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Aug. 19th, 2015

devil duck


Shortly after we moved to this house, we found a lady ("A") with a greyhound living a few blocks away, and ours enjoyed meeting and sniffing hers. That greyhound died a few years later and A got another one, a white girl with black ticking named Dottie. Within a month after Dottie's arrival, she was attacked and seriously injured by the dog across the street, leaving her traumatized -- hesitant to meet humans, and hair-trigger hostile towards other dogs.

So imagine my surprise when, walking the dogs this morning, I saw A and Dottie across the street, and Dottie started play-bowing at us! I crossed the street, with our dogs on very short leashes, offered Dottie my hand (she was OK with that), whereupon Sharkboi and Dottie play-bowed at one another for a few seconds. Moongrrl wanted to sniff Dottie's rump, but I know Dottie doesn't like being sniffed, so I kept her at a safe distance, and Moongrrl settled for accepting some scritches from A.

Jul. 9th, 2015

devil duck

What Greece should have proposed to the ECB, the IMF, and the EC

As you know, we need several billion Euros in the next few weeks. We recognize that none of this money will actually go to Greece; it will go from one set of creditors directly to another set of creditors, who in turn will say that we're in good standing on their loans.

We also request that a substantial fraction of our debts be written off, or at least refinanced at a much lower interest rate, so we don't spend so much of our income on debt service and can spend some of it reducing principal.

In exchange for these considerations, we will take the following steps to ensure our ability to repay loans in the future.
1) We will INCREASE means-tested pension payments.
2) We will INCREASE pay levels for government employees (particularly at lower levels)
3) We will INCREASE and EXTEND unemployment benefits.
4) We will INCREASE poverty-support payments.
5) We will DECREASE the most regressive consumption taxes, while improving tax enforcement.

All of these measures have the effect of putting money into the pockets of the people most likely to spend it immediately in the consumer economy. Economic research shows that in a depressed economy, such measures have a multiplier significantly larger than 1, and are among the most efficient ways to stimulate economic growth, jobs, and future tax revenues. These measures also have the effect of triggering inflation, which encourages companies and individuals currently holding cash to invest or spend it, thus creating more jobs; inflation also shrinks the real value of our debts, making them easier to pay.

Of course, we're not a large enough part of the Euro economy to inflate the Euro on our own, so we ask the larger countries in the Eurozone to undertake similar measures.

What -- you say this is a joke, and that we don't seem to realize the seriousness of our situation? On the contrary, we are keenly aware of its seriousness: our people are starving. This is anything but a joke.

We've followed the austerity prescription for five years now: our government is now running a primary surplus (all of which, and more, goes to debt service, so we're still racking up debt). As a result of the resulting economic depression, our unemployment rate is now about 25% (50% among youth) and our debt-to-GDP ratio has grown from 126% to 177%. We've tried it your way, and it doesn't work; we see no reason to believe that more of the same toxic medicine will now magically become healthful. Give us two years to try a different prescription and see whether THAT works. In either case, we will all learn something from the experiment, which will cost our creditors no more than continued austerity would.

Alternatively, we can continue to follow the austerity prescription, our economy will continue to shrink, our debt load will continue to grow, we will continue begging the EU for money every year for the rest of our lives, and none of our creditors will ever see a repayment that doesn't come from another creditor. Most of our population will flee the country in search of economic opportunity somewhere else, creating a refugee crisis measured in millions of people. But you will have demonstrated your firmness and resolve.

Jun. 26th, 2015

devil duck

So, I guess "manspread" is a Thing...

No, this is not posed: these folks were sitting across the subway car from me, in exactly these positions, for ten minutes.

Jun. 11th, 2015

devil duck

note to self

A motel close to the highway is not necessarily convenient to get to. Our window overlooks the cloverleaf entrance ramp to the Interstate, but the nearest exit is about six miles of surface streets away.

May. 23rd, 2015



At my new employer, I have no office: I have a desk, a computer, a chair, and enough room for maybe half a dozen books. And people tend to move from one desk location to another every few months, so they're not encouraged to put down too many roots.

So today I went to my University office (for the first time in months) and spent six hours triaging books: discard, leave with the department, or take home. Somewhat to my surprise, the three categories turned out almost exactly equal in size.

This exercise entailed throwing out a lot of proceedings for theoretical-CS conferences I attended and was very interested in at the time, but I realistically haven't done any TCS research in fifteen years. And if I did somehow get back into TCS, it would be easier to find the papers on-line than in a printed volume anyway. But throwing out the proceedings (except the few in which I had papers) carries an air of finality.

My research for the past fifteen years has been mostly in CS Education, so I had three shelves of proceedings from CSE conferences. I kept the ones in which I had papers, and left the rest to the department, on the theory that somebody on the CS faculty will be interested in them. Again, leaving this stuff is a final acknowledgment that (a) my research in CSE will be limited if I'm not in a classroom regularly, and (b) a lot of this stuff is on-line anyway.

I threw out most textbooks older than 5-10 years, except a couple of "classics" and those of which I have particularly fond memories. I left recent textbooks to the department, as above.

Still, I have five good-sized boxes of books in the car for which I haven't found homes in the house yet.

May. 20th, 2015


Nothing new under the sun

When I was about about four years old and my mother was teaching me math, she mentioned at one point that numbers could be divided into "even" and "odd", and that even numbers were those you could get by doubling another number. I thought it was really cool that there could be different kinds of numbers that had their own names, and I resolved to make up my own: "even even numbers", which were even more even than regular even numbers. They were the numbers you could get by nothing but doubling over and over again: 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.

Decades later, I read in Isidore's Etymologies:

Numbers are divided into even and odd numbers. Even numbers are subdivided into these categories: evenly even, evenly odd, and oddly even.... An evenly even number is one that is divided equally into even numbers until it reaches the indivisible unity, as, for example, 64 has 32 at its midpoint; 32 has 16, 16 has 8, 8 has 4, 4 has 2, 2, has 1, which is an indivisible singularity. An evenly odd number is one that can undergo a division into equal parts, but then its parts cannot immediately be evenly dissected, like 6, 10, 38, 50. As soon as you divide this kind of number, you run into a number that you cannot cut evenly. An oddly even number is one whose parts can be divided equally, but the division does not go to the point of one, like 24.

(From The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, transl. by Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach, and Oliver Berghof, ISBN 978-0-521-83749-1, Cambridge University Press 2006.)

OK, so Isidore beat me out by 1350 years....
Tags: ,

May. 13th, 2015

devil duck

dream journal

I was watching a classic black-and-white film starring Jimmy Stewart. I'd seen it before, of course, and every scene carried resonances of discussing that scene with shalmestere on previous viewings, or what critics had said about that scene. But something else was going on, as though I were watching it on a crowded airplane, and I was frustrated that I couldn't pay the film the attention it deserved.

Remember the famous opening scene in the restaurant, where Jimmy's character, having finished his meal alone, signs something for the waitress [while watching, I remembered pointing out to shalmestere that he didn't have a credit card, as they hadn't been invented yet, but just ran a tab]. You see, through Jimmy's character's eyes, the lines of figures he's working on. Cut to a close-up of the front of a man's shirt, then back to the figures, then the shirt, then the figures, then the shirt, then pull back to reveal the manager looming angrily over Jimmy. The figures, then nothing where the manager was, then the figures, then a different shirt, then pull back to reveal the gorilla of a security guard who's about to pound Jimmy to a pulp.

Anyway, there's another famous scene in which the lady of the house comes home and starts puttering around, her black maid all but invisible in the background... but suddenly the maid becomes visible and comes into focus, a warning that something is very wrong.

A later scene where Jimmy's on the run from the bad guys... I've lost that one, the way dreams evaporate when you wake up.

Apr. 21st, 2015

devil duck

dream journal

shalmestere had left some pieces of paper lying around for me to see. I picked one up and concluded it was a recipe, written in 19th-century English, for compost -- in the gardening sense, not the preserved-root-vegetables sense. In fact, looking at the others, I realized there were at least a dozen different recipes for varietal composts, presumably for different garden conditions. And each one ended with a series of "if" statements and a list of book titles. At length I realized that the "if" statements were actually conditional-compilation directives (if the C preprocessor had been based on 19th-century English), and the book titles, all by the same 20th-century female author, were effectively include directives: if you ran the whole thing as a script, you would get the full text of all her novels, with the compost recipe inserted at all and only those places where it was appropriate to the setting.

Apr. 12th, 2015

devil duck

dream journal

shalmestere and I were at a Broadway musical. As people milled around in the entrance hall before finding their seats, the all-black cast came out to warm up the crowd. The innamorata sang a song about herself as an actress (not her character in the show) and how she'd gotten here, and the innamorato actor did a song listing all his faults, each of which the rest of the cast spun into something positive, to his evident annoyance and embarrassment.

And that's all I remember.

Mar. 29th, 2015

devil duck

So that's Episcopalian for "fire and brimstone"

Palm Sunday service, just after hearing a lesson about Pilate and the high priests, puts a lot of emphasis on religious leaders manipulating governmental leaders and mobs to accomplish their own ends, and cowardly politicians deflecting blame from themselves by saying "it's the will of the people!"

Or as shalmestere put it, "a veritable symphony of dog-whistles."

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