get major changes.
If you buy a hammer you expect it to work as long as you don't burn your toolshed. You don't expect it to change shape while you are using it, you don't expect it not to stop working once the manufacturer decides to give up on the design or once they go bust. Change being in your hands instead of the manufacturers is a feature, not a bug.
We have 1 shot at this and it's now.

After what happened, the NSA will lock down everything and do everything to stop such a leak from ever happening again. The chance that we'll have other whistleblowers with Snowden's kind of scope 10 years from now or later is almost zero. The NSA knows the future of their incredible position of power is being questioned right now and they won't let that happen again.

There won't be another "you have a choice now, it's up to you" moment. If there won't be fundamental changes to our system, we and our children will have to live with drastic consequences. We'll be leading the entire World once again - 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
This kinda makes me want to have 100% surveillance on the internet so sick fucks like these have it a lot more difficult to spread their videos. But at he same time we need freedom, so it’s a difficult topic.
You know my old saying, "Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors."

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don't want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
Love is not blind - it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.
The driving idea behind denialism was always to delay action for a few decades. Well that worked perfectly. Now they will move on to saying it's all too late for gradual mitigation, and they can swoop in with highly expensive adaptation measures, publicly funded in perpetuity. This stage of rentier/disaster capitalism could be what pushes our global civilisation off the cliff.
Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.
Generally speaking, violence always arises out of impotence. It is the hope of those who have no power.
Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes. Twitter's and Facebook's latest models for making money still seem to me like one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.
An obedient population is extremely vulnerable to authority figures. The whole point of democracy is to create stability by removing that single point of failure, by involving so many people in everything that crazy or malicious individuals can not easily gain excessive power, and democracy is under no circumstances compatible with obedience: Either you think critically and vote in your own interest, or you are obedient and vote how the dictator tells you to. It's impossible to have a population that critically evaluates candidates and selects the best one and that also follows orders without regard to their own evaluation of that order.
Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.
There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning.
Well, Americans
What, nothin' better to do?
Why don't you kick yourself out?
You're an immigrant too

Who's usin' who?
What should we do?
Well, you can't be a pimp
And a prostitute too
"Icky Thump"
We should be building eternal, public archives of all the cultural and scientific knowledge of humankind. Instead we're building vast secret archives of everyone's tweets, lunch appointments and credit card transactions.
Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.
US leaders really are the masters in their field: They don’t even need an external scapegoat. Even when dummy Bush goes, and empties the (conveniently always kept full) villain closet, they just hold their two arms ("parties") up in the puppet theater, make the hand puppets act like enemies, and you fall for it, hook, line, sinker, fishing rod, fisherman and boat.

Then they point at the cloth hand puppets, and make you blame the puppets for what they did. Seriously, the level of delusion here only compares to North Korea.
Stasi couldn’t record what newspaper articles you were reading. For how long. And in what order. That, along with pretty much every thought you have ever explored while sitting at a computer, is now part of your permanent record – even if you never told a single human being.
Some bad companies: no big deal, no one's making you stay, leave if you don't like it.

Some bad unions: all unions are awful and the solution is to not have unions.
The world gets improved in fits and starts, in small ways more than in large ones, and thanks to the unseen, unthought infrastructures that undergird it more than the civic or scientific or artistic victories we celebrate in the streets or in the theaters.
As usurpation is the exercise of power which another hath a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage. When the governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule, and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.
Second Treatise on Government
People think that the law or the Constitution will always provide a failsafe, but that is only a piece of paper if the people have no backbone and don't push back.
Discussion of Apple topics here on HN almost always gets reduced to the argument that Apple is not a monopoly, so what they are doing is OK. I want to present an alternative viewpoint. It's not a monopoly issue, it is an anti-competitive issue.

In Canada, we have three major cell carriers. None of them has a monopoly, or anything close to it. None of them has even 50% market share.

You can have a 10 GB smartphone plan with Rogers for $75. If you don't like that, you can switch to Bell's 10 GB plan for $75. If you don't like Bell, of course you can switch to Telus's 10 GB plan for, wait for it, $75.

The Big 3 operate smaller brands with fewer bells and whistles and lower costs. You can get a 4 GB cell plan from Koodo (Telus subsidiary) for $50, or from Fido (Rogers subsidiary) for $50, or from Virgin Mobile (Bell subsidiary) for $50.

Sometimes one of them has promotional pricing, like $45 instead of $50 for 4GB. The other two offer the same pricing for the same duration. Sometimes one of them increases their prices by $5 a month citing reasons such as infrastructure investments, lower Canadian dollar value, or inflation. The other two increase their prices by the same amount a couple of days later.

And none of this is collusion in the legal sense. They don't gather in smoke-filled rooms and decide how to screw over their customers. There is not back-channel communication whatsoever. And it is not because the competition is so perfect the prices have been commoditized. In fact, Canada has some of the highest cell plan prices in the world, even adjusting for factors such as population density and GDP.

It's just that the big companies have decided to stop competing. If you live in, say Alberta or Ontario or BC, you have three options and they are all the same overpriced crap. Cell carriers in Canada are not a monopoly, but you don't have to be a monopoly to harm customers with anti-competitive behaviour. Apple and Google, Android and iOS do not have a monopoly or a collusion agreement. But they are harming the customers all the same.
Could it happen that there are extremists in the NSA just waiting for someone to pick a fight with them? Of course.

Hell, you can see this kind of behavior in tower defense games; people build a great power and dare anyone to cross them.
The reason I hate ads is because it's a legitimized way of abuse, of hurting other people. I'm gonna be a father at some point, and I dread the day I have to explain to my kid that modern civilization is in this weird state, where it's "friendly" in the sense that you don't generally have to fear strangers, but it's also overrun by malicious actors trying to suck your money and happiness dry. Our civilization pays lip service to being cooperative, yet so much of it is still adversarial.
You can't restart the internet. Trillions of dollars depend on a rickety cobweb of unofficial agreements and "good enough for now" code with comments like "TODO: FIX THIS IT'S A REALLY DANGEROUS HACK BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG" that were written ten years ago.
Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.
Why not just cut out the middleman and eat from a bag of sugar directly?
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
There are many people who are not entirely themselves because as children they were not given time to think about themselves. And because they don’t know everything about themselves they can’t know everything about everything. But no one likes to admit that she doesn’t know everything about everything. And so these people try to make up for not knowing everything about everything by doing things.

[..]

People who for some reason find it impossible to think about themselves, and so really be themselves, try to make up for not thinking with doing. They try to pretend that doing is thinking.
You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
The only true charity is so contrived that the recipient need beg no more.
Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.
The Third Notebook, December 4, 1917
You say disagree, I say disappear. Tomato, authoritarian regime.
Religions get lost as people do.
The Fourth Notebook, February 26, 1918
the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race"-the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.