Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush quietly undercuts

In 2003, lawmakers tried to get a handle on Bush's use of signing statements by passing a Justice Department spending bill that required the department to inform Congress whenever the administration decided to ignore a legislative provision on constitutional grounds.

Bush signed the bill, but issued a statement asserting his right to ignore the notification requirement.
Bush quietly undercuts laws with bill-signing statement

So look, how does this come down to: Who and what are the people who are actually in physical control of the money or goods involved? I hear that in Iraq they flew a billion dollars in cash over to someone on a plane. My mind boggles. And underpaid federal employees at desks, interpreting.

I saw a politician on C-Span today. Hmm who was it. Oh it was Dick Armey. And a caller was suggesting that the bills should be written in plain English. And Dick Armey literally could not get his mind around that idea. You could watch his brain trying to get itself all the way around the idea of the laws of the country being readable by the citizens of the country, and it would not fit. OK let's call that Problem #1. That is not the end of the list.

And these people run the country! (Note: Statement should be interpreted to mean that they don't.)


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

unrelated zoning bill

Though it breezed through House committees, the bill died in the House after Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque , got upset with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque , over Silva’s unrelated zoning bill.
Medical marijuana on New Mexico's agenda

This sort of thing seems ridiculously common among these bodies of what claim to be rational adult human beings. How much longer are they going to insist on being necessary? Can we cut to the chase?


Thursday, January 12, 2006

New evidence for a Dark Matter Galaxy

"New evidence that VIRGOHI 21, a mysterious cloud of hydrogen in the Virgo Cluster 50 million light-years from the Earth, is a Dark Galaxy, emitting no star light, was presented today at the American Astronomical Society..."

Whenever I hear about dark matter and dark galaxies, I always think: Wouldn't that be the signature of a post-singularity civilization? They're going to use all of the energy available from any source, and therefore they're not going to pointlessly radiate energy out into the universe-- any energy coming out is going to be communication.

I don't understand the astronomy enough to be able to relate that theory well to the data. I just wish the theory would be taken more seriously, so those who do know could flesh out the details.


read more | digg story

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Chavez and Coffee

Producers "are hoarding coffee, waiting for me to raise the official price, but I won't raise it," said Chavez, speaking to pro-government lawmakers. "If they don't want to roast the coffee in the roasting facilities they have, we will take the roasters ... we will nationalize them."
Coffee crisis brews in Venezuela over state's price limits

Obviously the most relevant fact here, to sort out who is bullshitting whom, is whether the regulation is in fact impossible to comply with. The coffee corporations are claiming, apparently, that their cost is one cent more per pound than the regulated selling price. That seems awfully convenient-- one has to wonder, for instance, is there a multimillion dollar CEO salary that figures into those "costs"? On the other hand, if it's true, then the Chavez administration is on the face of it making unreasonable demands.

What would help here is if I could turn to some sort of unbiased news source, dedicated to finding out the actual facts of the matter. I want to know, what are the expenses of roasting coffee in Venezuela? What is the economic state of the companies in question-- how long will it take them to go bankrupt if they really do lose one cent per pound of coffee? Is this a mortal wound or a pinprick? Alas, every bit of the Venezuelan media is (so far as I know) utterly untrustworthy.

The last few weeks there have been shortages of coffee and this week a Government official suggested an increase in the controlled price was imminent, which led to even more scarcity. Then on Wednesday the consumer protection agency (Indecu) impounded 300 Tons of coffee at the distributor’s warehouses and two additional raids have taken place. The coffee will be forcefully purchased at the official controlled price.
Chavilarism: When people lose their property rights to their crops and buildings

Aha, this is starting to make a little more sense to me. They're going to adjust the price, so nobody wants to sell now at a loss rather than wait it out.

It seems like a complicated question. Obviously there's been some mishandling of the market, some bureaucratic sluggishness, yet on the other hand the inability of corporations to act unselfishly is one of the root causes here.



Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Limitations of the Singularity

We already have this problem, since we fill up our exponentially growing storage resources (both RAM and secondary storage) faster than they grow, and our programs bloat to fill up our growing processors. Niklaus Wirth, has proposed two new Parkinson's Laws for software: "Software expands to fill the available memory," and "Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware gets faster."
The Limitations of the Singularity

This whole line of thought is perfectly ridiculous. Software gets slower, but it does not get slower at doing the same things. It gets slower by adding new things that it does. It "expands to fill the available memory" because it is making effective use of the memory. Software is dramatically changing all of its capabilities with every generation of hardware. To describe that constant transformation as an argument against the imminence of the Singularity-- well, it's denial, that's what it is.

The question is not how fast Microsoft Windows is going to boot in the future. Completely irrelevant. The application which is most relevant to the Singularity is human-like intelligence. We are going to find code which accomplishes that grail, and then you had better believe that code is going to be well optimized.

Exactly how limiting they will be is hard to tell, but the [sic] definitely will prevent an infinitely fast growth.

If infinite growth is possible-- which intuitively seems unlikely with our physics, but is a real possibility & really is true in some subset of universes-- it'll come about more as a result of energy technologies than information technologies. Only an infinite amount of energy to do computation can hit that sweet spot. Those are the universes where the Powers truly do become Gods.


Earth as a Biopreserve

Allow me to be one of the first to say it: We could move all of the Singularity activity-- the Technology-- off-planet, and leave Earth as a biopreserve. Here's the story: Mars is never "terraformed," never made into a weird unearthly earth. Instead it is machine formed, made into the most efficient computing devices possible. Grey gooed, fast or slow. This is presuming OF COURSE that Mars is barren.

Let's make things clear, BTW, ladies and gentlemen. I am not going to let Humanity come to a bad end. I am not going to let us be Conquerers Of The Galaxy. We're better than that. It's OK to conquer rocks-- rocks are utterly indifferent to being conquered-- but we absolutely must respect any other races that we encounter in this universe.

So, presuming Mars is just rocks, we transform it into a slightly different kind of rocks. Earth, on the other hand, continues to have butterflies and penguins. Not that we'd have to take a hands-off approach-- in fact Earth may need a lot of proactive stabilization in the medium-term-- but we leave it as a place where DNA life continues to replicate and evolve.

If we can hold our own appetites away from this planet for a little bit longer, we will be able to feast ourselves on all of the other planets. That will give us quite a bit of computing resources. At that point we will have a better idea just how rare Earth is, just how much information this biosphere consists of, and we can make a reasonable judgement as to its most valuable state.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Google Spell Check

Dear Google,

PLEASE make your spell checking algorithm available as a stand-alone program. It KICKS ASS. It always gives me the word that I really meant-- every single fucking time. Why can't I spell check this with that? I'm writing it on one of your freaking websites!! PLEASE!!


Sunday, January 01, 2006

u.s. continues to subvert in venezuela

While it doesn't deny that it has funded openly partisan groups that were directly or indirectly involved in the coup, NED claims that its funding was limited to civil society education, electoral training, and institution building—not partisan politics or coup planning.
Transitioning Venezuela

I'm not entirely clear on the whole Venezuela deal, & I'm keeping my mind open as I look into it, but regardless of the overall shape of things it's quite evident to me that the US government is attempting to subvert democracy there. They may say they're on the side of democracy-- or Goodness & Rightness, or plum pudding-- but the facts are that they're sneakily (& apparently shamelessly) underwriting a bunch of antidemocratic fronts attempting to blandly advance the cause of More Rich White People. Why, exactly, do we tolerate this?


flickr song

famine in kenya

At least 20 people and hundreds of livestock have died as a result of the drought and severe food shortage.
IOL | Kibaki calls food crisis a 'famine'

Yeah, yeah, famine in Africa. Call me when you have a million dead, and maybe you'll get to share headlines with the latest American (by which I mean citizen of the US, the important country in America) who's skinned their knee.

When does it end? When does Africa become part of the world, a place that we pay attention to? We're already well into the information age. Anyone can pay attention to Africa just like I have, by subscribing to the BBC Africa feed or setting up a Google alert for "darfur." It would take ten seconds to end this blackout. People still are not choosing to.

Even now, Africa is the dark continent.