Incoherent ramblings

Are mandatory #AmberAlert messages less than useless?

October 2, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , ,

I received two supremely annoying Amber alerts on my phone yesterday.  They appear to be specifically designed to maximize intrusiveness, which is quite counterproductive, as the natural response is to shut down the incessant pinging as quick as you can. I’ll elaborate on why I consider that these alerts have no value (actually negative value) below.

The thought and action process to deal with the alert is modeled by the following internal dialogue: “Gaghg … what the hell is that noise!?   Grab, swipe, clear.  Thank god I wasn’t wearing my headphones!”  I got a passing glance at the message in the process, enough to see that it was an Amber alert, but no more.

This was pretty much the same process as dealing with an accidental press of that stupid red panic button on a car key fob — you know the one, it’s always triggered because you are trying to hold your keys, phone, and two dribbling travel mugs in one hand, and a backpack, garbage from the car, and a bag of groceries in the other.  Like the Amber alert, the panic button just triggers more city noise that is ignored by everybody.  It’s been 30 years since car alarms have had any value, but for some reason, instead of just getting rid of them, the manufacturers have supplied an easy way to trigger then accidentally — but I digress.

When yesterday’s second Amber alert triggered, I knew the drill and was able to silence it quickly without even having to look at it.  It was time to turn to google and see if there was a way to avoid these.  It appears there’s a way to do that on an android, but for the ancient discarded iPhone-6s that I bought for $50 USD (and probably even newer models), I appear to be out of luck.  There’s a CRTC ruling that mandates these messages, and phone providers are not allowed to provide a mechanism to disable it. They are also sent with a priority so high that their intrusiveness is off the charts.

Ironically, making the message so intrusive, means that the rush to shut it off means that you loose any chance to actually look at the message.  This is a classic example of a government policy backfire, as the policy has the exact opposite effect than the intention.

Later in the day, having struck out with google, I noticed a an #AmberAlert hash tag beside my twitter stream.  My thought was, “Perfect, there’s got to be people who know how to deal with this there”, and I posted

There were a couple helpful responses, and the rest basically conformed to expectations that one has for the worst Jon-Ronson “So You’ve Been Publically Shamed” style twitter responses:

Reading those reactions, you’d think that I’m an advocate for kidnapping and abduction, perhaps child sex trafficking, and pedophilia too.  How could I be such a piece of shit heartless fucking bastard?  Why would I want to avoid a tiny inconvenience when kids lives are at stake? Sigh.

It is striking to observe first hand how easily people are willing to take up arms to shame somebody for a cause, despite not knowing anything about their thought process, or any possible nuances that underlie the perceived offense. It’s truly thoughtless mob mentality.

Understanding that so many people are unfortunate victims of media stranger-danger fear-porn, the vitriolic reactions of the people above make some sense.  Like useless car alarms, we’ve had 30+ years of the media pumping it’s danger is everywhere story.  Fear sells exceptionally.  However, all the worry that’s been drummed into us about the black van at the school taking off with the kids has been shown again and again to be unsubstantiated.  Most kidnappings are by family members, largely related to custody issues.  Kidnapping is the conflict resolution strategy for desperate white trash trailer park inhabitants who aren’t smart nor sober enough to realize that a split second decision of that nature will only backfire and result in no access to your kids, plus considerable jail time.

Unlike car alarms, media stranger danger carping is not just an annoyance, but has massive social consequences.  I’ve now lived in three Markham subdivisions in the last 20 years, where walking the streets would make you think that you are living in a retirement community.  There are no kids playing.  The parks and the streets are empty on weekends and after school.  Kids are kept corralled in their houses, or only let out for carefully supervised play.  This fear has also become institutionalized.  I know one mother who was afraid to let her 10 year old son out to play at the park alone or try to recruit friends for unsupervised park play, because she was worried that she would be vulnerable to a child protective services induced confiscation of her son.

I know that the media and fear of CPS aren’t the only factors that are keeping kids from outdoor play.  Video games, TV, and phones now also compound the problem.  We have a couple generations of effectively lost kids, who are all experts on the characters in the 10 Netflix or YouTube series that they’ve binge watched, in countless video games, or other useless knowledge sets.  They aren’t kids who know how to  play with each other, start conversations, get into fights and make up, or even look each other in the eyes.

The AmberAlert, in my eyes, is just another conduit for media related fear porn.  It is also useless.  I’ll never know anybody who’s name flashes by in an AmberAlert, not on my phone, on media, or one one of those highway signs.  I’ll never know anybody who knows somebody related to an AmberAlert.  The chances of one of these messages being relevant is effectively zero.  I probably have a better chance of winning the lottery.  If I look at 50 Amber alerts, there will be a 50x times more chance that it is relevant: 50 x 0.00000000001 = 0 — just like buying 50 lottery tickets.

You can find plenty of Amber alert advocates that claim they are effective, but it’s not hard to find research that shows the opposite.  One such example is this “After 20 years of AMBER Alerts… Are They Worth It?” research gate interview with Timothy Griffin, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Asked about the success rate of the program, he states: “However, in my reading of the data, the number of children whose lives have been saved by AMBER Alert ranges from zero to something very close to zero.”, and as expected “These cases do not appear to typically involve apparently life-threatening abductors. Rather, they are far more often deployed in familial/custodial disputes and other cases not suggestive of life-threatening peril to the abducted child(ren).” I defer to that interview for other interesting facts, none of which were surprising to me.

The truth of the effectiveness of Amber alerts probably lies in between the glowing stats of the Amber alert advocates, and the more data driven conclusions of Prof. Griffin — but I’d guess the facts are much more strongly skewed towards the conclusions of Prof. Griffin.

Regardless of the effectiveness of the program, not allowing an opt out mechanism for these messages, nor any way to regulate priority, is a strategic mistake by the CRTC, who appears to be pushing the value of this program. Setting inappropriate priorities gets you ignored. In a corporate environment, think of the pencil pusher who sends all his ISO-9001 process conformance emails with urgent priority.  You set up a rule in short order to put all emails from that person directly in the trash.

Even if you believed that these alerts were helpful, Amber alerts depend upon an “everybody sees it” strategy that is actually crippled by making these messages mandatory and in your face. The end result is that people will delete without reading, just to silence the offending noise. The probability of even the limited possible success of the alert program is thus sabotaged. The small subset of people who will actually read the Amber alert text, and feel that it is important to do so, is made even smaller by the CRTC policy that enforces “can’t be ignored” and “can’t be prioritized”.

Book sales stats: slow and steady

September 2, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments

I don’t have full stats for all my kindle-direct sales, but am surprised how steady the sales for the GA book have been

Jan 1- March 31 2019 April 1 – June 30, 2019 June 4 – Sept 1, 2019

Geometric Algebra for Electrical Engineers

24 24 26

Statistical Mechanics

3 2

Relativistic Electrodynamics


Classical Optics


Quantum Field Theory

2 2

Condensed Matter


Graduate Quantum Mechanics


Some of the earlier sales were to family members who wanted copies, but the rest are legitimate.

John Grisham: The Brethren

August 31, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

(spoilers here)

This was an enjoyable book, and a page turner, even if it’s a bit predictable, and contained a few large holes in the plot logic.  The basic idea is that there’s a group of incarcerated older judges in a federal prison, who with nothing left to loose, concoct a blackmail scam.  They use their lawyer as a mule for gay hook-up themed “penpal” letters.  After some private investigator work, also initiated by their lawyer, they try to discover the real identities of their correspondents, looking for in-the-closet married men that are nicely blackmailable.

This blackmail story is intertwined with story of a senator who is determined by the head of the CIA, to be “so clean” that he is a good candidate to secretly finance for a can’t lose presidential run.  I found that idea to be pretty naive and comical, as it goes against my suspicion that many politicians win their selections because they can’t be compromised, but are pushed to positions of head-clown and distraction-chiefs precisely because they are compromised.  In this book, this new would be presidential candidate selection is promised the job if he exclusively pushes a help the military become great again agenda, which will be aided by convenient terrorism incidents, and massive sums of PAC money from military-industrial people and individuals.  Clearly Mr So Clean, is intrinsically dirty under the covers, as he has no objections to people dying in these engineered terrorism incidents if it gets him into the presidential role.  Of course, he’s also been secretly participating in some gay procurement penpal letters courtesy of the judges, and you can tell it’s only a matter of time before his true identity becomes known to the judges, and they get ready for their best blackmail haul.

Complicating things for the judges is the fact that the CIA watches their soon to be president carefully, and they discover the blackmail plot to be before their man, and intercept the situation.  The lawyer is first paid off and then taken out, and eventually the CIA director swings presidential pardons (from the lame duck president, in exchange for past favors) for the judges, and gets them all paid off and safely out of the country.

It’s a kind of weird ending, because the soon to be president has been saved from blackmail (by resources and gobs of CIA dirty black money), and the judges are out of jail.  Everybody wins except the letter mule lawyer who was taken out while attempting to run with some of that CIA cash.  This “good ending” obscures the fact that the new president is a scumbag that didn’t have any trouble killing a pile of innocents to get the job.  In that respect, he’s not much different than Trump, Obama, either of the Clintons, or either of the Bushes.

I enjoyed this book, but it assembled some strange conspiracy-theory style themes, in ways that just don’t make sense.

My office hardware, fully deployed today

August 30, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments

I’ve got all my desktop hardware deployed today:

  1. Intel NUC6i7KYB (Skull canyon NUC)
  2. Intel NUC6i7KYB
  3. Large cup of coffee
  4. Mac thunderbolt monitor
  5. Mac thunderbolt monitor
  6. Monitor for my NUCs (not usually connected)
  7. Mac Laptop, a really expensive way to run terminal (to access my NUCs)
  8. NUC keyboard (not usually connected)
  9. Keyboard for my mac
  10. Mac trackpad
  11. NUC mouse (not usually connected)

(and half concealed by monitor (4) is my WD “My Book” backup drive for the Mac).

My youngest reader

August 23, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

My nephew Jake is a prodigy, and is already tackling QM!

Two more books dispatched: Art of the Deal, and Deception Point.

August 3, 2019 Incoherent ramblings, Reviews No comments , , , ,

I’ve been working hard to take down my backlog of books to read, and have now finished two more.

1) Trump’s: The Art of the Deal.

Other possible alternate titles for this book would be “How I financed my projects at others’ expense using  tax rebates and other tricks”, and “How I used PR to get what I want.”  Reading this leaves you with the slightly nauseous feeling that you have after talking to a slimy used car salesman.  A lot of what was stated left me with the feeling that relevant facts were being omitted.  I’d like to see a fact checking “Coles Notes” for this book, and to look at how the projects that are named in the book are doing now.

I am inclined to enumerate all the people that Trump mentions in the book and dig into the relationships that Trump took the time to name drop in this book.  Trump’s pedophile buddy Epstein didn’t make the cut in the book, but Adnan Khashoggi did. A lot of the other names I didn’t recognize.

EDIT: here’s some backstory on the book.  Included in that article was one more interesting name drop, Roy Cohn, Trump’s lawyer.  That name may have been mentioned in the book, but if so, I didn’t recognize it when I read that part of the book.  With Epstein’s case reactivated, I now recognize Cohn’s name from Whitney Webb’s writing [1], [2] and her interview with Pierce Redmond.

2) Dan Brown’s: Deception point.

This book would be a lot better as a movie. Like a lot of Michael Crichton books, this one moves very fast, but is pretty shallow, as well as predictable and probably forgettable.  I did enjoy it, but it’s definitely not one to keep, and I intend to bring it to the second hand bookstore, or if they don’t want it, to the communal take-or-leave a book shelf at the recycling depot.


[1] Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case

[2] Government by Blackmail: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era

Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down”

July 20, 2019 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , ,


I’ve just read John Taylor Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down, the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling.”  I’ve heard Brett Veinotte on the School Sucks Podcast talk about Gatto’s exposition of the origins of the North American school system.  Given that, I expected a lot more from this particular book.  Instead this book is a largely a collection of speeches, converted into essay form, as opposed to a systematic deconstruction of the school system.

I did enjoy those essays, but my reaction included a lot of “Sir, you are preaching to the choir.”  I am guessing that the book that I really wanted was his “The Underground History of American Education“, which weighs in at ~450 pages.

A interesting video with some analysis of the Wim Hof method

July 14, 2019 Incoherent ramblings 3 comments , , ,

I’d heard the Wim Hof interview on Joe Rogan a while ago, which was pretty interesting.

Due to the indoctrination of my youth(*), I recognize that I’m predisposed to the idea that the mind can control the body, so the techniques that Wof described in the Rogan podcast seemed plausible.  However, that plausibility wasn’t enough to make me want to spend the money me to purchase his book.

I have to admit that I did try some Wim Hof style intense breathing before jumping in the late fall 50F pool, after some time in the hot tub.  I suspect that I was not doing the breathing exercises correctly.  At that pool temperature, without the ablity to self-regulate my body heat, I find that I don’t warm up, even after a number of laps.

For anybody that finds the idea of body self regulation interesting, here is some analysis of the Wim Hof method on the medlife youtube channel.  It may not be the way to acquire Bene Gesserit like abilities, however,  if you also have the urge to play the hot-tub/cold-pool alternation game, or climb mountains, it does sound like the breathing techniques are worth knowing.


(*) I grew up Scientology household where the actor at the head of the body-mind-spirit story is an all-powerful entity, somewhat akin to a Jin, but in need of significant re-training.

Two monitors wasn’t enough

July 12, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments

I’ve got a double headed set of thunderbolt Mac monitors for most of my work, but do most of my work through ssh to a pair of headless Intel NUCs

Those are the systems where I run my “mainframes”.  Every couple months I usually end up re-imaging one or both of my NUCs, which is a bit of a pain, since I need a monitor attached for that operation, and the Mac monitors are designed to not work with anything non-apple, and don’t even have an HDMI input.  This means hauling out an old VGA LCD monitor that floats around the house, scrambling around to find an HDMI/VGA adapter, and then putting it all away when I’m done.

With a reimage of my “nuc2″ overdue, I bit the bullet and forked out $60 CAD for a cute little 7” LCD Starto brand monitor that I can keep on my desk for when I need it:

I’ll also be able to bring it on the road with me with one of the NUCs, like when I go to the office in Zurich, or to the Raincode office in Brussels, since I always need a temporary display to find my IP address on such trips (at home I can use the fing app on my phone to find my IP address after boot.)  The new monitor looks a little funny against the backdrop of the giant Mac monitors (see it hiding right between them behind the mac itself), but it will do the job nicely for the very occasional uses I’ll have for it.


July 6, 2019 Incoherent ramblings 4 comments


The following was a rough outline for some words I said at Mom’s service.


Mom always seemed a lot like an unstoppable force.  Anybody that knew her would probably agree, so a sudden diagnosis of cancer came as a shock to us all.  It’s still hard to believe.  Even with her body treasonously shutting down, mom wasn’t finished living, and was making long term plans.  Those plans including continuing her roles as mother, grandmother, musician, and wife.  It looks like Mom will have to defer and change some of her plans.


Mom had five kids, myself, Krista, Erik, Karin, and Devin.  We grew up fairly poor, not just compared to kids in “the beaches” (with their double lawyer/doctor families), but the household income was low enough that we would have qualified for welfare and other social assistance.  Mom wasn’t about to stoop to the level of accepting any such assistance.  She worked so hard, that I don’t think we kids really thought of ourselves as poor.


Money was tight enough that very little food was ever wasted, even in extreme situations.  There was once a time that mom had scrounged enough to treat us to a home-made cake.  We didn’t have air conditioning in that rented house, so the cake (left to cool on the kitchen table before it could be iced) was accessible to anybody that happened to be able to walk in the open front or back doors.  A happy little family of racoons invited themselves in that day and sat themselves at the kitchen table to eat the cake that had been left there for them so nicely.  Mom walked in on the dining party and screamed.  This wasn’t the scream of somebody finding these little beasts in the house, but of having the cake (which she had worked hard to provide and to make) violated – it was supposed to have been a treat for her kids.  Within seconds we all rushed to see what was going on and things degenerated into a chaotic Benny Hill like scene, with a human family chasing a family of racoons in circles on the main floor, through the kitchen, living room, dining room and back into the kitchen, and eventually out the doors.  Mom tried to salvage the remains of the cake, pleading with us to eat it, exclaiming that “It’s still good!”


Mom, who was a Scientologist, was a model of the Scientology “make it go right” attitude, and we learned that attitude by example.  She may have had a shoestring budget, but she was able to see to all our basic requirements, clothes and housing, and of course healthy food.  If that meant working a day job, performing late into each night in those smoky piano bars, carrying 3 mortgages, and self-financing her “Checking out of Lonely” album, then so be it.  She didn’t let anything get in the way of what needed to be done, and we grew up with her demonstrating, by example, that we could do anything that we set our minds to.


Mom was really proud of all of us.  Whatever we happened to be doing, mom raved to everybody about it.  She insisted that her kids and grandkids were the best artists, students, photographers, athletes, gymnasts, musicians, and performers.  Roles that I got to play for mom included artisan, artist, father of grandkids, engineer, and author.  As an author, it happens that my total book sales number 37 (a third of that to family), but a mere fact like that would not dissuade her from a belief that I was her brilliant published author.  As kids I think that we all knew that Mom didn’t have an objective opinion of us, and that we weren’t brilliant because “our mom said so”.  Despite that, her absolute confidence in our abilities and our capabilities made a big difference in our lives.  Like her “make it go right” attitude, we were encouraged to follow our desires and goals where ever they led us.  I don’t think that many kids are given such unrestricted opportunities for self-direction, and we were really lucky to have had Mom as a role model, guide and mentor.


Mom was incredibly smart and talented.  I think it would be fair to describe her as a musical prodigy, and she could play intricate piano pieces at a very young age.  I’m not sure how many instruments she could play, but they included piano, guitar, voice and even accordion.  She could hear just a couple song fragments, and then be able to play them.  Her music note books mostly contain only the lyrics to songs, and perhaps a chord annotation or two, since (to her) there was no point writing down anything more.  She could even listen to music from memory as if she was hearing it played.  Music was an integral part of mom’s life.  You couldn’t put music on in the background, since its mere existence required that she stop and listen.  That intensity translated to an ability to touch and move people through music that was phenomenal.


I remember mom telling me about a time when she was a kid and snuck some time at the piano to furiously and vigorously play a Beethoven piece.  It was a piece which she wasn’t allowed to play, because it wasn’t ladylike to do play that kind of music.  Granddad almost caught her, and while she looked at him very guiltily, he told her gently “it’s okay Helen, you can play my Beethoven record.”  I’ve wondered what a very young mom would have looked like, pounding the piano, playing that forbidden music?  Granddad moved for work a number of times, which provided Mom with opportunities to skip grades a number of times.  I think that she said she started college around 16, and she finished so young that her parents still had legal custody of her.  After college, she found a composer that she found inspirational, and was able to talk her parents into letting her go to Canada to do a master’s in composition at the University of Toronto.


In Toronto Mom met dad, had all of us, transitioned to single-motherhood, and eventually met and married Wade, who I would describe as her soul-mate.  Mom and Wade shared a too brief 20+ year life together, touring the United States as together as a dynamic duo delivering “The Wade Henry Show”.  Mom’s musical performances tapered off in this time or her life, but despite that, she still continued to inspire and spread joy in all the relationships she formed around the country.  If you were to color the path of Mom and Wade around the USA on a map, it would look as if some kids had scribbled all over it!


Mom built relationships all over the scribbled path of her life, and she touched the hearts of countless people as she went.  Mom, I don’t have good words to describe how much I’ll miss you, and I wonder where you will end up next.  I hope that you end up with a nice sturdy set of hiking boots for the next steps of your adventure, where ever that may take you.