Incoherent ramblings

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.

patriotism, and worship of war, state and country

July 12, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , ,

I was reading the Gulag Archipelago, by Solzhenitsyn last night before bed, and now find myself up in the middle of the night, not able to sleep.  At first it seemed rather mysterious why I’d be wide awake with anti-patriotism and anti-war thoughts rolling around in my head so strongly, but I finally connected those thoughts with my bedtime reading.

This book reads like a real life version of 1984, starting off with stories of arrests, interrogations and searches.  Perhaps it hits so closely to home since it is so easy to see so many other aspects of 1984 playing out for real in our society around us.  It is probably not a good bedtime reading choice if I want to be able to sleep through the night.

As I lay tossing and turning at ~3am, definitively not sleeping, I had four specific memories rolling around in my head.  All were anti-state and anti-patriotism memories.

You might get the impression that Canadians are anti-war.  Part of this is because “our” participation in war is covert, and not advertised.  If “we” happen to be playing the bombing for dollars in game Kosovo or Syria, it isn’t because there is an explicit declared war, but instead because we are part of NATO “peace-keeping” (hello Orwell!) forces.  Canadian participation in the wars of our belligerent neighbour is expected.  Like the US, we aren’t creating terrorism, we are fighting it!

Canadians aren’t indoctrinated in the believe in the goodness of war as heavily as our US counterparts, but there are some lines that can’t be crossed without getting severe emotional reactions.  I challenge anybody to disrespect the religious Oh Canada or Remembrance day ceremonies, or the sanctity of the belief that Canadians were saving lives by participating in the world wars.

In my own head I had come to the internal conclusion that Oh Canada is nothing but a patriotism indoctrination tool.  The “we stand on guard for thee” words in the song scream exactly this.  I remember being a kid, standing proudly in various public school indoctrination centres, feeling proud to be Canadian, proudly listening to the “with glowing hearts” line.  However, like so many other national anthems, the Canadian anthem appears to have been rolled out in force as a war propaganda action, in our case for WWII, the “good war”.  People are still of age to have plenty of relatives that fought in WWII and aren’t mentally prepared for second guessing absolute confidence that Canadian participation in that war was beneficial.  It is a lot easier to relish the memory of loved grandfathers than to admit that their grandfathers were unfortunate pawns in the games of the power brokers that profit from war.  Canadian participation in WWII is viewed as a shallow “we saved the world from Hitler” point of view.  There are many aspects of this war that you are not allowed to think about.  You are supposed to think of the battles that Canadians helped save the day fighting.  You are not supposed to think of all the civilians that were killed and displaced.  You are not supposed to think about all the German civilians that were killed in bombing raids, and that the British were playing that city bombing game with as much relish as the Germans.  You are allowed to think about Hitler’s concentration camps, but not allowed to think about Allied cooperation with Stalin, who killed many times more of his own people than Hitler managed to kill in camps or active war.  How can a war be good when it aids and facilitates one of the worst murderers in history?

Thoughts of these sorts are hard to enunciate on the spot if you should decide to not participate in the indoctrination game of standing to attention during Oh Canada, or not standing still during a Remembrance day ceremony.  Memories of two specific instances of running the social experiment of not participating in these observances were rolling through my head.  One was at a public school when the national anthem interrupted a talk with the principle that was much more important seeming to me than the anthem (the insanity of how multiplication was being taught to Karl, our current household public school victim).  The other was returning a book at the public library when my conditioning to stand silent during the remembrance day ceremony way playing.  Should you try this social experiment, I can tell you what will happen.  You will get looks of shock and horror, and what easily appears to be pure hatred.  This is from peace loving Canadians.  I was not brave enough to play this game when the US national anthem played at my brother’s recent graduation ceremony.  I can imagine coming out of that auditorium with injuries had I decided to disrespect that particular religious ceremony.  It was both amusing and horrifying to observe the feelings of adoration as all those Americans stood enraptured with their hands on their hearts as their national anthem played.  I am thankful that it was standing room only at Devin’s graduation.  Would I have been tempted to sit during the US national anthem had I not already been standing?  I didn’t have a convenient and well articulated response for sitting at hand for such a social experiment.  I suppose that I could have claimed to be a practising Jehovah’s witness.  It is ironic that one of the only responses that may have been acceptable, like the anthem itself, would have also been religious.

I think there is perhaps value to actively not playing the Oh Canada game or the remembrance day game.  Doing that may be enough to get some people to realize exactly how conditioned their behaviour is.  At the same time, it makes people angry, which is counter productive, because people cannot reason when they are angry.   Instead perhaps consider for your self just how angry you would get if some insolent snot like me didn’t stand for attention during the anthem or walked around during a remembrance day ceremony, when we all know that you are supposed to stand still quietly.  Can you honestly say that you wouldn’t get angry to observe that?  If you did get angry, consider your reasons for that anger.  Does the fact that fact that you were forced to comply with this religious ceremony again and again and again in school have anything to do with your conditioned response?

Good patriots stand for attention during the national anthem.  Good patriots do not question the goodness of war.  Good patriots fight without considering they are being manipulated to fight the battles of others and line the pocketbooks of the power brokers that love war.  What could be wrong with encouraging patriotism?

My dad was thoroughly anti-state, and a lot of that rubbed off on me.  I think that I learned my disrespect for Remembrance day from him.  I didn’t understand it when I was a kid.  He’d been a refugee himself.  He’d lost his original home and country, his biological father, and much of his family and roots.  He’d ended up with an abusive and drunkard of a step father.   My dad was Estonian, a country that was a desirable territory in its day, having been repeatedly occupied by both German and Russian forces as they passed through it in their insane fight.  I heard many stories from my insane step grandfather about Estonian guerrilla tactics against both the invading Germans and the invading Russians.  They seemed to support the good-war indoctrination that I was receiving at school, but they didn’t work on my dad.  It was very confusing when I was kid that he didn’t respect the sanctity of remembrance day having had such personal involvement in WWII, but I think I understand some of the factors now.  Part of it is probably fairly simple.  Had there not been a world war to “fight Hitler”, the Estonians would have just had to fight the Germans in their home territory as they passed through to Russia.  Imagine that the only actions taken against the Germans were defensive, and that the Germans had to fight guerrilla tactics on all fronts in all directions from their invading epicenter.  That might have been a good war.  The real story is nothing of the sort, since fundamentally, the war was desired by the British and others, and there were hard fights on many fronts to get others involved in the game.

The other thoughts that were floating around in my head had to do with the religion of Trump in the USA.  In my youth, before I found Quantum Mechanics and Maxwells’ equations, my own religious indoctrination was that of Scientology.  Until recently, I thought of Scientologists, like my dad, as predominately anti-state, but have been disabused of that notion thoroughly by my recent visit to the US, where I discovered that there are a number of true believers in my family (both active Scientologists and also fellow childhood indoctrinees).  I guess it is true that Scientology is a multi-denominational religion.

I’ve dumped enough thoughts that I think I’ll try to go back to sleep now.  I will leave thinking through vague thoughts on Trumpism and Scientology to another day.

Building a new BBQ drip tray.

July 3, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

My old BBQ drip tray was in really rough shape:

In exchange for coffees, the installer of our new energy efficient (and functional!) air conditioner gave me a nice new piece of sheet metal, so I’m traced out a new drip tray:

Here it is before any folds:

I don’t have a brake, nor access to a metal shop, but Sofia bought Lance a little vice a few Christmases ago, and I borrowed that:

I also found that a heavy ruler (one of the edges of my square), worked well to help with the bends

The very skinny bends were harder to do nicely, and I had to resort to some pliers to help coerce them into place, but the final result is pretty decent and a lot less porous:

It looks a bit out of place with all the rust in the remainder of the BBQ, but should help give the unit a few more years:


Political correctness

November 24, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , , ,

I saw an article on facebook about some recent idiocy at Queen’s university.

The idiocy isn’t what is being dubbed a racist party, but the fact that a costume party is dubbed racist.

A comment on this (Leon) that I thought summed things up nicely was:

“It is people who criticize a bunch of kids dressing as racists who make incidents of real racism greatly diminished.”

There is an alarming trend of perverting language in the political correct circles that is mystifying

  • A kiss without a contract, triple signed and witnessed, is now being called rape, or it’s seeming legal equivalent “sexual assault”.  There are concent posters all over UofT that outline the legalistic contracting required for sexuality in this PC age.  I was too inhibited when I was an undergrad to have had much sexual activity, but I’m glad that I’m not an undergrad now subject to the current guidelines.  It’s definitely not okay to take advantage of somebody who is drunk, but this has been flipped on its head.  Sex after consentual codrunkenness now appears to be sexual assult in some places.
  • Failing to use the “correct” gendered pronoun is now “hate speech”, and is perceived as, or at least mislabelled as, explicit violence.  I’m a firm believer that people should have complete freedom to engage in hate speech or discrimination of any sort.  Let people dig themselves their own social graves instead of trying to legislate speech.
  • Costume parties, even at halloween, are now being mislabelled racist.  Attempting to point that out at some PC universities resulted in so much PC backlash that resignations followed.

I keep hearing about instance after instance of such events.  It seems like most of the people who are pushing the political correctness agenda really desperately need dictionaries.  Just because you can label two things as identical, doesn’t mean that they are.  A perfect example of this is the use of “sexual assault” now instead of rape.  The two are now identified as identical, even though sexual assault is a much broader term that includes groping.

There was lots in the recent US election media circus about how Trump’s bragging of pussy grabbing and aggressive kissing, acts that were facilitated by stardom.  One of the debate moderators explicitly called that sexual assault.  I don’t like the phrase sexual assault, because it is ambiguous, and has connotations of rape, while not necessarily being rape.  It seems to be a phrase designed to have the emotional impact of rape, while being something lesser.

Whether or not that Trump was bragging about sexual assault is probably dependent on state law.  Ambiguous language identifies unequal events with the same weight, and seems to be a characteristic of political correct speech and activism.  For example, calling pussy grabbing rape would be an obvious example of the misuse of language.  That’s why PC correct speech uses sexual assault instead.  A side effect of such PC correct speech is that actual rape, a horribly abusive event, is trivialized.  The irony in the Trump case was that the media could have focused on actual rape.  For example, Trump and his pedophile buddy Jeffrey Epstein, are codefendents in an actual rape case (which I understand has now unfortunately been dropped due to technicalities).  Characteristic of many of the charges laid against Epstein, this one is also of a child, in this case a 13 year old.

Of his buddy Epstein Trump said

“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

It remains to see if Trump is a sexual predator on par with Bill Clinton.  My gut feeling why pussy grabbing got so much attention, but Trump’s case with Epstein did not was because Bill is also a good friend of Epstein, and had been down to Epstein’s pedophile island many times.  Raising attention to that would have distracted from Hillary’s campaign (perhaps even raised the issue that she’d also “partied” there, in ways currently unspecified).

I digress.

How can political correctness be combatted?  One way is calling out explicit misuse of language.  Be very careful to use accurate words, and not to conflate things in order to push an agenda.

Because the political correctness movement is anti-intellectual, I suspect that purely linguistic techniques to fighting it are doomed.  Are there active social techniques that would be effective?

I came up with one idea that I amused myself with.  Perhaps it is time to start hosting some explicitly politically incorrect parties, just to push back.  Imagine a Halloween party that you are not allowed into, unless you are offending some minority group.  Suggested costume ideas include Hilter, blackface, transvestites or red-indians.  If you aren’t insulting somebody, then you can’t come in.  If you don’t think that Hilter is offensive enough, perhaps the host would allow you in if you dressed as some other psychopathic killer like Kissinger or Churchill, but that risks turning the party into an political party instead of an anti-PC party.  Costume prize adjudication would be biased against those that are in a visible minority group, so you should get extra points if you are a cis gendered white male.  Bonus points to the hosts of the party should they hold it on a university campus.

Kiva, a fun alternative to standard charitable donations.

November 17, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , ,


This year, when I was still at IBM, I had opted out of the IBM Employee Charitable Fund (ECF) and chose to put cash into Kiva microloans instead.  I was tired of just blindly dumping money into some big charity like United Way.  I don’t really have any idea what United Way or any other charity is doing with the money I provide.

At the time I had no idea that I wouldn’t be working at IBM for much longer.  When I left IBM and started working as a contractor for LzLabs in the spring, having made this switch already made it easy for me to continue doing so.  The only change I made I was increase the amount that I was making for my monthly Kiva funds topups.  I’m now an employee of LzLabs Canada (3 of 5 at the time of the incorporation), but since we don’t have an IBM style employee charitable fund, I am still putting funds into Kiva that I used to put into explicit registered charities.

I quite like Kiva as an alternative to standard charity. For one, it isn’t straight up charity, since I can choose to fund people who look like they are trying to improve their condition.  That’s a sustainability difference that I think is very important, and part of the trap of the welfare system.  If you reward welfare recipients by providing it unconditionally as we do, you create the welfare state.  Most of my Kiva loans have specifically targeted individuals who have some sort of business venture that they are trying to improve.  My preference has been for people that want tools or livestock (example: a milk producing cow) that will continue to provide value long after the loan is paid.

Its fun to be able to specifically choose who my funds are going to, and when the loan repayments come in, I can often recycle those repayments directly into a new loan without even waiting for my next top up period.

I don’t think that the default overhead that Kiva wants for each loan is reasonable ($3 on $25), so I lower that significantly each time.  Note that if the loan that you try to fund doesn’t get the backers required, Kiva keeps that overhead donation amount.  When I recycled funds after such an unfunded loan into a new loan, I explicitly set the corresponding Kiva donation amount to zero.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get a Canadian charitable tax credit for the sort of permanently recycling Kiva loans that I am doing, but it’s fun enough to see my loan portfolio grow that I don’t care too much about the tiny little tax kickback Uncle Trudeau and Aunt Wynne “give me” in exchange for me financing their spending sprees.

Home office progress.

November 13, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , ,


We’ve had a giant cavity the room that that is now my home office space.  It had been cut into the garage by the previous owner of the house to mount a CRT TV in, made the garage a lot less usable, and also let in a lot of cold.  Last weekend we took it out completely:



and on Tuesday I framed in a new wall support, and got it into place:



Then sealed things up again:


I happened to have a sheet of water resistant board kicking around the garage, so used that:


and today I did the rough coat:


While I had some compound mixed up, I filled in a few other things in this space.  Quite a while ago I fished ethernet and coax cable into my home office space, so I got the box in place for these:



and did a rough plastering fill of all my fishing holes:



It will be nice to get this space completely in order, but we’ve now made some good progress on that front.

New book arrived in the mail today

November 11, 2016 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment ,

Usually, I’m really eager to open a package containing a book. This time I wasn’t so sure I actually wanted to open this mail item, since I knew exactly what it contained:


I’ve got work to do related to C, PL/1, and COBOL.  I don’t have the courage to buy myself any sort of COBOL book.  I saw COBOL once and my eyes burned.  My eyes are watering even thinking back to that day.  Unfortunately, at a glance, PL/1 doesn’t look much better than my nightmares of COBOL.

TPP sales pitch from Bob Saroya, my “representative” in parliament.

November 2, 2016 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , , , , , ,

My “representative” member of parliament, Bob Saroya, is busy wasting my money my sending out TPP sales propaganda, apparently believing that I’m stupid enough to fall for this bit of fear mongering.


My response was:

I received your TPP sales pitch.  I’m not surprised to see a member of parliament attempting to sell Canada to unaccountable corporate tribunals, using a misleading attempt to disguise this as a “free trade”.

This is of course the function of government “representation”, to take resources from people who actually work for them, and channel them into the hands of power elite.  Your letter demonstrates that you are serving this purpose admirably!
Of course there’s a chance that you are just spouting the party line without actually believing or understanding what you are writing.  Even if that is the case, it is disappointing and frustrating to see taxpayer resources wasted on such empty propaganda.

Interesting tidbits in a Hillary Goldman Sacks wikileaks transcript.

October 16, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s some notes on a read of the first of the wikileaks transcripts of the Hillary Goldman Sacks talks.  There are three transcripts in total:


The main takeaway is that the State deptartment role is certainly not about diplomacy.  There’s lots of mentions of stirring up crap as part of the routine game.  Chaos is a desired end goal, so long as it’s controlled or directed.

page 7: North Korea:

We don’t want the North Koreans to
cause more trouble than the system can absorb. So
we’ve got a pretty good thing going with the
previous North Korean leaders

What an interesting statement.  The corollary seems to be that they do want North Korea to be stirring up trouble.  It serves to distract and limit China for example, a point made in other parts of the speech.

page 13: Syria:

So the problem for the US and the
Europeans has been from the very beginning: What
is it you — who is it you are going to try to arm?
And you probably read in the papers my view was we
should try to find some of the groups that were
there that we thought we could build relationships
with and develop some covert connections that might
then at least give us some insight into what is
going on inside Syria.

It is well known now that the US has been arming the “Free Syrian Army”, funnelling weapons in through Turkey via the Saudis.  Here Hillary is discussing exactly this process.  She actually expresses regret that the US isn’t as good at this discrete covert warmongering as they used to be.

page 14: Libya:

In Libya we didn’t have that problem.
It’s a huge place. The air defenses were not that
sophisticated and there wasn’t very — in fact,
there were very few civilian casualties.

A psychopath in action.  I hear of Hillary’s carpet bombing of Libya discussed as one of the most brutal and destructive campaigns in near history, and she describes it as “very few casualties”.  I don’t actually know the numbers, but it’s certainly interesting to see how casual she is with respect to the death of civilians.

page 15: on Iran? (or perhaps Syria):

Well, you up the pain
that they have to endure by not in any way
occupying or invading them but by bombing their
facilities. I mean, that is the option. It is not
as, we like to say these days, boots on the ground.

Causal talk of bombing other countries is so disgusting.  Notice how the word facilities is very vague.  Decoding this a bit, if you are simultaneously talking about “upping the pain” and bombing facilities, this is probably theorizing about bombing targets that have the most terror inducing and hardship effects on the civilians (water processing, energy production, schools, hospitals, …).  But that’s okay so long as it isn’t perceived as “boots on the ground”.

page 36: Russia:

And finally on Afghanistan and Russia.
Look, I would love it if we could continue to build
a more positive relationship with Russia. I worked
very hard on that when I was Secretary, and we made
some progress with Medvedev, who was president in
name but was obviously beholden to Putin, but Putin
kind of let him go and we helped them get into the
WTO for several years, and they were helpful to us
in shipping equipment, even lethal equipment, in
and out of out of Afghanistan.

Russia was a useful ally when they helped with covert wars.  Now that those covert wars are knocking on Russia’s door, the relationship has soured.  It’s hard to imagine why that relationship has deteriorated.

M.Eng survey remarks: rant on exams in grad studies

August 28, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments

I was asked to rate my satisfaction of aspects of the M.Eng program I’m taking, so took the opportunity to rant about the insanity of exams:

“As a professional, I find that Exam based courses are very artificial, and not terribly meaningful. As an undergrad I did not question this practice, but had forgotten about those days. It was a rather rude shock to see this dark ages practise still in use for graduate studies.

Nowhere in a professional context does it make sense to try to memorize enough content that you can barf out half-ass material sufficient to pass examination questions, or attempt to gain maximum marks in a minimum amount of time. Professional work needs to be complete and accurate. Mistakes cause millions of dollars, and get people fired.

It makes no sense to take any examination, and not be given the opportunity to see the marked exam content. One ought to have the chance to review that material, correcting all deficiencies in one’s understanding. If mistakes are made in a professional context, there is a feedback cycle, where root causes are addressed. This is completely missing from the brain dead process of final exams.

Thankfully, not all the graduate courses I took still used the childish approach of grading based on examinations, but enough did that it was annoying. The aim should not be to produce a mark, but to produce full understanding of the subject material, and demonstrate the ability to apply that material.”