## Brilliant political marketing: in a lawn sign of all things!

September 12, 2021 Incoherent ramblings No comments , ,

I’m not a fan of political signs.  I don’t think they do any good, except to show off tribal affiliations.  Nobody is convinced by a lawn sign, and if reading a lawn sign changes your mind, then you haven’t looked at any of positions of the party.

The argument for political lawn signs must be one of marketing, but I’ve always wondered what the cost benefit ratio for this particularly stupid form of advertising is.  There is no room for any substantive content.  However, I’ve now been proved wrong, by the following sign:

(photo credit to Connor, who took this nighttime drive by in a car, sending it to me figuring I would be amused.)

Year after year, one is forced to conclude that there are no good options in any election, and this sign channels Brewster’s Millions, to point that out brilliantly.

I don’t believe any vote that I cast, assuming I do so, will do any good.  My vote, as always, has no meaning, and serves to perpetuate the fraud that we call democracy.  A small subset of the population will succeed in voting for somebody who has won enough of the popularity contest that they will get to enact their desires to become as corrupt as it is legally possible to be.  Those new corrupt popularity contest winners, will not be anybody’s representative in any real sense, not even to those that voted for them.  That is especially true here in Canada where the party whip rules forbid one’s “representative” from expressing or acting on their perception of their constituent’s desires.

Other than the PPC, here are my voting options:

• Voting liberal will aid the return of the vapid puppet, “hair-boy Trudeau”.
• Voting conservative will probably result in a federal clone of corrupt Ontario dictator Rob Ford.
• An NDP vote is like a vote for a tax hike.
• Voting green is pointless, as they probably still don’t have a well thought position on anything (in their defence, I haven’t re-read their party platform to see if it has changed.)
• There is no Libertarian candidate in my riding this year (and there has never been a strong one.)
• Believe it or not, there is actually a communist running in my riding this year.  How many millions of their own people have to be killed by communists before it is enough to acknowledge by those seeking to resurrect this evil?

It is certainly true that “The other options suck!”

Based on interviews with Maxime Bernier, not any sign, I had planned to vote PPC this year.  They seem to be the only party that is taking a stand against the abhorrent authoritarianism that is running rampant in the name of covid-19.  That should be the only issue people should care about right now, so it is clear how I will vote, if I decide to play the fraudulent democracy game.  I have no optimism that such a vote will do any more good than any previous one that I have ever cast.

## Reimaged Windows laptop for dual Windows-Fedora boot.

I used my funky usb-C external drive enclosure to facilitate an operating system switcheroo today.  I wanted to try a Windows/Linux dual boot configuration, something that I haven’t done in a long time.  There was enough room on the original 1Tb SSD, but I’d bought myself a 2Tb SSD for backups (and crypto-mining experimentation) and decided to repurpose that as a replacement drive for my Windows (xpg) laptop.

Since both my new and old drives were both M2 SSD drives, I was able to pop the old drive and put it into my external enclosure.  If I messed up reinstalling either Windows or Linux, then at least theoretically, I could have recovered by just putting the old drive back in.

I didn’t mess up the installation and now have a brand new dual boot configuration with Windows-10 and Fedora-34.  I’ve got WSL-2 + ubuntu-20 on the Windows side:

and a grub boot selector for the operating systems:

and the Fedora-34 desktop configuration for the native Linux installation:

I opted for Fedora over Ubuntu, since I figured both track the state of the art fairly well, but with Fedora I don’t have to keep looking up the dpkg equivalents of the rpm commands I’ve used for so many years and have memorized.

I have a whole bunch of install fine tuning to do still, but have all the bare bones now installed on both sides.

Having an external enclosure for the SSD made migration really easy.  I was able to mount it after my Windows reinstall was done, and just move my old \Users\peete directory.  I’ll have to weed out the bits that I don’t care about, but I’m now ready to blast away the partitions from the original laptop installation, and then use that 1Tb drive for backups and file transfers between machines.

## 100 pushups a day challenge with my brother

May 12, 2021 Incoherent ramblings No comments , ,

My brother and I have started a 100 push-ups a day challenge, with the goal of at least 100 each day for at least 100 days.  This is our second attempt, as the first attempt fizzled after a week or so (that first start was very painful, and this reboot has been much easier.)

We are now a few days in to this second start, and I’ve managed my part of the challenge, but my brother who doesn’t have a lazy sit-on-his-ass job like I do hasn’t met target a couple of those days:

It’s been at least 20 years that he has been far stronger than me, but those ancient memories of being bested in wrestling and arm-wrestling must still be strong in Erik’s memory!

## Second order surface tension

Here’s a bubble of bubbles, kept from overflowing the edge of the cup like a plain old bubble.

## Nice day for a bike ride today

May 8, 2021 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

I’m not sure how long it took me, but only one person passed me, despite all my fat.  It was a gorgeous day, and nice to get out on the awesome bike that Sofia made me buy for myself.

## Welcome to the Ontario police state, in the era of covid-1984

Our morbidly obese Ontario premier seems to be attempting to protect himself by instituting another phase of lockdowns and by granting additional police powers.  People can build their immune systems with exercise and fresh air, but he is probably so obese that the cardio that he would require to reduce his weight would give him a heart attack.  So, like a petulant and vindictive abused child bully, if he can’t do it, you are not allowed to either.  Gyms are now shut down for the second year of “two weeks to flatten the curve.”  Somebody who can’t exercise doesn’t care if he is inhibiting the ability of others to do so, regardless of the mental and physical health benefits of doing so, or to the livelihoods of those employed by or dependent on those gyms.

At the beginning of the covid scare, we had no idea what was going on.  We now know a great deal.  Among all the things that we now know, are the particular facts that obesity and vitamin D deficiencies are key risk factors, and that most transmission appears to be in indoor environments.  Our bodies utilize exposure to sunlight to manufacture vitamin D, so being incarcerated indoors puts us at risk.  Getting outdoors for exercise is probably the single biggest thing that we can do to keep ourselves safe, yet Ontario police have now been granted the power to stop people on the streets, demand to know their identity, their address, and their purpose of travel.  This is clearly not something that has been imposed to encourage people to get out for exercise, sunlight and fresh air.  I stopped paying attention to the so-called regulations that are being imposed$${}^1$$, so I do not know the full extent of the rules that I am supposed to be complying with.  If I were out on a bike ride by myself or with my wife, who I share a space with anyways, would I have to justify that to the police?  Do I face fines or jail for attempting to keep myself healthy and safe (not just from covid, but many other conditions that are enhanced by inactivity)?

Thankfully, it appears that there is some push back to the new dictatorial measures, and a number of police forces have stated that they will not enforce their new inquisitional power to stop people on the streets nor in their cars.  I’m not optimistic that the Toronto police will take this position, as a force that large is statistically more likely to abuse power.

When I am out of the house these days, it is usually because I am getting groceries, running errands, or walking my beast of a dog.  I can’t help wondering how I would respond if I were to get stopped by the police for any of these.  If the fear porn was truly justified, then those police officers are putting themselves in danger by approaching potential disease carriers.  How do they feel about that?  Would I be brave enough to attempt to politely ask that off the record?  Does an officer making such a stop not cringe internally against the stupidity of what they are being made to do?  I am not optimistic that would be the case.  Police depend on their jobs and paycheques, and part of their paycheque means that they have to enforce the laws, regardless of their opinion about them, and then have to justify those actions so that they can live with themselves.  There is the open question about whether these executive decrees are truly lawful, but if the police believe they are, these mandates will be enforced until challenged in the courts.  There may not be much internal Police dissent, and if there is, it is probably on the down-low, quiet, and off the record.  Is there much chance that the police who have been enforcing the “Now you do what they told ya” mandates, will end up collectively fighting back in a screaming “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME” crescendo that pulls the power out from under the slovenly dictator who has assumed control of the province?  I doubt it, but I can hope.

Footnotes:

1. Because there are so many signs about it, I know that I can be fined or jailed for not wearing a mask when shopping indoors.

## John Cleese’s “Creativity. A short and cheerful guide.”

April 11, 2021 Incoherent ramblings No comments

This book reiterates some of the hare-brain/tortoise-brain points from Cleese’s “Professor At Large.”  However, despite the redundancy, it was worth reading just for the following remark:

“Begin with simple stuff, such as…, Who are you writing for?  You might be writing for academics, in which case you don’t have to be interesting.

I thought this was so funny, but was it intended to be funny, or just reflect reality?

## XPG laptop: how to turn off the annoying ‘lock unlock’ screen indicator.

My macbook harddrive appears to be pooched, so I’m using my personal Windows laptop for work until I can get it fixed.  There’s been an annoying feature of this laptop that I hadn’t figured out, but after trying to use it all day, it was well past time.  In particular, if I hit Caps-Lock, I get the following screen indicator:

close to the top left corner of the screen, which often obscures what I am trying to type!  This indicator is extremely stupid.  I know when I hit caps lock: it’s when I hit caps lock, and don’t need something to tell me that I’ve done it.  If I did not know what state it was in, I can look the keyboard caps lock LED.

I found a couple Q&A’s about similar issues:

I tried the Settings configurations, and disabled the toggle stuff, which did not help.  This suggested that there was vendor (XPG) supplied software that was controlling this annoyance.

To track this down, I ran the sysinternals Process Explorer, and searched for xpg:

Sure enough, after brute force killing all these xpg processes, the annoying Lock-Unlock indicator goes away. After a restart, I found that there’s an xpg application running in the background, and sure enough there’s an option to be annoying:

It turns out that there’s also a pop up indicator that occurs if you press Num-Lock. I also won’t miss the XPG application notifications for Num-Lock either — there is also a keyboard LED for that!

## Raccoons vs. Cake: “Oh, come on kids, …, it’s still good!”

January 10, 2021 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

Life comes in cycles, and here’s an old chapter replaying itself.

When I was a teenager, we spent weekdays with mom, and weekends with dad. Both of them lived a subsistence existence, but with the rent expenses that mom also had, she really struggled to pay the bills at that stage of our lives. I don’t remember the occasion, but one hot summer day, she had saved enough to buy the eggs, flour and other ingredients that she needed to make us all a cake as a special treat. After the cake was cooked, she put it on the kitchen table to cool enough that she could ice it (she probably would have used her classic cream-cheese and sugar recipe.)

That rental property did not have air conditioning, and the doors were always wide open in the summer. Imagine the smell of fresh baked cake pervading the air in the house, and then a blood curdling scream. It was the scream of a horrific physical injury, perhaps that of somebody with a foreign object embedding deep in the flesh of their leg. We all rushed down to find out what happened, and it turned out that the smell of the cake was not just inviting to us, but also to a family of raccoons. Mom walked into the kitchen to find a mother raccoon and her little kids all sitting politely at the table in a circle around the now cool cake, helping themselves to dainty little handfuls.  What sounded like the scream of mortal injury, was the scream of a struggling mom, who’s plan to spoil her kids was being eaten in front of her eyes.

From the kitchen you could enter the back room, or the hallway to the front door, and from the front door you could enter the “piano room”, which also had a door to the back room and back to the kitchen.  The scene degenerates into chaos at this point, with mom and the rest of us chasing crying and squealing raccoons in circles all around the first floor of the house along that circular path, with cake crumbs flying in all directions.  I don’t know how many laps we and the raccoons made of the house before we managed to shoo them all out the front or back door, but eventually we were left with just the crumb trail and the remains of the cake.

The icing on the cake was mom’s reaction though. She went over to the cake and cut all the raccoon handprints out of it. We didn’t want to eat it, and I still remember her pleading with us, “Oh come on kids, try it. It’s still good!” Poor mom.  She even took sample bites from the cake to demonstrate it was still edible, and convince us to partake in the treat that she’d worked so hard to make for us.  I don’t think that we ate her cake, despite her pleading.

Thirty years later, it’s my turn. I spent an hour making chili today, and after dinner I put the left overs out on the back porch to cool in the slow cooker pot with the lid on. I’d planned to bag and freeze part of it, and put the rest in the fridge as leftovers for the week. It was cold enough out that I didn’t think that the raccoons would be out that early, but figured it would have been fair game had I left it out all night in the “outside fridge”. Well, those little buggers were a lot more industrious than I gave them credit, and by the time I’d come back from walking the dog, they’d helped themselves to a portion, lifting the lid of the slow cooker pot, and making a big mess of as much chili as they wanted.  They ate quite a lot, but perhaps it had more spice than they cared for, as they left quite a lot:

Judging by the chili covered hand prints on the back deck I think they enjoyed themselves, despite the spices.

When I went upstairs to let Sofia know what had happened, she immediately connected the dots to this cake story that I’ve told so many times, and said in response: “Oh come on kids, it’s still good!”, at which point we both started laughing.

The total cost of the chili itself was probably only \$17, plus one hour of time.  However, I didn’t intend to try to talk anybody into eating the remains.  It is just not worth getting raccoon carried Giardia or some stomach bug.  I was sad to see my work wasted and the leftovers ruined.  I wish Mom was still with us, so that I could share this with her.  I can imagine her visiting on this very day, where I could have scooped everything off the top, and then offered her a spoonful, saying “Oh come on Mom, it’s still good!”  I think that she would have gotten a kick out of that, even if she was always embarrassed about this story and how poor we were at the time.

### Final thoughts.

There were 4 cans of beans in that pot of chili.  I have to wonder if we are going to have a family of farting raccoons in the neighbourhood for a few days?

## Sabine Hossenfelder’s “Lost in Math”

“Lost in Math” is a book that I’ve been curious to read, as I’ve been a subscriber to Sabine’s blog and youtube channel for quite a while.  On her blog and channel, she provides overviews of many topics in physics that are well articulated, as well as what appear to be very well reasoned and researched criticisms of a number of topics (mostly physics related.)  Within the small population of people interested in theoretical physics, I think that she is also very well known for her completely fearlessness, as she appears to have none of the usual social resistance to offending somebody should her statements not be aligned with popular consensus.

This book has a few aspects:

• Interviews with a number of interesting and prominent physicists
• A brutal take on the failures of string theory, supersymmetry, theories of everything, and other research programs that have consumed significant research budgets, but are detached from experimental and observational constraints.
• An argument against the use of beauty, naturalness, and fine tuning avoidance in the constructions of physical theory.  Through the many interviews, we get a glimpse of the specific meanings of these words in the context of modern high level physical theories.
• Some arguments against bigger colliders, given that the current ones have not delivered on their promises of producing new physics.
• A considerable history of modern physics, and background for those wondering what the problems that string theory and supersymmetry have been trying to solve in the first place.
• Some going-forward recommendations.

While there were no equations in this book, it is not a terribly easy read.  I felt that reading this requires considerable physics sophistication.  To level set, while I haven’t studied particle physics or the standard model, I have studied special relativity, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and even some introductory QFT, but still found this book fairly difficult (and I admit to nodding off a few times as a result.)  I don’t think this is really a book that aimed at the general public.

If you do have the background to attempt this book, you will probably learn a fair amount, on topics that include, for example: the standard model, general relativity, symmetry breaking, coupling constants, and the cosmological constant.  An example was her nice illustration of symmetry breaking.  We remember touching on this briefly in QFT I, but it was presented in an algebraic and abstract fashion.  At the time I didn’t get the high level view of what this meant (something with higher energy can have symmetries that are impossible at lower energies.)  In this book, this concept is illustrated by a spinning top, which when spinning fast is stable and has rotational symmetry, but once frictional effects start to slow it down, it will start to precess and wobble, and the symmetry that is evident at higher spin rates weakens.  This was a particularly apt justification for the title of the book, as her description of symmetry breaking did not require any mathematics!

Deep in the book, it was pointed out that the equations of the standard model cannot generally be solved, but have to be dealt with using perturbation methods.  In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised me, since we generally can’t solve non-harmonic oscillator problems in closed form, and have to resort to numerical methods for most interesting problems.

There were a number of biting statements that triggered laughs while reading this book.  I wish that I’d made notes of more of of those while I read it, but here are two to whet your appetite:

• If you’d been sucking away on a giant jawbreaker for a century, wouldn’t you hope to finally get close to the gum?
• It’s easy enough for us to discard philosophy as useless — because it is useless.

#### On the picture above.

I like reading in the big living room chair behind my desk that our dog Tessa has claimed as her own, so as soon as I get up for coffee (or anything else), she will usually come and plop herself in the chair so that it’s no longer available to me.  If she was lying on the floor, and my wife sits on “her” chair, she will almost always occupy it once Sofia gets up.  Ironically, the picture above was taken just after I had gotten to the section where she was interviewing Chad Orzel, of “How to Teach Quantum Mechanics to your Dog” fame.