June 02, 2015

Fang mail

I stopped posting to USS Clueless 11 years ago.

But occasionally people link to old posts of mine, like just happened last week when Ace did it.

And every once in a while I get fan mail, or perhaps "fang mail" would be more accurate: "This was a really neat post, but you should change it because it didn't include something I think is important."

RE this particular post, I think there is a tendency to oversimplify the idea you are presenting. It is often presented as "you need to be willing to do back to your enemy whatever your enemy is willing to do to you." I don't think game theory requires such literal Tit for Tat. It merely requires significant consequences for breaking the rules. For example, a credible threat to use Nuclear weapons if Biological weapons are deployed, would satisfy the significant consequences argument of game theory, without requiring a country to maintain stocks of Biological weapons or an open threat of Biological MAD. I think this is important, since it allows for some modifications of the Tit for Tat scenarios that avoid the danger of "turning into your enemy" in order to defeat him. You do not have to match an enemy brutality for brutality, as long as there exists some other way to punish the enemy for violations that has equal significance to him.

You don't actually get into this part of the question, but I think this might be a worthwhile update to consider to the post, since people are still reading it and it has been referenced by others as saying something to that effect.

I can't change it. Frustratingly, that server ("regulus") is sitting on my computer desk within arm's reach, but a couple of years ago Microsoft issued a Win 7 security update and now I can't access it either with telnet or with FTP. (It also fouled up my ability to access my WHS, "Deneb".) So I'm not capable of making any changes on it any more.

Even if I were inclined to do so, which I'm not. Dammit, I wrote that post in 2002! Let it rest, already! USS Clueless wasn't a series of academic papers, it was a fucking blog.

(I do have to admit that I get three of four letters a year from people who thank me for doing USS Clueless and who don't try to convince me to rewrite parts of it. And I am grateful.)

UPDATE: Besides which, I did write what he's saying, in a different post.

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May 15, 2015

Grumble roundhouse kicks

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In anime when someone who is an expert at karate does a roundhouse kick, they always, always, do it open-foot.

Which is stupid. That's not how it's done. My sensei taught us to fold our foot up and strike with the ball of the foot, just below the toes. This concentrates the force in a small area and doesn't risk your ankle.

If you kick open-foot, like in the picture above, you're going to break your ankle. You're also spreading the force over a much larger area so it is less effective.

You'd think that someone in the anime industry would go find some karate magazines to see what proper form looks like, wouldn't you?

(And while I'm at it, when you're defending against a punch or kick, you don't try to stop it. Instead, you deflect it. Putting your forearm up and taking a kick there is a good way to break your arm. Plus, deflecting the blow puts your enemy off balance and makes him vulnerable for a counter-strike.)

Grumble...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 05:46 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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March 16, 2015

F1 Melbourne 2015

I still can't comment over at Wonderduck's Pond, and I wanted to make some comments about the F1 season opener.

There were supposed to be 20 cars on the circuit. One team couldn't even get its cars to run; they didn't even try to qualify. One of the McLaren cars didn't reach the starting line on race day; its engine exploded.

And there were other misevents, and when all was said and done, the two cars from Mercedes finished 1-2, only about 2 seconds apart. Third place was fully 30 seconds behind that.

Only 11 cars finished the race. Which means every car but one got points. The one that didn't was the other McLaren, which apparently is using a 2-stroke lawn mower engine as its powerplant.

Mercedes performed the way they should. They did what they were supposed to do. Everyone else needs to go back and finish clown school. If the season continues like this, then this year will go down as the worst in F1 history.

They may as well toss a coin right now between Rosberg and Hamilton, award the winner the driver's championship, award the constructor championship to Mercedes, and call the whole season off. That'll give everyone enough time to design cars that work for 2016.

What's the problem? It's the assumption that they Must Have 10 Teams And 20 Cars every year. What this race proved is that it can't always be done. There are three teams which shouldn't even be participating this year, for one thing.

At the beginning of the season, before the first race day, there ought to be a season qualifier, where each team has to prove their cars can run 80 laps on some track, somewhere, at a reasonable speed. If they can't, they don't get to participate that year. If that means only 14 cars, so be it. If it only means 8 cars, such is life. At least you'll get a race season that isn't a gross embarassment.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 06:58 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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October 08, 2014

Thomas Duncan dies

I have very mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, it's natural to feel sorry for the guy, since he died horribly. But on another level I'm having a difficult time suppressing feelings of hatred for him.

He knew he was infected with Ebola when he came to the US. He did it because he thought he might get better medical care here, and maybe have a better chance of surviving.

So, in hopes that he himself would survive he decided to risk 300 million Americans getting the same disease, including the family members he was visiting.

No one wants to die, but risking others without their permission or knowledge to save yourself is wrong, evil, hideous, monstrous.

And it didn't save him. He died anyway, but because of him who knows how many Americans might now die?

UPDATE: Potentially or actually sacrificing others to save yourself is cowardice. Heroism is to sacrifice yourself to save others, like this guy. Him I'll mourn. But not Thomas Duncan; he doesn't deserve it.

UPDATE: Brickmuppet is less vindictive than I am.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 10:26 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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September 25, 2014

Imminent threat

One of the big talking points last decade was the idea that we can't preemptively attack to relieve a threat unless the threat is "imminent". That always annoyed me; it amounts to saying, "Don't fight the forest fire until you can see flames from your front porch."

It never made sense. The best time to fight a big fire is before it gets big, and the best time to deal with a threat is before it becomes imminent. (And the best way to fix a software bug is to prevent it in the first place.)

And now that Obama has finally started taking the threat of radical Islam seriously (or at least is pretending to), the usual suspects are talking about whether the threat is "imminent" again -- albeit in muted voices, because Obama is a Democrat, a Progessive, and an African-American. Don't wanna be racist, donchaknow...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 03:16 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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April 25, 2014

Si vis pacem, para bellum

A couple of months ago I got involved in an email exchange with a gun control fan, who asked me why there was a Second Amendment and why people like me thought it was so important. Here's what I wrote back to him:

Alright, I'll try to explain the theory. You're not going to like this, and it's going to strike you as being tinfoil hat territory, but work with me here.

Let's rewind back to 1789 when the Bill of Rights was written. It was only 6 years since the Revolution ended. And the early battles of the Revolution were fought by men using their own weapons. (That's what the Patriots used in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, for example.) Those who wrote the Bill of Rights were acutely aware that the only reason the Revolution was possible was because of widespread ownership of guns.

The Revolution was fought because the British government was perceived to have become tyrannical, and the Founders were well aware that the new government they were establishing could in turn become tyrannical. They included lots of checks and limits on the government, but knew that in the end the only sure way to prevent that was if the people had the means to rise in revolution, again.

The Second Amendment is the ultimate check. That's why it was included in the Bill of Rights.

This is what you're not going to like: the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that the citizens of the US are sufficiently well armed to fight a revolution, if a new one is needed. That's what the "militia" referred to in it is about: in that time the word "militia" referred to the kind of thing that happened in Boston at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where all able bodied men grabbed their own guns and fought on behalf of the community.

Which means that issues like hunting or self defense are a distraction. The Second Amendment is about allowing citizens to own weapons which are good enough to permit them to fight against a tyrant's army and win.

In 1789 that meant muzzle-loaded muskets, because that's what the British Army (and the Hessians) were using. In our time it means the AR-15 and similar weapons.

Now to continue this, one of the reasons that a lot of conservatives object to establishment of gun-owner registries is that historically, just about the first thing a tyrant does is to collect all the weapons owned by citizens, so that they no longer are able to rise in revolt. Then there's no check left to stop him. A gun registry would make that a lot easier.

I'm not saying I think that we need a new revolution. What I am saying is that the presence of a huge and powerful arsenal in the hands of private citizens acts as a tremendous deterrent for anyone thinking of trying to establish a tyranny, because the would-be tyrant knows that a revolution is possible.

Arguably so far it's worked.

The Romans said, "Si vis pacem, para bellum". If you seek peace, prepare for war. (That's where the name of the 9x19 Parabellum cartridge comes from.)

The Second Amendment permits the citizens of the United States to prepare for war, in service of seeking peace.

And it is precisely "slaughtering lots of men" which is protected, because in a revolution that's what you have to do.

It isn't a perfect solution, but there aren't any others which have been as successful.

Does that mean I think we need to be able to buy machine guns? No, I'm happy with that ban. Semi-auto rifles are good enough; the fire-rate difference isn't significant enough to be prohibitive. But I do think it means we citizens should be able to buy semi-auto rifles and large magazines, because in the world as it is now you need that much, at least, to be able to fight a revolution come the day.

The Gun Grabbers use "It's for the children" and similar arguments in favor of gun bans, and focus in on school shootings (which are really very rare, in fact) and lone nutcases attacking shopping malls. "Gee, if only no one had any guns, this wouldn't happen."

But that's not really what they fear. It isn't guns in the hands of lone nutcases or jihadis that they fear. It's guns in the hands of law-abiding conservatives. It's because the left wing wants to establish a tyranny, but knows it can't because of all those gun owners. The Second Amendment, even today, is doing what the founders wanted it to, by establishing a huge deterrent.

Arguments about hunting and self defense all (deliberately) miss the point. "Why does anyone need an AR-15"?

Well, two answers to that. First, since when did anyone in this country have to prove they needed something in order to own it?

Second, come the revolution (God forbid) it's going to take weapons like that to win.

We aren't to that point yet, and my argument is that the existence of a huge and powerful arsenal in private hands will prevent us from coming to that point. The fact that the American people have the means to rise in revolution means we won't ever have to.

The people of America are prepared for war, in the service of seeking peace.

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March 25, 2014

Usage note

I've run into this several times in the last week:

"diffuse" means "diluted, spread out".

"defuse" means "to render harmless".

That is all. As you were.

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July 01, 2012

No good deed goes unpunished

One reason I don't like giving money to various causes is that doing so always, always lands you on a mailing list, where you get mail (or email, if it was all online) telling you how things are going, emphasizing how the need is still great and we'd really love it if you'd give us even more money.

I gave a bunch of money to the Aaron Walker legal defense fund, and they did that. I had to try twice to get them to stop sending the things, and I'm still not sure it worked.

It made me regret making my gift, and makes me that much less likely to do it again the next time something like this happens.

I shudder to think how much crap and annoyance I'd receive if I made a contribution to some politician's election campaign. The idea fills me with dread.

That's one reason why I as an atheist don't mind giving money to the Salvation Army. They don't do that. On several occasions (for instance, those terrible fires in Australia a couple of years ago) I've given donations to the Salvation Army, and I've never received any such begging come-ons afterwards.

They understand that when someone gives you a gift, it's immodest to nag them for further gifts. A gift is a boon, not an entitlement. A donor is a benefactor, not an opportunity. The proper response is gratitude, not hustling.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 12:15 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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July 13, 2011

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou -- North American BD

I did a guilt-buy of the Sentai BD about a week ago, and tonight I took at look at it. It's two discs, one about 40 GB and one about 20 GB. The first one has the first eight episodes, and the second one is the other four.

Sentai didn't include the omake. There were six on the Japanese BDs, each between 3:00 and 3:30 in length, but American audiences don't get them.

The only extras were a clean OP, a clean ED, and a bunch of production drawings. Those are always disappointing on DVDs because they're shrunk so much, but in this case they're 1080p. Only they aren't. Looks like they were upscaled, and there are jaggies and JPG artifacts.

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Finally, I myself can't play them. I don't have a player program that will handle BD correctly. I can look at the files using MPC, but they don't play, as such. (I own the most recent version of PowerDVD, but when it's installed it fouls up everything else involved in playing videos.)

So let's look at the chart:

    Torrent     NA BD release
Timeliness within days of
Japanese availability
A year later
Quality high high
Price free $47
Extras 6 omake production
drawings
Dubbed no yes, but I
don't care
Karma poor good

It really isn't any wonder that the North American market for anime discs is imploding. The product is worse in nearly every regard, for someone like me who doesn't care about dubs.

It's only really karma that induces me to buy. And now that I've looked at it, it'll go onto my shelf and never get opened again. The rips I downloaded months ago are better and more convenient.

I hardly ever watch discs anymore. Having rips on my server is so much more convenient that when I find myself wanting to watch some older show, it's easier to go out and find a rip of it to download than it is to go get the disc off my shelf. In fact, I don't remember the last time I did watch one of my older discs.

UPDATE: While we're bitching, I might as well talk about something else. Sentai made the English title "Demon King Daimao".

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou means "Demon Lord in the back row". "Demon King Daimao" is redundant, and stupid. And they romanized 大魔王 wrong. Either it's "daimaō" (in Hepburn) or it's "daimaou" (in Wapuro).

UPDATE: I was wrong. Zoomplayer handles them fine.

Except that I can't choose the Japanese audio, or turn on the subtitles. In fact, I don't get any audio at all.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 10:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 15, 2011

Miracle Whip

The only miracle about Miracle Whip is that anyone buys the stuff. Every couple of years the price of vegetable oil goes up, and Kraft reformulates Miracle Whip to reduce the amount of oil they put in it, so as to keep the price down.

Now they sell a version which doesn't have any oil at all.

Miracle Whip is to mayonnaise what Velveeta is to cheese. Velveeta isn't cheese, and Kraft isn't permitted to call it cheese. It's "pasteurized process cheese food".

And they're not permitted to call Miracle Whip "mayonnaise", because it doesn't satisfy the legal definition of mayonnaise per the FDA. Miracle Whip is "sandwich spread".

If you want mayonnaise, you get Hellman's. (Known as "Best Foods" in the western part of the US.) Or you make your own.

...and that's today's rant.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 08:23 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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