While breezing by my newsfeeds this morning I ran across a Bill Maher routine courtesy of PoliticsUSA...
...which, while I don't agree with Maher all the time, I definitely agree with this time. It's true, the majority of Americans must be getting sick of living in the stone age with these few delusional anti-progressives who have monopolized the media and government since any of us were alive. It's about time we gave somebody else a fair hearing.
I know I'm not alone here. In fact, I'm pretty confident that I'm in the majority. Take a look at the Gallup poll for political parties, taken at the beginning of this year:
We see Independent 40%, Democrat 31%, and Republican 27%! That's right, the Republicans are in the minority, at just over a quarter of those surveyed!
So why are we letting them speak for the entire damned Earth?
Even beyond that, not all Republicans are cross-burning pitchfork-waving witch-burners. In an NORC General Social Survey in January of 2012, 41.5% of Republicans agree that "Man evolved from other animals", 63.7% agree that "Science does more good than harm", and 32.4% claim to have "No belief in or uncertainty over the existence of God". In fact, we see from that survey that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are a lot more similar across the board than the TV news pundits would have you believe.
No, it's not just a party issue. There are Democrats out there with opinions we think only Republicans have. Moreover, there really IS such an animal as a "Liberal Democrat Christian" - I guess they're all gagged and blindfolded in the basement of those churches while their bigot brethren run the whole show. Liberal and Democrat Christians, could you at least pretty please speak up for your church once in awhile, instead of letting the snake-handlers do all the talking? There's still a Christian left out there who believes in the Sermon on the Mount over the blood and thunder in Leviticus, isn't there? Blink once for 'yes' and twice for 'no'.
But I know that the vast majority of Americans, religious or not, are tired of bogeymen and hocus-pocus. I see the vast groundswell of support out there for science and social tolerance and civil rights and progress; I see dwindling support for the fundamentalist religious dogma that has held the whole nation back.
I see the President making speeches advocating for STEM education, calling for a more knowledgeable nation - which will stimulate the economy all on its own, and actually be a lasting benefit instead of a quick fix. Keep using that word stemmers and watch - it WILL catch on!
By the by, you may find some judges on your local ballot whom you need to research. An excellent source for that is Judgepedia. And don't forget to research your Senate and House Congresspersons as well, where applicable. Four years has taught us, if nothing else, that it's worthless to elect sensible people and not surround them with others who will support their actions.
If you're pro-science, you're in the majority - all it takes is a little confidence now and you'll have a brighter future for progress ahead of you.
Jordan Weissmann, a bright guy over at The Atlantic, recently proposed The Case for Abolishing Patents (Yes, All of Them). He couldn't be more right, I'd say, but I also know that the world I love in is not ready for that - just about every first-world country has quagmires of a similar depth.
On this note, I recently made up a little satire about patent law over on my webcomic. It's the story arc called "Protect Patent and Copyright Law Act", starting here and ending here. In it, a character tries to force a bill into law that would make any patent or copyright null and void if the holder is not utilizing that exact patent or copyright in a product currently available for sale. The full idea, outside of the comic-strip panel: In other words, say you own the patent on some kind of light bulb filaments - you have to sell light bulbs, and there has to be your brand of light bulbs available on a store shelf somewhere. When you stop producing and selling light bulbs, there goes your patent - now it's somebody else's turn. If you stop and start again, you'll just have to file for the patent all over again.
We already have the concept of public domain for works that have gone out of copyright - we used to have limits on intellectual property. They're receding farther and farther into the future as protection gets extended progressively. I say shorten those limits down to the nib. This would prevent patent trolls.
How sneaky of me, to use a work of fiction to sound out an actual idea! What thinkest thou, oh Internet Hivemind? Would that fix the situation at least a little?
I never dreamed the day would come when civilization would get this naive, to the point where I have to share the big secret of how people lie on the Internet to get attention, but I guess that film 2006 Idiocracy wasn't made for nothing...
Now, we go to google.com and click on the image tab...
Once you're in the image search tab, click on the little gray camera icon in the search box...
Now you have a new search box open. Find one of those images, get the URL (so it's showing just the image in your browser - the URL, in the address bar, has to be showing the image file name extension - jpg, png, gif, whatever - at the very end), and paste it into the search box...
Google will find every other page on the web in its index with the same, or similar, images. Note that in this specific case, it even finds another matching photo from the same case, killing two birds with one stone. We find the exact same images on this blog from November of 2011. Note that this gal has Multiple Sclerosis, and reports the occasion where her heart stopped and was brought back in a very similar story. She even reports that the hospital PA system said "Rapid response to 3 North rehab! Rapid response to 3 North rehab!" while our faker says the hospital PA says "rapid response to 4 North, rapid response to 4 North." A clear case of plagiarism as well, just editing the text slightly because, duh, everybody knows that Google can find text...
That's the end of Google image search's helpfulness, as it couldn't find matches for the other two photos. #4 isn't hard to fake, since it's just a shot of a common form which I tracked down to here. Since there's no handwritten marks on the form indicating whom it belongs to, this could be anybody's photo from any where.
Now, photos #2 presents us with a poser. Google image search comes up dry on the alleged photo of the person's face, but does not look like the same person with MS shown in the original blog post from November 2011. A Caucasian female with red hair, to be sure, but otherwise no match. And yet wearing the same shirt!
Note that the nails are painted in photo #2 but unpainted in photo #1.
What's going on here? We have two different sets of photos from two different time periods. This post, dated from September of 2012, shows more the same gal from our photo #2. The discrepancy in her facial features is explained by "moon face", where steroid therapy makes your face fill out (yes, steroids are used for more than just male bodybuilding). And a year's time is enough to re-do your nails and get a new hairdo.
Note that this girl is confined to a wheelchair and the faker account, red__head, posts comments about things like working at a strip club (with motorcycles lowered from the ceiling???).
We'll call this one solved for now.
Why do people DO this???
Money! High-karma accounts are worth money on the social media asstroturf circuit. See my three posts about the underground big-business of social media asstroturfing here, here, and here. Note that red__head's account at Reddit, at the time of my writing, is just two days old. Do you know a quicker way of growing a lot of karma in a short time? Never mind the "self-posts don't give you karma" dodge, comment karma always counts and it's obvious from looking at scores that successful self-posts do give you some karma.
The rest of the karma comes from this post, also by red__head, claiming to have adopted a kitten. Here's the same photo at OMGCuteThings (retch!) with one small detail: the logo in the bottom right has been edited out! It's a simple trick, I use Gimp's resynthesizer plugin myself.
An account like this is most likely hacked into existence over a few days then sold on one of those sites that does "social media marketing." They're most likely done in batches. What matter if this one gets deleted? What matter if a moderator catches one account and bans it? It's like pulling up a dandelion.
WHY does this keep happening?
Dear reader, I hate to sound harsh, but this is your fault.
It is your fault for being gullible and taking everything on the Internet at face value. Those few of us who do this kind of legwork could not possibly keep up. I have spent years on this site alerting people to scams, shams, fakes, lies, swindles, and cons, from the corporate CEO level down to rank flim-flammers like this, and all of you just shrug and go "Duh, whatever LOL!"
Clearly, you don't care.
Clearly, you couldn't care less if these hospital photos were exploited by a fraud who asked for donations - this happens all the time as well. Millions of dollars trade hands over the Internet every day, spurred by people posting asking for donations, and no fact-checking happens. Clearly, I could be rolling in money using these same tricks to scam all of you. I am, after all, a professional writer. I could concoct a load of bull and put up a kickstarter can or a PayPal link like anybody else. All of you are so uncaring that you're probably now asking "Well then why don't you? I'd donate to you even if I knew you were faking!"
Apparently that's the world we live in today. Everybody but me does this just because nobody but me has any idea that doing this is wrong anymore.
Yet, you're here now, aren't you?
Don't waste time on my site, readers! Go back to your RSS feed and your social networks and spot the nearest fake to you RIGHT NOW! Investigate, hunt for clues, question everything, find them out, and post the evidence for all to see!
Obama's ahead on just about everything as far as financing goes. Note that for Romney's pie graph, 80% of his contributions come from large contributors (i.e. corporations) while only a little over 61% of Obama's contributions come from large contributors. But even at that, Obama's large contributions total more than Romney's.
But the intriguing part from the stemmer point of view is that the five biggest contributors for Obama vs. Romney. Romney has all banking and finance here - Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, BofA, and Credit Suisse Group. Obama's are the two biggest tech companies (Microsoft and Google - odd how often they're strange bedfellows these days, isn't it?) and two universities, UofC and Harvard.
Further down in sector totals, Communications & Electronics backs Obama for $10M while backing Romney $2M.
So, you could safely draw a conclusion that the tech industry thinks Obama has their best interests in mind. Meanwhile, Romney speaks for the bankers - and, it seems, almost nobody else.
Hey, there's this news about America that seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue: the economy. It's sucking mud, right? And the younger generation, they're pretty depressed about the lack of jobs, right? And everyone's asking each other "Where did all the jobs go?"
And what's the first thing you hear out of every candidate's mouth, on either side of the aisle, from mayor to president? "We need to create jobs." "We need to bring jobs back." "Ladies and gentlemen, I will now pull ten million jobs out of this hat!" You'd think job were like rabbits, and it was all just a question of making them boink fast enough.
I think this is the point where I can drop the bad news about what happened to the jobs: You know all those stories we used to have about how technology will replace humans doing the same job? Well, it's starting to happen. It is happening. It's been happening for years.
You know that utopian Jetsons future where you just sit on your throne and push buttons and magic robots do all the drudge labor? Well, don't look now, but we're getting damned close to it. Technological unemployment is a thing, and it's not going away. And we're sure not going to let the Luddites have their way, so we better get used to a society with an ever-smaller number of available jobs.
Remember bank tellers? ATMs do most of the work they used to do.
Remember paper maps? GPSs fill that gap now.
Newspapers? Magazines? Paper books? Electronic media is eating them all.
Records and CDs? I don't have to tell you what happened to those, do I?
Media production in general? Technology does 90% of that now.
When's the last time you dropped off a roll of film to be developed?
Office jobs? Sure, they're still there in a FIRE economy. But each office gets more done with fewer heads.
Phone operators? Radio station DJs? Most of that's automated now.
Fewer cops on the streets? Well, good thing we have those red-light automatic-ticket machines at every intersection, isn't it?
Heck, I can relate a personal experience: Back when I worked for $GIANT_BANK, our mission in life was to process incoming payments from all the customers in North America, which arrived in the mail in the form of paper checks - run them through machines to transform them into electronic money. When I started prior to the turn of the century, we're talking some four truckloads of carts of trays of checks per shift and it was all credit cards. Almost a decade later, when I quit, maybe five carts, and that's credit cards, student loans, insurance, and mortgage. The center I worked at has since shut down.
And before that, the machines that I used replaced even more jobs before me. The computers did all the math, but that math was once done by banks of manual adding machines. Accounting was done by MICR and OCR technology, but it used to be done by writing transactions down in a ledger. Data entry was also outsourced; electronic images of the checks (when AI, OCR, and MICR were all defeated by people with sloppy handwriting) were processed by some nameless clutch of coolies in some south-Asian sweatshop. Even the machines that opened the mail and extracted the checks and paystubs replaced the people who used to do it with letter openers. Now, even what I did is gone - when is the last time you wrote a check?
Remember, we wanted this. We have all wanted our shining society of crystal spires and togas, our utopian paradise of leisure. We have only now begun to ask ourselves, "Hey, when robots/computers do all the work and there's no more immediate problems to solve, what the hell are we going to do for a job?"
Not the mean, dingy socialism of China, Cuba, and former Soviet Union that everybody's scared of. The hip, swinging, democratic socialism of Scandinavia.
Let's face it: We get more done now with fewer human resources. That's a good thing! But without adjusting a society to keep pace with technology progress, you end up with 95% of the people competing with machines for jobs, and masses of wealth becoming concentrated into the hands of 5% or fewer, who own the machines, the patents on the machines, the copyrights to the manuals about the machines, the universities that teach you how to run the machines...
There is a socialism answer.
You hate the idea? So do I. It's our second-worst option, but everything else is tied for first. But what's going to happen when we have no choice? Our population isn't shrinking. We aren't going to bust up all the gadgets and go back to doing everything by hand. What else can we do? You tell me.
And there's those jobs again. "Give tax breaks to the rich, because they make jobs!" Yes, look at all these invisible jobs the Job Fairy brought us. They are raining from the sky.
It's a waste of time to fight progress. We're right here, on the Internet, trying to think bigger and pushing more progress forward. You can argue that you can move your career forward with progress. Take advantage of the new technology and the new jobs it creates - if you're replaced by a robot, become the guy who builds the robots. If science takes your job, become the new scientist. If the global market outsources your job away, become an outsourcer on the global market yourself. Yes, we can do that, but over time, that path shrinks. When one robot replaces thirty laborers, we only need a couple of maintenance persons for the robot.
We have to transition from a labor economy to a knowledge economy. We have to transition from a scarcity economy to a plentiful economy. Inevitably, we have to allow some of the scraps from our table to support a few freeloaders, who, let's face it, do nothing to earn their keep. Or they do intangible things to benefit society (helloooo, parents, grandparents, housekeepers, mentors, and volunteers of all kinds) which are not recognized as "jobs".
We already do this - we just force them to dodge and flinch through the system under a subterfuge to get the same public pension they'd get in a Socialist country.
And for the Raymondites (as in Eric S.) out there in Linux-land: What is Free and Open Source Software, after all, but Socialism in action?
Granted, Socialism works in software because you can freely copy and transmit software anywhere in the world, without making anyone poorer. That's harder to do with a truckload of turnips. The farmers' jobs are safe for now. But - I live in Iowa, an agricultural powerhouse, and more and more every year I see that there's better computer programs developing more advanced genetic strains of turnips with a higher yield per acre and better machines that harvest the turnips faster and when Google's self-driving cars become an established reality, even the truck driver that drives the turnips from the farm to the store will be out of work.
Did you see what I just did there? I linked to Wikipedia, a Socialist website that's put a huge encyclopedia industry out of work. Yes, they take donations, but that money goes mostly to servers, bandwidth, offices to keep them in - they spend it on bots. The content itself is, as this clever user puts it, "the aum of the Internet". Stick that in your John Galt, Jimbo! What's that about never asking another man to live their lives for the sake of yours, again?
The goal of technology, even of science, is to improve society to the point where we don't need a Capitalist system any more.
There are countries in the world that realize this now, and there are countries in the world who do not.
Update, same day By complete coincidence, I ran across this imaged quote making the social media rounds. Take it away, Buckminster Fuller!
Sourced from here, which I tracked down by the grace of Wikiquote.
This Valve spam in the Linux community, this hoax perpetrated by Valve and Phoronix, has gone on long enough to rival the SCO jokes and Duke Nukem Forever urban legend.
I don't care if there is a Steam client for Linux. I wouldn't play the filthy piece of crap if you paid me. Valve can drop dead. Linux has games. Linux has companies like Mojang and id Software that have been much nicer to it than Valve even promises to be some day. We also have games on the Android platform, too. We even have Linux on gaming consoles themselves now. Come to think of it, Valve needs Linux far worse than Linux ever needed Valve, and Valve burned that bridge long ago.
Valve, listen closely:
NOBODY FREAKING CAAAAAARES!
And that was the six o'clock news.
Linux administrators, bloggers, tweeters, journalists, users: Lend me your ears.
Is there spam from Phoronix about Valve on your website? Is your community whipped into a froth over this hoax yet again? I gather the promise is, Steam for Linux, real soon now?
Yes, the Valve-Steam-Linux spam-troll-astroturf-campaign is ACTUALLY OLDER THAN THE US-IRAQ WAR!!!
Here's a forum linking to Richard Stallman's post mentioning Valve porting Steam games to Linux (along the way to cautioning against non-free software) back in 2002.
Linux administrators, bloggers, tweeters, journalists, users: Have you no pride? Have you no self-respect? At the very least, if you chose to make such ignorant fools of yourselves as to go on gullibly swallowing this lie, this horse puckey, this song and dance, could you not at least spare some consideration for the poor readers who have to shovel the astroturf crap out of your RSS feed in the morning?
Linux community, why not let this be the year when we tell the boy who cried wolf that he doesn't get the front page headline anymore? Join me in boycotting all Valve Software products, no matter if they run on FreeBSD installed on a toaster oven. There is a price to pay for ten years of spam. That price is, people hate your company and don't want anything to do with it any more. Join me further, in demanding that news outlets refuse to carry Valve stories any more. They are not "stories", they do not belong on "news" websites, because they are hoaxes, ladies and gentlemen. Respond to every "Steam on Linux" story with an email or letter to the editor, saying: Enough is enough.
The credibility of news sources who seriously post this Valve / Steam / Linux hoax is to be called into question. If one runs a news source, one gives some editorial consideration to credibility, and does not allow every conspiracy theorist and UFO cultie to have the open mike. Responsible Linux news agencies do not perpetuate this decade-long astroturf campaign, certainly not to pollute and clog up the Linux news world until it's impossible to read about anything else.
And then let's all find something better to do with our time, shall we?
UPDATE I love it when the reactions (here and other places on the web, hopefully all viewable when Disqus straightens out) make my point better than I do myself. Let's see here, if you were an astroturfer doing PR-damage-control for Valve, and somebody just posted proof of your spam going back a decade, what do you do? Aha! You claim that the source of the spam had nothing to do with the subject! So far two separate responses to this post have claimed that Phoronix did all this stuff independently and then Valve just happened to decide to jump on the bandwagon now. You know, by complete coincidence!
Yeah, pull my other leg. It plays Pachabel's Canon in D.
Like I say, I don't care what claims are made. I don't care what claims are made good on. I don't care if Valve / Steam / Phoronix cures cancer. Valve has disrupted the Linux community long enough. And the fact that they're fighting back just goes to prove me righter. There's something evil going on, or they would not act this way. Plain old street smarts will tell you this.
Let's see here, how many times have you long-term readers seen this little drama play out over the years? When there's a huge hivemind-circlejerk about something and I'm the only dissenter? SOPA, OWS, Wrong Paul, Wikileaks, Anonymous, Microsoft evangelists, Microsoft Mono, Novell, Con Colivas, Helios and the Tux500 fiasco... Go ahead, Valve, make my day! A few more and I'll have my own Billy Joel song. Called "Don't Call Penguin Pete A Liar".
I shouldn't be posting right now. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't, so I might as well be damned for "do". It is too soon to talk about a bloody tragedy that happened only hours ago. It is highly insensitive to the victims and their family members for us media wonks to go on about it.
But you're all going to forget this happened within a week, and sick jokes about it are already starting to circulate on the web, so my hand is forced.
Last night, a man named James Holmes entered a movie theater at the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. He was dressed as one of the villain characters in the movie. He was equipped as that character in the movie. He then proceeded to open fire on the audience, attacking them in exactly the same style as that character in the movie. He timed his attack to coincide with the identical actions performed by that character in the movie, happening right beside him on the screen. Finished with his rampage and leaving a theater full of dead and wounded people, he then calmly waited in back of the theater for police to show up, bearing no evident anxiety over what he had just done. After being arrested, he informed the police that his apartment was booby-trapped with a sophisticated device exactly like one the character in the movie would have used.
James Holmes cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
Let's see if I can break this down so the simplest of you can understand it:
A crazy person with guns just caused a massacre.
Key points of problem:
Solution space #1: What can we do about guns?
Well, there's debate about that all the time. Michael Moore said quite a bit about it in Bowling For Columbine. Gun control debate isn't my focus here. Naturally, hordes of gun nuts all crammed online within minutes of the story breaking to sing hymns to their beautiful, beautiful guns, and rationalized it as "if everyone was packing (including, one assumes, the three-month-old baby) then this situation would have been better... somehow". I am flabbergasted at how people can think that in a dark, crowded theater, where many people were so disoriented that they thought the rampage was part of the entertainment until the actual bullets started hitting them, more bullets whizzing around would be exactly what we need, but oh well. Second Amendment debates lie outside the realm of a geek / tech blog. To those of you out there with no such disclaimer... good luck!
Solution space #2: What can we do about crazy people?
Ah, now we're closer to my turf, since I blog about the Internet (it is a matter pertaining to both geeks and technology), and if you've all not noticed, a heck of a lot of crazy people seem to be on the Internet. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the whole Dark Knight fad was born in the lap of the Internet.
Previously, I indicated that the Internet, while not to blame for crazy people having delusions any more than any other form of media (video games, TV shows, literature, movies), does differ in one, small detail, in that it is more interactive than other forms of media. You give to the Internet and it gives right back. It gives to you, and you give right back. It is a more immersing experience. So it fosters and nurtures delusions.
Now, we all want to go on using the Internet. So we have a responsibility on the Internet. That responsibility is:
To keep an eye out for deluded people.
To be intolerant of hate speech by deluded people.
To call out and identify when deluded people are posting hateful, violent thoughts on the Internet.
To make it as clear as possible that there is a line between reality and fantasy and announce unambiguously when we cross it and when we return.
To listen to, and identify, the delusions that run around within the media space and analyze the harm potential they have.
To intervene to our fullest ability to council deluded people, explaining the difference between their delusions and reality.
If they are resistant to this council, then to intervene with mental health treatment to prevent them from becoming a danger to themselves and society.
...And get health care laws fixed so that it's easier to do that.
Now, what is the responsibility (and I'm including myself here, remember) of those of us who produce media for public consumption? To not encourage people to confuse reality with fantasy. And that goes 180-degrees opposite of what big film studios do with their viral marketing campaigns for summer blockbusters. When we allow corporations to astroturf, when we allow "altered reality" events to market fiction, we make it that much harder for people who are already prone to delusion to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Here's another good reason for me to post right now: The motives and inner thoughts of James Holmes have so far not become public. However, when the story comes out, I am certain that his thoughts will turn out to be woven, warp and woof, from a tapestry of popular Internet memes, Internet-bred conspiracy theories, Internet-published cornflake urban legends, Internet-popular pop psychology / philosophy / politics. You will hear his utterances and read his posts, when his web accounts are uncovered, and you will nod your head with recognition, because more likely than not they will be echoing the headlines of the very stories you've been reading lately all over social media.
I'd be very surprised if he also wasn't one of those guys painting his face like the Joker during an Occupy Wall Street rally. Or one of those guys wearing a V for Vendetta mask during an Anonymous rally. Or one of those guys dressing as a Wookie during a Ron Paul rally. Maybe three-for-three.
Are there some more Dark Knight fans who are deluded? Well, according to this story, negative reviews of the franchise have drawn death threats over the Internet. Does this tell us anything? Even BoingBoing, as guilty of the irresponsible media frenzy around comic-book movies as anybody else, just posted this week about these retards, biting the hands that feed them.
But remember, I'm not blaming the Dark Knight franchise itself, any more than I blamed the Matrix franchise before, or any other media production. They're just stories, albeit pretty brainless ones. It's the people who experience a work of fiction and then adopt it as their frame for reality that is the problem. I draw a webcomic, for those two of you who weren't aware yet. I would be equally (if not more) upset if someone chose to emulate the characters and actions of my webcomic in real life as well. I would be just as condemnatory if they tried to practice the fictional religion "Micca" from my strip, or attempted to commit cybercrimes the way the strip's character "Sherry" does, or conned their way into the offices of Senator Rick Perry to beat his butt with a riding crop the way the strip's character "Audrina" does. These would be wrong things to do. That's why it's - duh! - called fiction!
"A lot of people forget or never realize that I started my band as a criticism of these very issues of despair and hypocrisy."
As have I started my blog for similar motives, albeit within the realm of technology.
"When it comes down to who's to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you'll hit someone who's guilty. We're the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we're the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them."
Say, do you suppose he's talking about us?
"We live in a free country, but with that freedom there is a burden of personal responsibility."
Well, now you know where I get some of my crazy, radical, wild-hair ideas.
"In my work I examine the America we live in, and I've always tried to show people that the devil we blame our atrocities on is really just each one of us."
Well, hopefully, since Marilyn is more popular than I am (not, I concede, without cause), maybe you'll take his word for it, even while you dismiss me as a random raving loony for saying things of a similar bent. I am, after all, just one more part of the media.
A political cartoon that I found here speaks volumes about the issue:
Now, the thing that Americans seem to push back against always seems to be the complex solution. People don't want that, they want an easy quick-fix. But that doesn't work. You should always beware of black-and-white solutions to multi-hued problems.
I suppose every hacker who reads Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid has the same problem: You can't read five pages without finding some new math or logic conjecture which you immediately have to stop and play with. Hey, it's kind of the whole point of the book! Being able to diddle out a quick Bash script to play with some sequence just makes it that much more interesting.
So, on page 400-402 of said work, the Collatz conjecture is introduced, also called "hailstone numbers". It's explained fully at that Wiki, but briefly you pick a number and apply the following rules indefinitely until you reach 1: If it's even, divide it by two, if it's odd, multiply it times 3 and add 1.
The conjecture is that every whole positive integer eventually reaches 1, albeit with considerable meandering along the path. The script:
# Demonstrates the Collatz conjecture -
# That any number will eventually boil down to 1
# by following the formula of dividing it by 2 if
# it is even and multiplying it by 3 and adding 1
# if it is odd.
if [ "$1" ]; then
echo "Starting number: "$N
while [ "$N" -ne "1" ]
if [ "$(($N % 2))" -eq "0" ]; then
N=$(($N / 2))
N=$((($N * 3) + 1))
STEP=$(($STEP + 1))
echo "The number $ORIG took $STEP steps."
If you give it a numeric argument, it'll start with that; otherwise it will just use a Bash built-in $RANDOM number. You will note that there's no bounds-checking or error termination here, indicating that I have great faith in either the conjecture or the user's ability to press Ctrl-C. You can also type in a number so high that Bash can't handle it and causes a stack overflow, plunging it into negative numbers which never terminate (even if they make it low, they may loop -20, -10, -5, -14, -7, -20...). Bash can handle 64-bit integers, so logically you'd check for anything higher than 9,223,372,036,854,775,807. But there's a problem with that...
The problem is that 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 is odd, so of course it's going to multiply times 3 and add 1. And so is 9,223,372,036,854,775,805, so that's too high. And indeed, we know from the whole nature of hailstone sequences that they sometimes get much higher than their starting number before they terminate, so the script would have to check the bounds on whatever the highest number is that can't get higher in the sequence than the 64-bit limit... And proving that all numbers below N never get higher than X is a problem such that if we solved it, we might as well solve the conjecture - a feat for which Paul Erdos posted a $500 prize in his lifetime. Unclaimed.
So, yeah, I'm open for some critique on this one.
In fact, if any math geniuses drop by here, my uneducated guess regarding proving the Collatz conjecture: Has anybody thought of using a Sieve of Eratosthenes type method on this? For instance, we know that 2 terminates; since 2 terminates, all powers of 2 must also terminate. We know that 4 terminates, so all powers of 4 must also terminate. 3 terminates; does that mean that all powers of 3 must also terminate? That's not so obvious.
Yeah, I'm in over my head here.
Sorry, no solution to the Mu puzzle, keep looking...
Silly parents! Are you all up in arms and legs about your little dumpling watching pornography online, like the subjects of this recent Guardian article? Well, I can't sympathize. Worse yet, I am here to destroy all hopes that you will ever have for (a) an all-wholesome web, or (b) getting your kids to practice wholesome viewing habits.
Our Parental Policy
See, around my house, we've always had a 100% liberal policy on what media content our kids can read, watch, listen to, and play. They have their own TVs and computers and phones and we don't put any parental controls on them at all. Instead, we offer proactive parenting: we coach and advise on the difference between reality and fantasy, the difference between listening to songs about anti-social behavior and acting it out, the importance of examining the morality and safety of a depicted action, and so on.
We're also all about the open-and-honest communication. What this means is that when they run across something unsavory, we can offer guidance on how to take it. Then they learn that no matter how cool an idea it might at first seem to stick some strange thing in some strange orifice, we're right here to mention that that's how funny stories told by hospital emergency-room staff are born. Any time our kids run across something weird and dirty, they can feel perfectly comfortable asking us about it, whereupon we can assure them that no, while some people online have a thing about dressing up as Tigger(*) for a night of fun adult romping, that doesn't mean that the average bride and groom will be expecting it on their wedding night.
(* sorry, furries, but you're used to being easy targets by now!)
Hey, by the time kids are seeking this out on their own, they're fourteen and passing puberty. They've already had sex-ed in school. They will have just four short years until they become legal adults as far as sex is concerned, and then they have to deal with the full brunt of the weird world and all of its myriad disgusting fetishes and depraved debauchery anyway. Would I rather they have their first introduction to the Wide World of Whackos as naive, sheltered, innocent lambs after they've moved out and are on their own, or would I rather they discover it at a safe distance first over the Internet where they have the advantage of my sober judgment and council? Why is this even a difficult question for anybody?
"Wise like a serpent, harmless like a dove." That's my attitude.
And before anybody takes this to mean that I let my kids cavort with child predators or send inappropriate photos to strangers, let me caution you wet thumbs that I'm only talking about consuming online media - interacting with it is an entirely different matter, and we're still gradually lifting our controls on participation until they understand how to avoid being victimized by creeps, and that their 35-year-old selves would regret imprudent photos snapped and posted of their 16-year-old selves. "For now you can look and explore, but you have much to learn before you can get out there and swim with the sharks."
Why Any Other Parental Policy Is Doomed
It is thanks to this open-and-honest communication policy that I get to find out about things like the current "practical jokes" fad on YouTube.
Imagine a perfect world as the repressive nannies would have it: There is either no porn online, or no way for their own kids to consume it. So their apple-cheeked little munchkin skips up and asks "Mommy, can I watch practical joke videos on YouTube?" Well, of course little moppet (pinches cheek), you run right along and have fun now!
Now, what are you thinking when you hear "practical jokes"? Glue a quarter to the sidewalk, watch people struggle to pry it up, yuk yuk? Perhaps the ever-popular "kick me" sign taped to the back?
There's dozens more examples where this came from. But now, imagine your kid telling the gist of six or seven of these to you rapid-fire in a row, like my kid just did to me. Listen to your faith in humanity deflate like a sad balloon.
Now, granted, I know most of these are faked. (Did you hear that, wet thumbs in the back row? I knooooow they're faaaaaake!) But still, they suggest seriously messed-up things to do, and certainly we read about kids who get hurt in nasty ways imitating the Internet all the time, such as with the recent real panic about the swallow-a-spoonful-of-cinnamon challenge. In no uncertain terms, bleach in the shower can get into your eyes and blind you for life while burning your eyes right out of their sockets, superglue requires a trip to the hospital to remove with chemical solvents that might work, and coins shooting out of an AC unit can hit you in the face, possibly knocking a tooth out. Also, cinnamon by the scoop can choke you to death, and furthermore hurt the entire time you're dying.
This shit ain't funny. It's cruel, sick, sadistic, barbaric, and several other things to get into a huff about.
Now, how would we have known to censor this beforehand?
It's not X-rated. It's not even R-rated. You can keep your clothes on, not swear, not worship the devil, not abuse any illicit substances, not even pirate any music, and still depict something that's wrong on all kinds of levels.
I Would Rather My Kids Watch Porn Than Pranks
At least sex is usually a consensual act engaged in by people who enjoy it. At least in your standard sexual activity, there isn't an immediate risk of permanent debilitating injury. And at least the enjoyment-factor from most forms of sex does not come from sadistic cruelty, barbaric ignorance, and ruining someone's day and possibly life. Truly, I watch six prank videos in a row and Debbie Does Dallas starts looking as wholesome as white picket fences and apple pie by comparison. So does a Freddy Kruger flick, because at least it's clearly understood that it's a work of fiction.
The enjoyment of pranks is an act of sadism. It is all about getting amusement at the expense of another human being's dignity and safety. It is far, far crueler than half the degrading things I've seen porn stars do. The fact that these prank videos are so popular says scary things about what kind of dark undercurrent to our society we might be creating.
Furthermore, I will step forward to make the bold claim that the popularity of dangerous pranks among young people is a symptom of exactly the kind of sick society we create when we let the repressive nannies have their say. We can ban all kinds of less-dangerous ideas for teens to be exposed to, only to provoke them to invent new ideas on their own that are even worse.
And if you thought I was over-reacting to practical jokes, be aware that the next logical step is the "dare", where people voluntarily play pranks on themselves just for the attention value. Here again, you might think "but we all played truth of dare in junior high", but then you haven't been to another popular teen hangout online, Get Dare. Go ahead and browse around there - you'll find the horror stories soon enough. I'm the most liberal left-wing pinko in the world, and getdare.com makes me want to get an angry mob with torches and pitchforks together and go burn it down.
We can show people doing sick, sad, twisted things to each other all day long, and nobody raises an eyebrow. Yet we can't show two people loving each other. For that matter, we can't show a woman breastfeeding her baby.
We're a sick species.
And trying to fix it with censorship, whether individually or collectively, just makes us sicker.
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