My first COBOL program.

November 9, 2017 Mainframe No comments , , , , ,

I recently bought Murach’s COBOL reference:

and coded the chapter 1 compound interest calculation myself before looking at the solution.  I was surprised to see that (n)vim has built in syntax highlighting for COBOL.  It even helps position the comments and line starts in the right places, which was handy.

Having been horrified any time in the past that I saw COBOL code, it feels weird to be coding my own hello-world in the language, but it works, and with ALL CAPS output, it looks sufficiently dinosaur’ish to be COBOL:

FUTURE-VALUE = 0001010.00
FUTURE-VALUE = 0001020.10

Notes and questions:

  • I wasn’t sure about when I had to use statement terminators (.’s) in the ELSE body, so I moved the whole basic block to a helper function.
  • I got messed up initially with the syntax for the PIC values at first, as I’d used .’s instead of V’s to specify that my variables were numeric.  This caused cobc (gnu-cobol front end) to complain that INTEREST-AMOUNT was not numeric, and I eventually found the answer in the PIC table of the book.
  • The point of this exercise was probably to use a loop, which I avoided by calculating the value in one shot.  I’ll have to go back and see how to do that.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any notion of function prototype, and the function bodies can be either before or after their calls.
  • Functions are annoyingly, but appropriately (given the requirement to be over the top verbose for many things), called PARAGRAPHs in COBOL.  I wonder what the mainframe does with name mangling, given that symbol names have to be 8 characters, and COBOL function names are up to 30.  Perhaps only the external entry points (the program-id?), have that restriction?
  • cobc’s implementation of -g sucks, and a debug session shows the lines of the generated .c files instead of the COBOL sources.  There ought to at least be #line markers in the generated C sources instead of comments.

Failed purchases at (trying to spend bitcoin)

November 5, 2017 Bitcoin, Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , , ,

A couple years ago I bought a few bitcoin at fairly low rates compared to the current price, and thought I’d try to recoup my initial “investment” by spending some of it (since selling it back for money on an exchange appears to require a capital gains tax report in Canada).  Such purchases are easier said than done, at least here in Canada.

I found that Newegg advertises themselves as bitcoin capable, but it turns out that this is not offered for, and restricts payment with bitcoin to certain types of purchases (and it seems like used phones on their marketplace do not qualify).  I found, but was not impressed by how much mark up they impose on every purchase (5%).  Despite Coincards calling this a “convenience fee”, I don’t feel that having to eat a 5% fee for every purchase is very convenient.

Before looking at Coincards and Newegg I had tried as I knew from the Tom Woods show that the founder was enthusiastic about bitcoin.  The idea behind this company is that they buy excess stock from vendors and can then offer the items for less.  Some browsing of the prices on this site leave me unconvinced.  I think the savings are passed on to the company and very little to the consumer, however, they accept bitcoin, so I thought “what the hell” and did a (fairly sizeable) test purchase.

This didn’t work out very well.  Either because of current bitcoin network latencies, or perhaps due to the fees added by the wallet that I used, my transaction timed out after “network fee may have been too low message” after I had submitted my payment to the Coinbase dialog that came up in the Overstock cart checkout.  The transaction had been submitted from my wallet to the bitcoin network, but Coinbase tells me the transaction is timed out, and I’m left with the item still in my card, unpaid.

Basically, my payment was stuck in limbo.  Overstock has an online chat support option, which is very responsive, but the support rep I got just played pass the buck:

Bishop: Hi, my name is Bishop. How may I help you?
peeter.joot: I attempted to make a purchase with bitcoin, and got a message saying that the mining fee may have been too small.  I see the transaction processed from my wallet (with two confirmations so far), but the coinbase transaction window claims the transaction expired.
Bishop: Hello there.
peeter.joot: it presented me with a window to return to, and there’s no sign of my transaction there in my cart.
Bishop: I’ll be glad to check and help you with this information.
Bishop: In this situation I recommend you to contact  Coinbase, please visit or, email for further help.
Bishop: I know I have not resolved the issue for now and have only shared a best possible recommendation, but was I able to address your concerns for now?
Bishop: I don’t mean to rush you, however our chat will time out in the next one minute; please respond so that we can stay connected.
Thank you for contacting Overstock. Before you go, we invite you to check out the exclusive benefits of becoming a Club O Member. Club O allows you to earn rewards and save more with every purchase. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank You’ for shopping with us. Click  here to learn more!
Bishop has disconnected.
The email address for Coinbase that Bishop gave me bounced, but did at least point me to the Coinbase support forum.  This got me a response:

Hi and thanks for contacting Coinbase Support.

I was able to locate the order details using the info provided. I see that you have paid for an order, but it was marked as Expired. Overstock has been paid for it, if you send the below info to Overstock, they should be able to locate your order to fulfill or refund it as desired.

Order Code: XN0KMJGU
Created: 2017-09-30 6:29 AM
Order Status: Expired Confirmed Has mispayments
Address: …
Order Amount (BTC): … BTC
Order Amount (Native): … USD
Custom Parameter: 200882508
Button: … on invoice ID 200882508.

If you have any further questions, please let us know.

Coinbase Support
I provided this info to one of the Overstock support reps, who kept telling me that there wasn’t anything that he could do, and that I had to contact Coinbase for support, despite the fact that I’d just given him the info that Coinbase just provided me.  I was honestly convinced that this support rep was a robot, because he wasn’t capable of understanding even the simplest things.  After he claimed that he wasn’t a robot (unconvincingly) I asked to talk to a manager, and he said he’d have a specialist deal with the issue.
Eventually, I got a response from somebody in the payments department:
By Caroline S. on 10/05/2017 08:55 AM

Hello ,

I’m writing today in response to your recent contact about your Bitcoin order XN0KMJGU . I am happy to help you today.

So when we see the expired tab , it indicates that the system had timed out and the funds did not come through . I can issue the refund back through Coinbase . We will need to refund $… USD so you could try and place the order again . I tried to refund to your wallet address that you provided in the chat but it would not take that address . Do you have an e-mail that we could refund to ?

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you with this or any other issue. Visit us again soon for great savings on our name-brand products.

I am so sorry that the order did not process through and appreciate your patience while we work through this issue.

Please respond back to this e-mail .


Caroline S.
Pay Support

I was severely unimpressed that they weren’t able to simply finalize the transaction I’d attempted, but instead had to refund the bitcoin, so that I could try again.  They had some trouble doing so since I did not use a Coinbase wallet for my payment, but a private wallet.  In the end, I resurrected the Coinbase wallet I had once created (but hadn’t used), and they sent the refund there successfully.
After this hassle I gave up on the item I originally tried to purchase, but thought I’d try Overstock one more time, but this time used my Coinbase wallet with the Overstock Coinbase dialogue.  My hope was that Coinbase would know the transaction was submitted, even if the bitcoin network confirmations hadn’t occurred, and treat it as paid despite the network.
For my second purchase attempt I ordered a refurbished unlocked phone for my wife, and a bench grinder for myself.  The phone came within a couple days (left unattended on my doorstep by the courier!), and the grinder arrived by Canada Post in about a week.
After the adventure of cutting and sanding my wife’s microsim to nanosim size (you can find instructions for this on youtube, but make sure to download the letter size template, not A4, and print it in actual size, not the default), we discovered the hard way that Overstock had sent a phone that was locked to AT&T, and it even listed the phone on the packing slip at an “ATT” phone and not unlocked.  This made the phone unless as it wasn’t even possible to get past the SIM setup screen to the settings nor the home screen.  I had to contact Overstock four times (three using the contact form, and finally once more with their phone number).  I’d been promised call backs twice (1-2 business days), and those never materialized.  The last support person I dealt with (Nora) was helpful, and told me that if I could get the phone unlocked manually for <= $50 they’d refund me that amount.  Unfortunately, after a trip to the mall to the little shop that unlocked my android phone, I was told that they couldn’t unlock this type of phone locked to AT&T, and told me that I’d probably be charged at least $140 Canadian for somebody that could do.  That price was consistent with the unlocking fee on, which was $110 USD, so I gave up on getting it unlocked myself.
Because the phone that I’d ordered was out of stock on Overstock by the time we discovered it was locked, they weren’t able to send me a properly unlocked replacement of the same type.  I should have asked for an upgrade to the next most similar model since the combined time that my wife and I spent with customer support and playing with the phone and with the Canadian phone carriers was horrendous, and probably added up to hundreds of dollars of time equivalent to salary.
Instead I was sent a packing slip to return the phone:

Thank you for contacting

We believe that we have resolved your inquiry. However, if it has not been answered to your satisfaction, you may reopen it within the next 7 days.

By Nora A. on 11/03/2017 01:49 PM

Hello Peeter,

We’re sorry to hear that you need to return your … (Refurbished) because it arrive and it is locked with ATT. We recognize that returning an item can be inconvenient, and we want to make this process as easy as possible.

We will return this item at no cost to you. Please print the return shipping label attached to this email. If you cannot open the PDF file, visit to download a free Adobe PDF reader. If you still cannot access or print the label, please email us at or call us at 00-1-(919)576-9926.

Once the label is printed, please use the following steps to return your item:

1. Print the label and affix it to the package.
2. Write the Return Merchandise Authorization(RMA) number … on the outside of the package large enough for it to easily be seen.
3. Take the package to your nearest Canada Post office.

It may take 5-7 business days after we receive your return to issue your refund. We will send you an email notification once we complete your return.

Thank you for your patience through this return process. If you have any other questions on this or any other issue, please reply to this email or call us at 00-1-919-576-9926.

You may also view our full Standard Return Policy by visiting this link:


Nora A.
Overstock Global Solutions Specialist

So, once again, my attempt to purchase something on Overstock has left me without the item, and a requirement to return it, and retry the transaction again should I desire.  I don’t think there’s much chance in hell that I’ll try such a purchase on Overstock again.  A 1/3 success rate just doesn’t inspire confidence, and their prices aren’t that great to start with.

Playing with scammers, part II. I’d like my 5,125,000 euros in bitcoin please.

October 11, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , ,

I posted some of my initial interactions with “Fred Gaston, Esq.”, a “lawyer” in need of some severe English literacy remediation.

Playing with internet scammers: 20.500.000.00 Euros

I still don’t have my 5,125,000 euros, but complicated the process by asking for my share in bitcoin, instead of just nicely giving him my banking information and the international swift codes for my bank so that he could “make a deposit” to my account.

Here’s some of the second round interactions.

Having not sent Mr. Gaston all the information he wanted, he’s nicely prompting me:

Hello Peeter Joot,
Your message was received and content well noted with .I therefore
look forward to hearing from you As soon as possible to enable us make
some progress.

Kindly please expedite action.My estimation of time for the completion
of this operation is 10 business days hence I need your total devotion
and trust for us to see this through quicky.

Thank you once again.

Your partner,
Fred Gaston, Esq.

so I feed him a bit of the info he’s asked for:

Since you asked, here is the address of one of my houses:
194 Roxborough Drive, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 1X8
Note that I don’t have multiple houses, and this house which listed a few years ago on the Toronto Real estate market for ~$20 million, is sadly not mine.  As I have had the good faith to send Mr. Gaston my address, he has now dispensed with his request for any identification, and has gone straight for the money shot, sending me his bank transfer form.  This was a bit disappointing since I wanted to send him an image of my 1st Dan WTF Black-Belt card, as “identification”.

Greetings Dear Peeter,
Having resolved to entrust this transaction into your hands,Please
copy the letter attached and fill in your bank account information
where the funds will be transferred to and then send the letter to the
bank by email to their email address as indicated to enable the bank
to begin to process the transfer of the funds to your bank
account.Please send this letter by email and then let me know.

Kind regards.
Your friend and partner,
Fred Gaston, Esq.

Here’s the attached letter for me to sign


Clearly, I’m not sending him the information that he needs to make an international withdrawal from my account.  Here’s a better option to “recieve my funds” :
Hi Fred,
I no longer use a bank for any of my financial matters, and have switched exclusively to bitcoin.  After I send you all my required documentation, please send my share of this large batch of Euros to my bitcoin address:
I know that there could be a currency loss on any given bitcoin transaction, but the amounts are so large that any approximation of my 40% share is acceptable to me.

His response is to gently prompt me to fill in the form anyways:

Dear friend and partner,
Please go ahead and send the application to the bank.Once the heritage
claim is approved by the bank we certainly can direct then on how to
recieve it.One step at a time.

Let me know as soon as you send the application to the bank and also
do send me the required documentation.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Your partner,
Fred Gaston,Esq.

So I have to explain what I mean:

I no longer use bank accounts, so cannot fill in your form.  The salary I take from the company I founded (GAEM), is entirely in bitcoin.
My company focuses on Geometric Algebra applications to electromagnetism.  Are you familiar with Geometric or Clifford algebras?  They are a very powerful mathematical tool.  Here’s a synopsis of the basic underlying concepts:
Geometric algebra is founded on the assumption that vectors can be multiplied, and that sums of scalars, vectors, and vector products, called multivectors, are well defined. Multivector addition and multiplication conforms to most of the rules that anybody would be expect of number like quantities, with a couple exceptions: order that multivectors are multiplied matters, and there is also no general multiplicative inverse. Multivector multiplication is also constrained by a rule that provides meaning for the square of a vector. The formal statement of the algebra is that of the multivector space.

Will Mr. Fred Gaston be a kindred mathematical cousin accross continents and be interested in my passion for electromagetism and geometric algebra?  Unfortunately not.  He ignores that part of my email and gives me a new form

Dear Peeter ,
It very much sound to me that you did not understand my previous
message to you.Go ahead and send the application to the bank.Once the
claim is approved by the bank we certainly can direct then on how to recieve it.

chech now i have simplify the application ,sent it in that format.

Let me know as soon as you send it.

Thank you.

Your partner,
Fred Gaston,Esq.

Here’s the new letter that he wants me to fill in

This new letter is somewhat mysterious to me, since I don’t see what he has to gain by having me fill this in?  Is this just to keep me hooked, and then he’ll ask for the bank info again, or is he switching to a different scam?  Google tells me that there is actually a Bank of Africa branch at this address, but I don’t see any domain, and ask him about that.

It looks like there’s a typo in the email address of your form, since does not appear to be valid.

In response he says:

Hello Peeter, Please check and make sure you actually copied the email address properly. ( Let me know when sent. Fred Gaston,Esq.

I’m able to send a test email to this email address, and it doesn’t bounce.  Later he prompts me, since I haven’t taken any action:

Good morning Peeter, Happy new week to you and hopefully you are in good health today?I have no further information from you and write to know if you where able to send the application. Expedient response please. Thank you. Fred Gaston, Esq.

This gives me a nice opening, since I have a cold:

Funny you should ask.  I’ve actually got a pretty unpleasant cold, a side effect of too much work while jet lagged.
How is your health?
But Mr. Gaston is strictly business, once again not willing to chit chat:
The “This message contains remote content”, with a virus-free link to click is an interesting twist.  In retrospect, I took a risk opening his “letter” or even the .jpgs that had his “identification”, since there was a chance that it could also have had a viral payload that my system could have been exploited with.
Having failed to get my bank info, I don’t actually know if Mr. Gaston is sophisticated enough to try to infect my computer, but I am left with the inclination to not play with him any further.

Playing with internet scammers: 20.500.000.00 Euros

October 5, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

Since seeing a couple of James Veitch’s scam trolling videos:

I’ve been waiting for a chance to play too.  Well, I got my chance a few days ago, courtesy of FRED GASTON <>

Dear Peet
I am Barrister FRED GASTON, private attorney to Late Mr. Markus   Peet(My Late Client) a national of your country, who was a Gold Merchant Here in Republic Du Benin HattonAfrica.Herein after shall be Referred to as my client. On the 20th Of July 2011,My Client Lost His Life As A Result Of Brain Cancer,
As Confirmed By A Medical Specialist Who Was Taking Care Of His Illness For Over Six Months Before His Death.He did not marry and Since then I have made several enquiries to your embassy to locate any of my clients extended relatives, but all efforts ¨proved unsuccessful. After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to track his last name over the Internet to locate any of his family’s members, Hence I have contacted you because you have the same family
last name with my client.
I want you to assist in Repatriating his fund valued  (20.500.000.00 Euro) Twenty million five hundred  thousand Europians Euro, left behind by my late client before they get confiscated or declared unserviceable By The ” BANK” Here in Republic Du Benin where this huge amount were deposited. The Bank has issued me a notice to provide his relative or have the account confiscated, since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over four years now. For the fact that I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 2 years now.
I seek Your consent to present you as the rightful next of kin to my late client, since both of you have the same family last name, so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to you and then you and me can Share the money 60% for me and 40% to you. I have all important information and legal documents needed to back you up for the claim, all I require from you is your honest cooperation to enable us see this transaction through, I guarantee that this will be executed under legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of  law.
Call me immediately you receive this mail on +229 68842298.  Also get back to me with the following  information’s for proper
Your Full Name……………..
Your Address……………….
Your Age,………………….
Occupation and Position…..a……….,
Your Telephone Mobile………………
Your Fax…………
I await your Call and reply ASAP.
Best Regards,
Well, I couldn’t resist:
Mr. Gaston,
As much as I’d like a big cut of those Euros, I’m not related to the late Mr Peet, as Peeter is my first name, not surname.
I figured he’s just waiting for somebody to actually reply, and will interpret that as an opening to play his game, and I guessed right.  It didn’t take too long before I got his response, and as predicted he didn’t care that I’d disqualified myself in my reply:
Greetings Dear Peeter,
I am highly impressed with your immediate attention to my confidential business proposal to you.Very well,i want to assure you that by your cooperation that we can arrange the paper wsork of this claim without any flaws to have these heritage approved by the bank and the funds transfer in your name for our mutual benefit.I do not want the corrupt goverment Benin to take over these funds.
The requirements for us to succesfully claim out this fund is our presentation of all back up legal document here in your name as next of kin to these deposit so that the funds will be approved by the bank and transfererd to your bank account as the beneficiary.
Please note that this transaction is 100 percent risk free and failure proofed as all arrangement is going to be handle legally to protect you from any breach of law. To enable us proceed officially in this transaction please send to me your below personal information:
1,Your Full Names
2.Your Address
3.Copy Of Your Identification
4.Your Occupation
As soon as i recieved the above information from you i will draft an application of fund claim that you will tender to the bank here for their immediate approval of the claim.
Thank you and kind regards.
Fred Gaston, Esq.
Playing dumb, I queried the illogic of his response:
Hi Mr. Gaston,
I’m not sure I understand.  If I were to provide you with legal documentation, such as my passport for example, it would demonstrate that I’m not eligible for the inheritance.
Here’s where it gets a bit fun.  To inspire confidence, he now supplies his “Identification” to me, along with the following response:
Hello Peeter
Do i understand from your mail that you do not have international passport or that you are afraid to provide it.
Listen dear friend,there is nothing to fear or worroied about,if there is any risk in this transaction i would not undertake it.I really need that you give me your personal informations so that i can know who i am dealing with not for any other reason.This is a transaction that involve a mangitutude amount ,i really have to knwow who i am dealing with.I quite hope you understand me.
Enclosed in is my proof of identification for your perusal.Please send to me the below so that we can proceed,
1,Your Full Names
2.Your Address
3.Copy Of Your Identification photo
4.Your Occupation
Thank you, Fred Gaston,Esq.
My response, which naturally didn’t include my passport (and I don’t have James’ photoshop skills) was just:

You already have my full names.  Unlike so many people, I have no middle name.  I don’t have a scanner with me to make a copy of my documentation.  That will have to wait until next week since I am currently travelling.

I figure that this will be enough to keep him intrigued, but haven’t gotten a response yet.  The game is still on, stay tuned;)

LinkedIn replies to headhunters

September 25, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , , , , , ,

I blundered upon my messaging history on LinkedIn the other day, and noticed that it has, for the most part, transitioned from chats with IBMers that I was saying goodbye to (and the ever growing ex-IBMer population that I now know) to rather canned responses to headhunters.

Like contact requests from anybody I don’t remember having worked with, I ignore those from headhunters.  I’ll reply to the headhunter connect requests with a terse “Sorry, I don’t accept requests from people I haven’t worked with personally”.

Going through my replies to the last 10 headhunters who explicitly messaged me, it appears I’m pretty consistent, and most of my replies were fairly close to the following:


Thanks for reaching out. I enjoy my current work, which is challenging and interesting, the potential of the company I am working for, and my compensation. I’m not currently interested in a job change.


The company that you are recruiting for would have to offer really damn interesting work to get me to defect from LzLabs at the moment.

There were two headhunters that got non-canned responses:

1) A banking and financial sector headhunter got a more direct response:

Hi XXX, thank you for reaching out, but I’m not interested.

This may surprise people, but it’s a moral choice.

I picked up a microeconomics text from the bookshelf of our local Unionville recycling depot (the best priced second hand book store in Markham). That text book was packed with enough Hamilton and Lagrangian equations to make any physicist (or want-to-be physicist like me) at home.  Application of those techniques would surely be interesting, and I was being targeted by a recruiter for a company where that probably would have been possible.  However, it would take a lot more than that chance to make me work directly for a financial parasite.

Yes, I know that I spent 20 years working in the guts of DB2 LUW, which is a product that is used in many financial institutions.  Yes, I know that I am now working for a company with a mainframe solution that is going to be used by many financial institutions.  Both of these cases have a level of indirection that influences my attitude.

If I wasn’t employed, or I had my mortgage paid off, perhaps I’ll feel less hostile to the financial sector.  However, in the near term, I’m certainly not going to work directly for one of the leeches.

2) google.


I’m very happy with my current job, which is challenging, interesting, pays very well, and is with a company that has potential I find very appealing.

Google was previously a company that I found intriguing as a possible employer, but has recently demonstrated aspects of authoritarian political correctness that make it much less appealing. There is also evidence of political bias, anti free-speech tendencies, and censorship related to the google products that I find very unsettling given the power and scope of its technology. It is not at all clear that I would be comfortable working at google in its current state.


This response was one that surprised me when I wrote it, but I think it is honest.

I would have previously considered working for google if the conditions were right.  When I was at IBM, I never accepted any interview requests from google.  The rationale for that choice was knowledge that relocation was required for any interesting technical work at google (their Toronto lab was marketing only), and I made it clear that relocation was not an option in any correspondence.  I’ve been rebuked by colleagues for that hard line position on relocation, since interviewing at google is said to be really fun.

In recent times, I have been continually reading and hearing of political bias at google.  I’d expect a company that wields so much power to take a non-partisan political position, but they seem to have actively attempted to bias the recent opportunistic-psychopath vs narcissistic-idiot competition in the US, and also appear to be actively attempting to introduce questionable social engineering (biased search rank manipulation, selective demonetization, …) into their products.   In spite of this, even in recent times, had google had google offered up interesting work at interesting compensation levels, without a relocation requirement, perhaps I would have bitten hard enough to interview.

The recent James Damore fiasco is a game changer.  Damore’s primary crime appears to be have been the use of the psychological term neuroticism (a “big five” personality trait that seems to roughly be a measure of negative emotion) without explicit inline definition in his memo. If you are going to fire somebody and make them a scapegoat just to appease the diversity police, then you become uninteresting as an employer.  I just finished working for IBM, which seems to have made it their business to treat people as entries in a HR ledger, irrespective of competence.  It will take some hard sales work to pique interest in google when their HR department is evidently trying to be orders of magnitude more insane than IBMs.  Unless there’s some evidence of HR reform at google, I suspect google technical recruiting is going to get really difficult until their treatment of Damore has been forgotten.

IBM and government are both strong evidence that insanity scales with organization size.  With google clearly growing in size, I am not holding my breath for the chance that it will reverse any of its tendencies down the path toward organizational dementia.

I see mainframes: a real life PDS container!

September 22, 2017 Mainframe No comments , , , , , ,

I found a PDS container walking about my neighbourhood this morning:


Just like the mainframe version, you can put all sorts of stuff in this one.

A mainframe PDS (partitioned data set) is technically a different sort of container, as you can only put DATASETs (mainframe’ze for a file) in them. An example would be if you have two programs (loadmodules in mainframe’ze) both named PEETERJO, then you can create a two PDS datasets, each having a PEETERJO member, say:


From these you could then choose which one you want your JCL script to execute with a STEPLIB statement like:


This works around the global name space issue that you’d have with storing two different datasets, both with the name PEETERJO.

You can also put any file into a PDS, provided you are willing to have the PDS member name for that file be a 1-8 character string. The PDS is sort of the mainframe equivalent of a directory (the long strings of A.B.C.D.E DATASET names can also be viewed as a directory of sorts).

I’m not sure if you can put a PDS in a PDS. If that is possible, I also don’t know if a PDS member can be accessed as a PDS without first copying it out.

NATFA renegotiation

September 19, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , is running a campaign to object to the NATFA secret tribunals, stating:

In just a few days, negotiators from the U.S., Mexico and Canada will converge on Ottawa for a critical round of NAFTA negotiations where sources are saying things are really going to heat up. [1]

Corporate lobbyists are fighting tooth and nail to preserve dangerous and extreme rules in NAFTA called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS). ISDS gives corporations the power to sue our government for laws that protect our environment and our health.[2]

Time is running out to influence this deal, and unless we speak up in a big way, lobbyists could bully the Liberals into putting corporate profits ahead of the public interest.[3-4]

The government has opened an inbox to get the public’s input on what it should prioritize in negotiations — and almost 10 000 Leadnow members have already sent messages calling on decision-makers to strip ISDS from the deal. We want to hit at least 15 000 messages before meetings start on the weekend to let negotiators know that Canadians want toxic ISDS rules out of NAFTA. 

Peeter, will you help us up the ante against these toxic rules that let billionaire corporations sue Canada?


Their form letter explicitly names the secret corporate tribunals (ISDSs), something I knew existed, but didn’t know the name of:

“Dear Canada’s NAFTA negotiating team,

Modernizing NAFTA means standing up for democracy and fighting to remove its extreme, secretive, and anti-democratic Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) rules. No more corporate lawsuits that kneecap our democracies at the expense of the public good.

We know the corporate lobby and business elite are lobbying to keep ISDS intact. Please don’t cave into the corporate pressure. Put our democracy first. I’m calling on you to fight to remove toxic ISDS rules during NAFTA re-negotiations.”

While informative, their letter was a bit boring, so I wrote my own:

I understand that the NATFA negotiating team is probably populated with corporate shills, fighting to keep or augment the status quo.

This note is a quick exercise in futility, pretending that I have a place in the sham that we call democracy. A “free trade” agreement that is hundreds (probably thousands) of pages long, and was negotiated and now renegotiated in secret, that grants corporation effective control over the countries in the agreement is a travesty.  Unlike so many that fell for or still fall for the deliberately misleading label of “free trade”, I’d like to see NAFTA dissolved entirely.  I know that this is very improbable, and this note and any others that express a similar opinion are just headed for the trash, but I can still fantasize.

second experiment in screen recording

July 17, 2017 math and physics play No comments , , , , ,

Here’s a second attempt at recording a blackboard style screen recording:


To handle the screen transitions, equivalent to clearing my small blackboard, I switched to using a black background and just moved the text as I filled things up.  This worked much better.  I still drew with mischief, and recorded with OBS, but then did a small post production edit in iMovie to remove a little bit of dead air and to edit out one particularly bad flub.

This talk covers the product of two vectors, defines the dot and wedge products, and shows how the 3D wedge product is related to the cross product.  I recorded some additional discussion of duality that I left out of this video, which was long enough without it.

experiment in screen recording: An introduction to Geometric Algebra.

July 14, 2017 math and physics play No comments , , ,

I’ve been curious for a while what it would take to create lesson style screen recordings, and finally got around to trying one myself:


This is an introduction to Geometric (Clifford) algebra.  I briefly outline a geometrical interpretation of various products of unit vectors, rules for reducing products of unit vectors, and the axioms that justify those rules.

I made this recording using the OBS screen recorder, using a Mac, drawing with a Wacom tablet and using Mischief as my drawing application.  I have to find a way to do the screen clearing transitions more smoothly, as there are sizable dead time delays while I do the ‘File -> Import -> Recent -> …  ; Don’t save’ sequence in mischief to reload.  I also um and ah more than I like, something I think I could avoid if presenting this to a real live person.

quantum spin dreams

July 13, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , ,

I woke up this morning with the perception that I had been dreaming about designing trinary computers and topics related to quantum spin for a large chunk of the night.   Why I would have been dreaming about this is not at all obvious.  I didn’t go to bed thinking about any scientific or computer engineering topics.

In my dream it seemed natural to use spin-1 quantum states to build a trinary clock signal for the microprocessor.  That basically means that the clock signal would be optical, since photons can have spin 1, 0 or -1.  However, what would it even mean to have a spin synchronized clock signal.  This would be a state that could be measured at any point on the microprocessor that has a time varying spin, but measurement of that spin would not alter the spin states of all the other photons in the clock signal?  If measurement of the signal at one point on the chip cannot perturb the overall clock signal, then there must be a large number of particles involved.  Also how could you prepare a stream of photons that you could measure the spin and know before hand what the observed spin state should be at any given point in time?  Is the spin state of any given photon not random when measured?

So, perhaps the clock signal is a complex entangled many-photon state?  Is there a mechanism to produce an entangled state for which the measured state at any point in time would be cyclic?  I haven’t even studied any aspects of quantum information theory, other than knowing that entangled states exist.  Perhaps questions like these are already well understood?

I also dreamed of a large clear glass-like window pane, in which all the spin-1 particles had their spins synchronized.  I guess this is a similar, but simpler version of the microchip spin synchronized clock signal, just not varying with time.  In my dream I wondered what the optical properties of “glass” would be if there was a large degree of spin synchronization.  Now, does glass even have any spin-1 particles?  Perhaps the window pane in my dream was built of some other material, like plastic or Star Trek like transparent aluminium.  Even supposing that it was possible to synchronize the spins in a large number of particles, the optical effects of doing so are not clear to me.  We do calculations of reflection and transparency in electromagnetism, but there the underlying nature of the transparency is treated as a black box, having to do with the electric and magnetic permittivity.  I understand transparency to be a bulk solid state quantum statistical mechanics phenomena, but  don’t really know enough to be able to, say, compute the optical properties of a given crystal lattice of some arbitrary material.  Understanding that has been a goal since I was a kid (perhaps since I saw “The voyage home” with my grandparents as a kid), but I haven’t gotten that far in my studies yet, or if I have, I haven’t put all the pieces together mentally.

In a metal, like aluminum, there would be many free electrons.  Perhaps the spin of those half-integer spin particles could be synchronized.  What would be the optical properties if that was done in a large sheet of material?  In stat-mech we did the calculations that related spin to magnetic moment, so there would surely be magnetic properties to such a spin synchronized surface.  It is kind of interesting that we have two so very different mechanisms for magnetism, one due to quantum half integer spin, and the other due to relativistic effects of observing electrons in motion.  There are surely some subtle ways these are related in quantum field theory, but I don’t know much of that topic either.

This purpose of this dream sequence really seems to be pointing out to me how little I know, in the big picture sense, about how electrodynamics and quantum mechanics fit together.